Finding Passion Through Peril – An Interview with Makeup Artist Neetu Sahota

About: Vancouver is home to the makeup industry’s modern-day Renaissance woman, Neetu Sahota. Not only does Neetu work as a makeup artist, teacher, and journalist (along with her position as an image specialist) but she also has an inspirational story to share about how she got there. After recovering from a stroke and graduating Blanche Macdonald, Neetu set out to pursue her passion in makeup artistry and never looked back. She’ll be taking part in the body painting competition this year, and will be working with the Expo’s “fairytale” theme.

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How would you describe your style as a makeup artist?

My style is really about enhancing beauty; everyone is beautiful and it’s my job to show them just how beautiful they can be. I know that I have done my job right when I have a client who is in awe of how amazing they look. I can truly see how such a small act transforms them, not just from the outside, but the inside too!

What made you want to pursue a career in makeup artistry?

I originally intended to be a lawyer and was studying criminology at SFU up until 2006, which is when my life changed. At the age of nineteen, I suffered a full stroke to my left side. It was caused by an arteriovenous malformation in my brain, a rare condition which occurs in only 1% of the population. Due to its rarity, the only treatment option is brain surgery. If left untreated, symptoms can worsen and lead to paralysis and/or death. After the surgery, I was told that I would never go back to work or school, but I wanted to be normal again more than anything. With age and determination on my side, I was able to fully recover from the physical defects of the stroke after one year. I slowly returned to work and tried to return to school but my cognitive abilities were no longer as strong as they had been. I emerged myself into work, taking on a position of store manager and assistant manager, but despite these successes I found myself lost and unsure of what I was trying to achieve. I eventually started to see a therapist who always admired my makeup, and one day, she asked me why I never considered being a makeup artist. I had never thought of it, and with that glimmer of hope, I went to apply at Blanche MacDonald for the makeup program. Two days later, one of the admission directors called me to tell me that I had been approved and could start class next week, and I agreed! I was always meant to have a career in makeup, I just had to take the long and hard road to get there.

What do you focus on most in your makeup?

 Skin! I will spend 80% of my time with any client on their skin. I’ve always believed that beautiful skin creates beautiful makeup, and that when skin is immaculate, everything else will look beautiful and radiant. It’s one of the hardest things to master, and understanding how to make very dry skin look as smooth as a baby’s bum isn’t something that can be taught in a book. It has to be learned from experience. Because it is difficult to make skin look flawless, many people will turn to Photoshop, but my job as a makeup artist is to create a flawless canvas on its own. Essentially, a makeup artist’s job will become insignificant if photographers need to retouch entire images to correct skin.

What are your favourite techniques, colours, products, and trends?

Some of my must-have kit products at the moment are: Clarins Beauty Flash Balm, Face Atelier Pro Foundation, NARS Orgasm Blush (the most amazing blush colour for all lighter skin tones and NARS Super Orgasm for darker skin tones), and MAC Blacktrax Gel liner.

What’s your motto as a makeup artist?

Nothing is a mistake, everything is always intentional.

 What’s your number one beauty tip?

 Use SPF every day, regardless of if the sun is out or not. This is the best way to prevent dark spots, aging, wrinkles, and skin cancer. The number one request I have from clients is to give them advice for their dark spots and wrinkles once they have occurred, but prevention is always easier than protection.

You’re more than just an artist; you’re also a teacher! How has teaching make-up at Surrey College changed you as an artist?

 While working at NARS, I would conduct monthly seminars and masterclasses, sharing backstage makeup techniques and tips with clients. I realized then that I had a passion for sharing my makeup knowledge with others. Teaching is such a fulfilling experience, and I didn’t want to hold back any information from my students, because they became a representation of me. I always tried to give my students a wide variety of knowledge which I had uncovered throughout my experiences in the industry, instead of limiting their learning solely to the curriculum.

How has your job with NARS impacted you, and what are your favourite NARS products?

Oh, there are so many NARS products I love! My makeup kit is full of lots of NARS but my absolute favourites have to be Nico, Sex Appeal, and Zen blush. I always make sure I have one of each on-hand at all times.

Francois Nars once said, “Why so serious? It is only makeup,” which I think is a perfect quote to explain makeup. It isn’t like cutting hair or performing a surgery; you can always correct it by wiping it off and starting again. I tell this to all of my students and myself: you cannot make mistakes in makeup. Think of it as a learning process, an opportunity to make a correction. If you realize that you aren’t pleased with something, you can wipe it away and make the necessary changes. Working at NARS gave me this perspective and developed my passion for skin and layering products.

As if you didn’t already have enough jobs, you write beauty articles for Jugni Style. What can readers expect from your articles, and what has that job done for you artistically?

I just got married a month ago, so I did have to take a break from my beauty articles, but readers can typically expect product reviews, makeup & hair trends, and how-to’s for celebrity makeup looks. We are hoping to have some how-to videos eventually which would aid readers in creating specific looks.

Finally, how has your work as an image specialist (with Studio Cloud 30) changed your artistry?

Working with Studio Cloud 30 has enabled me to take my artistry to the next level by working with some talented artists in the music industry. Warren Dean Flandez, owner and previous competitor in Cover Me Canada, saw the talent in me and brought me onto his team, which has allowed me to make further connections in the music and fashion industry.

Some of your inspirations include Alexander McQueen, Guy Bourdin, Francois Nars and Alex Box. What about these people inspires you? Are there any particular looks of theirs that you adore?

What I love about these artists is that all of them are creative savants or rule-breakers in their industry. They did not care what others may have thought of them or their work. They just did what inspired them. Each of them changed the industry in their own way regardless of being recognized for their talents. For example, Alexander McQueen introduced the world to theatrical fashion shows, and Guy Bourdin started provocative fashion photography. I have the books for each of these artists but my favourite by far is Francois Nars’ 15X15. It fills me with inspiration every time I go through it.

How does your preference in hair styles differ from your taste in makeup looks?

While taking my Global Artistry Diploma at Blanche MacDonald, I was able to learn hair styling, which is a great asset for my clients since they often prefer to book a makeup and hair artist in one. My hair style preferences are quite in line with my makeup style: polished and classic.

How did graduating from Blanche MacDonald improve you as an artist?

Attending Blanche MacDonald was amazing! I was able to let out tons of creative energy and really refine my artistry skills in a variety of areas. Prior to attending Blanche MacDonald, airbrushing, fashion, and special effect makeups were unknown to me. I was lucky to have some amazing teachers (Jon Hennessey, Ashley Forshaw, and Corey Roberts) who would pass on their knowledge and provide me with honest feedback on how to improve my skills.

What will you be showing the Art World Expo audience this year? How are you planning on testing/demonstrating your skills at this year’s event?

I’ll be creating a classic fairy in the style of the Grimm’s Brothers. I want to demonstrate a more realistic character rather than creating an abstract interpretation of a fairy tale, and will demonstrate my skill set by applying make-up that looks intricate and detailed both up close and from a distance.


To see more or get in touch with Neetu, visit:

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