Tobi Henney now splits her time between her trio of home cities, Sydney, NYC and LA. Working with some of the worlds top models (Karlie Kloss, Ashely Graham & Tash Oakley), top publishing houses & most iconic brands, Tobi is a woman to watch out for & learn from! Just finishing off a rigorous NYFW, she’s currently in Milan ready to spread her magic wand & grow her killer reputation even more.
What does INC love about Tobi? Everything. We’ve teamed up her on multiple occasions & every outcome is a slice of dynamite.
You’re about to fall in love her even more!! Below Tobi opens up & shares her story and & advice for all other creatives who are chasing a place on the world stage. On top of this, Tobi clues us into her skin & beauty tips, what’s currently in her kit as well as the best application methods. Tobi Henney, you are a dream.
Starting out in Australia, how did your career in make up artistry begin?
My makeup career began officially in 2011. Out of school I studied to be a teacher and lived in London and traveled extensively before returning to Australia and deciding I wanted to get back into beauty. I was running my own spray tan business out of a hair salon during my University days to pay the bills.
I had always been fascinated with fashion and makeup in my teens. I even tried Fashion Design as work experience, before realising it was the beauty side of the industry I was most drawn to. Fast forward to my mid twenties, I began test shooting with friends and assisting to gain experience from some of the top artists in the country in both hair and makeup. I was then signed to an agency early on in my career. This is when my portfolio started to really come together and I began to build more high profile clients. I started to experience fashion weeks around the world and was so excited to continue doing makeup while incorporating travel.
Tell us about your "biggest break" in Australia? How old were you & how did it come about?
A definite highlight for me was being announced as the L'Oréal Paris Makeup Director for Australia in 2016. It was such an honour to be apart of such an iconic brand and learn so many more sides to the business including working extensively with the media and being a part of exciting activations for product launches.
What about those harder moments that come with any career. The fashion & beauty industry is no easy feat. Was there ever a time you thought... “This is just too tough. It's just too hard to compete & get ahead."
I definitely remember some of those harder times in the beginning. I remember wondering if I had made the wrong choice by choosing the 'freelance' life. I think no matter what you do in life there are always highs and lows and you just need to remember that nothing that is worth having comes easily.
I have always worked as hard as I can and have tried to make the most out of every opportunity presented to me. When I moved to New York, there was always going to be a few hard times. I definitely think as time has gone on, I am super proud of myself for working hard to build my career internationally. That was always a goal for me.
You've made a big & brave move to the US! At what point in your career did you start to consider this, why did the idea come about & when did you commit and book it in?!
I had visited the US for shoots and New York Fashion Weeks and was always so sad every time I had to leave to come home. Many of my friends in the industry had made the move to NY and LA and I was always writing to them and asking them advice about how they made the move. I started to build some clients with my visits and something - I guess you could call it that 'gut feeling' - told me to do it. So that is what I did.
I made a game plan, got an immigration lawyer and off I went. It definitely took a lot of hard work, savings and drive to get me there. Moving countries takes lots of planning. But now 1.5 years in, I am definitely super happy that I never looked back. My mum always told me in life, if you don't like something - you can always change it. I never really told people or announced that I was moving. I just did it and hoped for the best. If I didn't like it, I knew home was always a plane ride away.
You're now represented by The Wall Group in the US. Their website alone is killer, congrats on being signed! How does this relationship work?
The Wall Group have been incredible and I adore my agents Kit and Quinn in LA and New York so much. They are team players and we work together super well. Their assistants Misty and Alexia make sure that all of my travel scheduling is all set and that I know exactly where I am going each day and I am very grateful for all of their hard work. Kit manages my European schedule as I have started to work a lot in Europe this year which I have been loving. I’m proud to have Dior as one of my amazing clients.
In terms of growing your own brand. There is of course a website & social media, but what else can you recommend to other aspiring/independent artists looking to stand out & make a name for themselves?
I think making genuine, strong relationships with everyone in the industry is crucial. When I am not working, I am always connecting with Beauty PR and other Editors and other creatives to have coffee and catch up. Our industry is super collaborative and it is important to have great relationships with those around you.
Portfolio wise, you've worked with some incredible magazines, brands & people. From Vogue, ELLE, & Harpers, to Nike and Estée Lauder... to Karlie Kloss, Georgia Fowler, Shanina Shaik, Jess Gomes, Montana Cox! Can you share a few of the most "pinch yourself" moments to date?
All of the girls that I work with are just absolute legends and I am very fortunate to have such a great group of kick ass women to work with. I recently worked with Ashley Graham in Paris and Karlie Kloss in New York and they were both gorgeous girls. It is always inspiring to hear about what the girls are working on, as they are all such 'go getters' and it always reminds me that I can work that bit harder. One of my favourite girls I just started working with is Poppy Delevingne, we worked together for the Ralph Lauren 50th Anniversary Show and Dinner and the Longchamp show during NYFW.
There must be a tonne of travel involved? How does this aspect of the job work and how do you manage it all?
The travel has really ramped up this year as my clientele spans worldwide. There are certain times of the year where I know where I will be, for example NYFW in February and September every year and I usually do Paris Fashion Week too and I am currently writing this interview from Milan Fashion Week. Cannes Film Festival this year was a highlight for me, we did some fun Red Carpet looks, I shot the cover of Grazia Italia and got to attend AMFAR and some other fun events. I think the best way to manage it is, learn to sleep on planes. I can not fly without my Silk Eye Mask, neck pillow and a warm comfy jumper. I also have a certain way to pack my kit for flights and my other personal items, which makes me more organised to move from A to B.
The move from AUS to the US must come with some challenging aspects? For example the exchange rate, the visa, the rental market, the logistics, the timezone. Do you have a mentor or people within the industry who have helped to guide you?
I definitely could not have made the move without some amazing friends who helped me along the way! Some of the best girls in the industry too. Kirsty Godso was always an amazing support before, during and now through our NYC adventures. Chloe Brinklow, Zanita and Justine Dunton-Rose who were amazing support also when I moved. I also was super fortunate to have long term clients Margaret Zhang, Bambi and Georgia Fowler in New York which was so great to have friendly faces to work with and socialise with.
Renting a place in NYC & LA. We hear it's not quite as easy as it is in Australia. What was your experience like? Of course you want to be in the thick of it, but you also don't want to spread yourself too thin financially. How did you find a home base?
Travelling to New York frequently, I knew the areas pretty well, I did know that I wanted to be downtown and preferably around Soho, Greenwich Village, Nolita area & that is exactly where I found myself moving to. I must say, I saw my fair share of doozy apartments. It is much more tough than looking say in Sydney where I am from. Mainly because you have to pick and choose your battles... Do you want a 5 floor walk up or a place with a laundry room or a Door man? All of the luxuries comes with their costs. So you have to really think about what you need to make your living arrangements as comfortable as possible. New York is a hard city and your home has to be a sanctuary.
The biggest difference between the AUS and US industry (apart from the obvious... size!?)
I think the bonus of the US is that there is so many more people in the industry and there is a lot more work and opportunities. You are also so much closer to many exotic locations for travel shoots - For example I was lucky enough to be booked this March for 3 swim campaigns in Tulum, Mexico (one with Josie for Billabong) so that allowed me to get lots of sun when New York was still freezing cold. Europe is super close too which is a big plus for me
INC is all about women feeling confident, sexy & beautiful in their own skin when wearing the hottest & most amazing swim available on the market. When working with INC - what's your creative angle?
I love working with INC so so much. Josie and Ryan have always been the most down to earth, funny and awesome people both at work and as great friends. Josie is one of the most amazing photographers because she makes the girls feel super comfortable and knows exactly how the models need to be positioned for the best shots and angles on their body. It always so much fun working together. My creative angle is always the beauty side and how to complement the models natural beauty, Josie's shots and bikinis. Whether it be a touch of zinc across the face or a high 80s ponytail, I love being able to experiment with fun looks to bring the vibe, whatever that may be each shoot.
Last tips from the makeup extraordinaire!
If we gave $100 to spend on your beauty bag to last you 6 months, what are you investing in first & foremost?
I don't know if this would get me all of the below but let's say there was a sale!
Mecca Cosmetica Lip Deluscious
Armani Luminous Silk
Mac Cosmetics Eye Brows Lingering
Still Huge Extreme Lash Mascara
A sexy lip colour can make an outfit - tips on keeping the colour bold & not faded/smudged throughout an event/the night?
I love Tom Ford Ruby Rush. Do avoid smudging, use a liner, blot the colour and conceal and powder around the lip line super well.
Skin is now all the rage. Beautiful, natural skin. What product/s are you using at the moment to ensure a hydrated, glowing complexion?
Skin prep with Rationale products, I love 1 and 2 serums. Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal is a must! Primer using something glow - try Laura Mercier Radiance Primer. Armani Luminous Silk Foundation.
Where do you feel more at home, NYC or LA and why?
That is a hard one! I love both but I think right now, NYC is more like home as I have all of my haunts for gym, food and I love working in NYC so much. LA visits are always short and sweet but it doesn't feel as much like home. More like a mini getaway.
Let's talk NYC - for the NYC virgins of the world, what 3 must-see's / must do's do you most recommend?
I love taking visitors to The Rockafella for a great view of the city. My favourite bar is The Top of The Standard for a great cocktail. Also try one of Kirsty Godso's Pyro Classes at Project by Equinox. They are super hard but you always feel amazing when you are done. Oh and eat at Ruby's. It is my go to.
Same question, but LA?
Hike Runyon for some great views of the city. Breakfast at Butcher's Daughter in Venice. Have a cocktail at Chateau Marmont.
Which Australian beauty brands killing in the US?
Becca is originally from Australia and since being sold to Estee Lauder, they have turned into one of the biggest beauty brands in the world. I also see Frank Bod doing great things over here in the US!
In terms of beauty trends, how do you keep up with the trends?
I am always reading articles, swiping Instagram, looking in stores and playing with all of the amazing products that I am sent by Beauty PRs. Trends are also to be made and I love coming up with new looks for my girls to wear on the red carpet and at events.
In your eyes, what's the best beauty column/blog/youtube channel?
I love Byrdie and I also love following Leigh Campbell in Australia. One of my OG Beauty friends. There are so many great people on all platforms, I think it is just finding who speaks to you and staying connected.
Other than SPF, the most important thing women can do to preserve their youthful skin is to ...
Sleep as much as you can each night, drink lots of water and limit your alcohol intake. Vegetable and fruit also do wonders for my skin!
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