“Work days are forever different, and I love it,” beams Tatum Savage, marketing and communications manager at M.A.C. Cosmetics. “We launch more than 50 collections a year, so when there about the same number of collections as there are weeks in the year no day is the same, there is always something to talk about. I’ve also taken on extra responsibility in my role, and recently hired the latest M.A.C. sister to join our team. Now is the time to get the wheels very much in motion which is super exciting!”
Tatum reveals the M.A.C. team — “which has grown exponentially from what was considered a small brand to a global beauty phenomenon”— to be “one big family”. “That family ethos has been unwavering, despite our growth,” she adds. “I consider the girls at the office my sisters. We’ve shared life’s ups and downs together, we’ve travelled the world together, and built a business we are very proud of, together.
“I also have the pleasure of working with some of New Zealand’s most talented, from makeup artists to fashion designers, writers to performers – many of whom have become my nearest and dearest friends. So yeah, in my eyes, I have the best job in the world!”
Tatum describes her move into the industry as serendipitous. She’d always dreamt of working in either fashion or beauty, but landed a job with Sony upon completing her master’s degree in marketing: “Had I not, I may never have known about the role at M.A.C because Sam, my employer at Sony, happened to be married to the then GM of M.A.C in NZ, Jodie. I was at their place for a Christmas barbecue and Jodie told me she was recruiting a communications manager and did I know anyone who may be interested, ‘wink-wink!’? It was my absolute dream job and, 10 years later, still is.”
Tatum says that the industry has evolved to the point of almost doing an “about turn”. “Makeup was once exclusive, but is now so inclusive and full of diversity,” she continues. “The beauty world is now, or at least until the industry transforms again, about makeup that women want to wear as opposed to the old world of the industry dictating the makeup ‘trend’. Makeup is about believability, authenticity and realness. Where women wear makeup to express their respective interpretations of femininity.”
What does beauty mean to you?
“The beauty industry provides people of all ages, all races and all genders an opportunity to express themselves in their most authentic self, which is certainly empowering in this digital selfie age where perfectionism is so prevalent. Beauty means many different things to me, but it will always mean empowerment.”
Much has been made of the empowerment of women in recent months. As a successful woman, what are your thoughts on these movements? What have been your experiences, and are they things that need to be addressed in New Zealand?
“I have been very fortunate to have been surrounded by successful women my whole life. I went to an all-girls school from the age of five and a message that rang loud and clear throughout was that women could be whatever and whoever they wanted. My parents resonated this message, so I’ve never felt disempowered or second-best to men. Don’t get me wrong, I adore men — many of my best friends are men and I cherish them — but I’ve always had a strong sense of self and not feeling like I’ve needed to measure myself or my success against a man. In my job I work with successful leaders every day – all of whom happen to be women. So, from my perspective, women have always been champions and leaders in their fields. However, I’m not disillusioned, I realise this is not representative of the majority of industries. The fact that women are still fighting for equal rights or have felt the necessity to silence any adversity they may have experienced in their life, especially to advance their career, is absurd. Time is surely up, and what has been the most emboldening message through all of this is seeing women stand strong together, come together to support one other and ensure we have each other’s backs. My mother ran successful businesses throughout my childhood and even after my parents divorced, she managed to keep me at the same school [Diocesan School for Girls] despite the financial strain — albeit hard at the time, this was an important life lesson for me.”
Tatum tells me her childhood was generally a happy one, though “peppered with difficulty” that she feels made her tougher. She was 10 when her parents separated, and feels humbled by her mother’s struggle to provide her with the best education: “It made me want to work harder to achieve great things so she knew it was all worth it and she could be proud not only of me, but of herself. My education not only provided opportunities, it also provided the best group of friends — many of whom I am still best friends with. That is one of the greatest gifts my child-me could give my current-me.”
What were your dreams as a child?
“I found a questionnaire recently that we filled out for our yearbook when we were in our last year of school. Back then I either wanted to be an ‘entertainment lawyer working in New York, a TV presenter, or working in PR.’ At least one of those dreams came true!”
Her dreams for her young children, Maddox and Valentina, are for them to be strong and resilient. “I feel that the world is so variable and ambiguous nowadays, on so many levels, that strength and resilience to weather uncertainty will become increasingly important,” says Tatum. Along with husband Gavin, she wishes to offer them as many experiences as possible, “so they can be awake to the world”.
Tatum says that she detests clichés, but wishes she grasped, way back when, that there was more to life than work. “I spent so long being diligent and striving for success without realising that success was right in front of me,” she admits, “in the form of my friends and family.” Now, days off are strictly reserved for them: “When we’re not hitting the beach or heading out for a café lunch, we’re barbecuing with family and friends. My parents were social and always involved me, so I think it’s important to include the kids in as much downtime as possible.”
One of her favourite local destinations is Omaha Beach (“I was lucky to go there when I was growing up, and we try to head up there every summer as it is so great for kids!”), and as for overseas destinations, it’s France. “Gavin and I spent nearly a month there just before Maddox was born and travelled up from Nice through Provence to Paris and spent time in some pretty remote non-English speaking towns,” says Tatum. “Undoubtedly one of the most perfect experiences of my life.” Other highs include Bali (“The place is just magical. We’re heading back this year and I cannot wait”) and Los Angeles (“My favourite city in the world hands down–I would move there in a heartbeat”).
Tatum met husband Gavin at a mutual friends’ barbecue — they bonded through their love of fast cars while watching Formula One: “He asked me to sit down next to him over dinner, and the rest is history!” He proposed ten years later in 2010, on Tatum’s birthday, at Ponsonby Rd Bistro with a cake that read ‘Will you marry me?’ “Our friends, old and new, have always been extremely important to us so the fact that some of our friends were present at the proposal meant a lot to me,” says Tatum. Key to their successful union, she reveals, is to communicate and approach projects together: “I would definitely say that is important for our marriage as we are at our best when we are developing together at the same pace and on the same path.”
Friends and family aside, I finish up by asking Tatum of the most beautiful things she’s experienced.
“I’ve witnessed some extraordinary moments at M.A.C. where customers instore have broken down in tears because a feature or something they see as ‘imperfect’ that has previously affected their confidence has been transformed at the magical hands of a M.A.C artist,” she says. “I will never forget one customer writing to me after I shouted her a makeover instore saying, ‘Thank you, I found myself at M.A.C.’ Those are among life’s best moments. When someone’s confidence is restored and they feel beautiful!”
Words: Jamie Christian Desplaces
Photography: Michael Lewis
Makeup: Kiekie Stanners for M.A.C