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Sam Fine, 'Makeup Artist to the Stars'

ED GORDON, host:

I'm Ed Gordon, and this is NEWS & NOTES.

Mascara, loose powder, lip liner and lipstick are just part of the suggested Sam Fine beauty regimen. The makeup artist to supermodels such as Naomi Campbell and superstars like Patti LaBelle is now traveling the country to give beauty tips to everyday women. Sam Fine stopped by our Los Angeles studios to talk with NPR's Farai Chideya about ways to create her own no-fuss makeup program. He also explained why he went on the road to talk about the art and business of beauty.

Mr. SAM FINE (Makeup Artist): I began a conversation with women nine years ago with "Fine Beauty," my beauty book dedicated to women of color. It's really about education. You know, when you think about it, your hairstylist has to be licensed, your esthetician has to be licensed, but a makeup artist doesn't. So it really gives you an opportunity to learn about beauty, and especially for makeup hopefuls who want to get into the industry. And there are so few people of color as authorities--you know, there are so few of us behind the scenes--that it really gives them an opportunity to learn about how to get started.

FARAI CHIDEYA reporting:

If someone is aspiring to be a makeup artist for people of color, what do they need to know?

Mr. FINE: Well, aside from how to find their right color? You know, well, I say that as a joke, but that's probably one of my biggest concerns and the biggest concerns amongst, you know, women of color. You really have to be well versed in how to find the right consistency, not just the right color. There are still aren't, you know, very many lines dedicated to women of color, so you really have to shop around--you know, going to Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, and then going to the drugstore to pick up some Black Opal foundations, and then going to Wet 'n' Wild to get a lipstick. So that's a big part of it, but as an industry professional, you have to know that it's a business first.

CHIDEYA: I have worked for many years in television. Luckily right now I'm in radio where you can't see, for example, that I have a little breakout problem going on, you know?

Mr. FINE: Oh, please, you're gorgeous, yeah.

CHIDEYA: Oh, well, thank you, I wasn't fishing for a compliment out of that. I am going to ask you a little bit more about that, what to do about the little breakouts...


CHIDEYA: ...but, you know, in television, it was really interesting to see all of the different people's interpretations of my skin color.

Mr. FINE: Oh, yeah.

CHIDEYA: I had a lot of interpretative skin coloration. So...

Mr. FINE: And you're a beautiful honey color. It'd be so easy to find a foundation to match you, you know?

CHIDEYA: But what about white makeup artists dealing with clients of color? What should they be expected to do?

Mr. FINE: Well, the great thing is we're seeing a great mixture in the audience when we do the classes, and that shows me a level of sensitivity, that these artists--these Caucasian makeup artists who want to work with women of color--understand that they have to learn more. But I think that the most important thing for them to learn--for any makeup artist to learn, really--is that makeup's a personality. You have natural hair. You know, you're not going to be looking for reds and purples and fuchsia. You know, I'd take that guess.

CHIDEYA: You're right.

Mr. FINE: And I think that that's what you have to do as a makeup artist, is to pick up on the way you dress and to translate that to makeup.

CHIDEYA: Let's talk a little bit more from the layman or...

Mr. FINE: Yes.

CHIDEYA: ...laywoman's perspective. If you don't have access to a makeup artist, but you still want to look good, what are some of the basics you should know? Well, let's just take me, since I'm sitting here talking to you.

Mr. FINE: Sure.

CHIDEYA: I hate putting on makeup, anything complicated I will mess up, and my skin is breaking out. So what should I do?

Mr. FINE: Well, three things, but the first issue is dealing with perfecting the canvas. So if you're having a breakout, you have to deal with skin care. Skin care's terribly personal. I could tell you what I use to cleanse. I could tell you what I use to moisturize, but that may not work for you. Trust me, your skin looks beautiful, but, you know, you're your own worst critic. But, you know--but then when you address makeup, you have to think it's the same way you dress. You have on a very simple, yet stylish outfit. You don't have to go straight into eye shadow. Mascara's something that brings attention to your eyes immediately that doesn't require you being a pro to apply it. If it's not foundation, then fine. Just do powder. You know, powder will alleviate shine and also make the skin look more consistent in color and texture. When you begin your cosmetic journey, those are things to start with.

CHIDEYA: Tell me a little bit about your upcoming line of makeup. What made you decide to start your own makeup line?

Mr. FINE: Well, it's something that I've been working on for years. I've gone through so many contracts and so many talks, and I would love to just talk about the cosmetics themselves, but getting the right deal and making sure that I can speak to women in a way that I feel is most affirming is extremely important. So it's not just me saying, `Oh, I want to be another line in a drugstore,' because I think we need the education, we need the information and we need the service. So it has to come out in a luxury environment. When you look at the black women who shop at Fashion Fair and who shop at MAC and Bobbi Brown and all the speciality lines, I think we go there because we want to get that service and we want to be able to ask someone, you know, who's a professional what they would do. So I'm working on that now, and hopefully next year it'll come out.

CHIDEYA: And just tell me more on an emotional or psychological level what makeup means to you. Some people see it as just like getting dressed. It's something you have to do before you leave the house. Other people see it as artificial.

Mr. FINE: Mm-hmm.

CHIDEYA: Some people see it as life-enhancing. Other people, like me, are a little scared of it. So what does makeup mean to you?

Mr. FINE: I think about my mom, and I was raised in a household of four women in their different age ranges. And so I feel their pain, so to speak. You know, my mom came up in an era where it was Christie Brinkley and Cheryl Tiegs representing brands. So it's not so much that--you know, the makeup issue, but what does it feel like growing up in an era where you weren't told you were beautiful, and the most luxurious and gorgeous ads never had a face that was similar to yours? Nowadays we see Halle Barry and Vanessa Williams and Beyonce representing cosmetic brands, and we still want to see a wider array of our sisters, and especially women in your color range that is more average to us than not. So beauty doesn't break down to simply powder and foundations. It means so much about how we are viewing ourselves.

CHIDEYA: Well, Sam Fine, thank you for making time on your...

Mr. FINE: Oh, thank you.

CHIDEYA: ...big tour...

Mr. FINE: Thank you.

CHIDEYA: ...and we look forward to your new line, Fine Beauty, coming out next year, we hope.

Mr. FINE: Yes, yes. Thanks for having me.

CHIDEYA: Thank you. Take care.

Mr. FINE: All right.

GORDON: That was NPR's Farai Chideya. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.