I first learned of Shari when she and Vicky Ro went and shared pictures along with recording artist, Imah and ultimately creating a group called M3LANIN.
I ended up checking out her website and saw what she was about.
She is very much a private person from the looks of it and she will mention it during the interview, but since this interview, I've recognized one thing about her... She is about that loyalty.
A very humble woman who says what she means and mean what she says, I look forward to seeing her strive in her field and hopefully work with her on future projects as well.
This interview is a dope look into a dope individual.
Get to know this week's Woman Crushing It Wednesday... Ms. Shari Sutherland!
First, I kind of thought that you were a musical artist. Right? Because of the whole M3LANIN.
It’s so funny that you said that, because we're all finding that. Because even Vicki, she's like poetry. She's not musical. But from that, everyone just assumed that we're going to be a girl group. But we want to do a girl group, but not your typical or conventional group. So everyone who does something, you do your strength, and we find a way to work together to do something with that.
Nice. Now, that's actually pretty dope. Combining your strengths together.
Yeah, cuz I'm more artistic like painting. That's why I do make up. Even if it was like a show where she does the poetry and there’s singing, because Imah sings. And then I do the painting in the background or just something. A different kind of girl group nine.
I hear you. And that makes for a more entertaining type of show. Most definitely. Let's see. So let's get started. Every superhero has an origin story. What is yours?
My origin story? Okay. I like that question. I like how you put that. Well... So I'm a makeup artist, first, and that's what I've always done. I've always painted. I was into drawing when I was young. And then that transferred into makeup when I worked for Shoppers, because I actually got a mentor. She brought me into the whole world of artistry in that way with the face. And it just took off from there. I was in university. I graduated with two majors. And, of course, everyone tells you, you can't do makeup. You can't do something artistic for life. You need to be able to make money, buy a house, have kids blah, blah, blah. So I actually got a corporate job and was doing both. So I left doing retail makeup. So MAC, L'Oreal, all that. And I went into the corporate world, which I still am. I still do it. But I started freelancing, and getting into that aspect with makeup. So doing TV shows. I did one film. Doing a lot of musical artists. And then a few years ago, actually translated that into doing fitness makeup, for competitions. So of course, with the pandemic, everything going on, that kind of had to be stopped. But I kind of found a new passion with that tactic. It's a different kind of world you're in with makeup, but I enjoyed. It was different from what I was normally doing. Because I feel like I want to transition from painting faces and more, and focus on something else. Just more empowering women in a different way. Because I still love doing makeup. I'm very selective with it now. But just another way of empowering women. So yeah, I feel like my origin story is just makeup like I'd have a makeup brush, a belt, a cape and glitter. A pink wig. (laughter)
(laughter) No, no that works. Most definitely. So um... When did you first realize that you had a talent?
I was always good at drawing. I know that. And I never did anything with it, like painting pictures or trying to sell my work or anything. It's until really when I went to Shoppers, that's when I'm like, okay, I might have something going on here. I was a tomboy growing up, though, which is kind of funny, because I'm the opposite of that now.
Very much so (laughter).
(laughter) Right? So actually, doing that first customer really put me in the perspective of like, I enjoy this. It's painting in a different way. I can still be artistic and creative, and I'm making someone else happy. So it's the best of both worlds and I just took off with that.
I'm trying to imagine you going from tomboy to getting into the look that you're in now. And folks that have not seen you in a long time, when they see you for the first time, what's their reaction?
Well actually I have people from way back like Middle School, Elementary that would say that I look completely different. I still have that fun personality to me, because I was always like that, but it's not like sneakers and boy shorts and all that stuff anymore. Everyone who knows me, this is just me.
I like it. So you mentioned working at l’Oreal, you mentioned going to the corporate world. But also what you mentioned is you've worked with athletes and musicians, as well. Could you describe the experience of getting your first professional gig?
Um, yeah. So I was working at Nissan. And one of the girls told me about a friend who worked in the music industry and he's always looking for freelancers for their shoots. So I gave my number. And he's the one that actually set me up with my very first... It was Fefe Dobson. And I ended up working with her when she did interviews and when she did MuchMusic. So it was so much fun. Just that experience. I felt like I went to the next level of my career where I was trying to get to at that time. I felt like it was the next level and just had to be humble. Because they were still so humble. They moved on to bigger and better things, but they were always so humble. So for me, it just showed me how to still achieve your goals, but to be humble about it, because you can never know what can happen. Things can change. Like we all know that now. I think that's the biggest lesson we've all learned from last year, that things can change in an instant. So be humble.
I don't know, maybe I have not perused through your Instagram.
Oh, I don't have any of that stuff on there. I have a history of doing stuff. But it was before social media. Because I was never big into taking pictures. I remember when Instagram first started. I wasn't into pictures. So it took me years. Maybe only like five years ago, I would be taking it seriously trying to take pictures. Even in the last couple years. I have all that stuff. And I feel that's why I can say I can move on from that now and find a different path because I know what I've achieved. My clients have followed me. That's one thing. My friends are loyal. My clientele is loyal. I've known the people around me for years and decades. And that's a big strength I have. Loyalty. I'm loyal to them. They're loyal to me. And that's going to build your empire, your business, whatever you're going to do. If you have that loyal following, even 100 people can skyrocket you to billions, eventually if you just stick with that thought and that value. So that's what I've done. I don't have anything to prove. People who know me in the industry, that's where I've gotten to where I am now because of that stuff. And I still even talk to them not as much but, anytime they want something, I'll definitely do it even for free. Why not? That's nothing.
Would you say your support system is described as that? Loyal?
Yeah. 100! All my friends, some I've known since grade 5. The majority of my friends I've known for decades. Nobody that I've really known for just a year.
The folks that you've kept around you, from early on, you were able to perceive which ones were meant to be here. I guess you’re a good judge of character.
You feel it. I go based on how I feel about a person and how they make you feel when you're around them. That's really important to me. If I feel a bad vibe, I don't sleep with you. I don't work with you. I don't do business with you. I don't do anything with you. Because you can't have that feeling there. Because it's not genuine. So I feel like if you have a good rapport with someone, and you have good vibes with them, they're going to want to do well with you. And you're going to want to do well with them. And you're going to help each other and that's what I'm about. You can't just be take take take because eventually somebody is going to get upset in that relationship. And it's going to go south.
What has been the misconception about you or your profession?
Misconception? That I'm stuck up.
People think you're stuck up?
Oh, yeah. I think that's a big one. Like, I don't walk around smiling 24/7. Once you get to know me, I'm very open and free. But I can be very standoffish. So I'm trying to figure it out. Because time is so precious now. You don't want to waste it on someone that doesn't deserve it.
To be honest, from the first time I met you, I mean, even on the IG Lives, it’s only been smiles. (laughter)
I feel in the last few years, I've been more open. I haven't been so standoffish. So I feel like it's slowly, probably changing. Especially in the corporate world, but that's a whole different ball game, because you gotta put on that face. Especially being a black woman in the corporate world, you got to put on that face. Because people are gonna try to push you over.
Would you say that past experiences caused you to be standoffish?
No, it wasn't from past experience. I just like good people around me. Because you can get to know someone and not really know them until years later. So I like to just observe, and then when I get a good feeling, then I can start showing a little bit more of myself. I like to keep a lot of things private. Only recently have I opened up more.
What is something about you that you want people to remember? What do you want people to know?
What do I want people to know about me? I'm a good person.
You don’t think they know that?
Honestly, I want everyone to do well. I want everyone to succeed. And whatever dream you have no matter how big or small it is, everyone just do well in life. There's no malicious or bad vibes to anybody. And I just feel some people always think you have an ulterior motive or you want something from them. Not necessarily. And I don't necessarily want anything in return. So I want people to know that I'm genuine, if you want to put it in a different perspective. Just a genuine individual. What I say is what I mean.
With regards to your profession, not too many people recognize the Makeup Artist. Except as of late, I mean, when you look at...
It's blown up, like the IG makeup artist has blown up.
Exactly. Now, so much so that the artists and the makeup artists are beefing online for everybody to see.
But I understand that from both perspectives. As I said, all that stuff I did before, there wasn't any Instagram. So we couldn't get our kudos because there was nothing for us to post except for MySpace. And that was just up and coming at that time. So now they've made their names. Not with anyone giving them their props. But now these Instagram artists haven't done any kind of training, necessarily. Haven't really gone through it, but they are now blowing up from a viral video or a viral picture. And they might not even have a passion for it. But it makes them some money because they can do those brand deals. From an Instagram artist's perspective, if you just love creating, and love doing makeup on yourself and people will pay you for it, why not? I can't hate. I want to do that too. But I do have a professional background behind. I understand both sides of it. I'm on one side already. And I'd like to enter the other side. And there's nothing wrong with that.
As the times change, you go along with the times.
Exactly, things change. There's no growth if things don't change.
That's how evolution works.
With regards to family and your profession, how would you say was the support in the beginning versus the support now?
The same. My mom supports me. I've asked her to go to do shoots that were free, in the rain and a train station that was abandoned. And she’d help me out with the kids, with my daughter when I just had my daughter. I've always had support from my friends and from my family. The only thing with my mom is finishing school, graduate. Just make sure you can take care of yourself. And that was it. If makeup can do it for you, then go that way. But just make sure you have the basics in life, get your education, get your finances together, and then pursue your dreams. Even with this today, she would have watched the kids for me, but my friend was able to come and support me. So I've always had support. I can't say that I've never felt that.
Nice. Alright, well, let's bring along the extended family. How do you manage their expectations for your business? And I'm going to explain the question.
No, I think I understand. Like, how I want to be perceived online, but sometimes they won't approve of what you're putting out there.
No, what I mean is, for example, I do photography and I'm a writer. But the family doesn't care about the writing. They care about the photography because they want pictures taken at parties without having to pay for it or they just want me to give them a family discount. How do you manage those?
Ok! Um, you know what's funny? I find that from strangers. That's what I find, especially being a makeup artist. I have experience behind me so I can charge that. I mean, if you want to go to that person who charges $40 down the road that just graduated out of beauty school that they took at whatever place that they found. Yeah, but I find that from strangers, but family will pay. They'll pay me what I charge. They know it's a business. I have friends that have their own businesses. So I think we all know that it's business like we're here to support you. If I can go on and buy that expensive pair of shoes, and I can't pay your rate or service that you're doing for me? So there's no asking for discounts. I get that from strangers. That's what's funny about that. But that's not my loyal clientele. That's just like other people that will see you on Instagram or whatever.
Are you married?
How do you manage relationships with raising kids and your business?
Um, I haven't had so many relationships. I've had two 10 year relationships. So that was 20 years of my life.
And then my first boyfriend was 3 years, or a year and a half. And then one year and a half. So 4 relationships I've had in my entire life. I'm not with their father, but we co parent very well. He has certain values, he wants to live up and I have certain values. So we're really good at co parenting. Relationship wise, I don't focus on that. Because I have my friends, my family, my kids, so I feel fulfilled. And my parents got divorced. So I just don't really ever want to get married or believe in marriage in that sense anymore. Because I don't feel like anybody really commits in this world anymore. There's no monogamy. It's not that one person for life or that fairy tale that we were all told, if you find your prince charming, it's gonna be perfect. So personally, I don't feel like I need a relationship. So I don't think about that. And that's not a factor in my business. So maybe that's why I'm able to pursue what I want to do so openly, because I don't feel held back. But I don't feel like that's a part of my life right now. Eventually, I want a relationship, someone to grow old with, but it's just not something I'm focused on right now.
Would you say that you are so much into the business that you shut off this particular aspect of your life?
I think it's always been shut off. Just because I've always been in a relationship since I was in what? Grade 7? Grade 6? I feel like it's a break, to be honest. I never got that dating around and all that stuff. I never experienced all of that. Because literally, I've been in a relationship most of my life. So I never had that. I feel like that part has always been shut off. I feel liberated now because I've never really been on my own. So that's when I started pushing women empowerment and being independent and not needing to rely on a man or anything like that. So I feel, for me, it's giving me strength. Right now I feel like it's liberating. And I honestly feel like every woman needs to live by themselves and be on their own, and just really know how to take care of themselves first. So when you're with that person, you're whole. You don't need them to be your crutch. You're already good by yourself. You're just adding to your life now. You know what I mean?
This is reminiscent of Eartha Kitt. When that interviewer asked her about compromising in a relationship and she started laughing because what do I have to compromise for? Like, that comes in to share me loving me.
Yeah, I agree with that.
This is like self love.
Because I feel like a lot of women either settle because they don't want to be alone. Or maybe they don't feel comfortable being alone or don't know how to be alone. But they settle with somebody they don't even really want to be with and then they're miserable for the rest of their lives. And it's just arguments and all this negativity which for myself, I don't want. I just want to be good on my own and then whoever comes in complements my life. I'm sure we all know some people just really don't know how to be on their own and they need that comfort or they need that support. And I don't know if it's something missing within them. Or it's just that's how they grew up. Maybe they have parents that have always been together. But I have never, ever had the urge for marriage and any of that. And I said, maybe because of being in relationships this whole entire time, like 10 year relationships.
You might as well have been married yourself (laughter)
(laughter) Yeah. Literally. And that was 20 years of my life gone right there in that relationship world. So that's why, now this is just my time to get where I want to in my career. And then I can maybe think about that.
I think at times, when people take time to actually get some self love they learn to love themselves so that when the next person comes in, they can place the boundaries for how they want to be loved.
Yeah, exactly. That's exactly what it is. Yeah.
What's the legacy you want to leave?
The legacy I want to leave? Honestly, it's for my kids. I want to be able to leave a business for them, a future, like generational wealth, opportunities. I feel as though, especially in the black community, you don't have that. You don't really have where the parents or the grandparents passing down land property, finances. We have to be starting from scratch over and over and over again. I watched my mom work 12-14 hour shifts as a nurse just to be able to buy the townhouse that we lived in when we came here, because I'm from Jamaica. I came here when I was 8. So we literally had nothing. My family isn't really over here. They're mostly in the States or in Jamaica. So she literally started from scratch, and then ended up buying things. I watched her buying a townhouse to a house to all these different moves she was making on our own. So for me, I just want to be able to leave that for my kids where they are not gonna have to start from the bottom or from scratch. Like I could leave them a condo or a house. So at least they have a little step in the door to be on the level ground with their other classmates. Because I even feel with my daughter now, we live in Richmond Hill, there's a lot of people that are well off and I know she compares. They're living in a different life, you know, so you have to make the best and do the best with what you have. So I want to be able to just leave them something whether it’s with my business, whether it's to be able to leave them with just a nice cash cushion. Just something that I can leave for my kids because they are my legacy actually.
Nice. If you were to meet a young you at 18...
Get out of those relationships. (laughter)
(laughter) That’s the advice you give? (laughter) What advice would you give yourself?
You know, go follow your dreams. That's what I would have told myself. Follow your dreams, because I feel like I was just always following someone else's. I was always just being support for someone else. I used to want to move to the states and be a big time makeup artist over there and do films. Follow your dream. That’s the advice. Go and do you. And just be happy because nobody else is gonna make you happy. I don't care who it is, how much money they have, whatever it is, you need to go and make yourself happy. So go for your dreams. That's one thing I regret. I try not to have regrets. But that is something that I do regret not going to move maybe wherever I wanted to. And just seeing where that could have taken me.