What do superstars Patti Labelle, Vanessa L. Williams, Halle Berry, Brandy and supermodels Tyra Banks, Veronica Webb, Iman and Naomi Campbell all have in common? They’ve relied on the expert hand of makeup artist Sam Fine to look their most glamorous. That’s because Fine knows that the key to making up goes beyond painting a pretty face. Long before he became a celebrity makeup artist, the Chicago native paid his dues working behind the makeup counter of department stores, an experience he fondly refers to as “the real school of beauty.” There he came in contact with women from all walks of life that wanted one thing – to look their absolute best. He made it his mission to show them how to accentuate their unique beauty by using colors and shades that would best complement their complexions. But most importantly he helped them eliminate their doubts and apprehension about applying makeup so that they too could achieve dazzling results.
Fine’s talent and determination have taken him far from the makeup counter, making him one of today’s most sought after makeup artists. His work has appeared on the covers and pages of Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Essence, Vibe and Marie Claire and was chosen as the first African-American spokesperson for Revlon and Covergirl Cosmetics. But it was the experiences from his formative years selling makeup that inspired him to write his first book, Fine Beauty: Beauty Basics and Beyond for African-American Women, a how-to guide that also highlights his many accomplishments.
Clutch: Tell us about how it is to work on the faces of some of the most influential and successful black supermodels such as Iman, Veronica Webb, Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks.
Sam Fine: The greatest part of my career is working with groundbreaking models and celebrities. Watching Iman, Naomi, Veronica and Tyra change the landscape of beauty has empowered me as an artist and enables me to move forward in my career as an African-American artist.
Clutch: Who are some of your favorite celebrities to work with?
Sam Fine: I’ve worked with Vanessa Williams, Veronica Webb, Iman, Tyra Banks and Patti LaBelle for over a decade. Each woman possesses intelligence, wit and humor that make them all my favorite!
Clutch: Makeup brushes are important especially when it comes to highlighting and applying eye shadows. What types of brushes do you feel are absolutely necessary and what are some brands to look out for?
Sam Fine: Brushes are very important to achieve a seamless, well-blended finish. I feel the most necessary brushes to have are:
1. Powder brush – a full, soft – haired brush used for applying loose powder.
2. Under eye brush – a smaller, soft – haired brush used for smoothing the undereye area where powder can collect in fine lines or wrinkles.
3. Blush brush – a medium size, soft- haired brush used when applying bronzer or blush.
4. Eyeshadow brush – at least three;
1. A stiff short – haired brush used for highlighting under the brow.
2. A soft, short- haired brush for general shadow application.
3. A longer, soft-haired brush for blending shadows and softening lines.
5. Lipbrush – a short, fairly stiff brush for precise application of lipstick and lipgloss.
Some of my favorite brands for brushes are: Shu Uemura, MAC and Trish McEvoy.
Clutch: For the woman on the go, or the woman who has a ‘no-fuss’ approach to make-up, what should she absolutely have in her clutch?
Sam Fine: I believe that every woman should have the following items in her clutch for a no–fuss beauty approach:
1. Concealer – used to highlight the under-eye area and cover any blemishes or darkness
2. Pressed Powder – used to alleviate shine
3. Bronzer – to add luminosity and richness to the skin
4. Mascara – to naturally enhance the eyes
5. Lipstick or Lipgloss – used to add color and shine
Clutch: A lot of women are beginning to buy their makeup online or in drug stores. How do you feel about that?
Sam Fine: Buying makeup online is risky… even for a pro! However, online shopping helps many women find brands, products and shades that aren’t always available. Just remember to make sure there’s a good return policy, so you can test and return key items such as foundations and powders (which are always the hardest to choose online).
One of my favorite places to shop for cosmetics is the drugstore; I’m able to find great products for half the price of department store brands! Some of my finds are…
1. L’Oreal Voluminous Mascara
2. Iman Cosmetics Luxury Pressed Powder
3. Black Opal Stick Foundation
4. Covergirl Clear Mascara (I use it to keep eyebrows in place)
5. Maybelline Twin Brow Pencils (medium brown & dark brown are my favorites)
Clutch: What feature do you like to play up most on a woman and why?
Sam Fine: Every woman (or in my case, every client) has a feature they prefer to enhance. However, with the popularity of nude lipstick and gloss, the eyes must be strong. I achieve this look by applying black liner, brown shimmering shadows and at least two coats of mascara on both top and bottom lashes!
Clutch: Can you bless us with a run down of the makeup do’s and don’ts for African-American women?
Sam Fine: I’ve never been much for rules and regulations… My only advice is to try makeup. Many women of color are afraid of wearing too much makeup or making mistakes, so they don’t use any at all. Even an artist such as myself has made mistakes and chosen the wrong shade. However, each mistake and incorrect purchase has helped lead me to find the right shade and gain a greater understanding of makeup application!
Clutch: How has makeup and the cosmetic industry changed over the years?
Sam Fine: I don’t believe the cosmetic industry has changed much in the past years. I notice that more cosmetic companies are vying for our attention by including black models and celebrities in advertising. However, developing products that speak to the specific needs of women of color is essential. I applaud companies such as Iman Cosmetics and Black Opal that are dedicated to offering a wide selection of beauty products that speak directly to the concerns of women of color.
Clutch: You’re known for creating seamless, classic and perfectly balanced faces. How can one achieve that FINE look?
Sam Fine: Practice makes perfect! It’s taken me years to perfect my talent for makeup artistry. So, be patient with yourself and blend, blend, blend!!!
Clutch: In your seminars, you stress not only finding the right shade of foundation but the right formula. Explain to us what you mean by formula.
Sam Fine: If you’re searching for the right foundation, color is only half of the battle – finding the right formula is key!
FINE FACT: Pressed powder alleviates shine and can make the skin look more consistent in color and smoother in texture. Yes, I know MAC Studio Fix and Bare Escentuals are wonderful, but if you have varied tones, undereye darkness or blemishes, then foundation is needed to further enhance the skin! If you require minimal coverage, try a liquid foundation or tinted moisturizer. If you’re in need of medium to maximum coverage, then choose a cream formula (stick, pot or compact).