Sha Shamsi is one of Singapore’s biggest models in the early ’90s, who – in the eight months that she was active on the scene – made it to the cover of multiple major magazines here including FEMALE. In 1999, she returned to the fashion industry as a makeup artist and is today considered a luminary and a go-to choice among luxury labels and local celebrities for her light hand and versatility.

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“I hope that we in the fashion industry here will be more celebrated by our own community. In all my decades in beauty, for example, a guest makeup artist from overseas has always been presented as the star while the local makeup artists involved in the same job and who have as much experience get no acknowledgement.

During the ’90s when I was a model, things were different. Local names in the business were appreciated and treated very well, but the shift came around the 2000s when flights became more affordable and more foreigners started coming in or being flown in for jobs.

sha shamsi
Credit:Stefan Khoo

Sha Shamsi was one Singapore’s biggest models in the early ’90s, before she switched her career path as a makeup artist in 1999.

Of course, the quality of fashion talent here prior to the 2000s was different. There was no digital help then. Everything was shot on film so the photographer must know lighting and the model cannot come in with a belly or bad skin. There is less stereotyping and greater acceptance and diversity in the industry today, which is positive, but I think it’s still crucial to have quality control. The main criteria to being successful is having good discipline.

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Many people who aren’t in the industry tend to not be aware of the hard work and high stress that we – be it the crew, models, editorial staff et cetera – go through just to, for example, create an image. And we are always pushed to our limits.

I remember going to Paris Fashion Week in 2015 to work on the makeup for a few shows and there was almost one makeup artist and one hairstylist for every model. The production budget there is of course higher and the preparation time for shows is very tight, but in Singapore, having that sort of resources is a real luxury.

Here we have to work triply harder than our peers overseas and still might not get the same recognition. That however does also mean that we’re very resilient and, I would say, as skilful. Give us the same resources and we could possibly achieve the same results or better.”

A version of this article first appeared in the August 2021 The Great SG Fashion Book edition of FEMALE