CAPE TOWN Hair & Makeup Artist Amori Birch


TP: Thanks so much for meeting with me today. Let’s start off with the basics -  What’s your job role or title?

AB: Hair & makeup artist.

TP: What do your parents think you do?

AB: They think my work is very glamorous. It’s everything but!

TP: Where did you grow up? How did you come to be a makeup artist?

AB: I grew up in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town and never even knew that makeup artistry was even a real job! I had art as a subject in school and absolutely loved painting. It was only at the end of my gap year that my sister drove me straight to a makeup school, told me that she thought I would be great at it. So, I walked in, got information on their courses, enrolled, and started studying 2 months later.

TP: You specialize in all natural beauty, right?

AB: Yes, well, cruelty-free, natural products.

NICK : Does it make a difference to your work? Do you find that people specifically ask for that or is it just your vibe?

AB: I have actually had people contact me that are interested in cruelty free products — artists especially.

TP: What makes your work unique or stand out from others?

AB: I would hope the way I love to work with color and texture. I think that really comes out within my work.

I could not find a food photography course in South Africa. But what I did find on Google was this thing called “food styling.”(2).jpg

TP: What are the qualities you have had that have made you successful?

AB: I think I am very easy-going, I get along with a lot of people.

TP: And you are bubbly!

AB: I like to be fun, but also keep it professional. I’m always translating what the client wants. It’s important to really listen and not just go with my own thing, but try to deliver the best of what is expected of me.

Nobody likes to hear complaints on set. If I hear someone complaining, it’s like, “Please stop.” It is not going to make the day go by faster or the situation better. You’ll just be recognized as a moaner and people don’t want to work with that. They simply don’t. So, keep it to yourself and do what you have to do with your mind, but stay professional and deliver. When you get home, you can rant about those things, but on set is not the place.

A lot of people don’t have that etiquette or that emotional intelligence. I think it is a big thing.

TP: Self-awareness is so important.

AB: 100% You can see, “Oh… I’m being a bit loud.  Those people seem to be thinking… okay, I need to take it down a bit.”  They are not going to immediately tell you. You just have to be aware and then bring it down a bit. You cannot just be off the charts in every situation. Clients are all very different, so I have learned to read the room.


TP: What do you look for in an assistant?

AB: Someone that takes instruction well and asks questions. I appreciate it when someone takes initiative to make life easier on set- whichever form that may come in.

TP: What would your advice be to an aspiring makeup artist?

AB: It sounds like a cliché, but you’ve got to be dedicated - willing to put in hard work, and develop a thick skin. Also - get off your phone. Don't be negative. No one likes to be around someone who complains all the time. Ask questions. It's the only way you are going to learn.

But, I honestly can’t say that I would recommend that anyone do this job.

TP : You won’t recommend anyone to be in this industry?

AB: No. I wouldn’t.

TP: Why is that?

AB: Yes, it is a creative field to be in, and it’s very rewarding because you can see your work visually and things, but it’s flooded. There are just so many makeup artists, and especially so many self-taught makeup artists on Instagram or whatever who are willing to do the work that you are turning down. We need to set a standard for rates and try to be unified as a collective. But right now, whatever you say “no” to, there will always be someone that will say “yes” to it. It is like a ripple that’s undermining the industry, but it could go the other way if we unified.

Getting into the industry is so hard - to just get signed [with an agency], is hard. There are a number of agencies in Cape Town who have 10-20 artist on their books. That is why I have been so nervous because, I’m with a boutique agency - Supernova Agency -  where we are only ten artists.  Having good representation is the only way in this industry. I appreciate my agency and they treat me like family -- Compare that to One League. I love them and they have amazing artists, but they have 20 artists on their books. And for new makeup artists to come into this industry... it is just going be so tough. Everybody is amazing already, so all you can do is assist for the rest of your life, until someone drops out of the book.

Also, the work is seasonal, which is hard. Right now, I am blessed with a lot of local clients, but that also came with time. Being at a seasonal job is not ideal. It is hard. Being a freelancer, you don’t get recognized in the business world. You cannot open this or get that approved for that.

TP: Ah yes, getting financing and loans as a freelancer can be super tough. Banks often don’t recognize freelancers easily in that way.

AB: Exactly! I cannot even have a phone in my own name. No matter what amount comes to your account, your work for yourself, so the loan terms are different. Your agency cannot say they employ you, because they don’t. They are your employee basically. It is very difficult. People don’t understand how hard or how strong or resourceful you have to be in order to make it.

I could not find a food photography course in South Africa. But what I did find on Google was this thing called “food styling.”(3).jpg

TP: What do you like the most about your work?

AB: That it's flexible. You are free to travel when work settles down after the busy season.

TP: What’s the most challenging part of your work?

AB: That it's flexible! [laughing] Only people in the industry would know what that means. It's challenging because it's such a seasonal occupation and no season is ever the same. Very unpredictable.

TP: Talk to me about that balance.  How do you manage the off-season?

AB: I have just started my own business completely outside of makeup. At the moment, I am an entrepreneur and it is very exciting. It is in the health industry and related to bee products.  

TP: As in honey bees?

AB: Yes! I am dating a beekeeper and the ingredient of our product is propolis. It’s got tremendous healing benefits. Africa is very uneducated about that. The Chinese love it and they are aware, as are the Americans. What we need to do is focus on creating awareness in South Africa of the healing benefits that it has. Basically, it is a super natural immune booster, it combats cancer, it is good for your skin, good for sores and cuts. It is amazing. My boyfriend has made this tincture for a while, but he needed some female assistance to guide him and to get the product to where it needs or be. Thankfully February and March were quiet for me, so I’ve had some bursts of time that I can really focus on this project.

TP: That’s the silver lining to having down time and being a freelancer.

AB: In my 10 years in the industry, this is the first time that I have had a vision of doing something constructively to balance out the down-time of the off-season. I try to live my life with the thinking "work comes first". While there's work, you work. When it quiets down, you relax. That's just the way it is and everyone in my life closest to me knows that, but those “slow” months have been a struggle. In the past, I would be stressing about winter. Now that I have this project, I am more optimistic and enthusiastic about the future. Now it’s like, “Winter is coming, great! I can focus on getting this product out. How am I going to market it?”  We had our first shoot for the product last week. Organizing your own shoot and being the client is completely different from working for the client.


It’s been so surreal but I am also excited about what is to come. So, I don’t even mind if the makeup work gets quiet.  I can focus on this for now, and then when the season picks up again, I’ll find the balance.

TP: Honestly, we have multiple facets of our personalities and of our character. Just like photographers would shoot personal work and commercial work, you need both to balance out. You are able to pursue something else as well. That will somehow impact the job you do and your understanding of the clients that you work with in the future because you have been on the other end of it as well.   

AB: Exactly.  It’s a whole new frame of mind. I never truly realized what they go through.

TP: What is the name of your product?

AB: Propolis Africa.

TP: Beautiful. Simple & straight-forward. Keep me posted on that.

AB: I will! We have recently opened an Instagram account on which we plan to share our journey. Along with bee jokes and facts. We are doing big and exciting things. I am very excited to make it public once we get our content from the shoot we had the other day, and start promoting the way that I am envisioning the product and where it will go.

TP: Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me today.

AB: Likewise! I'm so glad this worked out.


Amori Birch is a hair and makeup stylist based in Cape Town, South Africa.

Check out what’s in her toolkit by reading Tools of the Trade.

Interview by Annika Howe

Photos by Nick Aldrige