I could see the shock of red hair across the crowded trade show floor. It was her. I had heard so much about this woman, but so much remained a mystery to me. It seemed like just yesterday when I first caught a glimpse of her in person at the MAKE UP FOR EVER boutique on West Broadway in New York City. But it had, in fact, been nearly a decade.
She was huge — maybe not in size, but certainly in presence — wearing all black, with gentle, yet focused, black-rimmed eyes and, otherwise, seemingly very little makeup. Dany Sanz, by just walking into the room, made an understated and powerful statement with certainty — I am an artist.
And here she was, at my trade show. Yes, Dany Sanz would be presenting her first keynote at The Makeup Show NYC and I would be introducing her and doing an interview with her before her demonstration. I was more nervous about this one 90 minute period of time than anything else in my career. I know it sounds a bit dramatic now, but at the time I truly felt (probably not incorrectly), that this moment could make or break so much for me.
I walked across the room and introduced myself to her. She was polite and brief, thanking me for having her in her unmistakably “Dany” French accent, and moving on. She had things to do and people to see — her people, her Tribe.
When it came time for the keynote, her team brought Dany to the green room off the keynote floor where I was awaiting her. “Shall we go?” she said “I’m not so sure what we do but something good I think.” The master, it appeared, was ready as ever, for whatever was to be.
I walked out and took the stage and began my introduction. Not long after starting to throw accolades about Dany at the audience, I realized she was standing just a few feet away. “She sounds very good,” she said “I hope I don’t disappoint!” The audience laughed, as did I, maybe with relief. This Dany woman is pretty cool, I thought. This might be okay after all.
I took her comment as my cue and introduced her officially. The audience applauded wildly knowing they were in the presence of an icon. Instead of stepping up onto the stage and into our carefully prepared set for our discussion, Dany sat on the edge of the stage, looked up at me and noted “I think this is better, no? Closer to the people.”
I sat there with Dany and we talked, her heavily accented responses occasionally needing some translation for the room, which I’m not sure she thought was funny or strange, but I just kept moving. She later told me my accent was “not so good.” Apparently, I had been re-stating her comments to the audience in English with a French accent the entire time. At that very moment, all I could think about was what an
asshole she probably thought I was. Then she told me if I practiced my French, she’d practice her English. Nearly 15 years later, neither of us have, apparently, kept that promise.
I learned so much about Dany that day. I discovered much about what she had done in her life, with her career, and how she started as a scenic designer for theater and only accidentally fell into makeup. But, more than this, I learned what type of person she was and what was important to her.
It was soon thereafter that MAKE UP FOR EVER was kind enough to bring me to Paris to experience their world in a very personal way for a feature I was writing for On Makeup Magazine on the 25th Anniversary of the brand. There, I had the great opportunity to share time with Dany in “The Cave” at the flagship store, a place where all of the product development was done at the time. It was like nothing I’d ever seen. Creativity, authenticity and passion filled the air.
Later that night, along with the entire Paris team, I was invited to Dany and her husband Jacques’ home for a cocktail party. Dany and I spent time speaking about her Tribe and my The Powder Group community. She showed me where she would sit and draw as well as her collection of miniature shoes. Jacques showed me his collection of vintage cosmetic packaging and he shared with me his love for the macabre. I don’t know how it happened, but somehow, all of a sudden, I felt like family. Later that evening, Dany presented me with a beautiful, custom, eyeshadow palette, signed with the message “Both we are in the same ‘boat’ Your adventure must join to my adventure – Dany”
It was then that I realized that Dany Sanz was much more than a powerhouse businesswoman and the founder of one of the most important brand in pro makeup artistry. She was more than just an artist’s artist beyond compare and a visionary in the truest sense of the word. She was a woman who understood what it meant to share and live your passion. She knew how important it was to care deeply about your people — even when they are, at first, strangers. She knew that sometimes paths cross for a purpose and you must ensure that this purpose does not get overlooked or dismissed. That day, in the outskirts of Paris, I realized that Dany was right (she usually is) that our two paths and communities should align in some way, someday.
I am so grateful that today those paths are still intertwined, maybe more than ever, and thankful to Dany for all she has done to support the pro makeup industry at large, The Powder Group community, and myself personally. Her vision, passion and artistry have changed an industry and, along with it, me as well.
Words and Collage Michael DeVellis