After graduating from Pinewood Studios as a Bafta Prince William Scholar, Fatuma Odwar is now a professional TV and Film, Hair & Makeup artist at Pinewood Studios, as well as now working on Season 7 Warner Bros, Cohort. In this interview, we get to learn more about Fatuma’s journey in the makeup industry so far, what it was like studying at Pinewood Studios, as well as some great advice for any aspiring makeup artists.
Where did the love for Makeup originate from?
“My first form of inspiration came from when I was a figure skater. When I was at competitions, I used to see other skaters with crazy outfits with the make-up to match. It was like avant-garde type makeup. It made me want to do it, so I started practising on myself.”
“I studied beauty therapy at college. There was a bit of make-up on the course and I realised I preferred that to the beauty part. I knew I wanted to be a make-up artist, but not what kind of make-up artist. I then decided to do a one year course of Media Hair and Make-up in 2016, that showed me different aspects of make-up which was great because I learned I was pretty strong at every part. When I graduated my tutor told me she thought of me being a TV/Film Hair and Make-up Artist would be best and I agreed.
“I also used to watch Rick Baker when I was younger. He was the guy who turned Michael Jackson into a werewolf in ‘Thriller’. When I first watched it as a kid I thought it was real. I used to put on a VHS of MJs greatest hits and at the end would be a ‘behind the scenes’, there you’d see Rick Baker do a life cast & apply some Prosthetic pieces on Michael himself, without realising at the age of about 5, I was in love with it. I thought it would be really hard to get into, and it was, but I love it.”
What experience had you gained in the industry before becoming a Bafta Prince William Scholar at Pinewood Studios?
“I have worked on various counters, I was part of a beauty agency, so they would assign you to different types of make-up counters which needed help, for example, Chanel, Estée Lauder and other high street brands. I had to sell the products and to do that I had to know the products inside out. If a customer liked an eye shadow pallet, but they weren’t sure if it suited them, they could ask for me to apply it for them. If the client showed me a shimmery eye shadow, and I thought it wouldn’t work for them, then I could suggest something else which would work better. It was good to learn to give advice to people and know what works and what doesn’t for certain people. I also got trained in each brands standards, which was amazing.
“College was a good experience. It was good to be taught by people who had something to do with the industry. They gave good advice, what to do and what not to do. It was only really just scratching the surface in terms of what you learn at college, but it was still helpful. You learned a lot of theory, like the history of make-up.”
You had quite a battle getting your scholarship into The Iver Make-Up Academy. Could you speak more on the process you went through?
“Funding was a big issue. I went to The Iver Make-Up Academy and knew I felt comfortable there and that I wanted to study there. First I had to apply, then have an interview where I showed my portfolio. From getting the interview, I knew I had the skills to be able to get into college.”
“There aren’t many career development loans out there, so it was hard to find the money.”
“The problem was that after I passed the interview, I had to try and get £20,000 in four months to be able to make it onto the course. There aren’t many career development loans out there, so it was hard to find the money. I didn’t want to get a loan out because of the interest rates. It was hard, I did find some funding, but then they ended up letting me down. It happened a lot, it was heartbreaking, but I never gave up.”
“Having support from my mum was and still is very helpful. She believed in me. Having my mum’s good energy around me was key, it kept me focused and it made me feel more positive about the situation. I had the mindset of ‘I am going to study there’, it was just a matter of time, I am going to find the funding, I just didn’t know when or how.”
“I kept in contact with the Principal at The Iver Make-Up Academy. She gave me options for things I could do, but I wanted to do the whole course, I didn’t want to do elements of it. She also mentioned the scholarship program and said that I would be an ideal candidate. I had to write a two-hundred-word personal statement even though I wanted to write a lot more.”
“It was very competitive – three hundred and fifty people applied, fifteen had an interview and twelve got a BAFTA scholarship. I worked on my personal statement for the scholarship for about six weeks. Every single day, apart from weekends, I would come home from work and load up the laptop. I sent the personal statement to my sister, who is at uni, for her advice, and then she sent it to her friends who study English at Cambridge University, who were a great help, to make sure it was presented as well as possible.
“The scholarship was my only option, so I made sure I did as much as possible to make sure I got my place.”
What’s your favourite aspect of make-up?
“I like every aspect of make-up, but my favourites have to be High Fashion, Afro Hairstyling, Lifecasting/Prosthetic making, Period wig work, TV/Film. I want to make that kind of make-up, not what you typically think of instantly when you hear ‘Make-Up’.
“FUN FACT! The suits used for Marvel characters are really thin silicon pieces stuck onto the body, and then you apply make-up/paints onto the suit to make the outfit. For example, the outfit used in the film ‘Deadpool’ where his skin looks burnt, it is made up silicone pieces stuck precisely onto certain parts of the body, they were specially made to fit Ryan Reynolds. I’m learning about all of this very soon which is so exciting.”
Do you think make-up can be used for the wrong reasons when you are younger?
“When you’re younger it definitely is something you use when you’re insecure. I found that when I had bad skin going through puberty, you get spots which made me instantly think I needed to cover up. But that doesn’t help because it made them way more obvious, but you just think you have to cover the spots up.”
“For me now, I use make-up to enhance my features, make my eyes look slightly more almond-like, for example. I think men think women use make-up to change themselves, but it’s not like that at all. I now prefer using make-up on clients/models rather than myself, it’s so much more fun because most of the time you won’t know what face you’ll be working on so you really got to get all you make-up knowledge flowing so you can get the best results.
Do you follow trends, or do you try to be unique?
“I try to be unique. I don’t follow Instagram trends. On my make-up Instagram, I only follow unique artists, this sparks something in me to be unique rather than follow the trends like to wear loads of highlighter/contour, the Kardashian/Jenner type look. It also does depend on what type of Make-up Artist you aspire to be like. I’m trying to be more creative and arty while also practising the needs for TV/Film and High Fashion.
Could you talk more about your time at Pinewood Studios?
“It was quite challenging, I was travelling from Oxford to the studio’s which are in London Monday – Friday. I was just about catching a 7 AM bus each time because I don’t drive, which I found very tiring and as you can imagine busses aren’t very reliable.. It was all worth it, I kept thinking about how much work I had put into getting my place on the course which helped me get through that part.”
“I didn’t realise how intense it would be, but it was so worth it.”
“On the course, I got trained to do every single aspect in TV and film, theatre make-up, high fashion & period make-up. Every Type of make-up you can think of, like body art, I have been trained to do. Where Coronavirus and the whole lockdown has happened, I have had to graduate five weeks early. I still have a few things to learn when the virus clears to finish the course like avant-garde type runway hair. Other than that I am fully trained in all aspects now.”
“I didn’t realise how intense it would be, but it was so worth it. The tutors have been and are still in the industry, they are all mostly designers now, so they are designing the hair and makeup for all of the films that we want to work on, so it’s great to be around them, to see how they go about their work, how they tackle situations, how they think of ideas, how they break down scripts. It has been amazing to be around that kind of energy and witness what they are doing in real-life situations, which has helped me a lot. The support they give you during the course as well as after has been one of a kind, I always thought I wasn’t an educational person but really I just wasn’t learning what I love and wasn’t around the same energy I give out. You can feel when you’ve found your dream career and I definitely have, I can’t wait to be out in the industry after the Pandemic has cooled down.”
Has your perception of the Make-up industry changed after going through your course?
“It has changed in a positive way. I honestly didn’t realise how much work goes into make-up before you even start applying the make-up on a client/model. For a film, before you apply make-up, as a make-up artist you are expected to read the whole script and break it down. So any time the script says, for example, ‘Josie did a cartwheel’, you’ve then got to think about the hands because they will be in the shot. I’ve got to think about it all, make sure her fingernails are nicely trimmed, make sure her nail varnish isn’t chipped.”
“A lot goes into make-up, so that perception has changed. I thought we would turn up on set, someone would show you a mood-board, introduce you to your model for the day and give us a description of what they wanted us to do. Which isn’t it all, there is a lot more. You have to also do hair on top of that, you’re not just doing make-up, you’re doing the hair too. Which I thought was separate, but it’s great! I loved learning all the tips and tricks into doing all these iconic styles I’ve seen on TV”
Have you got any standout moments during your time at Pinewood Studios?
“I went to the official BAFTAs ceremony, and the EE Rising Star ceremony, which were both cool to experience! I got to see how the industry works as well as working for the event. Seeing first-hand how people network has helped a lot, you have to be able to get to these types of events and network. A lot of it in the industry is who you know, not what you know. Learning small things like that, that have nothing to do with make-up is a privilege I’m lucky to have. I’ve already met some amazing people who I’ll be working within the near future”
“Throughout the course, they also used to run masterclasses and talks which covered a lot of the different departments when it comes to film in general. This helped me get more of an understanding what an actor’s role is and what they go through, same with cinematography and many more as they help and relate to me doing my job perfectly in this industry.”
“It’s good to know more in-depth about what everyone gets up to”
“At first I thought I’m not going to go to anything which didn’t revolve around makeup. I ended up going to a lot of them because it’s good to know what everyone does. You have got to communicate with every team member when you are on set, so it’s good to know more in-depth about what everyone gets up to.”
What advice would you give to an aspiring make-up artist?
“Watch YouTube videos on your favourite artists, copy what they are doing, practice on yourself first until you get more confident. When you start to feel more confident then get your friends around or your family and practice on them…..I have dragged my mum in for practice on many occasions!”
“Get involved with any work experience you can – I have done some for clothing companies before. If you have any friends in photography, offer to do make-up for any projects they have coming up. It is so different seeing make-up on a picture from a good camera to seeing it in person. If you see it on a camera, it really shows everything.“
“There are a load of agencies out there that you can sign up to which send you onto jobs. It’s normally assistant jobs, but you get to experience a load of different types of jobs, like backstage jobs, counters etc… I didn’t do so much of this, but I did enough to realise which part of make-up I wanted to do.”
“The industry is really competitive, but stay true to yourself. Keep yourself to yourself. Get involved and talk to people too. The way you present yourself is also very important. Feel free to get in contact with me through my Instagram, always happy to answer your questions”