One of the perks of being press is getting to meet people who have changed the game. Trailblazers who introduced a new way of thinking that eventually became a cornerstone for their industry. Such is the case with Sam Fine—a Chicago south side native who “always liked to draw” and whose talent and innovation made him one of the most celebrated celebrity makeup artists for women of color today. He’s worked closely with Vanessa Williams, Mary J. Blige, Tyra Banks, Queen Latifah and Michelle Obama. His methods are so lauded that his best-selling book, Fine Beauty, was recently turned into an instructional DVD called Fine: The Basics of Beauty, for his scores of fans to try his tips and tricks at home.
We sat down with Sam, relaxing after a whirlwind trip into his hometown to be a keynote speaker for The Makeup Show in Chicago. Smiling and impeccably dressed, he was immediately enthusiastic to discuss his passion—the art of embracing and celebrating every woman’s beauty.
SCS: How did you get started in the beauty industry? Did you always know you wanted to be a makeup artist?
SF: I can say I’ve always been an artist, I’ve always had that. I grew up being artistic, I always liked to draw. But I didn’t always know it was calling, Actually, it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve felt that way. You know when you’re young and making your way in something, you may get awards and prizes and people may say you’re doing a great job, but you don’t feel like you own it. Not until recently, have I been able to put the demons away nipping at your heels, giving you doubt. Especially in working with celebrities, you are creating memorable moments. You are creating key pieces where people will look back and really look back in ten years. I remember working with Mary J. Blige during Real Love on her video, and for her first Essence cover and her next one, and the next one after that. So really, there are events. So many times, I as an artist, would bring a lot of anxiety with me. But throughout my years, and as I you get older, you realize that you’re enough. And that its gonna be just as it should be.
SCS: And do you think working with all these celebrities and high brow names has changed your personal beauty philosophy at all?
SF: Not at all. You’re attracted to who you are. If you’re working with a client who doesn’t believe in what you believe in, then it doesn’t last, famous or not. And it’s not with any disrespect, there are just people that I worked with once that I don’t work with anymore. And sometimes you have breaks. I’ve come back to people, they come back to you. So I don’t think you have to switch yourself up to be anything because I do feel that you’re attracted to who you are. I work with classic beauties. Even when I saw Jada Pinkett, who I’ve worked with before. I saw her at the Oprah Spectacular with Queen Latifah. And I hadn’t seen her since Brandy’s remix of “I Wanna Be Down” when we were all kids! So its an endless cycle and you’re constantly gonna see people throughout this circuit. And when I look at people like Reggie Wells, Roxanna Floyd, Kevyn Aucoin, who have been in the industry so much longer than I have, they’ve made such a great name for themselves and I don’t think they’ve ever done anything other than what they do. And doing what you do and doing it well just sets you up for more, and a longer and more successful career.
SCS: Tell us a little bit of the back story for Fine Beauty?
SF: Fine Beauty came out fourteen years ago and I was 27 years old, and at the time I realized having dedicated my career up to that point to beautifying women of color, having been the first African American spokesperson for both Revlon and later on Cover Girl, I realized after looking at Bobbi Brown’s book and Kevyn Aucoin’s book that there was definitely a need for a book that spoke to our beauty in a more complete way as opposed to two or three models, two or three pages, one or two celebrities, or in some cases, not even that. So I went to a book agent and got a deal and the next thing you know, I had a book! It was the most seamless act for me and it was really my first foray into meeting the people that my work affects I didn’t realize that the little stuff that I was doing, people were actually paying attention to. And so, to put a book together that it still spoken about today is a huge compliment. It was really a launchpad to bring my personality out from behind the scenes and to be able to connect with people. And to inspire the people that really, inspire me.
SCS: How do you feel about its evolution into an instructional DVD for people to try your tips at home?
SF: Fine: The Basics of Beauty came out less than a year ago, and for me, it’s is really the book come to life. Its a way for people to stop just oohing and aahing and thinking that it’s all retouching or it’s all just Sam. No, if you spend a little time on it, you can get this too. It’s not brain surgery. Put foundation on, then powder. It’s like what topcoat is to nail polish. It’s like cooking! It’s paying attention, getting in the kitchen and making that meal. And not leaving one ingredient out because you will see a difference. And you know, you cannot work with talented, multi-dimensional women like Iman, Vanessa Williams, Jennifer Hudson, Monique and Queen Latifah and not take that lesson home with you. And so in many ways, I am who I attract. I attract women who inspire me by the things that they do, from singing to dancing to acting to cosmetic contracts to clothing contracts to all sorts of wonderful things—and with books in between— so I’m really just trying to keep up with them! But really, it’s such a huge compliment and so flattering to know that people are even paying attention to what I do. I always say I’m a servant, whether its to my clients or to the people who buy my product or to the people who look up to me, and I think that I have a responsibility. And I truly take it on wholeheartedly.
SCS: Now, if you don’t mind, we’d like to pick your brain on products! Do you tend to veer more toward prestige products, budget products or a little of both? And why is that your preference?
SF: I shop everywhere. I mean Black Opal, Iman, CoverGirl Queen Collection are really my favorites. So there’s no reason why a woman can’t put her best face forward on a budget. Iman has wonderful foundations, Queen Collection has great cream and powder. I think the biggest issue isn’t just talking about investment pieces versus budget versus department store versus Sephora versus Mary Kay and Avon—I think everyone has something great to offer. Where women fall short is participating in the game. You’ve got to get into it, you’ve got to put on a lipgloss and it’s not gong to find you, you have to find it. You just have to try it out. If you see a brand, and you think it looks great on your girlfriend then mimic that, but make it your own. If you feel like this is a time when you want to put your best face forward, think about powder, think about concealer, think about all of these wonderful articles in magazines that are speaking directly to you.
SCS: We touched on your personal beauty philosophy earlier, but can you outline it in more detail for us now?
SF: Makeup is a personality and everyone’s personality is different. There is no one box. I have three sisters and my mom and I talk to them all differently. They are all different skill sets, they are all different personalities so you cannot say you know what, she’s got on six inch heels, she’s got on flats. I can’t say, you’ve all got to wear heels everyday. And I think that’s kind of the new democracy of beauty. So I speak to women with that respect that says you can be whoever you want but show me who you are.
For more information on celebrity makeup artist Sam Fine and to order his instructional DVD, Fine: The Basics of Beauty, visit SamFine.com.
Photo Source: Second City Style
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