Born in Cuba, leading Hollywood makeup artist Viven Sainz is a force to reckon with. Her artsy approach to depicting her craft has been partly instrumental to her stellar career in Cali, as she fondly calls it.From working with LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” — which now has over 1 billion views on Youtube — to recently immersing herself in Drake and Future’s Summer Sixteen Tour, Vivien has been in the game for many years.
For her, art has always been in her family. Her mother was a ballet dancer and her grandmother was an opera singer. Music and dance have been reminiscent of her household.
Her family left Cuba for the United States when she was only 2 years old. A year later, she started dancing. By the time she was 14 years old, Vivien was performing with the Boston Ballet. Later on, she went on to explore the Ballet in the New York scene. She would stay in the city for the ten years, during which she developed passion for makeup. Vivien used to draw her right eye because she wanted it to look a certain way as a ballet dancer. She would use her mother’s makeup to do shading and contouring.
Her debut in Los Angeles happened in 2005, when her daughter was 7 years old. She had to think about what it was that she was truly passionate about and that she could do so well. Makeup and hair it was…having done it before for her theatrical performances, it was something Vivien was confident about. Her decided niche was the music industry. After getting her first gig, what followed was an interesting journey to success. She hooked up with the right directors and producers who have been her collaborators over the years.
The noticeably down-to-earth creative is a mother of one, up and coming musician Olani who seems to be following her mother’s footsteps: making it big in Los Angeles.
I discovered Vivien several months ago when promoting my interview with director Hannah Lux Davis, who turns out to be one of Vivien’s long term collaborators. They worked on various projects, including Rich Gang’s “Hundred Favors” and Becky G’s “Can’t Stop Dancing”. As of now, her resume boasts of elite directors, including Colin Tilley, Director X, Benny Boom, Mike Ho, Hype Williams and many others.
Here’s my candid conversation with Vivien:
Harun: Having reached the pinnacle of your journey to success, how would you describe your career so far?
Vivien: My career so far has definitely been challenging and exciting. I still don’t feel like I’ve done my best work yet. I’m always challenging myself and trying to outdo myself on the next video. I always want to be better in my creative process. I love that and working with various artists — everyone is different. I’m happy with it, but I wouldn’t say I am at a point where I am a 100% happy. I can always have a better project.
H: You worked with Justin Bieber on “All That Matters” and “Confident” music videos, both of which ended up being global hits. Model Cailin Russo looked superb in the visuals! Which is the most interesting thing you learnt about Justin that most people would never expect?
V: Working with Justin was cool. He has great music. On one of the music videos, he brought his grandparents and he was just so kind…just so normal — what normal would mean to certain people — because everyone knows his career, guess he never had a normal childhood. That aspect of him coming out with his grandparent and just seeing how he can a normal person was really great…nobody expects him to be a normal person but…he’s just something different from what people would expect.
H: I understand your work is hectic, pretty much! How do you maintain your work-social life balance? How’s your day off like?
V: Days off? Oh please, there’s no days off. In this business, you gotta strike while the iron is hot…otherwise your yesterday is news. I am a workaholic. I am always over thinking the next project or planning the next gig. In this town, you gotta stay hot. I do take my time off to do things with my daughter. I manage her and her career. I try to balance between being onset doing things for established artists and attending to her. Every often I go for a pedicure or massage — nothing major (chuckles)..
H: You also said you worked with D’Bank on a music video…I don’t really know which one it was…but I am curious to know which African artists you love and would like to work with in the immediate future?
V: Yes, my good friend D’Banj. I did his “Endowed” video, both versions…the one with just him and the one with Snoop Dogg. He was actually the first African artist I worked with and he was superdope. I loved his sound, style and his swag was all over the place – I love him. I also worked with Mohombi (he’s part Congo, part Belgian). He’s a sweetheart and his music is great. He’s quite a performer as well. For me it’s a big thing if you have great music as well as a good performer. All of this (makeup artistry) came through for me because I was a ballet dancer back in the day. That’s how my career started.
H: Tell me about the Summer Sixteen Tour. How has been the experience?
V: It was awesome. We went out to the desert for four days, shot a whole bunch of footage for them to put on Jumbo Tron for the tour. It looked amazing. I was department head for that particular job so I really got to be creative with the girls. That was nice. Four videos are yet to be released so I’m just waiting for them to drop.
H: How was it working with Drake for the “One Dance” video?
V: Drake was fun. Super nice guy, super chilled. Great song – the “One Dance” song – everybody loves it. That video, we’ve not even finished it yet. I’m not sure if they’re holding on to it or if it will ever be released but it was a fun time on set. He treats everybody great…you know, huge after party at his house…I just hope we can finish that one so that everyone sees the hard work we put into it. Hopefully it will come out soon.
H: You worked with LMFAO and Toni Braxton, which shows your versatility across music genres…you’ve been in the game for long. Which would you say was your most exciting project to work on to date?
V: Throughout the years I have worked on a lot of videos. I have to say that out everybody I have worked with, my most memorable ones have always been with Ne-Yo. His music is so uplifting…great dance music all together and what a performer! I can’t get tired of watching him perform…super professional – one of the nicest guys I have ever met on set. He is a down-to-earth guys and a gteat artist. “Coming With You” is the my favorite video of all I have ever worked on.
H: From Hannah Lux Davis to Director X, you’ve worked with the most sought after directors in the global entertainment scene. What’s the biggest practical lesson you’ve gotten from working with some of the world’s best creatives?
V: I have been blessed to work with many well known directors. I guess my biggest lesson is trying to figure out what their vision is and putting things together in my artistry so that both of our goals are met. This is because everyone can see one thing and see it differently. It’s just exciting to go on set daily with these amazing people and be able to do what you love and be thrilled at the end…feeling accomplished that we’ve done something that will please the masses. Just putting our minds creatively together and making that happen is magic.
H: Young people out there see Hollywood as filled with glamor and fun. How is the actual situation? You’ve said you have to work so hard to maintain your position in the industry…how should one prepare for a career in Hollywood?
V: That’s not the case for someone like me. Behind the scenes, many things can happen depending on the situation. We can be out in the desert shooting so you have to be watch out for snakes. We are put in some scenarios which aren’t glamorous at all – even though we are doing a stellar job. There is no school that can prepare you for things like this. It’s pretty much a hands-on thing. Every situation is different, you just gotta overcome it. Just do your job in at timely manner. With the amount of makeup artists and hair stylists that there are here in LA, you can basically be replaced at any given time. If your work speaks for itself and you have that credibility of having done it for so many years…and as long you keep being on you grind and you love what you do…nobody can take it away from you.
H: What inspires what you put out there? I noticed your Instagram is not just like any other.
V: Art definitely inspires me a lot. I have a lot of artist friends. I have collected art through out the years. Anything can inspire me…from looking at a magazine or just simply looking at a tree. It all depends on what it is for…and if I can mix the two and make something unique and different from what’s already out there. It’s always challenging me to go ahead and create something that has never been before…not old and redone five million times.
H: Finally, what are your immediate future plans for your daughter’s career and your own trajectory in the industry?
V: She’s released some songs which have gotten great reviews on Global Grind, who did a very nice article on her as an upcoming artist. She has an amazing voice and look. We are tapping into that. She;s getting publishing deals…writing for established artists as well. She released her first song at the age of 14. We are very excited about where her career is going. As for me, I’ll keep doing what I love, churn out new ideas…and keep growing with the people I have worked with throughout my career. When you do what you love…it’s no longer a job….it’s a passion!
Watch her all time favorite video to work on:
You can follow Vivien on Instagram @viviensainz to get cool updates on her latest projects!