SMP and PMU awards: How fair and unbiased are they?

I thought long and hard about writing this piece. Whenever I write something controversial, especially when the topic challenges the status quo, there’s always a backlash. However, there is a trend that has emerged over the last few years that is bad for our industry, and needs to be highlighted.

Remember there were always those kids at school who never got picked for teams, and were never part of the popular crowd?

I see the same thing in PMU and SMP. It is unfair, and is damaging to us all.

The sensitive topic of industry award ceremonies, and how they might be compromised by bias and vested interests, is one that any seasoned artist is only too aware. Across the micropigmentation industry, both PMU and SMP, I have seen awards handed out that simply don’t make sense.

Here are some of my observations:

  • Some of the world’s finest artists, serious contenders for awards, excluded from being nominated because they’re not in a particular in-crowd or friendship group.
  • Predictable award nominations for ambassadors of particular brands.
  • The “Buy a ticket for our event and we’ll make sure you’re nominated for an award” trick.
  • Awards exchanged for cash.
  • Events where the sponsor always seems to win.
  • Industry ‘influencers’ given automatic nominations.
  • Artists winning awards they were not even nominated for.
  • Unskilled artists, who regularly have to have their work ‘fixed’, winning awards.
  • Fake awards given for free, as long as the ‘winner’ buys a very expensive trophy and certificate.

Why is this a problem?

I love awards ceremonies. They’re an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our industry colleagues, and showcase the best artists and the rising stars who are striving to be the best they can be. I should also point out that a great many awards are absolutely and thoroughly deserved, and the artist awarded deserves all the credit they receive. I am not referring to any specific event, but to the trend that has emerged across our industry.

The issue arises when the rules of the game are not the same for everyone, leaving many artists disadvantaged, excluded and demoralised.

I know many PMU and SMP artists who simply refuse to attend conferences for this very reason. Disenchanted with the inherent bias that plagues many awards ceremonies, having not received the applause and recognition they rightfully deserve, they’ve more or less given up. They are not ‘bad losers’. These are people who saw obvious patterns and trends, and know that no matter what they do, they have no chance of winning anything because they don’t fit the profile.

This breeding ground for resentment impacts relationships with their industry colleagues, makes them less likely to engage, and more likely to isolate themselves from the rest of the industry.

In the meantime, these ‘accolades’ provide spuriously awarded artists and their businesses with an unfair advantage.

Event organisers have a responsibility to represent the industry fairly and democratically. What is happening right now is unfair, corrupt, and just plain wrong.

How should nominations and awards be conducted?

Quite simply, with integrity.

Many award ceremonies do a great job, and operate fairly and openly. But many do not.

At the Meeting Of Minds SMP awards, we operate an open industry vote. Anyone can nominate themselves or someone else, and anyone can vote, as long as they’re an active SMP artist. We screen all votes for anomalies, so everyone has a fair chance. Our top 10 nominees in each category become our finalists, and we announce the winners, decided based on the number of votes received, on stage at the live conference.

How do we enact positive change?

What makes this trend particularly difficult to confront, is that there is no dignified way to do so.

If a fellow artist wins an award, of course we want to applaud them. It doesn’t look good to question the validity of their award, nor is it fair on the artist to do so.

I believe the only way to force change and make award ceremonies fairer for everyone is to vote with your feet, and boycott events that are blatantly showing bias, favoritism or a lack of transparency.

It is important to advise the organiser of the reason for your non-attendance, to provide opportunity for the change that is needed.

How can artists improve their chances of being nominated?

Votes-based awards are often decided in large part by how visible the artist is. In permanent makeup and scalp micropigmentation terms, this means – how active the artist is on social media.

Quite simply, fellow artists are less likely to vote for you, if they don’t feel they know you very well.

Here are some great ways to become more visible, and earn the respect of your industry peers:

  • Be a contributor on social media. Share your work, ask questions and be actively engaged in discussions online.
  • Try to inspire others. You don’t need to be a superhero to do this. Just be attentive to the needs of others, help out whenever you can, and try to be a warm and friendly member of the community.
  • Network. If some of your industry colleagues are meeting for dinner, go join them. If you admire a particular artist, ask if you can shadow them. If artists are working on something as a collective, ask what you can do to help.
  • Be humble and respectful.
  • Build a relationship with event organisers. Let them know who you are, and show them your work.

Want to share your views?

There is an ongoing discussion in the Team Micro Facebook group. Tap this link to access the group. See what others have to say, and let us know what you think.