Makeup Artist Vetoes Idaho's First Lady After Governor Vetoed Cosmetology Licensing Reforms

What goes around, comes around, governor.


Photo courtesy Sherry Japhet

When the governor called, Sherry Japhet answered.

Japhet is a freelance makeup artist from Boise, Idaho. She's worked in the business for more than 20 years, but without a license. That's never been a problem for her. She's landed gigs from coast-to-coast, working on television sets and for fashion magazines.

Some of those calls came from Idaho Gov. Butch Otter. Japhet has helped Otter and his wife, Lori, look their best for televised public service announcements and political ads.

No more, she says.

Japhet, a 41-year old who works as a stand-up comedian, laughed at a request this week that she work her magic on Idaho's first lady for an upcoming television appearance. After all, she said, the governor (and his wife) ought to know the law.

"I told them that I would be more than happy to do it, but her husband vetoed a bill to make it legal for me or any other makeup artist or stylist to do so," Japhet says. "She will have to go to a salon or do it all herself."

In April, Otter vetoed a bill that would, among other things, have exempted makeup artists like Japhet from having to offering their services only in licensed salons. The bill would have legalized work freelancers like Japhet are already doing and opened the door to the stylist-on-demand services, where a smart phone app can bring a makeup artist to your front door, just like if you were ordering an Uber.

The common sense reforms sailed through the state legislature, but Otter caved in to opposition from the State Board of Cosmetology, which complained that "stakeholders" did not have enough input into the final version of the bill, he said in his veto message.

Japhet used her connections in the governor's office to try to convince Otter to sign the bill. She emailed the governor and the first lady personally to explain why it was important to let makeup artists practice their trade without getting an expensive and time-consuming cosmetology license from the state.

Idaho requires 467 days of training in makeup and hair-styling for a license (and an even more insane 630 days of training to be a barber), even if an applicant doesn't have any interest in doing hair-styling, which is why Japhet says she's never sought a license.

"I may be an outlaw," she told Reason in a phone interview Tuesday, "but I'm an outlaw that pays taxes."

Japhet's story is about more than just her rejection of Lori Otter. It also raises questions about why professions like cosmetologists and makeup artists are required to be licensed at all. If she's not licensed, but is good enough to be on the first lady's speed dial, then what purpose are those goverment-issed permission slips serving? The answer, of course, is that licensing in any profession—and particularly so in many middle and lower income trades—is not about guaranteeing quality or efficacy, but rather serves as a barrier to entry into that line of work. Japhet is a rare example of someone who has ignored that barrier and made a living for herself anyway, but many are not so lucky.

Idaho's ban on freelance makeup artists doesn't only hurt people like Japhet, but the ad agencies, production companies and photographers they work with. "Many of these businesses hire the Ad agencies that hire the production companies that hire the independent contractors like me for their marketing that helps keep them in business," Japhet wrote to First Lady Lori Otter before her husband vetoed the cosmetology bill, according to an email Japhet shared with Reason.

To be fair, Otter indicated in his veto message he would "consider legislation exempting 'event' makeup artists from existing licensure requirements," but said he was vetoing the measure because of "too many other flaws."

After the veto, the state legislature began working on a proposal to separate makeup artistry from the cosmetology license, but that proposal would create a new license for people like Japhet and would require 250 hours of training, according to the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a free market think tank that first publicized Japhet's story on Tuesday.

Japhet calls that "ridiculous," though she agrees that some training in basic sanitation is necessary. That's something that could be taught in a matter of hours and shouldn't require thousands of dollars in cosmetology schooling. The bill won't be considered until the 2018 legislative session.

If it makes it to the governor's desk, maybe next time Otter will think twice before vetoing it.

"It's clear that they didn't foresee how this would affect them," Japhet says. "I'm just abiding by the law, so they are reaping what they sowed."