Make-up artists are usually behind the camera, like way behind the camera. Rarely do they get an opportunity to shine in front of the lens. At Make-Up Artist magazine we want to give them a chance to speak their truth when it comes to the profession and approach. As well as a chance for us to get closer to these creatives—find out what makes them tick, what inspires them and how they make intentions reality.
Emmy-nominated make-up artist, who started as a performer, Sara Seidman Vance recently sat down with us for this “getting to know the artist” interview. Seidman Vance is a valued educator and has been a staple at many International Make-Up Artist Trade Shows (IMATS).
Click here to read about her upcoming Artistry Unlocked workshop at IMATS Atlanta or read on to learn more about this fantastic make-up artist.
Make-Up Artist magazine: Where are you from? Where is your home currently?
Sara Seidman Vance: Interestingly enough, I am from where I live now. I am from the Hampton Road section of Virginia.
MUA: Why did you decide to become a make-up artist?
Seidman Vance: As a kid my father had been in vaudeville and still did theater and my mother was an artist. I did a lot of plays in school, because I was a singer … I started learning make-up at about 12, 13 years old from my daddy, stage make-up, the vaudevillian way, which is a little heavier than they do now.
I never really decided to become a make-up artist. I was an opera singer… I was good at make-up and I’ve always done my own when I performed singing or doing plays. I would always do all of my own make-up and would also help and do other people’s make-up. I had a knack. So that’s how the make-up thing started, but that was not my original goal in life. My original goal in life was to be an opera singer.
MUA: What was your first job as a make-up artist?
Seidman Vance: I got my start with Del Armstrong … who sort of took me under his wing. I was working as a stand-in on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, because I had worked in the creature shop on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1 as a turtle dresser. I dressed Donatello. [Armstrong] knew my dad in vaudeville, and asked if I wanted to come do make-up … he blessed me big time. And then John Bayless took me on and I worked with him for about seven years.
The lighting background started with my mother. She taught her art students light and taught them using a box that had clip lamps hooked to it with green, blue and red lamps. And we would turn them on and off and showed them the secondary colors and how putting all three together made white lighting. So, I had a basic understanding of color theory and pigment color theory from my mother.
MUA: What’s worth spending money on to get the best?
Seidman Vance: Your lights. Your lights and your brushes. Of course, you want really good make-up, but the tools to use, those have to be the best.
MUA: What or who are your biggest influences?
Seidman Vance: I don’t have one specific influencer. A lot of people have come into my life that have been influences. There is a lot of people whose work I admire. I guess I could say Vivian Baker was an influence early in my career. I used to just watch her when she was on set, and what she did and how she handled herself.
MUA: What do you think the key to your success has been?
Seidman Vance: My key to success in this industry has been because I always had good rapport with the directors of photography and lighting designers. I got the nickname the “Techy-groupy-opera-singer” because I was there pulling the crews. … So, I have been in lighting from the ground up.
MUA: What do you think are some of the most inspiring things happening in the make-up industry currently?
Seidman Vance: Real talent. Not YouTubers. That’s all I can say. That’s what’s inspiring. It’s inspiring to see young people want to take classes from us old-timers, because we can’t take it with us. And there are so many out there who just don’t know or understand, and they are not producing the same caliber of work.
MUA: What is the key to success in this industry?
Seidman Vance: Persevere. Don’t step on people to get where you want to be. Don’t backstab people, that’s an awful thing to do. Treat people as humans. You get successful by doing the right things. Also, you got to get off your butt and go to a class.
MUA: Have you ever wanted to do anything else professionally?
Seidman Vance: Of course. I was going to be an opera singer. A performer. That was who I was. When I became a make-up artist I use to say, “This doesn’t feel like my skin.” But it’s my skin now.
MUA: What charitable cause do you believe in or support?
Seidman Vance: I support Operation Blessing. Operation Blessing covers a myriad of different projects. 96 percent of what you send goes directly to a [specific cause]. If you want to check it out, go to Ob.org.
MUA: What would be the worst job imaginable to you?
Seidman Vance: There is no job that would be the worst job. Everybody has a place. Everybody has a reason for being. And I have taken jobs and worked on films and taken unemployment in-between and to keep my household going—because I was divorced and to feed my two kids—I worked under the table in a restaurant and washed dishes and this was after doing a film with James Earl Jones.
MUA: If you could only bring four things into space for a long haul on the space station, what would those be?
Seidman Vance: That would not happen. I get sea sick, so I would not be going to the space station. I would love to if they had, like Star Trek, the gravity so I wouldn’t get sick. Four things, I couldn’t choose. Because what I would want to take with me would be my family.
MUA: What’s the best and what is the worst piece of advice you’re ever received?
Seidman Vance: You know, I haven’t ever had any real bad advice in my life, which is good. But the best advice: You can only do what you can do with the talent you’ve been given and the time you’ve been given to do it in, after that it belongs to the other person.
MUA: What would be some of the most annoying things about having yourself as a roommate?
Seidman Vance: I have a husband. That’s enough of a roommate. And I had roommates in college, we’re not even gonna go there. I don’t like people in my stuff. That’s my biggest pet peeve. Don’t get in my stuff. Don’t get in my make-up box, don’t get in my station because I sterilize everything.
MUA: What is the luckiest thing that has happened to you?
Seidman Vance: I don’t know if I would say lucky or blessed. While I was on Ninja Turtles 2 the director, I ended up working with later, but during that time period my mother was dying of cancer, and we got a call that mama had passed … but the one thing mama had said when she was still lucid and together, she said, ‘There is a song that you guys sing—”The River is Wide”—I don’t care who you are with on the day that I die I want you to be with them and you sing that song for me.’ So, we went back to the set and I told the director what mama had said and he stopped production and the entire cast and crew of Ninja Turtles 2, puppeteers and all, gathered around me and my sister while we sang “The River is Wide” for my mother. That was such an incredible blessing and those that know the industry it’s $1,000 a minute when you shut down production. But they did, he did, to honor my mother’s last wish.
That was 28 years ago. He was also the producer of Picket Fences, and one of the last episodes, I happened to catch it, I heard this familiar music, and it was for a funeral … it was “The River is Wide,” the song me and Michelle had sung for my mom. He used it. That was kind of cool.
MUA: What is the title of the current chapter of your life?
Seidman Vance: I guess this is “The Giving Back” chapter.
MUA: In what situation or place would you feel the most out of place in?
Seidman Vance: In Buckingham Palace in front of the royal family. I’m a total anglophile but the thought of trying to remember how to address her, curtsy, all that stuff, I’d be a nervous wreck.
MUA: What is something that a ton of people are obsessed with but you just don’t get the point of?
Seidman Vance: Eyebrows!!! Triangle-shaped eyebrows. I don’t get them. The worst part is with these lovely triangle-shaped eyebrows, on a lot of them they are so tight together they are not even in the correct position and they end up making them look angry as hell. I don’t get the eyebrows or the four tons of make-up YouTubers put on … by the end of it they have 12 layers on and they are not even the same color.
MUA: What do you hope that people take away from your class?
Seidman Vance: A light bulb! My favorite thing is to see my students get it. The first half of the class is highly technical, and they are taking notes like mad and sometimes you see them getting a little panicked and I slow down. But then in the practical, in the latter half, I put them through creating the canvas. By creating the canvas, I mean they only do highlight, base, contour and powder. I get them to get to the core of setting the canvas to start with and I have them do this in incorrect lighting. The reason I do this is so when they are in the correct lighting, which I do pull them into, they can see their mistakes. I am readjusting their brains, so they can really look, and really see, that’s the bottom line. I want them to be able to see.
Click here to learn more about Seidman Vance’s upcoming Artistry Unlocked workshop at IMATS Atlanta or to enroll.