Interview with Dina Ousley: President and Founder of Dinair Airbrush Makeup Systems, Inc.

Makeup Artist, Licensed Cosmetologist, and Animal Rights Activist for Cruelty Free Cosmetics

I interviewed Dina at the Dinair Airbrush Makeup Headquarters in the Valley. She took time out of her busy day to talk with me about her rise to Airbrush Divahood. Dina is the original “Airbrush Makeup Artist to the Stars” since 1981, though her career in the film and television industry began over twenty years ago. Busy with new product developments and spreading the Dinair Revolution through the Airbrush Makeup Institute, Dina’s time is limited to a few choice projects. These projects include, a new Ford Mustang commercial with Catherine Zeta-Jones, the trailer for “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”, and consulting with celebrity makeup artists regarding new technologies like high definition television. Dina can also be known as an animal caretaker, matchmaker, and Junior Achievement Sponsor at Kennedy High School.

What did you do before becoming a makeup airbrush artist?

It goes way back to when I was a Fort Worth Texas girl, seeing all those old movies and everyone looked very happy and danced around. I felt like I wanted to dance around. I was born a natural hair and makeup person so I thought I would give it a try. I was an airline stewardess for Eastern Airlines based out of Miami. When I couldn’t fly anymore, I decided I would pursue my other natural career. I came back to New York as a hairdresser. Then I waited for my ship to come in and it did, so I worked on the oceanliner for a year. I then worked for Paul Mitchell and carried his bag for a year, at that time I was about nineteen years old.

What else did you do with Paul Mitchell?

I became the teacher for the crimpers for Paul Mitchell at Henri Bendel’s. I would go to different cities and hire young people. This is when hairdressing became hip and you didn’t have to wear uniforms.

Where was your first job?

My first job was at Edie Adams Cut ‘N’ Curl and we wore pink and black uniforms. We had live music, all mirrored walls and it was very hip to work as a crimper so we would bring them back to Henri Bendel’s.

When did you become interested in the performing arts? When did you decide to become an actress?

I just lived in the city and being around the actors and everything, I just needed something to keep me occupied, so I went to Strasbourg. I studied with Lee and did all kinds of plays, projects, hair, makeup, acted, etc… I had great training just by being in the school. I still never gave up my day job working for Paul and the crimpers. Then I saw a movie with people having lunch surrounded by palm trees and I said I’m going to California. I moved to LA and immediately got a job as an actress.

What was the job?

I played Warren Beatty’s assistant in Shampoo. This other guy and I were the only two professional hairdressers in the movie. I became the consultant because I was right next to Warren for weeks and weeks while shooting. And I had on shoes that killed my feet! If I were in a salon I would NEVER wear shoes that hurt my feet. So acting became less and less attractive. I did a lot of cop shows. They put me in a lot of big bras and I played young hookers on the street.

Were you still working as a hairdresser?

Yes, I kept my day job working at a salon. I was on a TV series called Bronk with Jack Palance. Tommy Cole was my makeup man (who was from the Mickey Mouse Club). I just loved him! Tommy was doing my makeup and I had a hairdresser so I just hung out with them. One day the show was canceled and I continued on as a hairdresser, but I was bored. I felt like I needed to do makeup so I decided to start taking makeup classes in the evening, at Valley College.

Did you continue to pursue your acting while you attended makeup classes?

The acting started to fade away because there was more cash and opportunity with makeup and hairdressing.

What kind of training did you have at Valley College?

I had theatrical makeup training. All the working artists in the makeup industry were teaching at Valley College at this time. I had some great teachers and great training.

When did you start airbrushing as a form of makeup artistry?

I’d always been in love with airbrushing since the Sixties. I never felt talented enough to be a real artist airbrushing. I never had the time to experiment with it but after doing hair and makeup, I found it to be lucrative working on sets. I was non-union for twenty years. Then I just started airbrushing. I started making makeup in my kitchen, and I started out with CO2 tanks. I always leaned toward the more expensive and elegant looking airbrushes, rather than the ones that are dinosaur-like. The makeup came easy and looked beautiful. I started spraying on paper and stuff.

What was it about airbrushing in the Sixties that intrigued you and sparked your interest? Was it a particular style that you liked?

I don’t know. My brother and his friends airbrushed and I always found it intriguing. I would touch the airbrush, but I knew that I could never do it. So I want you to never say, “I can’t do it.” You should always say that you can do anything. “You can do it!”

How did you get the idea to airbrush makeup on the face and body?

I saw a poster of an acrylic nail that had been airbrushed. I said that I hoped to meet the artist someday who illustrated this poster. The artist was the one who started making acrylic paint for fingernails to be airbrushed. His name is Robert Sanders. I met Mr. Sanders while working a trade show for Dinair; he has left fingernails and gone back to illustrating. I began airbrushing on various shoots and found it to be effective, but not smudge-proof. That’s when my partner, George and I began to formulate, create and experiment with various techniques, paints, and equipment to make airbrushing effective in all areas.

How have you been able to adapt airbrushing into the film and television industry?

It was very hard, in fact I surrendered to the idea of the industry never getting it. I would say to George, “Is anyone going to get it? Does anybody care?” There was one lighting man who said, “Why does your makeup work and traditional makeup doesn’t,” and I said, “Wow”. Cameras and lighting were becoming more and more sophisticated and makeup was falling behind and I thought, “What could I do?”

What kind of difficulties did you encounter when you first began exposing the public to your ideas of airbrushing makeup?

We had to develop a whole different vocabulary to communicate the ideas of airbrushing. It’s completely opposite from traditional methods of applying makeup. People were really resistant at first. Most thought it was a fad or a gimmick.

When did you start seeing a breakthrough in the acceptance of airbrushing makeup in the industry?

When I would go out and do the celebrities away from their normal makeup person, they would ask us to train their makeup person who was going to be the makeup artist on the series. That started breaking some of the ice because the celebrity wanted that. I’ve airbrushed everyone from Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Catherine Zeta-Jones, so the word started spreading. People call me from all over.

Were you called in as a specialty artist or as a body makeup artist?

No, I did all beauty makeup airbrushing. Body makeup was an afterthought. All the makeup in my book, for twenty years, was airbrushed beauty makeup. You can see that I progressively got better and that I had to pull back because the cameras became more sophisticated.

How did the body airbrushing transition out of beauty makeup airbrushing?

They were shooting the pilot for “Parenthood” and Ed Begley, Jr. had a bed scene. What if we sprayed him so that he wouldn’t feel so naked? And I said, “I’d love to.” And he loved it! I remember that was the first body I sprayed from head to toe and I thought, ” I can do that.”

So who is behind the creative and innovative side of Dinair?

My partner, George Lampman and myself. We are the chemists, mechanics, we test everything. It’s all standardized. We’ve done air quality tests to make Dinair the most safe and effective product in airbrushing for the makeup industry.

Are you a local union member? How many years have you been in the industry?

I love my union, I love local 706. I’ve been in the commercial union for about a year. I’m now on the main roster. But I’ve been working as a makeup artist for over twenty years.

What was your favorite or most challenging project?

I loved the Lexus commercial. We lined the actor up in the grill of the car with a laser level, marked it and then we freehand airbrushed and we did it in half the time. There were four of us, a graphic artist and three makeup artists. I knew that this system was working. We were able to be very portable with our CO2 tanks and airbrushes. We could hop on and off the camera trucks to do any touch ups that were needed. It was thrilling. I also did the trailer for the Austin Powers sequel.

How is the new High Definition Technology changing makeup application techniques?

Airbrushing is a way to keep up with technology. A way to save our jobs. With high definition television here, we are Dinair High Definition Divas. It is the compatible makeup to this high definition requirement. What they are saying is that people look better without makeup in HDTV, rather than all this traditional makeup. So I’m saying we save our jobs by being fast and making them look beautiful. All it is is taking off the bad and leaving the good.

What is a general rate for an airbrush makeup artist?

If they’re doing fantasy, it’s anywhere from $150 – $200 an hour. For bridal and beauty pageants, it can be $75 a person. Hold your rate but double book because you can do makeup in a third of the time. One job always leads to the next.

What’s your approach to getting someone comfortable to the idea of airbrush makeup, whether it’s a bride, an apprehensive actor in the industry, or even someone who wants to use airbrush on a day to day basis?

You would do a test before hand, like any makeup. That’s where you really get your clients, show them what it’s all about. Most of the time, it works. They become comfortable in ten to thirty seconds, that’s when you have to nail it. Have the language and be light handed and just say, “It’s going to look like you.” It makes you a better makeup artist because the sheerness of the makeup allows all their own features to show through and we’re only “photo retouching”, taking out the bad and leaving the good. They have MUCH more good than bad. Attitude is everything and you have to have a good one.

What advice do you have for makeup artists who are just starting out?

I’m a licensed cosmetologist and I have found that if you have a license, you will work.

Tell us about the Dinair Airbrush Makeup Institute.

We started out in 1982 doing seminars in hotels and now we do two-day workshops in the Institute. We still do some seminars. Dinair is like a graduate program for a professional makeup artist. It’s a two-day intensive workshop that’s sixteen hours long, twelve of which are hands on makeup application and technique exercises.

How is airbrushing used in other areas outside of the film and television industry?

Some of my best and most rewarding work has been in the field of Paramedical (special needs) make-up and as an Instructor in the field of Mortuary Science at Cypress College where I teach (restoration) airbrush makeup. The Mortuary make-up is especially challenging combining all of the artistic skills of glamour, fantasy, photo-retouch and special effects makeup to create the illusion of a healthy natural look, using makeup but …without the makeup showing as makeup.

What’s your best beauty tip?

Less is more.

What’s on the backburner for the millenium for Dinair Airbrush Makeup?

We have big surprises coming. New colors, products, things that everyone will be so excited about.

Dinair Airbrushes and Makeup will be available at Makeup Mania the second week of August! Check out what will be available by clicking here. You can also get more information on the Airbrush Makeup Institute and Dinair Cosmetics at www.dinair.com or by calling 1-800-785-4770 or 818-508-8800. Dinair Airbrush Makeup, 5315 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, North Hollywood, CA 91607. Fax 818-780-4748.

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