When Samantha Mastropolo started selling cosmetics in her hometown of London, she didn’t know she’d soon be working in another part of the fashion industry: modeling.
One day a hairdresser friend asked her to be a hair model in a photo shoot. After the shoot, the photographer showed the photos around. The lithe, blue-eyed Mastropolo caught the attention of an agency, and she was quickly signed. Thus, her career launched in the early ‘90s, when she was 24 years old – a bit late by modeling standards. And perhaps an early clue that she would re-invent herself more than once over the course of her journey.
Mastropolo’s career took off relatively fast – but not in London. Her agency relocated her to different markets. She had the most success in Europe and Asia, and worked in Korea, Tokyo, London, Germany and Spain. She says she traveled constantly, calling that one of the “pros” of a model’s life.
Mastropolo says she mostly did print work and was featured in an ad for Versace Makeup as well as two campaigns for Max Factor. Mastropolo also walked the runway for top designers such as Versace, Armani, Issey Miyake, Gucci, and more.
“Print was my strongest point,” says Mastropolo. “Runway wasn’t my favorite because that’s where I lacked the confidence.”
Mastropolo says she used to get butterflies before stepping on the catwalk. She thinks confidence is a characteristic that allows models to shine and differentiate themselves from others but says it’s a quality that develops over time.
As a working model, she says, it was also critical to maintain certain body measurements. During the time Mastropolo modeled, the Kate Moss heroin chic look was in high demand.
Mastropolo says overall her modeling experiences were wonderful, but the downside was feeling like she had to look good at all times.
“I remember I was doing a shoot for Marie Claire and I had a massive spot on my chin and there was nothing I could do about it,” says Mastropolo. “It’s that constant struggle to maintain your weight or to have healthy looking skin and make sure you don’t have bags under your eyes.”
Hair & Makeup Styling
After approximately six years of modeling, Mastropolo lost interest. She realized she didn’t want to model and travel anymore.
“I was kind of over it. I was like, I’m done,” says Mastropolo. “There’s a season for everything and that season for modeling was over and I knew it so it was time to start something new.”
She says it’s a good idea for models to have alternative plans for the future because typically modeling careers don’t continue past the age of 35.
“Modeling is a great job to have when you’re young but not one to rely on for life,” says Tori Taylor who used to model for the Kim Dawson Agency.
At 28, Mastropolo moved to the United States and decided to become a hair and makeup stylist for both photo shoots and runway shows. She attended Jenni Tarver Academy to master her skills.
She picked up the techniques of makeup fairly quickly but struggled with hair styling. But since she wanted to start her career in Dallas, she knew she had to learn both. The New York fashion industry separates makeup stylists from hair stylists, but in Dallas stylists are expected to do it all.
When Mastropolo attended hair and makeup castings, she would tell photographers about her experience as a model. As a result, the teams casting the jobs trusted her styling talents more because of her background, she says.
Mastropolo has done hair and makeup styling for Neiman Marcus, Dillard’s, JCPenny, People Magazine, Glamour, GQ, Don Henley, Mark Cuban, Tiger Woods, Nike, and more. This work consisted of campaigns, magazine spreads, and advertisements.
Mastropolo also applied her hair and makeup skills to ministry work for Queen Esther’s Court, mother and daughter inner-beauty conferences. She focused on teaching girls how to apply makeup modestly to showcase their “inner beauty.”
“Sam has a heart for missions, helping reach those less fortunate in practical and spiritual ways,” says model April Barr, who met Mastropolo on the set of a photo shoot. “The women enjoyed learning practical tips from Sam, yet most importantly they learned that developing true character was what makes a person’s beauty shine brighter.”
Mastropolo worked in hair and makeup for about four years and then decided to change paths again, this time venturing into fashion photography. “It [moving into photography] was a natural progression,” she says.
She went out and purchased a camera and learned to use it before completely jumping into her new career. Mastropolo says the key to photography is light and emotion and capturing the two at the same time. She learned this during her modeling career, which helped her pick up the skills of her new profession.
“Working with photographers is my favorite part about modeling,” says Kim Dawson model Lindsey Anderson. “It makes it even more fun when they have been on the other side of the camera because they are able to relate to you and capture really great images.”
Mastropolo was able to relate to the models and bring out their personalities on set. Thanks to her previous experience working in Dallas’ fashion industry, she had established strong relationships with top agencies, models, and hair and makeup stylists. These connections also helped Mastropolo when she found herself on the other side of the camera.
While many aspects of her photography career evolved rapidly, there were challenges. Mastropolo says the transition proved to be a struggle at times because fashion photography, especially when one is new to the business, is not necessarily a lucrative career.
For instance, Mastropolo says she worked out of her garage instead of renting a studio. Photography equipment was expensive and she didn’t want to spend more money early in her career.
In addition, as the Dallas fashion scene has grown over the past few years, more photographers are launching their careers here — and are willing to shoot for free, just to get noticed. This creates the expectation that others new to the business will shoot for free as well, Mastropolo says.
The result: This established pro went back to hair and makeup styling, the part of her fashion career that Mastropolo says allowed her to express the most creativity.
The one piece of advice, she says, for anyone interested in a fashion career: Don’t become discouraged if you hear the word “no.” “Expect a lot of no’s,” says Mastropolo. “You will get no’s, but you have to keep knocking on doors, and you have to remain positive.”