In Part 2 of The Style Page interview with Matin, Matin talks about coming to the U.S., breaking into the beauty business, and making it.
5. What brought you to the U.S.?
Life brought me to the US. I needed to go to college and we were politically exiled from my country, so we ended up as political refugees in the US.
6. Your biography says that you got into makeup on account of your college roommate. Tell me about his or her influence on you.
As I mentioned, we became political refugees. My family lost everything during the Soviet occupation and I had to pay for school. I was flipping burgers in East Oakland until 3 am. Then finally got a job selling perfumes at the stores on Union Square in SF. My father finally found someone to smuggle him out of Afghanistan and finally joined us in the US after 6 years. I moved out when he arrived, moved to the city with my roommate Marti whom I met teaching modeling at the Barbizon school of modeling in SF (Don’t even ask how and why I got a job there ;-)). She worked also at Neiman Marcus as a make up artist. When I needed a job, she suggested to interview with her boss and she told me how the make up thing worked. Next thing I know, I had a job offer.
7. How did you learn to become a makeup artist?
I do calligraphy and was always good at drawing. Make up was a very natural process for me. I often say that one has to “listen” to the skin and it will tell you what it needs. I guess some of us are born with that “ear”. I do not have formal training. I learned from working at make up counters during my undergraduate years in Berkeley and then I assisted Laura Mercier.
8. Your biography states that you worked as a research scientist after earning your masters’ degree. Was your decision to become a makeup artist full-time sudden or was it something that was planned over time? When did being a makeup artist full-time become feasible?
I had an offer to do an event for one of the cosmetics company that I had worked in the past. After that job, I realized how much fun I had doing make up. I woke up one night thinking about creating a make up line. The next step terrified me. It was to move to NY, starve for a few years and maybe make it or I though maybe I could become a trainer for a cosmetic line or a national make up artist. Without applying for any jobs, I got 3 offers in the next two weeks for exactly that position. That just blew me away. I took it as a sign and let the universe take care of the rest. Doors opened up, I met Laura Mercier and my agent Timothy Priano. Laura Mercier line created a position for me and Tim told me to look for him should I move to NY and seek representation. It was like magic. I worked for Laura full time for a year, then moved to NY and went to see Timothy. Now if I knew how little money I was going to make in the beginning, I probably would have talked myself out of it but ignorance is bliss and fate is a strong cushion to lean on.
9. Tell me about your first big break as a makeup artist. What event gave you an entry into the world of being a celebrity makeup artist?
My first full page beauty was for Glamour magazine. Kate Moodie (style director of the magazine then) hired me to do it. I met her during a beauty shot when I was still assisting Laura. Then a few months later, my 3rd year in NY that I got a BIG break. I was working for Laura Mercier 3 days a month still and I got a job for ELLE magazine to shoot a model for a bathing suit story. I was to make a white girl black from head to toe. “Bien Maron” was what the Fashion Editor (Carlyn Cerf De Dudzelee) told me. The photographer was non other that Gilles Bensimon. Intimidated I woke up at 4 am to get the girl painted and ready for a 7 am call time. I was shy, totally stayed on the side, didn’t really fit in at the shoot but the stylist was kind enough to include me in everything. We ended up doing a fashion and a bathing suit story. This meant 16 pages in my portfolio that I didn’t have. I was thrilled and very grateful. At the airport waiting for our luggage, Gilles who hardly said a word to me during the shoot tapped on my shoulder and with a very THICK French accent said: “I’m shooting Liv Tyler for a cover next week and want you to do the make up for it”. WHAT??? Usually you have to slave and test for years in order to get an opportunity like this. I thanked him and truthfully didn’t believe him. 2 days later my agent called and told me that I was booked for the cover. When the magazine hit the stands, I had the cover and 31 pages of work inside the magazine. I did 6 of the 8 remaining covers that year and it launched my career to a completely different level.