Sinikiwe Dhliwayo, Photo Producer


"I was born in Zimbabwe, and I left there when I was three, and then kind of lived all over. Canada for a couple years, then my dad got into a PHD program in England at the University of Kent in Canterbury. And then, while my dad finished his Ph.D, we moved with my mom to Massachusetts. So we lived in Amherst, and my mom worked for the college there. Then we moved to Maryland and lived there for a couple years, and then—I’d say I was probably 12—we moved to upstate New York. I went to college at RIT. I have an advertising/photography degree, and then a marketing degree. About six months before I graduated, I decided to do some internships because I didn't really have any connections at the time.

It’s kind of a crazy story, actually. When I first graduated, I was at InStyle, and basically what they do is a paid internship, so I worked there for six or seven months after I graduated. I think in total, I did like seven internships, and out of all of them, maybe two were paid. But I had so many jobs. I worked at Express, I worked at Madewell, I was a nanny, I was a coat check girl… I did mad jobs, just so I could pay my rent. And I’m an immigrant, so my parents maybe helped me for the first three or four months after college, and then they were like, 'We love you, but we can’t help you.' There were so many emails I would send to my landlord just being like, 'Hey, I’m really sorry, but rent’s gonna be like a week late!' Just getting into the industry can be rough. Like I had people—photographers, both men and women that I worked for—who would literally straight-up say, 'I prefer male assistants.' It’s crazy.

But as a producer now, I really do like to build relationships. I think a lot of being a producer is just building relationships and then getting the job done. It’s a lot! I mean it’s really, really intense sometimes—it’s so many pieces. There’s always a thing. So I do a lot of yoga. [Laughs] I also teach yoga, so I feel like that helps me a lot. Before yoga, I just felt like I was constantly nerves, constantly stressed out.

I’m kind of a freak with my skin. I’ve got a lot of skincare. I wake up in the morning and wash my face, generally with face oil. I cleanse with Shea Moisture—it’s just called Rose Facial Oil something. Or I’ll just use African Black Soap. I try not to use anything too harsh. I really try to use the bare minimum, especially with my face. I love face oil. I just started using the May Lindstrom—I found it somewhere, heavily discounted! For my body, I just [use] Shea butter. I mean, I go and just get a chunk, with the label that says straight-up 'Shea Butter'. Again, I try and make it natural. I’m just very conscious of a lot of products, I think. There are so many other ingredients in [beauty products], besides that one base ingredient. For a moisturizer I use Peter Thomas Roth Vitamin C Booster. And another thing I discovered recently is retinol, which I use once or twice a week. It's also by PTR—Retinol Fusion PM. I also use this facial scrub twice a week that, again, is from Peter Thomas Roth, it's the Pumpkin Enzyme mask. You just wash your face with it, leave it on for a minute or two and then wash it off. I’ve definitely gotten better about using sunscreen. I put it on before I put any makeup on. I have this thing where I really like sheet masks, and I buy them a lot, but then I never really use them—they just sit there. But I get really excited to buy them. [Laughs]

For face makeup, I’m pretty lazy, so if it takes more than five minutes… probably not gonna happen. I do wear mascara every day. I wear Maybelline Great Lash. I also like this one—Benefit Roller Lash. And then I just started wearing the Audacious by Nars mascara. For foundation, I do the Sheer Glow in New Orleans by Nars. I just discovered the Nars Powermatte Lip Tint in Slow Ride, and I really like that—it’s a nude-y brown. And then, I use Het Loo by Nars. It’s a similar color palette, but it’s a little more glossy. [I use] lots of Nars, because I have a darker skin tone, so I think Nars products just show up better. And yeah, they’re really highly pigmented. And then, this brand is called Base Butter, which I found on Instagram. They have this vegan shimmer stick called Glow, which is supposed to be a highlighter. They say to make a C-shape around your eye with highlighter, so I just do that. It’s weird, I feel like the longer I take to get ready, the worse I look. Seriously, like 10 minutes max and I’m done! If I try and spend any longer than that, I feel like I look worse.

Oh my God, the hair. Always an arduous process. I’ve been natural now for seven years. It’s weird thinking about it, because when I moved here, I was just going through a lot of things, and I decided I wanted to stop having my hair relaxed. So I shaved my head. I think I was just like, 'Ahh, I’m graduating college! I’m moving to this new city! Holy shit! What’s happening?' So I just said, 'Fuck it,' and I went to a barber shop and cut it all off. I did that like seven years ago, and now I kind of alternate between wearing my hair in braids—so wearing extensions—and having it out. But most of the time, my hair is out and not in braids, it’s up in a ponytail situation, ‘cause I’m really lazy. [Laughs] I normally use Briogeo. They have a co-wash shampoo, and I really like that. I also use a lot of the Shea Moisture products—I use one with an orange label called Low Porosity Leave-In Conditioner. And I feel like I’m always kind of experimenting. They say that things stop working after a certain amount of time, so I’m always looking for the next thing. I’ll also use Oyin Handmade–they have this leave-in moisture thing, and I’ll put that on after the conditioner, and then kind of twist my hair up and put a head wrap or scarf on. And then, if it’s the weekend, I’ll just kind of wear that all weekend.

I love fragrance. I just started wearing Replica by Margiela, and I think it’s actually a male cologne, but I really like it. The one that I use is kind of musky. I’m lucky that I’m a member of The Wing, and they do a lot of commercials with Chanel, so they gifted us the Gabrielle by Chanel and I like it a lot. Call me basic, but I really like the Elizabeth and James Nirvana—the black one. I also liked the Marc Jacobs Daisy for a while. I don’t know, people say you should have like, a fragrance ‘library’, but I’ve never really been that person. I just kind of wear one thing until I wear it out."

—as told to ITG