Elle’s World



Like many true creatives, Tobi Henney first picked up a makeup brush at a young age, after watching her Nan apply her makeup.  Since making the leap from a teacher in to makeup, Tobi hasn’t looked back and has landed in the US and become one of the most in-demand makeup artists.  Originally from Sydney, Australia, Tobi is now based between Miami and New York, and has clients such as Sports Illustrated, Victoria’s Secret, Barbara Palvin and Megan Fox. 

Tobi is hard working and driven, and isn't afraid to take a leap of faith.  Her job has taken her to far-flung and glamorous places, and Tobi has become responsible for making up the faces of some of the most famous people in the world.

Fresh off the set of Megan Fox’s latest movie, we caught up with Tobi to find out why she is the ultimate Boss Babe.

You are one of the leading makeup artists globally, when did you know you wanted to pursue a career in makeup?

I was always super creative at school and loved Art and Drama. I actually did Fashion Design for my work experience at the age of 16. I realised from there that I loved the makeup side of things at photo shoots more than designing clothing. After high school my parents insisted I got a University Degree. I didn’t know what I wanted to study and all I wanted to do was travel. I chose to study a four year Bachelor Degree in Education. While I studied, I actually started my own Spray Tanning business in a family friend’s Hair Salon. I freelanced as a tanner around my studies and realised I loved the Beauty industry.

Fast forward a few years, I graduated, taught primary school children for seven years in Sydney and London and would play around with makeup on the side as a hobby. It was when I moved home from London at 25, that I knew I wanted a career change to something more creative. That’s when I decided I had to give makeup a real go!

Looking back, I was destined to do this job. My nan was a professional Soprano singer and she always wore a full face of makeup. Nan’s makeup application always fascinated me as a child. I also was obsessed with face painting... so I guess in hindsight, I just went back to following my passion and here I am doing what I love, today!

How did you get your start?

I started out in Sydney in 2011. I actually began with Body Painting and would do a lot of super creative type jobs. I remember one of my first big jobs was Body Painting for a Holden car TV commercial. My first few makeup shoots were with friends who had emerging fashion labels and I also assisted some of Sydney’s best Makeup Artists on the side of being a full time school teacher.

I took an eight week night course with Susan at Makeup Mode and from there I started to test shoot and do weddings and a bit of everything. From assisting most of the top artists at this particular agency, I eventually got my first agent who represented me. After that I just worked my arse off to do everything I could to build a strong portfolio and consistent set of clients.

What’s the best part of your job? 

I love the versatility of being a makeup artist, no two days are ever the same. I also get to paint faces of some of the most beautiful, successful women, and being surrounded by them is a pleasure in itself. The travel and people I get to work with are also my favourite parts of my job for sure! I have made some of my closest friends in this job. I love how dynamic my days can be and it really keeps you on your toes and you never know what is around the corner.

Can you tell us about your career journey so far - What made you move to New York from Australia?

I had travelled to New York four times for work and play prior to moving permanently. I knew the city well enough and also knew enough people in the city that I was almost certain I could make the move work for me. At the time, a few of my Australian clients had also made the move so I had this ‘now or never’ moment where I just followed my gut instincts and took the leap.

The last trip I did to New York before the move really cemented it for me. Margaret Zhang and I did NYFW together and we stayed at The Soho Grand Hotel. I remember nearly crying when it came time to leave and that was my moment when I knew for sure that I needed to move to NYC.

Looking back, the move wasn’t easy. It was lonely, expensive and scary but I think pushing through all of those challenges made the successes even more satisfying. I definitely would not have the career today if I didn’t take that risk.

Can you describe a “pinch me” moment? 

This has to be one of my most recent work trips! I had been locked in my NYC apartment for 4 months during the peak of the Covid pandemic and had experienced the crazy riots which were in my neighbourhood. With no face to face work for 5 months and my family on the other side of the world, as well as grieving the loss of my closest family member and feeling kinda miserable, I decided to head to Miami to take a break from the city and get some beach time over Summer.

Literally a week after I had unpacked, my agent emailed me to let me know Megan Fox was asking for me to work on a movie with her in Europe for 5 weeks. I honestly nearly cried. I had hoped and prayed that I could continue living and working in the US, but with the state of the world, I was losing hope and thought that I would have to pack up and move home. Fast forward a week or so and I was on a private jet with Megan on my way to do my work on my first feature film in Bulgaria. I had the most amazing experience filming and have loved doing something different to my usual Fashion & Celebrity work.

You are considered one of the go-to’s for beauty advice and reviews, do you have a set of criteria for reviewing products?

Part of my job which I love, is having access to all of the newest launches from Beauty and Wellness brands. When new products come in, I generally play around with them on myself before including them on my social media and/or using them on my clients. I definitely only share products and brands that I truly believe in and think other people will love as much as me.

What is your biggest beauty regret? 

Over tweezing my eyebrows when I was younger!

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt along the way? 

Trust your gut instincts. Many people can give you advice but I truly believe the best decisions are made when you trust yourself. I also believe that when you are scared or nervous is when you need to make jumps in life to continue growing as a person.

What does your day-to-day look like? 

Every day is different and my alarm clock can be set sometimes as early as 3am - for something like a Sports Illustrated sunrise shoot.  I am either on set or a location shooting. Some days I am creating content at home for brands that I work with and other times it would be ‘do and go’ makeup for my clients. When I am not working I love working out, hitting the beach, seeing friends and travelling.

The modern world is a busy one! What is your version of self-care?

Self-care for me comes in many forms. Definitely working out and eating well is high on the list. I saw a nutritionist for six months in New York and it was truly life changing. I learned so much about looking after myself from within. I also listen to a lot of music, I am always making new playlists on Spotify. As I have friends and family all over the world, FaceTime keeps me connected with my loved ones and that makes me feel at home wherever I am.

What three things would we always find in your beauty bag? Augustinus Bader The Cream, I have used this moisturiser on both myself and my clients for around 3 years now. I just love the texture and how my skin feels when I put it on. I also can’t live without La Mer Lip Balm and Armani Luminous Silk Foundation. This foundation has been my go to for most of my career!

If you could have any five women sitting around a dinner table with you, who would they be and why?

I am so inspired by music artists and you will notice most of my dinner table is female artists who I have admired throughout my lifetime.

Rhianna - I love how Rhianna stands for so many things. She is powerful and a business mogul. Her album Anti also dropped in 2016 when I was in NYC on a Fashion Week trip and it was the moment in time when I decided I want to move to New York. When I hear this it always takes me back to that time in my life!

Oprah - I think Oprah is such an incredible woman of our time and growing up watching her interview some of the biggest names in the industry, I would love to sit at a dinner table with her and hear her stories.

Amy Winehouse - I lived in London when Amy was in her prime and even saw her perform a few times live. She was such an artistic genius and also a beauty icon. Every time I hear her music it brings back so many incredible memories.

Jennifer Aniston - I love Jen in every way, as an actress, beauty icon and I would love to meet her and ask her so many questions about her beauty routines to wellness and more!

Mariah Carey - Mariah was on repeat from my childhood through to now. I have always admired her as an artist and I recently watched her interview with Oprah and I think she has lived such an amazing life and I would love to meet her one day.

What's the last song you listened to?

Lost by Jorja Smith. She has one of the best voices of all time.

Parting words of advice for being a #bossbabe in work and life?

Follow your heart and gut instincts! Always be nice to everyone that you work with and surround yourself with like-minded people!