Despite playing a teenager in her most recent role as Jenna Marshall in American series Pretty Little Liars, in real life, Tammin Sursok is far from that. In reality, she a strong, mature woman. The 34-year-old, who is originally from South Africa but grew up in Australia, now lives in California with her husband, film producer Sean McEwen, and her daughter, Pheonix, who is four.
As well as being a dedicated mum and actress, Tammin also runs her own lifestyle site, Bottles & Heels, which documents the trials and tribulations of being a mum; a production company, which she runs with her husband; and children’s wear brand Stella.Phoenix. Between all that, Tammin has found the time to collaborate with Pakistani make-up artist Nabila to front the campaign for Nabila’s new brand Zero Make-up, which launched in the UAE earlier this year. We caught up with Tammin at our studio for a chat and photoshoot.
How did you end up being the face of Zero Make-up?
It was actually through a mutual friend of myself and Nabila. Nabila was looking for somebody who embodied the range and I was looking for a company that I really truly believed in. For me everything that the brand stands for is what I love, from no testing on animals to non-toxic ingredients, ethical products, plus the idea of us really trying to embrace the idea of young girls not always being overly made-up. For me that’s a message that I really want to start getting out there. Telling these girls that they are beautiful.
That’s something you have previously spoken about struggling with…
Yes. It has taken me a long time to feel beautiful and I don’t just mean beautiful aesthetically I also mean internally. It’s a hard slog to feel like you’re good enough and I think that make-up should make us feel ourselves and authentic and not like we are taking on someone that’s not who we are. That’s what we are trying to promote with the brand.
What do you think of the palette?
I use the palette every day when I get in the car to take my daughter to school because I have no time. After feeding and dressing her I look like hell! It’s not that I mind that, but I don’t want to scare people at the school! So I use the palette in my car – concealer, foundation, lips and cheeks. I don’t even use a brush just my index finger to blend it in and it just takes two seconds.
Nabila is originally from Pakistan – do you have a particular interest in the country?
Well I would love to go there – it’s something Nabila and I have discussed and we have developed this incredible friendship now so I would love to go and see her culture and see what the country is like and how make-up and beauty fits into their lives.
What is your beauty regime when you’re not working?
Honestly the older I get the nicer I want my skin to feel and look so it’s mostly great moisturisers and hydration from drinking lots of water. I also use serums and oils to help hydrate. In terms of make-up I use a little bit of concealer and mascara and that’s all.
Aside from the palette, what’s the one beauty product you can’t live without?
Mascara – I feel like once you have your lashes, you look great. My favourite is by Giorgio Armani.
What for you makes a good make-up artist?
Someone who listens to his or her subject. Often make-up artists come in and do their own thing and it makes the person feel not very authentic. So for me what makes a good make-up artist is someone that asks the things you like and how you would like to look and blends with that rather than just doing their own thing.
You have a children’s wear line – what is your role in that?
I am a 50/50 partner. That means we design everything together, pick the colours, textures. I’m involved in every aspect.
Why did you decide to create children’s wear?
Because I look at clothes for my daughter and it’s either very expensive or really cheap. There’s nothing in the middle that is built to last. So our clothes are like keepsakes you hand them down through the generations – they’re very well made, they are French styles, really good fabrics but they are also reasonably priced.
Would you ever consider expanding into womenswear?
Oh my gosh yes! It’s funny because after I had my daughter I forgot about fashion and it’s taken four years for me to remember. Even doing this shoot today makes me so excited, I have a buzz in my stomach when I see fashion again. It excites me to wear great clothes and especially here in the UAE they’re so image-conscious in the best way – not to alienate people but to really bring out the best in themselves in the way they express themselves which I think is fascinating and I really want to explore that.
You also have your lifestyle blog Bottles & Heels – it’s very honest . What is the message you are trying to convey with the site?
I had postpartum anxiety after I had my daughter and I felt very alone and lost. I had a huge loss of identity and I had no one to talk to about it so I thought “how can I bring women together to talk about things that they’re not talking about?” You see these highlights on people’s Instagram of new mums looking amazing and talking about how their birth didn’t hurt and I swear none of it is true. I wanted to unveil the truth of what motherhood looks like. Motherhood is extraordinary, exciting, debilitating, horrible and also the best thing that’s ever happened. It’s not all great, and it’s not all terrible, it’s everything. It can be very confusing as well and no one talks about it so I think if I can help one person then I feel like I’ve achieved something.
What have you learnt about yourself since becoming a mum?
I lost myself so much in the beginning. I felt so guilty because I love my work and I get a lot of self-satisfaction from working and then I had my daughter and I just stopped working because I felt like that was the right thing to do. Now I’m trying to find a balance. She’s taught me so much. It’s the most heart-wrenching love that I’ve ever experienced and it hurts and it’s terrifying and it’s amazing!
How do you make time to spend time with your daughter?
I have a great support network. I don’t have a full-time nanny. We have a nanny on Friday nights and Tuesday nights. My husband is very hands-on, probably to the detriment of sometimes his own career. It’s really just the two of us managing our time and who looks after her. In a way I feel guilty even right now because she has been with my husband for three days while I’m working here, but on the other hand they get to have such a great time together. I bring her where I can when I’m travelling and I just want to make sure that after work I’m present with her, which of course is tiring as well but something I have to do.
What’s been your favourite role to date?
My husband and I have a production company and we co-wrote a screenplay seven years ago. It’s just been made into a film and will be out at the end of this year. It’s called Whaling. He directed it and I’m the lead actress. It was a terrifying part to play because it feeds into all my insecurities. It’s a dark comedy about a dysfunctional brother and sister who come together at their mother’s death. It was a hard shoot for me because it was very personal – there was one scene I had been playing out in my head for seven years then after I did it, I got a migraine. But it all worked out so that was amazing for me to do.
What are you going to be focusing on in 2018?
Mine and my husband’s production company, and having baby number two! I’d love to be pregnant this year and direct a movie – if I manage to achieve that this year, I will be very happy.