No two days are ever the same for super-busy freelance makeup artist Oz Zandiyeh. One day she’s in Vancouver. The next, it could be Toronto. You’ll have seen her work on influential fashion photography site Ben Trovato, on The Food Network and in magazines including Papercut, My Vancouver, Fashion Chicago and even the Barcelona-based Hacid.
Oz does have an unfair advantage. Having graduated from Blanche Macdonald’s Esthetics School, as well as the Makeup Program, she’s also in a position to offer clients the benefit of her skincare expertise. Busy? We’ll let Oz explain.
“Fashion takes up 50% of my time, bridal and commercial shoots the other 50%,” she smiles. “The industry is slightly different in Toronto. Photographers there have a different vision. Not better or worse. Just different. I lived there for two years. I wanted to leave Vancouver, see what else was out there and if I could succeed. I came back to Vancouver five times for work in that time. And I’ll probably go back to Toronto again next year.
“My esthetics background is useful because I can explain why you need different skincare routines in Vancouver and Toronto. You have to adapt your knowledge to wherever you are going. You have to be prepared for everything.”
Oz is always prepared. Her enthusiasm for her craft is matched by a quiet determination that has turned clients into friends across Canada. Every job for Oz is an opportunity to try new ideas and make fresh creative connections. She graduated from Makeup School over seven years ago, but the thrill of makeup hasn’t diminished in the slightest. She’s been that way since she first picked up a brush.
“I was a huge tomboy growing up,” she recalls. “I was more into sports. Although when I was younger my parents would buy me fake makeup from toy stores. I would make a mess on my friends’ faces then they’d go home and horrify their parents. I broke my ankle before I was starting my Grade 12 basketball season. I couldn’t play, so I started reading fashion magazines and doing makeup on my friends, practicing what I’d seen.
“At university I would do my friends’ makeup for functions. I got a lot of encouragement so I decided to pursue it. Even my family told me I was really good at it. They said that maybe I should go to school and hone my skills.”
Oz started investigating makeup schools before she’d finished her degree. As soon as she visited Blanche Macdonald she knew the search was over.
“Everyone seemed so comfortable. I was taken into a class that was doing makeup through the decades. I wanted to learn how to do that! I could see how the teachers were interacting with the students and everyone looked like they were having a good time. It wasn’t like, ‘you have to come here’. More like, ‘this is what we’re offering and we think you could do well here’.”
Oz denies being a natural talent, even though she was a star student.
“Some people have a natural, innate skill,” she explains. “I didn’t have that. I had to work to be able to do makeup. I remember trying to do liquid liner and my hand would shake. I couldn’t do it, so I had to keep practicing. Everyone wanted you to succeed, and you felt that immediately. I couldn’t wait to get to school each day because you never knew what you were going to learn. Every day was a new adventure.
“I’ve had so many people ask me, ‘should I go to Blanche Macdonald?’ I say that you’d have to be insane not to go to Blanche Macdonald. Look at how successful people are when they come out of the school. They’ll prepare you with all the means they have available so that you can be successful in the future. And what students learn today is above and beyond what we learnt. They get more training and have amazing instructors.”
Oz wasn’t planning on a second year at Blanche Macdonald. She was, however, looking to strengthen her skill set. The same welcome she experienced when she’d first arrived captured her heart again when she visited the Esthetics School.
“I didn’t really want to go back to school but I knew esthetics and makeup were connected. I think the idea of having body treatments at school really appealed!” she laughs
“The thought that I could have enough knowledge to really cover a lot of bases made me come back to school. On the Makeup Program there was an expectation that you’d do extra research at home. In esthetics they teach you everything. If you have a situation where someone has an allergy you need to know what you can use on them. I really enjoyed it, and that allowed me to do well.
“I learnt how important your skin is when you have makeup on. That’s what I do in my day-to-day job now. People are always telling me, ‘I can’t get my foundation to go on properly.’ Have you tried using that moisturizer or exfoliant? Just having that range of knowledge has been a great help.”
Blanche Macdonald was kick-starting Oz’s career before she’d even graduated the Makeup Program.
“The Makeup Career Coordinator sent me a message saying that UBC was doing a fashion show and I should be the key Makeup Artist for it. I hadn’t even graduated but she thought I could do it. I had a team of ten artists and we had to do 18 models.
“Later I started doing the makeup on styling shoots for Mel Watts and the fashion school students. That’s how my name started going around. By the time I went to Toronto I had enough in my portfolio to say, this is my work if you’re interested in working with me.”
People have been interested in working with Oz ever since. After graduating from the Esthetics Program, she started working for Cargo Cosmetics, before moving into the spa business, including a position as an esthetician/makeup artist at two Absolute Spa locations.
“I was doing the occasional spa treatment and the makeup after the treatment. I couldn’t have done that if I didn’t have my esthetics background.
“Even when I was seeing makeup customers, if they ever voiced concerns about their skin I was confident that I could tell them what moisturizer would make their makeup look better. Even now I can sit down in a consultation with my client, look at their skin, see what their concerns are and what they need. And they trust me because I have that knowledge. It’s really important to me that my clients trust me.”
Clients across Canada trust Oz’s knowledge and her creativity. She’s never afraid to take a risk, but everything she does is founded on a base of total professionalism.
“We were doing a shoot by the beach in the blistering cold in Toronto and the model’s lips literally went blue. So I decided to paint over her lips in blue. And the pictures turned out fabulous.
“If you’ve got a good attitude and the work to back you up, it’s a lot easier. I always google a client before I go in. Sometimes the photographer won’t tell you what the job is, so I try to know what I’m getting into. When I walk into a situation I know what to expect, what I’m doing, why I’m doing it and how I’m doing it. Clients respect that and remember it.”
There’s one more thing you should know about Oz. She’s hard of hearing.
“My mum is completely deaf, and she always taught me that it shouldn’t have any impact on her life. That’s been my motto. When I started both programs at Blanche Macdonald I told my teachers that they didn’t need to do anything special for me. If you call my name or say something when I’m not looking, I’m not going to understand it. But if I needed anything, I’d ask them.”
It’s not made any difference to her career. Why would it?
“I don’t think of it as a disadvantage. I just can’t hear you that well. As a makeup artist it’s my responsibility to keep my eye on the photographer. I’m never sitting in the corner looking at my phone.
“It’s not a big deal to me, so it shouldn’t be a big deal to other people.”