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Makeup artist Simone Otis shares the evolution of her makeup bag, how to have your true self come through, and the importance of attitude.


19/99    Take us through your daily beauty routine. 

SIMONE OTIS    If I’m not going to work, I wash my face, I put on sunscreen, which is very important. More often now, I put on some under eye concealer. I didn’t used to do that but as I’m getting older I feel better with some concealer. I’ll do lip balm, and sometimes curl my lashes. I don’t like to wear mascara all the time. I have been using Eye Envy which is helps with growth of lashes and brows, which I find really helps. It makes them a bit darker too, which helps with definition. As you get older you start to sort of fade; you loose the volume of your lashes and brows, the punchy colour of your lashes and your skin colour drains a bit.

If I’m going to work, depending on the state of my skin, I will do moisturizers and a serum; I want it to look as fresh as it can. I will do a wash of a good foundation, and I really try to do a wash. I want my skin to still show through, I just want to even it out. I do little layers of everything; it can sound like a lot but it is just little layers; a concealer, a little cream blush, I will curl my lashes, mascara, I will definitely fill in my brows. Some days when I don’t do that I really look expressionless. I need a little definition in my brows. I do a little bit of smudgy pencil eyeliner too — I’ll use a good eyeshadow brush to smudge it down - I just want definition, I want to have eyes. I tend not to wear too much lip colour. I’m experimenting with that again though. I went through a period when I was really young of always wearing lipsticks. I played with a lot of different shades; super red, almost purple black, I did everything. And then it was like ‘ooff, I don't like that’. So I went more to eye definition. I just feel like I look a little tired, a little faded, so I use those things to make me look a little juicy.

19/99    What lip colours are you experimenting with now? 

SO       Lip colours that are similar to my lip shade; a little paler, right on the nose, and a little darker- warm or cool. There are so many more textures that you can play with. You can pat them on and they stay, and matte textures that don’t dry out. That use to be my favorite thing — super matte lips, but they would dry out. 

I got this Dior lipstick and I thought it was a weird colour at first; it’s a mauve-y purple. It’s a gold container that looks like an old-fashioned classic, heavy lipstick, very shiny metal. I was going to just give it to my daughter to play with. Then I put it on and was like damn, this is a good colour. So I’ve been playing with it, and have been into that one lately. I like Pat McGrath’s; the texture of the lipstick. It’s a really silicone-y matte; so I can get some pigmented colour without looking like they are chapped in two minutes. All of her colours are good. And some of the MAC ones; I think it is called Powder Lip — it seems like they are going for what Pat has done, with that silicone, moisturizing matte, some of those are good too.

19/99    What is your opinion on products that claim they can last 12 or 24 hours? 

SO       So I’ve seen and worked with a few products from some of the mass brands, Maybelline particularly, has one that has that claim & they do last. What concerns me is it doesn’t come off. I guess some people live with it faded on their lip. When I work with it on set and you have to get it off to work with another shade completely — I’ve had to go in with super duper remover. Even if I swipe it on my hand, I can’t get it off. And I’m not comfortable with that — I mean, what is it? I’m not sure how I like that idea of people are walking around with old old old old lipstick on their lips; not realizing it. It’s the same thing with mascara; some people will tell me ‘oh I have terrible circles’ and I will be like, ‘ya, everybody kind of does, but have you wiped off all your mascara’ and they realize that it is staining, and underneath it is giving them a rim. I think they should come with a disclaimer — hey make sure you use this to get it off.  I have one product from Make Up Forever that is gentle & super duper remover. But without that I don’t know how I would get that stuff off. So I’m on the fence about those products. Do you really need it to stay on for 12 hours; could you go touch it up? Could you live with a little bit more of your own colours and features enhanced, rather than a stamp of something? A little bit enhancing you…

Image via @simoneotis


19/99    Has your beauty routine changed over the years?

SO       Oh yaaaa, so much, oh my god. It wasn’t my aim to be a make up artist at all. When I was younger I always wanted to change. When I was really young I lived in a neighbourhood where there were a lot of Asian kids, and I thought they were so beautiful. Their dark shiny hair, that almost looked blue, straight brows, and porcelain skin. And I was the opposite of that. The first make up I did on myself was this thing that was clown white, and I mixed it with my colour foundation. It was my way of trying to be paler without going white. I used to draw my brows as straight as they could look & I dyed my hair black. I had bangs and a black little bob. Then I started going into colours of lipstick; really super red with black, black eye liner. And then I flipped it, because I was younger and thought ‘oh that's wrong’. I decided I wanted to be blonde and let freckles show. I’ve experimented a lot; changed my hair colour a lot, worn every kind of make up. I’ve swung back and forth; i always try not to stay still. If i start to stay still then it feels like a chore, rather than something fun. I switch it a bit to keep that pendulum going - even if I have to force. I’ll do something weird to myself, try on a crazy colour of lipstick at home and go ‘Ohhhhh that's horrible’. But at least it is switching it around. Or I read something that somebody is doing, and I’ll think ‘oh I never thought of that, I can try that’ and I do and I'll adopt it. Or get a new product that claims to do something else — and then going ‘oh, okay that works’ so you know, moving around a bit.

19/99    What are some of your favorite beauty products? What was your favorite beauty product when you were young, first starting with make up?

SO       I have these sort of token things over the years; that clown white, was so important. Then there was a time when I was wearing all different MAC lipsticks; there was six or seven shades that I would change play with; from brown to deep red to bright red, to purple. They were very important.

When I started to do make up, there weren’t as many products out there to buy — that were quality. I was really always looking for skin texture to come through. I grew up with not great skin — I fought cystic acne, which was very hard to cover. I taught myself how to cover it all so it looked like I didn’t have any acne, but also that I didn’t have any make up on. That involved of reading and being a completely obsessed person to find out what great make up artists were using, because a lot of it wasn't readily available. I couldn’t just go online and get it. When Nars first came out with their Copacabana that was an obsession for me, because I wanted that luminous skin. Back then, you did see the product more, you’d see the particles. The Copacabana stick you’d get this more glossy skin, which gave this highlighted, tiny glitter. I was like ‘Wow I really need to find that’. So that Copacabana stick is definitely a favourite.

 And now, I guess really any quality product — I stick mostly with things that are made in Japan, or that I can really deep dive into what it is made of. If I reach a point when I’m reading about something and I can’t recognize what is in it, when I start to feel there is no integrity to the product, the way it looks, the way it feels, it’s not doing what it says, it’s like ‘buh-bye’. Most of the time with Japanese made products, and some Korean, the quality is so good so then it looks great.

19/99    How do you react to the term ‘age appropriate’?

SO       Depending on who is saying it and the context, there is a negative vibe to that in general. It is creating a judgment and dictating that there is ‘appropriate’, and ‘not appropriate’, and I feel like that is out dated…I hope it is. There are so many things that people decide because of an age, a number, which don’t make sense. Why? You can’t do something because you are a certain something, or you can’t try something…you’re over? And I think that sort of washes over society. And it will happen to everybody, everyone gets older, so you will be in that place where people have decided that you can’t do something and you’re not relevant. So how about we erase that for everybody and say that everything is of value, everybody is of value.

 Walking down the street, going into a store, being at a restaurant, a bar, where I was noticed, now I am not. And it is a very strange thing; some days I will look at myself and think ‘oh ya, shit, you got wrinkles’. I don't’ constantly think about that, but I do notice how certain people, especially younger, respond to me is a little bit like…I’m not really there. I don’t feel upset about it, I find it very strange. What am I supposed to do? I am not going to start putting on hot pants, and big crazy glasses to get noticed.. and I’m not going to fade away. I am still the exact same person — and I think that is where we have to go - as a society we need to be able to do whatever we want and still be of relevance, and noticed.

19/99    What did you like before that you don’t like now, and what did you dislike before that you now enjoy?

SO       That clown white…that came from wanting to look like what I thought was beautiful and I did not look like that. I would look in the mirror and was completely different. Now, I don’t think that way; I like what I like for me, what enhances the best for me. And it really has a power. I had no idea. You need to go through and explore though; there are few things that I wouldn't do. You could say I’d never wear a high heel, or never wear a bikini. I don’t ‘never’… well, I would never completely change myself like I did with the clown white. I had extensions once…I’ve always had fine hair and work in the industry so I’ve got great people who I work with who do that. I did that; I liked it, but after a couple of months of having them in, I started to feel like I didn’t like having thick hair. I’d think, ‘How can I not like having thick hair?” That’s when I realized…I don’t have thick hair; it doesn’t quite suit me. It always looked like something was off. I realized when I took them out that I looked so much better and that I like my fine hair. It suits me, it’s more me. I guess that's the whole thing with Botox and fillers…I’m not against that. But if it is the first thing you see, I think that is a problem. I’ve seen some incredible work done, and most people I know of a certain age have done something. But when it is overt it’s like…eeeeee. It was the same with me having thick hair…it was a lot.

I’ve seen that too with a few of my friends with the lash extension that they were desperate to get. At first they loved them, thought they were amazing, then they started thinking they looked kind of weird. There is a balance because you do have to try things, you can’t not try, you can’t be afraid to try. You have to try. There is that adage of Diana Vreeland - take one thing off before you go out. I need to show some of me; I can go far far far and then go wait a minute...does this even look like me anymore? Do I feel good? Maybe for whatever makes me feel good, somebody else would think it is too much…and that is fine.

19/99    If you could ask the younger & older generation one question what would it be?

SO       I would say for the younger, I would ask why do you think big lips make you look pretty? I go to a spin class that is in an affluent neighborhood and there are so many girls who have very over done lips, and it’s not pretty. What do you see? What is the appeal? Is it just the idea of big lips? Who are these lips for? Is it for your boyfriend? Is it for your girlfriends so you can show them you got big lips? What is it? I want to know what it is.

Older people I’d ask, why do you give up? Why do you decide that at a certain age you can’t be part of something, can’t wear something, can’t have this hairstyle, can’t have those opinions. Why?

19/99    If you could share advice with yourself what would it be?

SO       I would say who cares?! You don’t need to care about certain things so much. I wasn’t the typically pretty girl and I felt like I needed to not offend people by being the prettiest I could be. I still have a little bit of that - I don't’ want to make somebody feel bad by not looking somehow pretty…I don’t get this. I wish I could not care about people’s perception of my physical.

I really felt like I needed to conquer this area of ‘pretty’ so I could be excepted in general. It wasn’t about boys, my girl friends needed to think I was worthy. And I don’t know where I got that — my mum was not like that at all. She was older when she had me. She was a kid during World War Two in Finland. And she did not relate to these feelings. My mum would say ‘No, you shouldn’t care about that’ and I was like ‘But everybody else does and I’m being judged by this’. I wish I could tell that young person some advice…and I’m not even sure what it would be yet cause we aren’t quite there yet. I want to believe that we are on the path to something new — that you aren’t devalued because you aren’t in ‘this’ category of pretty. It feels like it is happening but we have a long way to go.

19/99    When do you feel most beautiful?

SO       When my daughter says I am. That's when I know it’s true. She doesn’t want anything. It is sometimes really funny, she will say funny things to me. I am trying something on and it is too small for me, I have the little belly and I’ll feel uncomfortable about it. She will say ‘I love it, it’s my muma, don’t get rid of it’ and it sounds so cliché. But when it is actually happening in the moment it makes you question it and look at it. It doesn’t happen that often because she doesn’t really think like that. It doesn’t really matter to her. I don’t do that with her. It’s not high on our priorities.  With her, I’ll say ‘That looks so cool, you look kind of crazy, it’s fun.’ Rather than value focusing on the ‘pretty’.

In general I don’t feel ‘beautiful’ because I don’t think about it much. When I was younger it was such a prison; do I fit, can I, is this good. The amount of people I’ve met that are traditionally gorgeous and are assholes has changed my view on those things. I try to connect with the person inside…which again sounds so cliché but there is so much truth in it. And then you will meet somebody who is not neither here nor there, and you talk to them and you just can’t get over the blooming loveliness; it just keeps on coming how much prettier they get in front of you.

19/99    Do you think there is a point when we stop growing and learning?

SO       No, that is a choice. And I am really grateful for that. Maybe my face is going to change and I’m going to get wrinkles, and whatever, but my attitude I can control. I am interested in everything, and I want to read about it, and I think that helps. And I really think that is an underground super power. Everybody can do that; participate. Be interested and don’t decide that is not for me because I’m old…why?! It doesn’t make sense.

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Who I am and who I’ll be