In Hollywood, the saying, it takes a village takes on a whole new meaning, specifically now as it faces new challenges for the creatives and talent behind Hollywood’s multi-million dollar industry. Matin Maulawizada is one of these soaring stars that, frankly, many people need to know about since he made his mark by working with the film industry’s most glamorous women, such as Angelina Jolie, Rachel Weiz, Jessica Chastain and more through the power and artistry of beauty.
Growing up in Afghanistan, Matin’s exposure to the complex artistry behind makeup was introduced to him by a college roommate during his days as a student of Molecular Biology. In those days, there was no such thing as a professional makeup artist, not in Afghanistan. Still, Matin’s keen eye for this craft was developing, primarily because of his dearly beloved mother and six sisters, ‘Four of my sisters were older than me, by that time they were already going on dates with their fiancés, and I would be sitting there – watching them get ready.’
He recalled how they would ask him questions like whether their eyebrows were even or if their foundation was evenly done. As a young artist, his aesthetic eye developed into seeing the micro details that the untrained eye can easily miss. This is reflected in the nuances of his life as a young boy when life in Kabul’s day-to-day was vastly different from how we perceive it now.
From going to the salon or seamstress with his mother, Matin laughingly recalls, ‘I can still remember how my sisters would get mad when I told them something was off.’ But later on, that warm womanly environment eventually imprinted on him, and unexpectedly when he was in university, he saw the wonders of what can be done with a colorful palette of powders, creams and liners.
‘At first, I didn’t know that it was possible to have a career as a makeup artist, at least not like this.’ For Matin, pursuing beauty as a line of work didn’t initially cross his mind until he met his roommate, who was working as a department store makeup artist in San Francisco. Matin, by then, was studying for his master’s in Molecular Biology after choosing to forgo medical school. To subsidize the financial fees of medical school, he applied for a job working alongside his roommate, and it just so happened that she needed help with a few beauty events. ‘She told me to help her with the beauty showcases back then – I don’t know what they are called now. At that time, she was working at a department store in San Francisco as a makeup artist and got me to help because her bosses were flying in from New York to launch a new product.’
Since then, his natural proclivity towards makeup artistry began to flourish, to the point where he was being offered job opportunities left and right. He began to learn the ins and outs of the industry, and that’s when he started questioning whether he wanted to become a full-time molecular biologist. ‘I quit makeup while working at Genentech, a biotech company in San Francisco. I knew in my mind that there was a way for me to do makeup, not behind the counter, but something else like traveling and teaching.’ That’s when the stark realization hit: the job that Matin was dreaming about did exist; he got phone calls from three different beauty brands who worked with him before. ‘They offered me a national makeup artist training position, which was the sign for me to take a leap of faith and never turn back.’
After a few interviews, Matin ended up working with Laura Mercier, who was just launching her brand at that time. Looking back, he said, ‘I didn’t know who Laura was at that time, except for a few covers that she has done, but her work stood, and she was one of the people most known for pioneering the celebrity makeup artistry.’ Mercier did Madonna’s makeup, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and more famous names, which has since increased and transformed into a global makeup brand.
In a surprising turn of events, Matin was not initially hired. ‘I met her that day and was told that they couldn’t hire me because of the budget, and they wanted me to work the counter.’ But after a weekend of working with them, they created a job for me, which led to working three days a week to train all the artists on the West Coast. ‘
It was a fine introduction into a world of glamour that few are initiated to. That being said, he was able to sustain and build steady relationships with an evergrowing network of artists, talent and connections that helped him grow.
Apart from his work with Laura Mercier, Matin also fostered a fantastic relationship with Timothy Priano, Laura’s agent, who later handled his career for 16 years upon his move to New York. ‘I remember Tim asking me where my book was. My response was, I didn’t have any; as a result, I had to do four months of test pages to create looks that I could show, and it was plenty of hard work that was worth it.’
Never in his wildest dreams would he have thought that the young boy from Afghanistan would later become the man behind some of Hollywood’s iconic faces, and back then, he had no idea who these glamorous icons were, let alone by face or name. As the only Muslim makeup artist around that time, he didn’t have anyone from his part of the world to model his career after. It was intimidating, considering that Matin studied scientific research and spent time in the laboratory testing samples and formulas, and it never crossed his mind to know about celebrities, pop culture and Western music.
One of the big turning points in his career occurred when there wasn’t a steady stream of work coming in, ‘My agent told me, Matin, if you don’t talk, nobody remembers you. In doing so, you must become memorable by learning who these people are. It’s your job! buy PEOPLE Magazine and talk – and now, I can’t shut up.’ Before, Matin didn’t speak much apart from a polite thank you and goodbye but because of a poignant call about a job regarding Julianne Moore, he had to quickly know who he was dealing. ‘ When I was told that I was going to do her makeup, I had no idea about who she was or what she looked like. I remember being yelled at because of this, and that’s when I started to enhance my knowledge on pop culture, and Hollywood celebrities.’
Over two decades in the industry, Matin’s work has been seen on the covers of leading luxury and lifestyle magazines such as ELLE, Marie Claire, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, and Allure. Aside from that, his glittering clientele keeps coming back to procure his services repeatedly. But in the world we live in today, being a beauty expert now identifies itself with influencers who call themselves beauty gurus, thereby blurring the line between an expert’s opinion and a content creator’s fun take on viral beauty looks.
While Matin constantly reinvents beauty and makeup through his advocacy of clean beauty and science, we can’t help but wonder about his thoughts on trends such as the strawberry girl makeup and latte girl looks, ‘Honestly, I love to see that because it’s entertaining, I hope that people look at it as an entertainment and not the bible, although one of the things that I enjoy these days with beauty is that it’s not uniformly. So you see everything, new from fresh faces and trends that come out on TikTok, and people do it.
But truthfully, these videos are done to create fresh content regularly to make a living since an influencer’s job relies on views and clicks. But for other professionals, this doesn’t quantify as a tutorial that most people can utilize, specifically if they have to go to work.
Another one of the challenges that Matin and his other colleagues face is the ongoing strike with SAG-AFTRA / WGA against large-scale production studios. Nowadays, it’s challenging for many individuals to earn with the rise of inflation and the politics of being creative on Instagram. ‘Clients look at your Instagram and see how many followers you have versus looking at your homepage to check the portfolio. Aside from the drawbacks that occur with social media, Matin also pointed out the gruelling and not-so-glamorous aspects of being a full-time makeup artist. It’s simply because others seem to think that the job is easy at first glance, but it’s not.
On the subject of unionization, unlike other professions, it is difficult to have a standardized legal entity that can be eligible for health benefits, insurance and other contingencies. While it is a big cross to bear for beauty professionals everywhere, for Matin, it’s what he loves to do.’ It’s not sustainable, and it wrecks your body, and aside from all of that, we don’t get sick days or a pension. Now, it’s completely absurd that a job that used to pay $ 5,000 before is cut to a 10th of what we used to make, and it’s the same job. You would be lucky if you get a job that pays $250.’
Armed with his knowledge in molecular biology, Matin has always made it a point to implement clean beauty in his regimen and even to the clients he has. Over the years, he’s worked with top beauty brands such as Neutrogena, Clinique, Lashify, and more.
In addition to this, Matin founded the Afghan Hands Foundation. This non-profit organization aims to teach widows and disenfranchised women in and around Kabul vital life skills in fighting for independence, literacy and standardized wages. His tireless work in fighting for what’s right remains at the heart of what he does.
This is prevalent in another project that he, Sahara Lottie (The Founder of Lashify) and Ellen Maguire founded — Beauty 4 Beauty. It’s a call to action for brands who benefit from the organic support and work of the beauty community to hire professionals for jobs, especially during times of strife. ‘We simply want to work, and even a small job can have a major impact during the strikes. We’re relying on the generosity of beauty brands to help the beauty community during our time of need.’
To say that Matin is another makeup artist would be disheartening. Apart from his innovative techniques in the beauty community, his lifeworks encompass his nature of giving back, learning, and fighting for what’s inherently right.
For more on Matin and Beauty 4 Beauty follow here
VIETNAM / ASIA
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