Inspirational Women interview with Petra Sever
At Bellabeat, we believe that one of the most important things in life and work is the kind of people you choose to surround yourself with. That’s why we pay a lot of attention to the kind of people we hire into our team. For us it’s not just about finding someone that can get the job done but someone that will fit and help us continue to grow our culture. The same way we approach hiring people to join our team full time, we’re very selective in who we want to work with on projects that demand hiring external collaborators and partners. One of the people that we continue to work with time and time again is Petra Sever.
Petra is the makeup artist we trust the most whenever we need our models to shine through on our photography and campaigns. We trust and like working with her not just because she’s one of the best in her field, but also because we love her conscious approach to the way she lives and works. Petra is a vegan and someone that avoids using products harmful to animals and nature in her private life and at work. We also admire her determination to live a low waste lifestyle
While we were working together with Petra on our amazing summer campaign, featuring beauty and body positivity influencer models Nabilah Harron and Lucija Lugomer, we caught up with her to discuss her work as a makeup artist, her vegan low waste living lifestyle and its influence on her work in an industry that is only now waking up to becoming more conscious as well as her ultimate beauty and skin care tips for this summer.
1. You’re one of the best makeup artists in the region and have worked on all kinds of projects throughout the years with many different people. Could you tell us a bit more on what inspired you to choose this profession and what the path to success was like?
I didn’t have some huge desire to be a makeup artist, nor did I really think I was going to become one — I actually wanted to study economics. When I was thinking about my career path and where I see myself in life, my key inspiration was always independence. I wanted to be responsible for my own decisions, and career path.
Thinking back, since a young age I was talented in painting and playing music so I’m not that surprised at my ultimate choice of profession. After high school, I enrolled into the italian school of fashion and design in Zagreb, called Callegari. Very soon after, I was recognized as one of the most talented students and was given the opportunity to work as an assistant to Ana Rajic — makeup artist that, at that time, my college professor was collaborating with.
With time I became Ana’s full-time assistant and was learning first hand not just about the art of makeup but also about being a working professional and running your own business. Ana is someone who taught me to look at others as motivation not as competition, and to never sacrifice my humanity for the sake of appearing professional. It’s hard for me to look at everything I have achieved so far and call it success. Success is what happens along the way as long as you’re constantly reaffirming and increasing our skill set and quality of work. What I can say is that road was paved with tears, thoughts of giving up, financial crisis, and reevaluations — which have all ultimately made me stronger. Of course, in the end, all of my doubts were overshadowed by my love of artistic expression and the support I received from loved ones.
2. Currently, where do you draw inspiration for the makeup looks you create? Do you have any role models?
With gaining a reputation, you also gain a lot of creative freedom — which isn’t always a blessing, especially if you’re feeling creatively blocked. Lately, I’ve been trying to avoid “following” other makeup artists works because whether we want it to or not, the things we like or appreciate stay in our subconscious. Trends also come and go — it’s useful to keep track of them but it’s not something you should rely on. I love the work of artists like Pati Dubroff that know how to perfectly adapt the makeup to the situation it’s done for. Forcing your own esthetic, even when it’s not appropriate, is the sign of an amateur makeup artist. Along with colors and textures which are my biggest source of creativity, I get the most inspiration from the clients I am working with. Understanding their creative process and the message they want their makeup to tell is extremely important in order to achieve the emotion and character we want through makeup.
Loving yourself means accepting everything on us that stands out from the socially accepted standard of beauty — and yes, that’s not easy at all.
Loving yourself means accepting everything on us that stands out from the socially accepted standard of beauty — and yes, that’s not easy at all.
3. You’re a vegan as well as a low-waste living ambassador — how did you first decide to make a pledge to low-waste living, and what changes did this have for your life and overall well-being?
All of the decisions you make in some way impact one another and build onto all the experiences that shape you into who you are. If you decide to stop eating meat, it’s highly likely that after a certain period of time, you’ll start considering a diet that is completely plant based. By studying the zero waste living movement I became aware of how much waste I was producing as an individual on a daily basis — completely subconsciously, I would buy something for one-time-use that will end up in the garbage within 5 minutes. By slowly changing my consumer habits, and lowering the amount of stuff I use and buy, I noticed feeling “lighter” and livelier. It sounds sort of ironic if you consider the fact that I’m working in an industry that thrives on obsessive shopping — something I myself was a victim to for years.
For the first time in my life, my career became something I saw as an obstacle in the kind of life I wanted to lead. The first phase was becoming conscious of the problem and was definitely the hardest one to experience because I was left feeling like everything was pointless due to all the facts I was now increasingly aware of. I was asking myself questions like: “Is this a phase? Am I just tired of this? Do I need a break or is this it?”
After a while, your impressions settle, and you start trying to balance it all. When we live life by trying to create as little waste as possible, then we start to appreciate what we have. Once we start truly appreciating what we have, the need to purchase and pile up unnecessary material things lessens. I would love for the people to become fully aware of their power as consumers and to start using this power seriously — because consumer need is the thing that dictates the quality and offer, despite marketing techniques convincing us otherwise for years. The biggest benefit you feel once you take responsibility for all of your actions is absolute freedom.
4. How does leading that kind of a lifestyle impact which products you use, personally as well as professionally? What’s the main thing you look for in brands you support and could you recommend a couple of your current favorites in the beauty and makeup industry?
Of course, in personal life I have a much bigger freedom in choosing products. With each day, I see more and more importance in makeup packaging being biodegradable or at the very least recyclable. Naturally, I always give priority to products that have not been tested on animals and have natural ingredients. Animal testing has long been unneccesary; other than being cruel, they’re financially and ecologically unprofitable in the long term. Unfortunately, as a makeup artist I am expected to be objective and unbiased in terms of products. Often the quality of the service I offer is closely related to the reputation of the brands I am collaborating with and whose products I am using.
That’s why you can find products that aren’t declared as eco-friendly or cruelty-free in my makeup kit. This kind of necessary hypocrisy that comes hand in hand with this industry bothered me for a long time because honestly, beauty, fashion and sustainability aren’t often used in the same sentence, at least if you ask most people. I’m happy when I can see my colleagues and the clients I work with becoming more open to the topic of sustainability — they want to know more and try out products that don’t hard our environment. For quite a long period of time, I’ve been using (and loving!) a brand of organic cosmetics called Neal’s Yard Remedies. Their whole philosophy and the holistic approach they have to creating their products are truly beautiful. Out of the particular makeup items, my current favorites are BareFaced Beauty Natural Mineral Foundation and Antonym Cosmetics Baked Blush
5. What are your summer beauty essentials? What does your personal beauty routine look like?
Personally, I’m a minimalist so when it comes to makeup during summer I use BB cream, mascara and lip balm or a bright colored lipstick. Considering I’m very pale and allergic to sun, shea butter and wild rose oil are my skincare must-haves. Regularly washing my face is the basis of my skincare routine, along with using facial masks, serums and oils — some of which are made by my mother. In the morning I use hydrating, translucent, and fast-absorbing textures, while at night I use nutritious formulas for regeneration. When I have time in my schedule I also use extra treatments for skin hydration.
6. Could you share some makeup and beauty trends for summer 2019?
Bronze and golden looks are always a symbol of summer and you can’t go wrong with them. Also, during summer nothing looks better than healthy and hydrated skin, so foundation has no place in your summer makeup kit. Switch it up with BB creams that have a SPF factor in their formula and that won’t clog up your pores. Summer is perfect for playing around with colors — green eyeliner will highlight blue or brown eyes, while green eyes will pop with a purple eyeliner. If you’re feeling brave, you can also play around with thicker layers of colored mascara while gently accentuating your lips with a balm or lip gloss.
7. What does well-being mean to you? Do you have any self-care rituals you simply can’t go without?
Self-care is definitely vital in order to be able to help others. To be able to adequately take care of ourselves, we first need to learn how to love ourselves. Learning how to love ourselves is something that ‘life-coaches’ want to inspire us without actually knowing how that love is really supposed to look like. We often tell ourselves that self-love is treating yourself to a new pair of shoes, even though we know we’ll only wear them a few times, or indulging in any other materialistic desires we have. In fact, that kind of behavior can make us feel even worse than we did before.
For me taking care of yourself starts with truly getting to know yourself — that part of you that you suppress in order to satisfy all the imposed social norms. I’m not saying that whole process is wonderful — it’s difficult — but the outcome is definitely worth it. Too many people live under the subconscious pressure of what others think of them, not realizing how much that pressure is causing some of their talents to go unexplored. I’m not even close to where I would like to be with working on myself, but I’m grateful that through the years I’ve learned how to take enough me-time without having a feeling of needing to justify myself. One of my most important “rituals” has become yoga. Yoga is something that at the same time provides me with physical and mental activity. At the start I felt frustrated on the mat because my body couldn’t improve as fast as I wanted it too — this experience gave me insight into how prone we are to measure our worth based only on achievements. In time, practice has taught me to be patient and less self-critical, and in turn this enhanced my understanding of others as well. It’s also extremely important to me to spend as much time as possible in nature.
8. We're guessing that for you, makeup is a form of art, but for some women it’s a way to make us feel better in our own skin. Due to social media, women can end up feeling pressured or inadequate and strive towards unrealistic ideals. What does self-love mean to you and what advice would you give to women doubting themselves?
To start off, I’d like to recommend anyone who is interested in this topic to watch “Redefine pretty” on the youtube channel My Pale Skin. Putting aside the fact that a large amount of people see my profession as a beautiful and creative job, it’s true that makeup in the beauty and fashion industry is used as a tool for marketing and sales. Many makeup artists don’t want to hear this, let alone speak about it, because they genuinely love what they do — however the amount of jobs you’re hired for that have come with a positive message and true inspiration are usually smaller than the one where the whole goal of the job is to sell a new product. Art is what you can create with makeup — a certain type of emotion or character that makeup can create for your appearance, but the purpose in which it is used today is usually everything except an expression of art. I haven’t always thought this way — as a young, budding makeup artist this truth was completely unacceptable and I didn’t want to face the fact that I’m working in an industry that imposes an unrealistic ideal on women and creates insecurities. Loving yourself means accepting everything on us that stands out from the socially accepted standard of beauty — and yes, that’s not easy at all.
Considering the fact how unique we are just based on what is considered our imperfections, and that no one can look exactly like us, makeup should be used to highlight what we like on ourselves and only when (or if) we feel like using makeup. Seeing a woman with makeup is a habit that has been socially accepted — no one tells men to hide the bags under their eyes, because we’re used to seeing them as is. That doesn’t mean you should stop wearing makeup — it just means that you should stop hiding behind it.
Also, there’s a big difference in how a woman will look if she puts makeup on herself, as opposed to getting a professional to do it for her. The positive aspect of this job is that by having professionally done makeup gives women the chance to see that anyone can look like a model from a magazine and that there’s a whole team behind looking that way.
9. How do you see your life changing in the next 10 years, what would you still like to achieve? How much do you think about your health and well-being when planning for the future?
When I think about the future, health and achieving overall balance is a big priority. It’s the reason why I realized that the profession I have today won’t be possible or wanted in the future. The tempo of working on site and endless shootings are fin and dynamic, but they’re also incredibly exhausting. I admire the people that can live this kind of tempo for years while still having a career and family — I don’t think I’m one of those people. I would love to round off this period of my work and career with a few more projects and collaborations so that I can one day move onto something different, without feeling any regret. What that something different will be I don’t know — I’m letting my intuition lead the way.