Azzi Williams is a Sydney-based makeup artist with over 10 years of experience in Australia, UK, and Europe. Prior to launching her own successful business,Williamspro Makeup, Azzi worked as an international model. She credits her sharp eye for detail to her many years of experience in the modeling industry. She has transformed countless models, dancers, and actors. Azzi has also worked with film, television, and video production companies from Italy, France, and the UK. Television credits include Network Ten (Australia), BBC, and ITV (UK). Advertising credits include Skin Chemists (UK), Celebrity Hair (UK), Eurostar (Belgium), and Diesel (France). Celebrity clients include Rihanna’s backup dancers and Australian Entertainment reporter, Angela Bishop. Azzi believes, “It’s not just about the end result, but the entire journey to capture you in your best light, enhance your best features, and create a look that evokes a unique you.”
Tell us a bit about the evolution of your makeup career. What inspired the transition from model to makeup artist?
I was always passionate about art, color, and makeup artistry. From an early age, I loved to paint and mix colors. When I was fifteen I had my first job working as a beauty consultant, working alongside people ten years my senior, and I loved every minute of it while I was studying at high school and at university.
When I started modeling, I kept my eye on what the makeup artists were doing, how they applied the makeup on me and other models, and what products they were using. I loved the varied, creative work they were doing and found the people I worked with incredibly inspirational. They also gathered that I was friendly and harmless enough, so when I asked them about what they were doing, they were more than happy to offer me all the tips they could offer.
The natural step was to channel everything I learned from them and from my own makeup training, to be the best makeup artist I could possibly be.
As you started out as a model in the makeup industry, you already have quite a bit of experience being the “canvas.” Do you find you approach your clients differently because of your past experience?
Absolutely! I have had hundreds of makeup artists work on me, and from watching them, I learnt both what to do, and what NOT to do. I knew for instance, how I disliked it when a makeup artist used really rough, scratchy brushes, so I only invest in the softest, finest brushes, which my clients now love and compliment me on. Another example is hygiene, some makeup artists would be munching on food while applying makeup, others wouldn’t wash their hands, or wouldn’t disinfect their brushes between models, so I learnt that a basic level of professionalism, hygiene and a polished demeanour would immediately put me ahead of many of my peers.
You have quite an impressive portfolio—what are you most proud of to-date, and what’s been the best experience so far?
Working on two of Rihanna’s backup dancers was probably the most challenging moment of my entire career, mainly because the brief was so specific, the time pressure was on and my clients were incredibly particular, but looking back, I learned so much so quickly.
I also love working in the media, television commercials, video productions, and photographic studios, all the places where I used to be in front of a camera. I feel so at home on a production set or in a photographic studio, because that is where I have been used to working as a model. I also love the collaborative aspect, working with other creative minds as a team and producing something as a group, you don’t mind the long hours and early starts when you love what you do.
You’ve worked all around the world—can you tell us a bit about the makeup industry in Australia, and how it might differ from the other countries you’ve visited?
Australia is such a young country, with loads of opportunities. A place like London is incredibly competitive—there are thousands of people competing for jobs and although it does put pressure on you to become better and more competitive, it is very hard to carve a niche. You are a small fish in a big pond. However in Australia, with less competition, you can find innovative ways to market your talent and really stand out.
The Australian climate can also be very hot, humid, and wet, so unlike applying makeup in Europe which tends to be quite cooler (with the exception of Continental summers, of course), the pressure is on makeup artists to create a melt-proof, sweat-resistant look that won’t budge in 30+ heat. Bikini and water shoots are also very popular, so if you know how to waterproof skin, lips, and eyes, you are ahead of the game.
We were so happy when you joined QC Makeup Academy as a tutor! What originally drew you to QC?
I have been a fan of Nathan Johnson for a while now and I admire his ability to share key makeup skills in such a clear, concise, and industry-relevant way. So when the opportunity arose to become a QC Tutor I jumped at the chance! I also love the blended learning model QC Academy offers, it is invaluable, especially for students who live in remote areas, or cannot commit to set classroom hours due to personal or other work commitments. Being able to study at your own pace is a fantastic way to kick-start your career in makeup artistry.
Can you talk a bit about your approach as a tutor?
I offer concise, constructive feedback that is both objective and fair. In other words, I’m honest!
Something I always remind students is that makeup artistry is not about just an end result on a client, but the entire journey. From initially meeting you, to walking away from you, every one of your clients should feel that you take time to understand their needs and enjoy the process.
I also offer insider tips to help you market your skills in a competitive environment, how to take your talent and tailor your own personal brand, create a social identity that will help get you paid work and grow your business.
Can you talk a bit about the process of building your personal brand, what struggles you maybe faced, and how you grew your impressive online social presence (strategies)?
Building a personal brand takes an incredible amount of time, energy, and effort. Expect to juggle long hours working as a makeup artist with blogging, working on social media channels, and building your online profile. Your social identity as a makeup artist needs to be dynamic and active. Initially, I was blogging every day, sometimes two to three posts a day. Now, I blog about once a week while I expand my business in Sydney.
One of my biggest struggles was finding the right business flow that worked for me. When starting out, I was saying yes to every job offered to me, and looking back I realized sometimes I under-valued or under-sold my own skills. I was also working very long hours without giving myself much holiday or rest time. It took those initial mistakes to learn that working hard is one thing, and over-working is another. After all, even the most prominent entrepreneurs and sports champions take time out for rest and recovery!
What is one piece of advice you would give to any aspiring makeup artist?
In today’s competitive environment, simply having the ability to apply makeup is not enough to make it. You need to be business-savvy, create your unique online identity and brand, market yourself and your talents, network, and reach out to gain new and exciting opportunities.
Tell us! What does the future hold for Azzi Williams?
When I met Eve Pearl in London I was utterly star-struck. For me, she epitomizes true makeup artistry combined with a strong, entrepreneurial spirit. I have learned so much from her approach. So when I arrived in Sydney and said I wanted to eventually be ‘bigger than Napoleon Perdis,’ I received some very bewildered ‘how could you even say that’ looks. But I always believe in dreaming big! I have some incredible product ideas and makeup techniques to offer the Australian marketplace and I know that with the right business plan and good hard work, that level of success will form part of my career evolution.