Industry Insider: Fatima Olive

A Minneapolis make-up artist on making magic

Ask makeup artist Fatima Olive to define beauty, and she’s got it down: “Beauty is magic, confidence, and power. Beauty is imperfection. It’s appreciation for what you have, not what you don’t have. Its unique.” That doesn’t mean that a little smoke-and-mirror effect can’t help, though.

Olive refers to her work as that of an illusionist. “Its about creating the persona that you want to create, like magic fairy dust.” Her inspiration came early on from admiring her sister, who is 16 years older, sprinkling on Tinker Bell’s powder in the form of false eyelashes, wiglets, and a sky-high beehive hairdo (it was the ’60s). “I remember her doing her hair or makeup and transforming from caterpillar to butterfly.”

Olive keeps things a little more subtle when she works with clients by emphasizing the idea that self-confidence comes from within. It’s not about covering up, but enhancing natural features to bring out inner beauty. “Ultimately you have to look at yourself without makeup on and say ‘I love this person,’” she says, a notion that she attributes to her husband’s grandmother.

Olive began her career in the salon industry 31 years ago in Miami, and was inspired to become a freelance hair and makeup artist after she was offered a job doing hair and makeup for a photographer friend building his portfolio.

After a stint on the East Coast, she moved to Minnesota in 1990 to work with the late Horst Rechelbacher, the founder of Aveda, which allowed her to incorporate her two passions: makeup and teaching. “If the model wants to know what I’m doing, I like to show her,” she says. You gain rather than lose from passing on your knowledge.”

 Fatima Olive Makeup
photo courtesy of fatima olive beauty

Olive does both individual and commercial bookings and also holds makeup parties for teens learning the basics. “I like doing little events for girls that age. Makeup is a ritual from childhood to adulthood.” During these parties and teen makeup classes, she gives out what she calls “prescriptions,” a diagram detailing how to apply each product.

“What I do with makeup is transforming and giving these powers to women. If you look good, you feel good. It’s your magical protection,” she explains.  Olive’s own magic protection is bright and bold. “I love a bright lip— that’s my signature,” she says. “My favorite place to play is on the lips.”

That said, Olive always tries to take into account the personality and tastes of the person she’s transforming: The collaboration between artist and model is a top point for her. When all of the links in the chain come together, she believes that’s when magic happens.