…The first thing is to get a mentor. When you’re trying something new, find someone you respect who is successful in your desired field. Approach them seriously with a clear idea of your goals. Most people are willing to help if they see your determination. It’s crucial to be specific about what you need instead of just asking for generic help. Know exactly what you need help with.
I had the pleasure of talking with Angie Wells. Angie is a multifaceted talent, having achieved acclaim in both the worlds of entertainment makeup and jazz music. Born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, to parents James and Elaine, both military veterans, Angie showed early promise as a fashion model and sprinter in high school. She later pursued a degree in business and marketing from Philadelphia University and initially worked in the corporate sector.
Her career took a turn towards the creative when she moved to the West Coast in 1998, driven by her passions for makeup and Jazz & Blues singing. Trained by the legendary makeup artist Marvin Westmore, Angie quickly made her mark in Hollywood. Her big break came when she was hired by Director Roy Campanella II for the Arabesque YA-book series adaptations, showcasing her unique blend of business acumen and artistic flair.
Angie’s work as a makeup artist has been widely recognized, with nominations for two Primetime Emmy Awards, including her outstanding work as part of the makeup artist team on AMC’s “Mad Men,” and for her contributions to critically acclaimed films such as “Mudbound” and “Harriet.” Her expertise is sought after at major events like the Emmys, Academy Awards, and Golden Globes.
In addition to her successful makeup career, Angie has emerged as a celebrated jazz singer. Her soulful voice and original, captivating lyrics often touch on civil rights issues, drawing comparisons to Nina Simone. She has been featured on SiriusXM’s ‘Real Jazz’ and has performed at numerous jazz clubs and festivals worldwide. Angie’s latest album, “Truth Be Told,” produced by John Clayton, showcases her strong vocals in a mix of original tunes and reimagined cover songs, encompassing a range of styles from traditional jazz to funk.
Angie Wells continues to inspire with her artistic versatility and dedication to her crafts, proving that it’s never too late to follow one’s passions.
Yitzi: Angie, thank you so much for joining us. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn about your origin story. Can you share with us a story of your childhood and how you grew up?
I was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My dad was a big music lover, and as a kid, I was exposed to jazz and blues very early on. On Sunday afternoons, my dad would play his collection of vinyl jazz and blues records, and I’d sit with him and listen. That’s how my love for music started. It was a natural transition for me as a kid to hear that music at such a young age, and it became a part of me. That’s where my love of music came from.
Yitzi: That’s beautiful. So I read that you had a very successful career as a makeup artist and then transitioned to a recording artist. Can you share the story about that with us? How did it happen?
Sure. I’m still a makeup artist, although I haven’t been working much recently due to things slowing down. I was a makeup artist first and loved singing. A few years ago, I visited a friend in Paris and started taking some light vocal lessons after I returned home. It was something I wanted to do but hadn’t focused on. My friend took me to a supper club in Paris, and in the middle of dinner, she told me that she had informed the musicians I was an American jazz singer and they wanted me to sing a few numbers. I was terrified because I wasn’t prepared, but she encouraged me, saying it was my time. That’s how it started at a little jazz club in Paris. I continued singing and doing makeup. I took a break when I got pregnant, which my husband and I had been trying for, and didn’t get back to singing for a couple of years. Working in film and television pushed everything else out. I started finding more opportunities to sing, touring in the summers, and that’s how it all came together.
Yitzi: Do you have a favorite story or memory you’d like to share about your career, either as a makeup artist or as a music artist?
Well, there are a lot of interesting stories. One of the best is how I met my mentor, John Clayton, who produced my album. I had been a big fan of his, loving big bands and jazz. I tried reaching out to him on Facebook many years ago. He’s very busy and didn’t answer, but I didn’t take it personally. A few years later, I went to a concert and noticed John Clayton in the audience. After the show, I introduced myself and expressed my admiration. I also mentioned that I’m a singer and would love to talk with him. He was very open and we exchanged emails and numbers. He soon invited me to a concert to discuss my career goals. John sent me learning materials and guides for career planning. We kept in touch, and I even attended his jazz camp before COVID. There, I met another mentor, Renee Marie. When it was time to record my new album, I timidly asked John to produce it. He agreed, and now, a year and a half later, I have an album that’s doing well and has given me great exposure.
Yitzi: If you were the queen of Hollywood, what changes are you happy about seeing in the entertainment industry over the past few years? And what would you like to change moving forward?
I love that the industry has become more diverse recently. We’re seeing more types of people on screens, which is crucial for the industry’s growth. However, I’d like to see a change in the long working hours on film and television projects. It’s common to work 12 or 14-hour days, leading to significant sleep deprivation. I wonder why we can’t extend the production schedule to reduce daily working hours. This change would help maintain a better life balance for everyone involved.
Yitzi: Excellent feedback. I’m not sure many people are aware of the long hours and hard work behind the scenes.
Yes, it’s a common joke among us in the industry. While it appears glamorous, the reality is much different. For instance, filming ‘Harriet’ and ‘Mudbound’ was physically demanding. We shot ‘Mudbound’ in Louisiana’s summer heat and humidity, working in mud fields all day. People in this industry work incredibly hard, and that often goes unnoticed.
Yitzi: Okay, great. Next question. You have so much impressive work. Can you share with our readers some of the exciting products you’re working on now, including your album? Also, can you share what you hope to work on in the near future?
Well, I’m currently looking forward to resuming a wonderful project that was paused. It’s a film based on a true story about Anthony Robles, a wrestler born with one leg. It’s going to be a fantastic film. I can’t reveal too much due to non-disclosure agreements, but this information is already public. As for future projects, I can’t say much at this moment. However, I can talk about my music. I’m planning a tour in France this summer of 2024 and will perform some music from my album. I’m consistently writing new music and plan to record again in the spring for a future release. I’m currently focusing on writing for the next album and exploring themes for it.
Yitzi: That’s great. So, you worked on the series ‘Insecure.’ It’s been one of the most popular series in recent years, and Issa Rae has become a huge star. In your opinion, what captured people’s attention about the series?
I worked on ‘Insecure,’ but it wasn’t my show. I was there for one season, helping a friend who ran the makeup department. Since I wasn’t leading the project, my insight is limited. But in my view, ‘Insecure’ gained popularity by providing a glimpse into the lives of young, upwardly mobile black women. It was like the black ‘Sex and the City,’ offering insight into our culture and a realistic portrayal of some people’s lives. That’s what made it resonate with so many viewers.
Yitzi: I read that your lyrics are known for captivating storytelling as well as commentary on civil rights issues. Can you share with us your creative process of how you come up with the themes for a song? Where does that inspiration come from?
Sure, I basically get moved by something emotionally. It may stay on my mind, not necessarily always as lyrics, but maybe as a feeling. As that feeling persists, it keeps nudging me, like it has something important to say. Often, I’ll take a ride in the car. A lot of my ideas come to me there, especially when I’m driving along the Pacific Coast Highway. There’s something about being in the car, looking at the ocean, and the peaceful silence of the ride that helps me. Or sometimes it’s sitting by the beach or walking in a park. Nature really helps me narrow down and focus on what I’m supposed to write about. I say ‘supposed to’ because I believe it’s a mission. I’m a spiritual person and think we receive messages and communication. Having a gift to communicate a message to people through song or any art form is a blessing. Taking quiet time near nature often helps me. When it comes to the creation process, I usually get lyrics first. They often come with a soft melody underneath. The lyrics and melody don’t always arrive at the same time, but there’s usually an idea of the music, like if I’m writing about the beach, a certain kind of music naturally emerges. For me, it’s definitely lyrics first.
Yitzi: That’s great. What do you think makes music in particular so powerful in creating social change and having a positive impact on humanity? Why is this art form so effective?
I think the thing about music is that you don’t just listen to it, you feel it. It creates some type of feeling within you. Take songs like “Happy.” When you listen to that, you can’t help but feel happy. You want to dance and move around. Then there’s the song “My Little Boo Thing.” It’s such a happy tune. Music can also make you cry because of its beauty. “Here’s to Life,” which I recorded on my album, is one such song. It’s not always about sadness, but sometimes about remembering precious moments in life. Music can also make you feel powerful and energetic, which is why people listen to upbeat music when exercising. It creates energy. Music has the ability to make you feel, and that’s why it can create change in people.
Yitzi: You’ve been nominated twice for the Emmy Awards for your work as a makeup artist, and you’ve also worked a lot in these award shows like the Emmys, Academy Awards, and Golden Globes. Can you share with the readers what it’s like working in those contexts, with such pressure and high-profile people and expectations?
It’s interesting. When you work with celebrities, they’re people, just like all of us. They have good days, bad days, and different personalities. When you work with them regularly, it becomes just like working with anyone else. Sure, there are certain perks they get because of who they are, but I don’t necessarily feel any more nervous around them. My theory is that we all have to brush our teeth in the morning so our breath doesn’t stink.
For me, it’s exciting and lovely to work with these talented individuals. Our jobs are high pressure because we aim for perfection. We have to answer to producers and keep the actors pleased, walking a fine line. But those of us in the industry figure it out, and we manage to do it. It stops feeling so crazy when it becomes your normal way of life.
Yitzi: That’s great. That’s an amazing answer. Do you have any stories of a kind gesture that warms your heart?
Yes, I have many of those. Many years ago, I worked on a film called “Baby Boy,” and we were about to finish right before the Christmas holiday. Sadly, my grandmother passed away, and I needed to go home before then. I had already purchased my tickets for Christmas, and I didn’t think they were refundable. I was new in town and hadn’t made much money yet. One morning, Tyrese, the lead actor in the film, noticed I seemed a bit down and asked if I was okay. I told him about my grandmother and how I was trying to figure out how to get home for the funeral. Later, his assistant casually inquired about the funeral details, which I thought was just out of kindness. At lunchtime that day, Tyrese came to me and said he had bought tickets for me to go home for my grandmother’s funeral. It was incredibly kind of him, and I’ve never forgotten that gesture.
Another time, on my birthday, I was working on a tough job and didn’t mention it to anyone. Chazz Palminteri, who wasn’t even having his makeup done by me, sent me a gorgeous bouquet of flowers. It was such a sweet thing to do.
Then, there’s the time I was working on “Black-ish.” The first season extended, which overlapped with a big tour I had scheduled. Kenya Barris was very understanding about it. On my last day before the tour, he gave me a bottle of champagne and a cake from my favorite bakery, Sweet Lady Jane, to congratulate me and wish me luck.
People have done some really lovely things for me. I’ve been fortunate, but I believe that what you give out in life is what you get back. I try to be a kind person.
Yitzi: This is our signature question that we ask in nearly all of our interviews. So, you’ve been blessed with so much success now. Looking back to when you first started, do you have five things you need to succeed in the entertainment industry?
- The first thing is to get a mentor. When you’re trying something new, find someone you respect who is successful in your desired field. Approach them seriously with a clear idea of your goals. Most people are willing to help if they see your determination. It’s crucial to be specific about what you need instead of just asking for generic help. Know exactly what you need help with.
- The second thing is to read as much as you can about your field. There’s a saying that reading five books on a subject can make you an expert. So aim for that.
- Third, keep yourself healthy. Exercise and eat right. This is vital for maintaining your mental state, especially during times of discouragement. Give yourself grace in the beginning, as you’re still learning.
- Fourth, family is also important. They’re your support system when everything else is transient. So never sideline them.
- Lastly, be true to yourself. It’s sometimes challenging, especially when you need to stand up for yourself or go against popular opinion. But it’s essential to maintain your authenticity.
Yitzi: Those are amazing. Such thoughtful, beautiful answers. Thank you. Okay, we’re almost done. This is our aspirational question. So, Angie, because of the great work that you’ve done and the platform you’ve built, you’re a person with great influence. If you could spread an idea or inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
My idea would be to think of each other as part of one humanity. We are all human and part of the same race. If we could see each other not as others but as equals, it could solve many problems. Most issues that disturb me could be resolved if we treated each other as we want to be treated, without seeing differences. The disparity where some have so much while others have nothing is troubling. If we viewed each other as one, we couldn’t ignore those in need. My view might be idealistic, but it’s the world I wish to see.
Yitzi: So how can our readers buy your album? How can they continue to support you? How can they follow your work online and support what you’re doing?
You can visit angiewellsmusic.com to purchase a CD. You can follow me on Instagram at angiewellsjazz and say hi. I’m just starting to get on TikTok. I’ve uploaded two videos so far. It’s challenging to find the time for all this. Sometimes I’m too busy to post, but I’m trying to get better at that. You can reach me through my website, Instagram, or Facebook. Reach out; I will say hello. I’d love to meet more people. If you follow me on the website, you’ll know when I’m touring or when I’ll be in your town. Please come out and see me. I’d love to meet you. One of the most beautiful things about performing live is the energy exchange between the artist and the audience. At the end of the show, I enjoy talking to people, so feel free to reach out in any capacity. If you’re a jazz blues music lover or just someone who loves people, please reach out.
Yitzi: I love your infectious positive energy. I really do.
Oh, thank you. We need that in the world. Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it very much.
Yitzi: It’s really an honor, my friend. It’s an honor to meet you.
Angie Wells On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Entertainment Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.