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Word of Mouth Power

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Word of mouth power in The Sunday Series with famed make-up artist Tatyana Harkoff


“When somebody tells somebody who tells somebody.”

We land on word of mouth to explain how make-up artist Tatyana Harkoff  got her start. Growing up in Kyiv, Ukraine in the 1980s was bleak – Perestroika, she adds. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukrainians struggled to find work.

“We had no food. No money. We were starving.”

Harkoff studied engineering in college but was forced to answer phones and work odd jobs to get by, making just $20 a week. “I couldn’t do any thing. I had no skills.” But she ground down, working more hours and days than her colleagues.

Bored by the desk job, Harkoff started selling Russian face cream at a small boutique. A client noticed her work ethic and easy manner with clients and offered her a job at his beauty salon. There she met two “fabulous” make-up artists and received her first career break.

“A make-up artist had to leave for something urgent. I stepped in to help and the client was happy.”

Word of mouth power kicked in.

Work by Make-up Artist Tatyana Harkoff for L’Official Austria March 2019

More and more personal clients led to commercial and editorial shoots with models. Suddenly, Tatyana Harkoff is Ukraine’s go-to artist for glam with a roster of personal clients, including celebrities, singers, socialites and even the Ukrainian Prime Minister at that time Yulia Tymoshenko.

And the offers kept coming.

Harkoff became lead make-up artist on Holos Krainy (The Voice Ukraine) and appeared three times a week on the country’s biggest morning show. Her credits include the covers of the Ukraine edition of Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan – “all of them,” she says.

Make-up artist Tatyana Harkoff on Ukrainian television 

“I’m on the top of the mountain. I can go down or try to stay on top.” – Make-up artist Tatyana Harkoff on leaving Kyiv for New York

But Harkoff wanted more of a challenge. Her internal “now what?” kicked in.

She applied for an artist visa to the US and moved to New York in September 2013, ready for a new start.

“I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t speak any English. I was very bad with a computer. Some how I found my first photographer.”

The power of word of mouth kicked in again for Harkoff, this time twenty years later in a different capital – the fashion capital of the world.

Harkoff has no regrets on the move.

“New York City is not only about the money. It’s about creativity and artists expressing themselves.”

Tatayana Harkoff loves the teamwork of production. “Our job is completely different than other jobs. It’s really intense but we are creating something that has never existed before in a short period of time. Everybody depends on one another.”

She adds, “Every minute counts.”

Click here to see more work by make-up artist Tatyana Harkoff 

Article Lead Image above: Make-up by Tatyana Harkoff. 

Below 5th Street East productions with make-up artist Tatyana Harkoff.  

For Foster Grant. Make-up by Tatyana Harkoff. Photography by Conor Doherty. Production 5th Street East.

For Hotel Saranac, Saranac Lake, New York. Make-up Tatyana Harkoff. Photographer Conor Doherty. Production 5th Street East.

For Mayflower Hotel, Washington D.C. Make-up Tatyana Harkoff. Photographer Conor Doherty. Production 5th Street East.

For Diplomat Hotel, Hollywood, Florida. Make-up Tatyana Harkoff. Photography Conor Doherty. Production 5th Street East.