Makeup artist Francie Fruitman helps people feel beautiful.
Near the door to her makeup studio at Social Salon in West Bloomfield, Francie Fruitman has a $1 bill on the wall from her first client at that space that she calls her good-luck charm.
“I wasn’t officially moved in, but I took them as a client that day,” the makeup artist recalls.
On the door itself is also a mezuzah that Fruitman says “makes me feel more at home.”
They’re both homages to two of the most important elements in her life: her relationship with her clients and her relationship to the Jewish community.
For nearly three decades, Fruitman has worked as a professional makeup artist and brows specialist. As of recently, she’s also offered services in permanent makeup and cosmetic tattooing and, throughout the years, her work has taken her to Hollywood and back.
Fruitman, 51, of Southfield, has always had a love for makeup artistry. “I’ve been doing makeup since middle school,” she recalls. She first began doing makeup for school plays and, by the time she was a senior in high school, even received a budget from the school to support her makeup work.
It was clear that Fruitman had a career cut out for her in makeup. She attended the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), where she planned to pursue theater makeup. Growing up in the 1980s, Fruitman had been fascinated with the colorful makeup trends in pop culture. “I realized my love of theater smashed in with my love of makeup,” she explains.
She learned of the school through an old Fangoria magazine, a long-running horror and cult film publication. It just happened to be a makeup effects issue that mentioned CCM, and Fruitman decided to apply.
“It was a very competitive conservatory,” she says. “We did things with Carnegie Mellon and the Juilliard School.”
After completing college, Fruitman moved to Orlando for more makeup school to learn about special effects, prosthetics, animatronics and creature construction. “That’s when I realized special effects wasn’t quite what I thought it was,” she says. “I didn’t want to work in a shop.”
To Hollywood and Back
In 1996, one of her classmates had plans to move out to California, and Fruitman decided to join her. She lived with her friend until she found her own place in Hollywood and launched her career working 18 hour days for $50 a day on movie sets for low-budget independent films.
“That’s where I really learned about working on set,” she says. “It’s a total little bubble, working in film. There’s a whole language, tools and hierarchy involved. It’s such a thrill.”
Still, Fruitman’s career was destined for more. She eventually found herself working on sets with the likes of acting greats like Kirk Douglas and comedian Don Rickles. Yet when her father’s health began to decline, Fruitman realized she needed to be back home with her family.
In 2007, she packed up her Hollywood apartment and came back to Michigan. In addition to missing her family, Fruitman also missed having the camaraderie of a Jewish community.
“I was lacking a connection to something,” she recalls.
However, the connections Fruitman did have gave way to a career back home. Around the same time, many major films were filming in Michigan and Fruitman found a way to continue her work in Metro Detroit. “Film productions were coming from all over,” she says.
Fruitman worked at a handful of local salons, then became involved with Detroit Fashion Week, which at the time was just a grassroots movement. “Next thing you know, I’m working with fashion designers designing makeup for the whole show,” she explains.
Makeup and Judaism
As the momentum built, Fruitman also grew a dedicated and loyal client base in Metro Detroit that has led to powerful discussions about Judaism and its relation to makeup and beauty.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, Fruitman saw an uptick in requests for brow services. Microblading, or permanent tattoo eyebrows, were becoming increasingly popular.
She decided to get her body art license, which allows her to perform the service. And she has had requests from women of all Jewish denominations.
She notes that different people have different opinions about whether permanent makeup is OK (permanent tattooing has long been a much-debated subject in Judaism).
It’s a service that makes life much easier for many, but also a service that Fruitman, who, in addition to makeup artistry, teaches Sunday school at Temple Beth El, where she belongs as a member, says truly helps people feel beautiful inside and out.
Permanent eyebrows are just one example of the many powerful services offered within makeup artistry, and Fruitman has had many clients moved to tears with how beautiful they’ve felt after spending time in her makeup chair. One client, she says, even smiled for the first time in years.
She’s also worked with a Holocaust survivor on her makeup for a documentary about her experience during World War II.
Yet, on a day-to-day basis, it’s the everyday individuals Fruitman works with who make her career worthwhile: the young women getting married, the teens embarking on their bat mitzvahs, the business professionals getting a new headshot.
“To transform and be a part of somebody’s major life celebration rocks my world like no other,” she says. “I used to think that I didn’t want to work in a salon or work with regular people, but I love working with regular people. There’s such trust in that.”