Meet Eva Jane Bunkley, Entrepreneur, Emmy Award Winning Celebrity Make-Up Artist, Wife & Mother
Q: Can you share with us your decision to pursue a career as a Beauty Professional?
EJB: I intended on going into fashion. I was a textiles and clothing major at Ohio State. My senior year, I thought a makeup class in the theater department would be a fun elective that interested me so I took it by what can best be described, on a whim. I had no idea it would be what I ended up doing still all these years later! When I decided that Atlanta would be a great city for me to begin my professional career, I found two makeup jobs even though I was actively looking for positions in clothing or wardrobe. I moved here the fall of 1993 thinking that makeup would be a placeholder while I continued to try to break in fashion but the styling gigs I obtained ended up driving me closer to makeup. They were on sets that tended to be not as professional or organized and they had me running around endlessly looking for wardrobe items. In the makeup department I felt like I had more control over the craft, and it required less unnecessary work to make up for the shortcomings of lack of preparation in the production process! I was still in the production environment which gave me the excitement of life on set being different every day. If someone didn't like an eye shadow color, that was a quick and easy fix. If they didn't like any of the shirt choices... that was much more stressful!
Q: Your company name … The Makeup Bullet tell us how it came about.
EJB: My company name is technically "Eva Jane Beauty, LLC." We have five "Eva's" in my family, so it holds special sentimental value for me. Three of us are "Eva Jane" and of the three, I am the only living still. I called my first product "The Makeup Bullet - HiDef Cosmetic Finger Sponge" and I am happy to say that after six long years, I was finally approved for my trademark so I am happy to be able to now put the "®" after "The Makeup Bullet®" and I also registered "Eva Jane®" which I own the trademark for beauty products. When I first launched "TMuB" back in 2013 my intention was to stay in the background and let the product have a life of its own but now I am becoming more present as the face of the brand. I had to make that decision as the copycat or knock-off "finger sponges" have begun to enter the market from China. I knew it was likely going to happen so to counter the effect, I created my own knock-off version of The Makeup Bullet® called "PRETTY STICK®" which is manufactured in China and sells for half the price of the original American made Makeup Bullet. Some of my retailers carry the original high-end version and the low-end version. My intention was to be able to offer value or discount retailers an option to have my other version for the value conscious shopper or to have other brands to license my design. Unfortunately, what some have chosen to do is to violate my patent with their own versions. Some have made modifications which to me are obvious attempts to work around my intellectual property. On a side note, I also have a production company called "Eva-Lution Studios, LLC" but that is a later conversation!
Q: At the start of your career, what do you wish you had known?
EJB: The ways that I thought and processed information in my 20's has led me to where I am. I know that I left wardrobe out of frustration with the types of gigs and clients that I worked primarily with and not necessarily because there wasn't a place for me there. Had I been in more structured environments and had better mentorship or guidance I might have remained on that side rather than gone full in with makeup. I will tell you a secret. I am not a makeup artist that LOVES makeup. I love where makeup takes me and who it allows me to meet. I love PEOPLE! I love to build relationships and meet fascinating people and finding a career that I am not stuck within four walls day in and day out with the same people is what I love about the boundlessness of my career. I have worked in jobs with people that I have developed close ties with, but I love options that keep me fluid and the people around me fluid as well. I am a very "feely" person so when relationships end due to misunderstanding or what is perceived to be my fault by the other party, I tend to want to "fix" it. I had some job contracts that ended abruptly without me having opportunity to make things right in a nice bow. I think that I would tell my 20-something year old self that those things happen and don't take them personally. Sometimes it has little to do with you and more to do with the timing of the circumstances in the situation. Dwelling on it does you no good. Forgive them. Forgive yourself. Move on.
Q: I see you're from Columbus Ohio and a graduate of The Ohio State University … how did life take you to Atlanta?
EJB: Here is the honest to goodness truth as to why I selected Atlanta and not my other considered cities which were Los Angeles, where I happened to be born (Hollywood precisely) and New York City, where I did my internship for my major. I was in a Black Studies class my senior year at Ohio State and my professor was telling the percentages of black populations of cities in the United States. He said that Atlanta was 80% black and that struck me as remarkable. I had lived in Columbus my entire life and it was about the nationwide average of about 12-13% and I wondered what it would be like to live in a city where the majority of the population was black in a place. Shortly after that revelation, my girlfriends and I drove down for "Freaknik" which at the time was THE place for black college students to converge on the City of Atlanta from all over the U.S. and enjoy spring break. It. Was. Glorious. I had the best experience and saw the most gorgeous men I have ever seen in my life and I was smitten and knew I had to move to Atlanta. Of course, I had a very skewed view of what it would be like because just like me, a lot of the people I met were visiting just like me! LOL! But still, Atlanta did not disappoint in that there was prosperity and opportunity abounding in the black community and in creative spaces that I wanted to be a part of. A couple of years later, Freaknik was a basically halted as a lot of the residents of the city didn't want or welcome the event. Ironically, this year in 2019 a producer tried to revive Freaknik as a destination event, but I am sure those who remember the former glory of the event know pales in comparison!
Q: What was your first job? And how did it shape or impact you?
EJB: My first "real" job was as a summer day-camp counselor at my local YMCA. I remember that the first year I was more of an assistant and the next summer I was promoted to have my own group and I had eight-year old’s. I have long thought that eight years old is the perfect age for children because of working with them when I was in high school. I had worked with younger age groups prior to being assigned to them but found them too whiny, clingy and babyish. It seemed to me that when they crossed the threshold of their eighth year, that they reached a new level of maturity. I would have sessions where we would sit in a circle and have discussions on various topics and their ability to think and reason was refreshing to me. I loved their perspectives. When my first son turned eight, I was so happy. It was like a milestone age in my book. It was a special significance for me personally that I had achieved some measure of success as a parent. Working with younger children was also a confidence booster for me to be seen as a leader as a teenager. I even helped instruct swim lessons even though I myself could not swim! I remember how ironic I thought it was as I would support them as they held the side of the pool wall and kick their legs. As a child, I spent every summer in Cleveland with my cousins and took swim lessons and could never master it. I was that kid who would climb to the top of the diving board and take the descent of shame back down the ladder when I chickened out of the jump. I was the only kid on summer who failed the test to hold my breath under water for ten seconds. Working with those kids at the Y showed me that I don't have to know everything in order to help someone else, I just have to know something more than or different than they do. If they surpass me, so be it. I have never been threatened by someone I have mentored rising above me. I see it as a win for both of us. To this day, I say that I can swim enough to save myself. I can get to the side of the pool if I am in the middle. That's about it though! This summer, my son just finished his first week at his first summer job while he is in high school and remarkably, he is working as a day camp counselor!
Q: In the beginning, did you ever dream you would be a Two-Time Emmy Award winning celebrity makeup artist? Tell us more about these prestigious honors.
EJB: The Emmy's weren't even on my radar until I met my first mentor in makeup in the mid 1990's; a woman named Bridgit LaDonna Oliver who has since passed. She worked with the local news stations and she had won an Emmy for her makeup artistry. She took me under her wing and taught me deeper technique when it came to television makeup and encouraged me to apply for myself. I won my awards back to back years in 2001 and 2002 in the Southeast Region Emmys for my work on 2 different news stations and one Christian broadcast; all shows that I worked on those years. I am thankful for the credibility those awards lend in that I will always be an "Emmy Award Winning Makeup Artist." Winning such a powerful accolade with worldwide cred is a definite game-changer and door opener. I do believe however that no matter how much we think we know or how many accolades we achieve it is a good idea to remain teachable. Technology has changed so much about how our industry runs and opportunities available to make money in our profession. You can launch a career now solely by showing photos of makeup on yourself and not a client to be found in your "portfolio" which isn't even a thing now. It's about your social media presence and maybe your website.
Q: What are some of the best practices you have employed to enjoy a successful career?
EJB: I believe in a high level of integrity. I make efforts to stay true to my word and if I make a mistake or fall short, I am open to admit it and apologize. I am embracing more of my humanness as I age. I still get performance anxiety when I am working. I want to make sure that my clients are pleased with the services and now products that I provide. I never want someone to feel as though I have taken advantage of them. I would rather return money than be perceived as attempting to get over on someone. Also, when I am working with a client since I am seeing them with everything stripped away. No makeup, not fully dressed, not "on" I feel as though I should be a safe space where they trust and not have to have their guard up. When needed I am a listening ear and encourager. I try to make them feel at ease before what may be a stressful situation such as live television, a photo shoot, a speaking engagement or another significant event. I don't do as much hands-on makeup as I used to since I am more focused on the product side of the industry, but I do like to keep sharp and take a gig here and there still.
Q: Where do you see your company five years from now?
EJB: Five years from now, I see myself with a full beauty product line. By that time, my youngest son will be graduating from high school and my husband and I will be empty nesters! I would like to travel together to beauty shows. We have done it before and enjoy working the shows together and going on adventures at the same time. I hope to have a greater online, live speaking and television presence as well. I want to pass on more than beauty to people but encouragement to follow their own dreams. It may sound hokey and cliché, but I really do enjoy being a catalyst for people to get beyond self-doubt to move closer to their goals. It took me almost 10 years to build the courage to create "The Makeup Bullet®" after I came up with the original idea! If I had the encouragement way back in the beginning who knows... maybe I would have that full product line by now! But really, I do feel like I am right where I am supposed to be in my entrepreneurial journey. I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish.
Q: Can you tell our audience one of your most memorable moments your career?
EJB: When I was working at the new station, I became very close with one of the anchors. Her name is Janette Smith. She became like a big sister, mentor, bff, confidant, encourager and saw so much potential in me. I used to make edit suggestions to scripts because I fancied myself as a descent writer. Your readers can make their own judgments! lol! I loved everything about the production environment and would often find myself curious about other aspects of it. I had invited her to a conference at my church one day and she came and ended up joining and eventually working in the media department of the ministry in a leadership role. One day she came to me and asked if I was ready to start my new career. The realness of what she was saying took me by surprise and something that I thought that I wanted being a possibility immediately caused me to back pedal in my mind. I was gripped by fear of the unknown and at the heart, fear of failure. I did get beyond it and began to volunteer as a producer under her and other experienced producers’ mentorship. After volunteering for two years, I was hired as a full-time television producer where I worked for two more years. I produced my own feature documentary film entitled "My Mother was a Butterfly" that took me three years to complete and it won 1st place in the first film festival it was accepted into. It went on to be invited to screen in other cities including my home in Columbus, Ohio, a Cleveland, Ohio library, Hampton University and in Philadelphia, PA. I never stopped doing makeup during this time and the experience taught me to never limit my abilities, creativity or think that I can only be one dimensional as an artist. As far as opportunities in makeup, I have worked on such memorable faces as President Jimmy Carter, Cicely Tyson, Donnie Osmond, The Rock, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Vin Diesel, Usher, Gladys Knight, Randy Jackson, Adam West (the original Batman) and Jamie Foxx... all of whom were especially lovely to work with! There have been other celebs, but these were especially gracious.
Q: What’s one lesson you’ve learned in your career that you can share with our audience?
EJB: It's never too late to start something new. In my 20's I started a makeup career. In my 30's I began my career as in indie-filmmaker and now in my 40's I am enjoying a 3rd career as an inventor and brand owner. It's never too late to pursue a fresh passion even if you do it on a small scale, the rewards are immense, not just for you but for those who are around you are watching. I do what I do to show my children and one day my children's children that they can do whatever they can imagine!
Q: What behavior or personality trait do you most attribute to your success?
EJB: I am outgoing, friendly and loving but really enjoy being alone in my own company as well. I can exist in my thoughts for hours and when necessary concentrate on a task for hours, weeks or months to completion. I once edited a project for 14 hours straight until it was done only taking bathroom breaks and eating when my husband brought me food because I had a hard deadline on a project that was personally important to me. I can get in "the zone" if I am passionate about the outcome.
Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
EJB: My maternal grandmother; Georgia Walker Smith. She raised me alone from when I was six years of age. She lost her husband and only child, my mother, and when she was 70 years of age, she made the decision to raise me even when people on the outside questioned her decision not to give me to someone younger. She and my grandfather both had businesses during the great depression. She was a hairdresser eventually having a hair salon in her basement and my grandfather was a Podiatrist with his medical practice in downtown Columbus, Ohio. She was raised on a farm in Kentucky and only had an 8th grade education but she was a brilliant woman and an exemplary role model. She worked to put her younger brother through medical school as well. She did all of the who's who of the women of black Columbus, Ohio. Of course, by the time I was born, she and my grandfather were long since retired so all of her time was devoted to me. Some would call her overprotective, but she smothered me in love and care like I was the most precious thing in the world to her, and I was. She lived to be 94 years old and lived alone until she was 92. She was the epitome of strength against all odds.
Q: What are some of the challenges you feel women face today?
EJB: Of course, being on equal footing as far as opportunities compared with our male counterparts remains an issue. I feel the more out-front examples that young women can touch and feel not just see on a screen is important to give the next generation the confidence they need to stand in their greatness. If you feel as though you don't deserve a seat at the table because you don't see anyone like you there or you are the only one there it can be intimidating. I believe strongly in mentorship and pulling other women up as well. If men feel uncomfortable doing this, we can't wait for permission or invitation. If you have a platform, you have power to incite change in your space and make room for another sister. We all benefit from diversity of thought. Women are half of the population and have so much to add in solving the problems of society or industry.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
EJB: I really am encouraged by the young women I have had the pleasure to meet as I travel for beauty events and engagements. So many are so bold and so much more open than my generation. I think that we don't need to bash the shortcomings of an entire generation as some like to down "millennials" but to appreciate the experiences of one another. It's that same principle of diversity of thought that only makes our society stronger. We as "seasoned" women have so much to share. Younger women would do themselves a service to be teachable. Above all, we need to extend one another grace. Grace to be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to intentions. Because younger people have grown up as tech natives, they process and think differently. Rather than being frustrated I think older people can be more understanding and patient because they (millennials and "z's") don't have it easy in this always open social media culture. Older people have been here longer, and you can learn something from anyone even if they are still using a flip phone like my father! I think we all have something to gain by employing empathy and compassion.
Five Things About Eva Jane Bunkley
1. If you could talk to one famous person past or present, who would it be and why?
I've pondered this one question for almost an hour now and I really can't come up with any one person for any one reason. I have met so many famous over the years because of the nature of my job and I realize this... Celebrities are "people" who a lot of people know. Most are really good at one hugely marketable thing, such as entertainers and sports figures and that is why they are widely known but if you expect the personality from them that you see in the media, that can be a recipe for disappointment if you have any preconceived notions of how magical your personal encounter with them will be. So, guess what JUST happened after I began typing my response! Someone FINALLY popped into my conscious! Will Smith. I have watched some of his interviews and motivational messages recently and he seems like he would be great to have a conversation with about achieving goals and chasing dreams. He gives off a vibe like he would be supportive, warm and gracious... There.
2. If you were a superhero, what would your special powers be?
It may seem unimaginative and common but truly it would be "flight" (without fear). I dream about having the ability to propel myself in the air at will quite often and used to have a recurring dream when I was young about flying through our local grocery store "Rosati's" and everything in the store was pink! I think the symbolism in it is that sometimes in my dreams, I chose to limit myself and fly at an almost a hovering altitude so as to not make people around me feel uncomfortable or intimidated. In my dreams I have reprimanded myself for this. I think "Eva! You can fly! If you fly at the height of one inch or 10,000 feet, you can still fly. If someone is going to feel envious of you, they are going to feel that way just because you have that ability. You may as well fly as high as you want to!" I very much believe that I get strong life messages in my dreams to help move me beyond my own self limitations.
3. Favorite TV Show?
I'm warning you! I have several from different eras of my life... Dr. Who (When Tom Baker played him. I loved watching after school when I was young), Dark Shadows, Alfred Hitchcock, Twilight Zone (favorite episodes - "To Serve Man" and "Eye of the Beholder"), Star Trek - the original series (binge watching presently), Laurel and Hardy, Are You Being Served, The Tick (The animated version from back in the day), Breaking Bad (It was everything when it was on), Lost, The Walking Dead (I LOOOOOVE horror) and Black Mirror. You didn't ask but I'm going to tell you anyway!... My two all-time favorite movies are "The Picture of Dorian Gray" 1945 - with Hurd Hatfield and Angela Landsbury and "The Usual Suspects." There are others (Napoleon Dynamite) but I will end my list there! Ok... I'll stop.
4. If they made a movie of your life, who’d play you?
I actually made a short narrative film years ago entitled "3 Days" (viewable on YouTube) in which I cast one of my friend's daughters to play the six-year-old me. It was a dramatization of when my mother died, which I am told I was present during. My family told me, although I didn't remember, that I was with my mother's body for three days after she passed away in our small apartment before my grandmother discovered me. Learning about the circumstances surrounding her death was healing for me and part of the topic of my first film "My Mother was a Butterfly." I wrote another feature film many years ago (yet to be produced) in which the character was loosely based on me and I imagined Nia Long in that role. I really admire Regina Hall. She is so very versatile, and I was a day player makeup artist on a set with her once and she was very nice. People used to tell me that I resemble Kimberly Elise! I would have to familiarize myself with other actresses that could play different time periods or that are perhaps a decade or two younger than I am now!
5. What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s given you?
My grandmother used to say, "Don't make yourself common." She may have meant it in a singular old-time way, but I always thought of it as her encouraging me to be as extraordinary as I truly am!