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"I support and champion Black-owned beauty every chance that I get."

Ashley Jimenez
Mar 15, 2021 @ 4:54 pm
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kamala harris makeup artist sam fine black-owned beauty products
Credit: Instagram, @iamsamfine

What do Beyoncé, Michelle Obama, and Kamala Harris have in common? They all keep legendary makeup artist Sam Fine busy and booked. Fine's artistry ranges from government-appropriate to Fashion Week glam, and he has the clients to prove it. With over 25 years of expertise working with women of color, he's dedicated his career to celebrating Black women and uplifting them through the power of makeup. 

He was one of the few African-American pro makeup artists in the '90s and his years of expertise inspired him to publish his book Fine Beauty, where he shares his beauty secrets for Black women. Today, he's still as relevant as ever and takes his expertise all the way to the White House. Ahead, Fine shares his favorite Black-owned beauty brands, what he uses to do Kamala Harris's makeup, and the importance of elevating BIPOC makeup pros and stylists. 

HG: How do you create the beauty looks for political figures such as Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris?

SF: Mrs. Obama and VP Harris have a job to do—their makeup can't be overly glamorous. As a political figure, you can't let makeup take the main stage when you have a crucial message to deliver, so it's all about elegance and beauty basics. I tap into their personalities by getting into their mindsets. Both Michelle and Kamala go for voluminous lashes, feathered brows, radiant complexions, and neutral sheer lip shades. 

HG: What makeup products do you leave them with for reapplication? 

SF: For these leading ladies, multipurpose makeup is vital. I'm a fan of NARS The Multiple—it's an all-in-one cream stick used on eyes, cheeks, and lips. When applying makeup to women of color, it's about highlighting their radiant complexions, and this product does that. 

The Hourglass Girl Lip Stylo Lip Crayons are hydrating, weightless, and provide a lustrous finish. I find that most all-day-lasting lipsticks can really dry out lips and possibly irritate them, so I prefer products with a bit of hydration or gloss. 

Also, touch-ups are always necessary around the nose, and the T-zone and Tatcha Blotting Papers are my go-to's to give them. They fit perfectly in pockets and help to absorb excess oil without disrupting the skin. I make sure my clients, such as Madame Vice President and the former First Lady, have these while on the go. 

HG: You work with African-American celebrities and Black icons; how do you introduce them to your favorite Black-owned cosmetic brands?

SF: I support and champion Black-owned beauty every chance that I get. I even helped develop Black Opal True Color Foundation Stick. If you're looking for a foundation with sunscreen and a full-coverage matte finish, you can't go wrong with this pick. It's a staple in my makeup kit.

Black Opal True Color Foundation Stick
$10.95

Another makeup line I can't get enough of is Danessa Myricks Beauty. She's the mastermind behind Ciara and Jordin Sparks's red carpet looks and works with many other women of color, so she understands the importance of inclusive shade ranges. The brand's Enlight Illuminator has a permanent place in my makeup bag as it leaves a sophisticated moonstone finish and is available in 14 pigments. I apply it post-foundation to enhance cheekbones and facial perimeters. 

Then, AJ Crimson, whose roster of clients include actress Lauren London and singers Estelle and Brandy, has an inclusive, cruelty-free, and vegan-friendly cosmetic line—I recently stocked up on AJ Crimson Beauty Dual Skin Creme Foundation Compact. The formula is buildable, long-lasting, and sits beautifully on all skin types. 

HG: How has the industry changed for Black makeup artists over the past 25 years? 

SF: It was very hidden back then; we didn't have Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok. Pro artists received editorial credits but didn't get any for music videos or red carpets and therefore, having a signature lip, contouring technique, or fluffy butterfly-like brow was seen as an imprint to your work. That's why my book, which features techniques and styles I crafted with celebrities such as Vanessa Williams, Deborah Cox, and Brandy, was so impactful.

Today, I have gratitude for witnessing Black stylists within makeup, hair, and skin winning over Hollywood's biggest names: Kerry Washington's stylist, Takisha Sturdivant-Drew, Tracee Ellis Ross's brow boss, Damone Roberts, and Rea Ann Silva of Beautyblender. Black artists have the experience of duality; we understand all complexions because we have a diverse spectrum.

HG: What message do you have for an aspiring makeup artist who wants to work with women of color? 

SF: More non-BIPOC artists need to understand that everyone who sits in your chair could be a potential client. For example, I look at Kristofer Buckle and his work with Gabrielle Union and Mariah Carey. He's one of my favorite Caucasian artists who works with a ton of women of color. Look at Kevyn Aucoin; he crafted note-worthy looks for Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson. You can't say you admire these artists and not also take the time to mirror their mindful techniques when working with different skin tones. It's all about education, period.