Sam Fine: How to Have a Legendary Career as a Black Makeup Artist! (And Why it's Harder Today)
For this show, I had the privilege of chatting with my friend and legendary makeup artist Sam Fine about his career journey. He's worked with Iman, Vanessa L. Williams, Patti LaBelle, Queen Latifah, and Cynthia Erivo, to name a few. So, folks, get out your pad and pencils or note app, Sam is about to take you to school.
We chatted about his early aspirations to become an illustrator initially brought him to New York City from his native Chicago and later sent him back home. But while working part-time as a floater for Naomi Sims Cosmetics allowed him to move back to the Big Apple.
Among the many things that Sam shares are what working behind the counter for Sims in Herald Square taught him and the importance of finding good mentors. He found two amazing people that nurtured his career. One of them was Fran Cooper, whom he assisted on many shoots until he was ready to go out on his own. Sam shares how he led a double life--working behind the counter and working with celebrities and shoots until something had to give.
Sam also shares how he became the first Black makeup artist with a spokesperson deal with Revlon working with Veronica Webb. Later he worked on CoverGirl campaigns with Niki Taylor (who is not Black), and later with Tyra Banks and Queen Latifah.
He also talks about the importance of asking for what you want. Whether in his case, it was a book deal, a preferred payment arrangement, or to work with a specific brand such as Fashion Fair. And the importance of the many covers he did for Essence.
Sam explains why he decided to move to Los Angeles, Oakland, and eventually back to New York City. Why being in the union is essential, and what's it like to come back to Fashion Fair as its Global Ambassador under its new ownership.
He shares what it is like to come to prominence in a time before Instagram and why it is harder for a makeup artist to replicate what he's done in the age of social media. And he shares his thoughts on the inequity that Black creatives face in recognition and opportunities.