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A makeup artist speaks: Respect the face

“Respect the face.”It’s a mantra that has guided the career of senior M.A.C. make-up artist Fatima Thomas for more than a decade in the industry.

It may also have been the winning formula for a makeup artist who has made up the faces of celebrities from Fergie and Alicia Keys to Mary J. Blige and Cyndi Lauper.

Whether she’s beautifying models for a Bill Blass show or dolling up housewives, Thomas has one thing on her mind.

“As a makeup artist when I do someone’s face the objective is not solely my own,”she said. In the midst of a quick makeover during a recent M.A.C. event at the Cosmetic Boutique, the New York-based makeup artist was doing what she does best.

“I have to take into account what my client wants, so usually that objective is established together. I have celebrity clients; I have everyday housewife clients; I have male clients, so we really work together to find out what they need for what occasion,”she said.

Thomas joined the M.A.C. team in her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, back in 1997, but had been a make-up artist before then. She quickly moved up through the ranks at M.A.C., becoming a trainer for the southeast region within a year of working for the company.

In 2000 Thomas joined the M.A.C. training team in New York. Four years later she became senior artist for the southeast market.

“This is not something that your high school guidance counselor will tell you you can do,”she said of coming into her high fashion career.

“Most makeup artists become makeup artists because’A’we’re product junkies, we’ve always loved makeup, and’B’we’ve always loved fashion and you somehow translate that love into a career.”

Her love for the craft has taken her around the world. Thomas does make-up, media events and more in a position that pops her in one country for a few days only to jet her off to another days later.

“I don’t have a typical month. All of my months are so different. There are months when I spend probably 60 percent of my time on the road. And then there are months when I have a lot going on in my base city, my home city of New York,”she said.

“It’s the thing I love about my job. There’s no rhythm, no rhyme, no predictability. It changes constantly and I like that’cause it keeps me on my toes.”

The glitz and glamor come with hard work and a close study of current and even historical fashion trends and references.

“You need to bring a certain respect to the craft: Learn your art, learn your cultural and historic references because all of that plays into makeup and beauty and what inspires designers. And makeup artists work closely with designers and photographers,”she said.

Thomas’makeup artistry prowess is only enhanced by her other artistic talents.

“I’m an artist at heart. I don’t just draw on faces, I draw and paint anyway.”

And years in the industry have not dimmed its allure for the senior artist.

“To be able to draw and balance and beautify a face . . . it’s a lot of fun and it’s great to see people’s reaction,”she said.

Thomas likens her art to polishing a precious stone.

“It’s already been chiseled and I just go in and give it a little buff and then it gleams. It’s not me, it’s really the stone. I just help you see it better.”

Tips from a makeup pro

-Know what you like.

-Makeup shouldn’t be a chore; makeup should be enjoyable.

-Have a routine of what you need; that requires great products and great tools and we make some of the best at M.A.C.

-When you enjoy wearing makeup and you enjoy applying it, it shows in your application and how your face looks.

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