Tami El Sombati

Tami El Sombati is a Toronto based make-up artist fast becoming known for her creativity and attention to detail.  Tami graduated top of her class in Cosmetic Techniques and Business Management at Sheridan College, and has since returned to do a ten month intensive hair styling course to further her skills. Proving her creative talents yet again she finished top of her class and was honored as valedictorian.

Having gained set experience as an assistant to Kenny Lee, Tami has been able to build up her portfolio and hone her skills to ensure her status as one of the most sought after young make-up artists today.

Speaking to the artist herself, Tami reveals why she loves the excitement of being a make-up artist and the high points of her career, including working on teen heart throb Justin Beiber….

1)      Why and when did you decide to become a make-up artist?

 Becoming a makeup artist was never really a conscious decision for me. I had always had an interest in the field and was exposed to the salon and spa atmosphere a lot throughout high school because my best friend’s family owned one. I went to university for a year to study Hospitality and Tourism Management in hopes of getting a bachelor of commerce, but my heart was never in it. I completed my first year, but the same day I withdrew from that program, I applied to a college program for Cosmetic Techniques and Management. I worked at various cosmetics counters in a department store between schools to get more familiar with different lines, and when the store was slow I was lucky enough to have some willing customers allow me to do their makeup. It’s really something I have been doing since I was a little kid, whether it was on my Barbies, myself, or friends.

 2)      What steps have you taken to break in to the industry?

 When I was in college, we had two terms of co-op where we had to work 40 hours in something related to the industry. Most people worked at department stores or makeup counters, but considering I had done that before going to school, I really wanted to break into set work. The entire first co-op term I was contacting agencies in Toronto to assist their artists and gain some set experience, but no one was really interested. I was fortunate enough to have an artist from one of the agencies contact me directly over my school break (right before our second co-op term) and I was able to shadow her and join her on some photo shoots. I was working every day of fashion week while still in school, doing makeup, attending shows, and assisting many of the agency’s artists. I was hooked. I followed up with every single person I had met during my co-op by sending personalized letters with a business card I had made in school. Three days after my last class of the program, I worked on a runway show and the key artist asked me to be his first assistant. I worked closely with him for quite a while and learned a lot about the industry and being on set.

 3)      What are your tips for anyone else wanting to break in to the industry?

 It’s a highly competitive field, so you have to really want it. It gets frustrating like any freelance career, especially when it gets slower. But you have to keep yourself busy and constantly be working on making contacts for yourself. You can never practice enough. Mannequin heads are a great tool with which to practice hair techniques and work on your speed. I also suggest arranging photo shoots and calling photographers or stylists you want to work with to build your book. Assisting other artists is a really great way to get your foot in the door, plus you get to learn a lot about different products and techniques.

 4)      Are there any particular products you turn to time and time again?

 I tend to try all sorts of new products and am constantly building my kit, but I do have a few products that I will likely never stray from. I absolutely love Face Atelier Ultra Foundation Pro foundations. It’s really lightweight and looks stunning on camera. I also love my Shu Uemura eyelash curler. I always try different mascaras, and tend to stick with every day brands for that since they expire so quickly, but I always seem to come back to L’Oréal Voluminous mascara. Application is always easy, and it layers so well.

 5)      What for you is the best part of your job?

 I never get bored. I’m always meeting and working with different people, and doing various types of set work. I never know what’s next so it’s always exciting.

 6)  What are the four feature films you have worked on in Canada?

 I’ve worked on four features all with the same director, Warren P Sonoda. I’ve assisted my good friend Dee Daly, who is an amazing artist, on all of them: Coopers’ Christmas (formerly Coopers’ Camera), Puck Hogs, Textuality, and most recently Servitude. Coopers’ was such a fun set to be on. It took place in the eighties with possibly the most dysfunctional family ever. We always had to muffle our laughter on set when the actors would improvise. It was actually shown at some large theatres in Toronto, so seeing your name come up on the credits on a huge screen was very exciting. It was also released on DVD this year.

 7)      What has been the highlight of your career to date?

 I was fortunate enough to work the finale of a television show called The Next Star, which is a singing competition for young teenagers (most of them are under the age of 15) for the last two years. The finale is held at an amusement park over a weekend. We rehearse the first day, and then the finale is live. There is some downtime though, so myself and the other makeup artists get to run around and get on as many rides as we can, which is tons of fun.  There are also musical performances, and I was so lucky to have Justin Bieber in my chair right before he got really popular. That was definitely a great weekend.

 8)      Are there any make-up artists you’d love to work with?

 I love Pat McGrath. She is a genius. I also love Lottie who is New York based, she has such a great eye for colour, and has actually assisted Pat McGrath. Billy B is also someone I really admire and would be thrilled to work with. There are so many others I know I am forgetting.

 9)      What is your favourite line of work and why?

 It changes all the time; I can’t pick a favourite. People ask me all the time as well if I like doing makeup or hair more, and I can never choose. I love music videos because I generally love working with those in the music industry. It’s also usually a day or two maximum of filming so you get to be super creative in a small amount of time. Photo shoots are also really fun if you get creative control. You never really know what will inspire you – be it the model’s hair, face, or the clothes the stylist pulls. I really like that I am always working in several lines of work, and the payoff is always so rewarding. Being able to turn on your television and seeing a commercial or music video you worked on is so surreal or flipping open a magazine and seeing your name in the credits. It’s always exciting.

 10)  Is there anything you specialize in within make-up artistry?

 I haven’t found my trademark yet, but I do always go for glowing, healthy looking skin as a canvas, using a light hand. I am detail-oriented so I would like to show more of that over time. I also make wigs and hair extensions so hopefully I will be able to do some photo shoots where I can show more of that too.

 11)  What is your favourite movie make-up look of all time?

 I love, love, love old movies. Audrey Hepburn is such a timeless beauty, and I am a huge fan of hers. I love the mod look, but I also love the winged eye/red lips of the 40’s and 50’s, as well as the glamorous hairstyles. Everything always looked so polished on film.

 12)  Is movie make-up different to other types of make-up?

 I find that now everything is in High Definition, which really shows every pore and detail. There are all sorts of products that are supposedly specifically for HD, but I find if you just keep a light hand and powder minimally, it never looks cakey on camera. I’m light handed in general, and always believe it’s easier to add than to remove if need be. You just have to make sure your work is very clean, since little flaws can’t be edited out as easily as they would in a photo.

 13)  What’s the next step for you in your career?

 I’m still constantly working on my portfolio, and striving to get more published work and start a celebrity client base. Hopefully once my book is at a certain level, since I am still considered a newer artist, I will be able to travel more and be represented in other countries. I would really like to move around, and see which markets I like best. It would also be a dream come true if I were able to tour with a musician or celebrity for a while, and be responsible for creating looks that people would want to recreate on their own. I really have no idea where I will end up; I guess that’s part of why I love what I do.

Some of Tami’s flawless work :


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