May 11th, 2017
What do Michelle Obama, Oprah, Beyoncé, Halle Berry, Tyra Banks, Iman and Naomi Campbell all have in common? They’ve called on the expert touch of superstar make-up artist Sam Fine. Famed for his signature flawless face, Fine paid his dues working on counter at department stores where he came in contact with women from all walks of life who wanted one thing – to look their absolute best. His mission is to show how to accentuate individual beauty with colours and shades that best complement their specific complexions – and, most importantly, help women grow in confidence with their looks. Part artist, part coach, Warpaint chatted to the man himself.
WP: Where were you born, where do you live now and what was your ambition as a child?
SF: I was born/raised in Chicago, Illinois and currently live in California. My ambition was to become a fashion illustrator.
WP: How did you know that the make-up artist industry was where you wanted to be?
SF: I actually fell into make-up artistry by accident. I accepted a job at a make-up counter and friends who recognized my talent, urged me to pursue the art of make-up. However, assisting celebrity make-up artists Fran Cooper and Kevyn Aucoin was the moment my love for make-up (and the business of beauty) was truly ignited. My early influences were Fran and Kevyn, and also François Nars.
WP: What was your route into make-up? Did you take traditional training and, if so, where and with whom?
SF: My best friend, Joseph Hampton, is a make-up artist; he mentored me during my formative years. There weren’t many classes (and no internet to watch How To videos <smile>), therefore my training was practical experience. I often refer to the cosmetic counter as the real school of beauty; it served me well. It was here that I came in contact with a variety of make-up personalities with various cosmetic needs and preferences. This helped me to understand the soul of make-up… that each woman has a unique perspective about her beauty and to understand my job to satisfy it. One day you’re talking trends and the next, you’re coaxing another towards experimenting with colour. I don’t feel my job has changed much… except I don’t apply make-up at the cosmetic counter anymore.
WP: What inspires you? Whose work do you admire? What are the things about working in the make-up industry that you love?
SF: New perspective inspires me. New artists with new goals and new ideas are inspiring. I enjoy watching the new generation of artists find their voice in an every changing world of beauty. I love the travel, the people and ahem, the money. There are few careers where a high school graduate can fly on private jets to foreign countries, meet a wide variety of influential individuals and command rates, all while doing something you love!
WP: Your work with famous faces is legendary. What saviour products do you keep in your kit? Which work are you most proud of?
SF: Anyone who has watched me teach a make-up seminar knows I enjoy using both mass and prestige products, ranging from Black Opal Cosmetics to MAC and everything in between. I believe that every brand has something great to offer… our job as makeup artists is to find them. My career has been filled with several achievements ranging – i.e. magazine covers, celebrity photo shoots, cosmetic advertisements, etc. – however, my proudest achievement was authoring, Fine Beauty: Beauty Basics and Beyond for African American Women.
WP: How do you continue to grow your career as an artist? Has technology and social media affected your work?
SF: I grow my career by simply challenging myself to go places and do things I haven’t done before. Obviously, the Internet and social media are the things that have changed the most since I come into the industry, none of which existed when I began freelancing in 1991. Technology hasn’t affected my work greatly, however, it has allowed me to communicate with an international audience with ease. Social media allows more people to connect with me, my work… and my agent. <smile>
WP: What are some of the most important qualities that a make-up artist can have? What project did you have the most fun working on? Is there a celebrity face you’d like to work with?
SF: Aside from the obvious talent, it’s important to possess a positive attitude and an ability to serve each client. It’s a joy to work with celebrities and cosmetic brands alike, but where I have the most fun is working on my own projects such as books, DVDs and personal appearances. I enjoy each client the Universe presents and rarely make wishes for more.
WP: What about the changes in product available to you as a make-up artist? Has that changed the way you do make-up?
SF: Having dedicated my career to beautifying women of colour, the product available has changed a bit. More brands are expanding their colour offerings, however, many brands fall short of shades, formulas and key verbiage that speak directly to women of colour. With that in mind, I’m currently working on Sam Fine Cosmetics – watch this space!