Local makeup artists put a new face on liberty

Every day across Nevada countless women have their makeup done at department stores, and models and actors have their makeup done on the sets of photo shoots, movies and commercials. The talented makeup artists working in the retail and entertainment industries are often not cosmetologists, and in fact they do not need cosmetology licenses to do makeup. Makeup artistry is not even taught in cosmetology school.

So it may be surprising to learn that, under Nevada law, makeup artistry instructors - the people who teach others how to apply makeup - need special cosmetology instructor licenses to teach.

Long-time makeup artists Wendy Robin and Lissette Waugh found this out the hard way. Wendy and Lissette, who have a combined 40 years of experience as makeup artists working with celebrities, models and on the sets of movies and televisions shows, saw the makeup artistry gap in the education market and seized the opportunity - in the midst of Nevada's failing economic climate - to open schools that teach aspiring makeup artists skills to succeed in the entertainment, fashion and retail makeup industries.

Graduates of the two schools are now legally working without cosmetology licenses as makeup artists on film sets, fashion shows and magazine shoots. These trained makeup artists use specialized makeup and techniques to do everything from creating unique looks for magazine covers and red carpet events to turning actors into zombies or aliens from outer space.

But even though anyone can practice makeup artistry in Nevada without a license, Nevada wants to shut down these thriving schools by imposing the state's cosmetology licensing scheme on them. That means Wendy and Lissette would need to obtain cosmetology instructor's licenses by spending an additional 700 hours in a classroom to learn about subjects that have nothing to do with makeup artistry, like how to cut hair, wax eyebrows and manicure nails.

They would also have to install expensive and useless equipment such as shampoo bowls, facial chairs and manicure tables, and teach Nevada's entire cosmetology curriculum - nearly all of which is completely irrelevant to makeup artistry.

The cost of compliance is so high and the regulations so arbitrary that Wendy has already been forced to close her doors and Lissette's school could be next.

Unfortunately, absurd occupational licensing laws like Nevada's are all too common. And although they are often passed under the guise of public safety, they very rarely have anything to do with protecting the public. Rather, industry insiders lobby lawmakers to pass extremely broad licensing laws to shut out new competition.

A new Institute for Justice study, License to Work, examined these kinds of occupational licensing laws for low- and moderate-income occupations - such as barbers, mobile-home installers and makeup artists - across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It found that Nevada ranks among the nation's most burdensome places to work, requiring would-be entrepreneurs to spend an average of $505 in fees and over 600 days of education.

When the government tries to put harmless entrepreneurs out of business for no valid reason, it encroaches on one of our most basic rights - the right to earn an honest living. When the political branches fail to protect our rights, it is the judiciary's job to vindicate those rights by declaring the government's actions unconstitutional.

That is why, this week, Lissette and Wendy teamed up with the Institute for Justice - a public-interest law firm that litigates on behalf of entrepreneurs nationwide - to challenge the arbitrary and irrational application of Nevada's cosmetology licensing scheme to makeup artistry instructors and schools. The lawsuit seeks to vindicate our constitutional rights to speak freely and earn an honest living.

What Nevada is doing is unconstitutional. The Constitution protects the rights of entrepreneurs such as Wendy and Lissette, who are creating jobs and boosting the local economy, to teach and to pursue the occupation of their choice free from unreasonable government interference. Under Nevada law, everyone is already free to perform makeup artistry - it's time that everyone be free to teach it.

Doran Arik is an attorney at the Institute for Justice and represents makeup artists in their legal challenge against the Nevada Board of Cosmetology.