Beauty Beast

Famed Makeup Artist Sam Fine Debuts His Own Cosmetics Line

Sam Fine, who created an empire around makeup for women of color in the ’90s. He talks to Allison Samuels about his new collection with Fashion Fair Cosmetics.

Andrew H. Walker/Getty

Veteran makeup artist Sam Fine admits first lady Michelle Obama came to mind when he launched his new makeup line, Sam Fine For Fashion Fair Supreme Color Collection earlier this month.

“While I was working I kept thinking of what lip gloss first lady Michelle Obama would wear to a state dinner and then when what eye shadow she’d wear to her “Let’s Move” event,” said Fine, who is still highly sought-after in the fashion, music, and film industry for his signature “flawless face,” a look he perfected for women of color in the 1990s and continues to use as the creative makeup director for Fashion Fair Cosmetics. “Would she wear a silvery eye shadow or something more subdued? I sent the collection over to the first lady’s office as soon as they were ready.” Fine worked with the first lady in 2010, perfecting her makeup for a number of occasions at the White House and for her travels around the country and abroad.

Fine, who has worked with Beyoncé, Naomi Campbell, Iman, Tyra Banks, Jennifer Hudson, Vanessa Williams, and others over his two-decades career, joined Fashion Fair in 2011. Much in the same way Tom Pecheux was chosen to revamp Estée Lauder, Fine’s new role at Fashion Fair also allowed him the chance to create his own signature line of makeup. Fine powered the faces of Queen Latifah and Jennifer Hudson for this year’s Oscar awards.

“Being from Chicago, there were three people I wanted to work with: Michael Jordan, Oprah, and Eunice Johnson [cofounder of Johnson Publishing Co., which publishes Ebony and Jet magazines],” said Fine. “All three happened. I remember that famous pink compact that Fashion Fair made back in the day that my mother had years ago ... It’s a real honor to be able to be a part of a brand that so many women of color have used for ages.”

As Fine made preparations for his new line, he considered the various textures and hues of the African-American woman he’d worked with over the years. Models such as Alek Wek have deep ebony undertones whereas actresses such as Vanessa Williams and Halle Berry tend toward the yellows.

“I really wanted to focus on women like Alek, Gabrielle Union, or Michelle Obama,” said Fine, “Women with dark skin tones have a much harder time finding colors with depth that work for them. Even in the high-end makeup lines. That’s a shame given how much African-American women are willing to spend on beauty items. They go to these nice stores and find those nice lines that don’t have shades for them even in 2013.”

Fine developed deep-red lipstick for women of a darker hue and designed pigmented eye shadows made to last for a day’s wear. He also created a beautiful nude lipstick that compliments brown skin, a rarity in the world of makeup.

Fine also rushed products off to his best friend, model Iman, who has her own makeup line for women of color as well. “We’ve talked for years about the how hard it is to break into the makeup industry and to get products for women of color in the high-end stores,” said Fine. Only time will tell whether his line, which is now sold in Macy’s, will benefit from the famed “Michelle Obama” effect.