Australian Makeup Director / L'Oréal Paris
When highlights of your career include working at New York Fashion Week and shooting in Milan for Gucci with the extraordinary Margaret Zhang, it’s safe to say that you have penetrated the often cutthroat fashion and makeup industry. Like many true creative’s, Tobi Henney, first picked up a (makeup) brush at a young age, after receiving a face painting kit from her Nan. It was from that moment that she fell in love with the transformational magic of makeup.
Tobi is like a magician for your face, and a fairy godmother for your style. Eloquently interrupting current global trends with her own know-how and experience, this makeup superstar is living her true calling as the L’Oréal Paris Makeup Director for Australia. Tobi is one of the most sought after celebrity and fashion hair and makeup artists in the country. She has attended to the makeup needs of some of the most gorgeous, decorative faces in the business, including Sara Donaldson, Jesinta Campbell, Elle Ferguson, Megan Gale and Jessie J. And these days Tobi travels the globe working on various advertising, editorial and TV projects. Her makeup has been featured on The Voice, Australia’s Next Top Model and in international campaigns for Sunseeker, Camilla, David Jones and Myer. Her editorial work has also been featured in mega publications including Grazia, Russh, Elle US.
Today’s #careerstory is one of our favourites to date. Why? Well, Tobi wasn’t always a mega-watt Makeup Director. Believe it or not, this industry leader actually started her professional career as a Primary School Teacher! To us, Tobi is the epitome of career versatility. The perfect glowing poster-child for any girls who believe that you need to live out one career choice until you die. Girls… this simply isn’t the case.
We hope you enjoy this interview as much as we love Tobi. Let’s dive in.
Tobi, we are so grateful that you can join us today, can you start by telling us were you grew up and how that has shaped the career you are in today?
I grew up in South-West Sydney with my dad, mum, younger sister and brother. I grew up with a large extended tight knit family and many close friends. I was extremely sporty, a 100m sprinter and represented NSW for Basketball playing both in Australia and travelling to play in the US and Canada. I definitely think I have great people and networking skills from playing sport. I was always making new friends and travelling a lot as a teen. Art and Drama at school were my favourite subjects. My nan gave me a face painting kit in my early teens, and I started painting faces when I was around 14-15. I would set up my own stall and paint at the local markets for hours on the weekend. It was also great pocket money. I then found an agent at 16 who would book me out to paint at kid’s parties. I was quite the entrepreneur as a kid. I remember I was still only on my L Plates and mum would drive me to my jobs, and wait out the front for the few hours until I was finished and drive me home.
Wow, what a great recap, and what a supportive mum! Where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?
I went to school at Mount Saint Joseph’s Milperra. It was an all girls Catholic school, a multicultural group of girls with a good mix of sport, arts and academic. I loved excelling in all facets of school life and always did my best. I studied hard and was very organised at school. I used to train every night after school for one of the sports I was playing. Time management was drilled into me from an early age. I had lots of friends and was very social at school. I would miss a lot of days as I was always representing the school in sport carnivals. This never really affected my studies. I remember the Art and Design teachers pushed me to pursue these subjects in year 12. I suppose I displayed creative talents from a young age.
Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?
I remember doing the makeup for EVERYONE in our big drama performances at school. It always came naturally to me. I also loved reading glossy fashion mags in my spare time at school. I think the teachers in the creative fields always pushed me to explore my talents in their subjects which may have led to being a makeup artist down the track.
Did you complete internship or work experience placements in high school? Tell us about that experience.
I did my Year 10 Work experience placement at Carla Zampatti, and thought I would study Fashion Design after school. That week I decided fashion design was not for me, I loved the industry but knew it was not quite what I wanted to do. I had changed my mind and was confused about not knowing what I wanted to do after I finished Year 12.
Carla Zampatti? that would have been incredible. Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?
I did very well in the HSC and could of chosen many degrees. I literally picked my course right before I had to hand the paperwork in. I decided on a Bachelor of Education as I wanted to travel the world and I thought that education was a versatile career which could take me anywhere. I had a lot of fun at university and made some great friends. The course was fairly straight forward and definitely made me confident to teach and speak in front of large groups which I do in my role now as L’Oréal Paris Makeup Director. After the first year of study I spent the Summer working in Lake Tahoe at a ski resort and that definitely broke up the course for me. It was a great few months of snowboarding and travel. After maybe the 2nd or 3rd year I wanted to drop out and work full time like most of my friends were.
My dad was a strong force behind me sticking with it and in hind sight I am glad I did finish my degree. During the four year degree I knew I wanted to save as much as I could to move to London and I started my own spray tan business in a hair salon as a part job business. I soon realised that I loved the Beauty Industry and I suppose this is where I really formed that in my mind. I taught for seven years in total as a Primary School teacher before leaving the industry to be a full time makeup artist. There were a few years where I did both to build up assisting, testing and my book. The transition was hard but looking back it was the scariest and best decision I have ever made.
From teacher to Make-up Artist, what a jump. Can you tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights.
I assisted many top artists in Australia for several years as well as working as a freelance makeup artist. These years were pivotal and I recommend assisting to most artists I meet. I have worked for many fashion labels, celebrities, TV shows, Magazines, Online sites and more. Some highlights are working at New York Fashion Week, Shooting in Milan for Gucci with Margaret Zhang, seeing my work on magazine covers and in print always gets me excited.
Gucci, Margaret Zhang, incredible! So… how did you get into the job that you are in now?
I become the L’Oréal Paris Makeup Director in April after a nation wide search for the new Director was held. It was a moment in time I will always remember. It has been so fantastic working with such an iconic Beauty brand and I have been fortunate to work on some exciting projects with them to date.
What is the hardest part of your current role?,
Never knowing what is next! But this is also the most exciting. It is a kinda crazy way to live your life, but I have learned to love it and make the most of the freedom I have in life. Makes you cherish every day, week and month. My old job I was always counting down the days til I was done with weeks or months of years. Now I live more in the moment.
Tobi, what does a day a typical business day look like for you?
No two days are ever the same, I actually love this about my job. I am a Gemini and get bored easily. Usually I am up early anywhere from 3am-6am alarm is set. I like to try and go to the gym before work although this is not always possible. Shoot days I set up my makeup kit and am the first one to get started on the model with the hair stylist, or sometimes I am on both hair and makeup. We then shoot for a half or full day. Shoot days can range between 4-12 hours. Other times I heading to a hotel or home of one of my talent to do them up for an event. Other days I am working from home prepping looks, products for shoots, answering emails, answering press q&as for magazines, online sites. Other days I am attending events for L’Oréal Paris.
Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?
My grandparents were both creatives,Nan a professional singer/dancer and my grandfather a pianist. I am very close with my Nan and I think hearing her stories about travelling the world singing and dancing and working at the Tivoli shaped what I wanted to do in life. Mum and Dad have always owned their own businesses and I think working for yourself seemed like a great way of life for me.
What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career?
Do work experience to see if you like the industry. There are also many facets of makeup artistry and all are very different: fashion, TV, film, Bridal to name a few. It is competitive and to succeed you must work extremely hard and be willing to sacrifice a lot of time building your portfolio (for free) and assisting (also sometimes for free). Take a short or long course. I studied an 8 week, one night a week course at Makeup Mode. Susan is an amazing and nurturing teacher who I admire dearly. Find an artist you admire and try and assist them.
List your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your profession?
- Favourite Blogs or Websites: Business of Fashion, Gritty Pretty, Tom Boy Beauty, Vogue. I also love checking up on model websites for who is in town.
- Name an Instagram Account or Snapchat that you can’t go a day without checking: Pat McGrath, Jen Atkin, Sir John, Gucci, Val Garland.
- Books: The Alchemist is a great read which translates to anyone on a journey
- People: My friends in the industry who I adore – there are too many creative and talented people to name. You know who you are!
- Others: Travel – it is always the best source of inspiration.