She Speaks: The Pandemic Through the Eyes of a Top Makeup Artist

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Toni Malt Makeup Artist
Photo: Courtesy of @tonimaltmakeup

As our makeup bags start to collect dust and our faces go bare for days on end, it’s not just our beauty products that are being neglected – it’s a whole industry of creative, inspiring individuals who use makeup to create living works of art. One such individual is Toni Malt, one of the most sought-after and highly regarded makeup artists in the region and founder of the Toni Malt Makeup Academy. Here, Savoir Flair speaks with Malt about what these unprecedented circumstances have meant for her line of work.

As one of Dubai’s top makeup artists and the founder of a makeup academy, how you been personally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Closing all schools, universities, and educational institutes was one of the UAE’s first preventive measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, so my makeup academy has been temporarily shut for one month now. I had spent the previous months restructuring all the courses and was so excited for this year, so having to shut down was very sad and disheartening. All photoshoots were canceled shortly after the academy was asked to close, which also brought my personal career as a makeup artist to a complete halt.

I was in a state of shock for the first two weeks, not able to think about anything constructively. Looking back, I am so thankful that such early preventive measures were taken as no one in my school has been infected – imagine how easily makeup artists can spread the virus and get infected themselves. Now that I have digested my new reality, I have created a daily routine for myself, a mix of taking care of my mental health and working productively on future work-related projects. But yes, to put it bluntly, I have zero income at the moment.

toni malt makeup
Photo: Courtesy of @tonimaltmakeup

From a professional perspective, what aspect of all of this concerns you most?
The thing I struggle with the most at the moment is the insignificance of my own profession. It’s hard for me to think about anything to do with beauty when I worry about my family in Europe and my friends in the US. I don’t even want to post anything to do with beauty on my Instagram account – I just don’t see the relevance.

I’ve started looking into more meaningful beauty, like vegan and cruelty-free makeup and skincare, as well as spending a lot of time studying how to make normal people look beautiful as opposed to models. It’s helping to give some deeper meaning to my job, but I am not sure yet how I will truly overcome that feeling of having an insignificant job. I hope I’m the only makeup artist feeling that way.

What is the one question you’re asked most frequently these days?
“What’s the update?” I listen to press conferences from around the world every morning to get the latest updates on COVID-19, but I’ve started to force myself to stop after two hours so that I’m not sad all day.

What advice would you give to other makeup artists who are struggling right now?
That is a very difficult question. I honestly don’t know the answer. I mean, there are a million ways to keep yourself busy as a makeup artist: disinfect your kit, downsize it, watch tutorials to up your makeup game, etc. But what everyone is really worried about is paying their bills. I can’t say when we all will make money again and, when we do, we’ll have to wait up to three months to get paid. I hope that we all have enough savings to make it through this.

toni malt makeup artist dubai
Photo: Courtesy of @tonimaltmakeup

As an industry insider, what can you tell us about the beauty industry in the Middle East – both presently and in the foreseeable future?
I love that the Middle East has so much love for beauty and color. As a makeup artist, I feel so lucky to be based here. I also love that all my clients are so knowledgeable about makeup; they challenge me and I learn from them. Right now, our priority is not beauty – it’s health.

I think just like anytime humanity comes out of a crisis, there will be great relief and celebration. Everyone will want to reward themselves for not giving up, sticking it out, and making it through. We all will want to do things that make us feel good and allow us to forget the worries of this time once this is over. I think the beauty industry will be amongst the first to recover in the Middle East.

Right now, our priority is not beauty – it’s health.

What beauty product or treatment will you splurge on when all this is over?
I’m going to go to the Moroccan bath at One&Only Royal Mirage. There’s a part during the cleansing ritual where the therapist throws a bucket of cold water over your head. I feel I need someone to do that to me and say, “Okay, that was horrible, but now it’s done, so get on with it” once we start the post-COVID-19 era.

Are you, like many during this time, turning to DIY beauty treatments?
I have been obsessed with face masks for many years and have a huge collection, so rather than making my own, I’m loving using all the ones I have stocked up. My faves at the moment are Tony Moly, Ole Henriksen, and the Elizavecca ‘Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask’ that went viral recently. It’s the one that makes you look like a huge gray teddybear expanding massively as the bubbles form!

toni malt makeup artist academy
Photo: Courtesy of @tonimaltmakeup

What can our readers do at a time like this to support the local beauty scene?
No one needs a makeup artist right now. We all lack some form of validation at the moment, that what we do is important, that we are needed. When your readers see a nice makeup image on Instagram, they can write a nice comment or send us questions about makeup rather than tap the heart button – it will allow us to still feel needed.

We all lack some form of validation at the moment, that what we do is important, that we are needed.

Has self-isolation inspired you to switch up your own beauty routine?
I’m all about skincare and hair masks at the moment, and getting a tan in the garden to boost both my happiness and vitamin D levels. Just before all of this happened, I switched to a 10-step Korean skincare routine, so I enjoy having the time now to stick to it. When it comes to makeup, there are some days when I feel that I need my old life back, so I put on a thin layer of foundation and pretend I will go to work, but mostly, I don’t wear any makeup at the moment.

Do you think this phase has taught us that we wear too much makeup in our day-to-day lives?
I think it has taught us that skincare shouldn’t just be a luxury that we only give time to on weekends, but rather, a daily gift to our skin. Great skin will allow you to wear less makeup. But to be honest, when this is all over, I think everyone will be so relieved that women will want to celebrate by looking incredibly perfect – that, too, with happy and colorful makeup as opposed to the nudes that we wore before. I’m not sure we will come out of this wearing less makeup.

Photo: Courtesy of @tonimaltmakeup

Many of us are trying to use this time productively – reorganizing things and clearing out clutter. What are your tips for sorting our makeup bags and beauty products?
First of all, let’s clean up and disinfect that makeup bag and its contents. Get that disinfecting spray out! My rule of thumb is if you haven’t used it in the last six months, get rid of it. Also, think about the multi-use of products. Your bronzer can also be a wonderful eyeshadow, a beautiful red or pink lipstick can work as a stunning cream blush. Downsizing feels incredibly liberating.

While you can’t paint faces, what have you been focusing your creative energy on instead?
Unlike most other makeup schools, which buy course material from regulatory bodies that certify makeup artists, I have written all our course material myself based on my 15 years of experience in the industry. It’s a 350-page makeup bible that I’m busy expanding at the moment. We now have an even more in-depth section on sterilizing an artist’s kit, amongst others. I can’t wait to teach again. I miss it.

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