Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Cocoa Chat: Interview with Sherry Dixon

As a kid, I used to love rummaging through my mum's make up. Whenever I got the opportunity, I would sneak around in her bag, clumsily applying red lipstick and a little bit of Fashion Fair face powder. But ironically, it took me some time to actually start wearing make up as a young adult. When I eventually garnered the courage to go out and buy my first item of make-up, I can remember the exact purchase: a shimmery gold lipstick by Constance Carroll. The lipstick was so dry. Worse still, it gave my lips that pale malnourished appearance, although at the time I thought I looked hot. Things have progressed for me over time, and I now consider myself to be a fully certified make-up junkie. I'm one of those sad sorts who picks up random items of make up just because I like the shade or packaging. Admitedly, half of the stuff remains at the bottom of my make-up bag, simply because I lack the know-how on how to apply the products correctly. For instance, I'm still unsure if I'm applying my blush in the right place, and occasionally I get my foundation blending tragically wrong. But here to rectify all these make-up faux pas' is Sherry Dixon, who re-introduces her Make up Masterclasses next month. Ms Dixon is the ultimate renaissance woman. She has successfully edited two major publications aimed at black women - Pride magazine and She Caribbean magazine, and has also done tonnes of stuff on personal development throughout the years. So not only will customers learn the tricks of the beauty trade, but who knows, Sherry may also throw in some pearls of wisdom for you too. I caught up with Sherry recently to learn more about her workshops.

So tell us about the Sherry Dixon Make-up Workshops – what can women hope to gain from attending?

Sherry: My workshops are for women who want to learn to put on make-up properly. A lot of women would like to experiment with colour but don't understand the know-how and going into departmental stores can be daunting. My workshops are intimate and attendees will learn how to choose products to suit their skin type, especially foundation, which most people get wrong. Most don't understand the difference between creme to powder, liquid or mousse. Eyeshadows is another problem area. Many don't know how to apply colour to enhance their eyes and most don't know how to apply eyeliner. I will teach them all these techniques in a quick and easy way. If for example you have a fat cheeks, I can show you how to get definition to make them look less round. Large and protruding eyes can be made to look smaller also.

Why do you feel that such a service is needed?

Sherry: There are many reasons but the basic one is that women want to look good for work and play. NO longer should we be contented to just look plain and ordinary. A little lipstick or lipgloss can add zest to a plain face and can also be a good feel-good factor. It always amazes me when I put just a few coats of mascara, a lil blusher and a swatch of lipgloss on someone's face and the next thing you know they are walking tall land switching like a superstar. It's called colour therapy and if it works, why not encourage people to wear it and wear it well.

What sparked your interest in make-up, were you one of those kids who was always offering to do other people's faces over?

Sherry: Yes, I was the one who was the family beautician. Everyone came to me to apply make-up for them and I must have been really good, otherwise they would not have come back. It was my grandmother who started me off. I used to look at her applying her ponds cream and face powder every day before she went to market so I think it rubbed off. At one time I to joined every make-up marketing company, for example Jaffra in the 70's, so that I could go out and teach and sell the products at the same time. I became an area manager in a short space of time and it was then I realised I had a natural gift for application. So I then went on and did a two year Beautician's course which really did not give me the tuition I really wanted. So I decided to take a two year course on Fashion Photographic Make-up and Stage and Film. That was so exciting - learning to make cuts and bruises. But I decided to stay in Fashion Photographic make-up techniques more because that was the world I worked in with the magazines. I have never regretted learning make-up. It got me through many doors to many celebs such as Barry White, Luther Vandross, Terry MacMillan, Marsha Hunt, Diana Ross and of course editorial pages in top magazines and newspapers.

What's the one make-up item a woman should never leave home without?

Sherry: Lipgloss - you can do a lot of things with lipgloss. A little switch on the eyes can had some colour and even some on the cheeks can help so long as it's not silver or purple. And of course on the lips it can really make you look sexy.

Are there any styles or trends in the mainstream that you think Black women should stay away from?

Sherry: All I will say is that I don't like that garish look. Although bright red lipstick is back in style, not everybody can wear red. So check out your shade of red (there are over 20 shades - red red, tangerine red, rusty red, burgundy red). If you must wear it, sometimes a more subtle shade is nice.

In terms of celebrities who do you think is in dire need of a Sherry Dixon beauty make-over?

Sherry: I am not going to name names but there are some people who really need to update their look, but they get offended if the idea is suggested. Even if it's not me they come to, I really feel that just like the Americans, some of our celebs need to take make-up artistry seriously. Americans learn the techniques and you never see them looking rough. Why can't the same be said about some of our British celebs? I think they are too mean to spend money on themselves. The just need to call me or call somebody.

And on the opposite side of the scale, who do you think consistently gets it right in terms of wearing the right make-up to suit their skin tone?

Sherry: Kelly Rowland (who does her own sometimes), Angie Le Mar, Beyonce and Estelle.

Are mainstream make-up companies finally cottoning on to the black pound, or are we still under serviced?

Sherry: Mainstream companies still dont get it and I am beginning to think they dont give a damn - especially about their British black customers. When I go to the USA, I can buy my shade of foundation and powder from Estee Lauder,Chanel and Givenchy. They don't stock it here. Why? Clinique had a line which was great for black skins but they did not advertise it therefore it did not sell. So they took it off the shelves. How can we buy it if we don't know its there? MAC, Iman and the new BlackUp range are very good. The problem is not the companies, it's us. If you don't complain, why should they give a damn?

Can there ever be any justification for Black men wearing make-up?

Sherry: Unless men are wearing make-up for stage or a photographic shoot I would be worried if I was sharing my mascara with my partner. I know that some make-up houses are extending their men's range with bronzing powder and mascara, but I don't really like it on my partner. Moisturiser is a must though.

What's the one make up trend popularised by black women, that should forever remain locked away in the past?

Sherry: Black lip liner as lip pencil and plucking eyebrows so thin and then using eyebrow pencil to draw a new one higher than your original line. I sometimes see women on the tube who look as if they are in expression all the time. Oooh, and blusher in a big blob in the middle of the cheeks. Somehow they dont understand that you have to blend it in.

Is Vaseline an adequate face moisturiser, or is this an old wives tale?

Sherry: Black skins really dont need to be using Vaseline, especially in the sun as there is no hydrating properties in it and will make the skin burn. I know Vaseline is used on extremely dry skin to quickly add oil but as a rule, just stick to using it on the lips, hands and babies' bottoms.

Throughout your career you've worn many hats such as PR Consultant, Editor and Beautician. Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions left?

Sherry: Yes many and I am worried time is running out, so I have to move fast. In a few months I am starting my motivational seminars, which will bring in a lot of professional people alongside me to nurture and bring back positivity into the lives of women around the world. I think it is important to be able to help people along my climb up the ladder and hopefully with these inspirational talks/seminars, we can help women who also want to achieve. I feel so good after my talks and I know that this will eventually be the way I will go - holding a lot of hands, making chains of confident women as I go along. Then the book and the TV show will come after that - in about a year's time.

When is the next workshop, and how can we sign up?

Sherry: The workshops are done in two ways. It can either be a personal one-to-one session where it's just me and the person who wants to learn (1 1/2 hour session) or there are group sessions where I will demonstrate on a model and people will just look on, make notes and then go home and try the techniques that they've learnt from the class. (2-3 hours). So it's really up to the individual to decide what they want. Its a good idea to come along with a friend or two and share the cost.

The cost of Sherry Dixon's Make up Masterclass is as follows:

Cost: £90 for individual sessions
Group sessions: £50 per person
Dates: Saturday 3rd May, Sunday 19th May, Saturday June 14th, Saturday June 28th (future dates can be provided on request)
(Sunday sessions available for bookings of 6 people).

To register: Call Sherry on 07956 472633 or email her at make-up@sherrydixon.net

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I am a thirty-something African Caribbean female from South East London. My blog will shine a light on Black British culture offering the best in entertainment, fashion, beauty, community, film & music, with the occasional personal musing thrown in from yours truly. Thank you for taking out the time to peek into the pages of my diary. Now grab a cup of cocoa, relax and enjoy.