Sajata Robinson (Courtesy of
Sajata Robinson (Courtesy of

Very often, those of us who don’t enjoy close exposure to celebrities, media personalities, actors, and other famous people wonder what they’re like in unguarded moments. We wonder how they are as everyday people. Are they kind, pleasant, easy-going, and have a sense of humor?  

For much of her Emmy Award-winning career as a broadcast makeup artist, Sajata Robinson has spent many years with famous men and women and had the opportunity to see them relaxed, unvarnished and human. 

The longtime makeup guru didn’t originally plan to paint people as a career. She had thoughts of becoming an art teacher, but marvels that her career has allowed her to do what she loves and travel throughout the world. Never in her early years did she imagine she’d become a makeup artist working with A-list celebrities like Diana Ross, Eartha Kitt, Ossie Davis, Sean Connery and Dionne Warwick, just to name a few.  

“The DeVore Charm school is where I took my first proper makeup class at age 16,”  said Sajata, who prefers to go by her first name professionally.  “I honed my skills at modeling and charm school.  Today I somewhat consider myself a pioneer who helped open doors for a new group of makeup artists of African American heritage seeking jobs in television and entertainment.”

Breaking Into the Beauty Industry

Natalie Cole was the first celebrity for whom she provided makeup services — when the singer performed at the Wintergarden Theater. For many years, Sajata worked in the worlds of entertainment and broadcasting as an acclaimed and sought-after makeup artist, who worked with a young Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, and a constellation of stars who performed at “It’s Showtime at the Apollo.” 

After working with the likes of the Kenneth Salon (Kenneth was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ hairstylist at the White House) and working as a freelance makeup artist, Sajata found an agent who booked her for print and magazine work, offering her the ability to build her resume, portfolio and credibility.

“At the time there weren’t too many makeup artists who looked like me, a woman of color. Through my agent, I worked on the Ms. Universe beauty contest with the Ford Model Agency. The show was being filmed at the Beacon Theater. The production was union and my group was non-union so we had to work outside of the theater, which is a union rule. This booking took my career to another level when I met two union members who happen to be African American and also worked on The Bill Cosby Show,” she said.

The makeup artist ‘Toy Russell’ invited me into the theater and asked me to put makeup on a model’s hands. “She watched me work very closely,” Sajata recalled of a time when Russel saw her working with a model in a theater. “The young model was sad and crying because she was homesick. Naturally, I was very empathetic and started to calm her down. Toy liked the way I worked and how I handled the situation and soon after, she sponsored me to join the union. So I became a ‘permit’ person which authorized me to work in television studios.”

Later, Sajata became a member of Local 798 Makeup Artist and Hairstylist Union, a status that gave her such opportunities that she had to choose between working for the ABC-TV soap opera “All My Children” or the broadcast journalism legend Barbara Walters.

“Naturally, I chose Barbara Walters. During the introductory interview with Ms. Walters, I walked into her office, and she looked at me and said with a smile on her face, ‘If you can give me cheekbones like yours you’ve got the job!’”

The Joy of Working with Barbara Walters

Sajata’s ultimate blessing came from working for years as a personal makeup artist to the late journalism icon.  Walters, 93, died in December 2022.  As her makeup artist, Sajata worked closely with Walters and traveled with her nationally and internationally for ABC’s 20/20 and interviews for The Barbara Walters Special. 

“Ms. Walters and I became close friends and she was a mentor and confidante,” she said. “Ms. Walters was compassionate and supportive of me and my skills as a makeup artist.”

And Sajata collected many stories along the way.

“I went to the White House a few times, and it was very exciting to touch up Nancy Reagan, do Barbara Bush’s makeup, and groom President George Bush Sr,” she said “In London, Ms. Walters asked me if I had makeup in my kit for Margaret Thatcher. And of course, I did. Barbara trusted me not only as her makeup artist, but with other, more personal things,” said Sajata  who was born in Harlem, New York’s historic Sugar Hill area.  

The makeup artist recalled once when they were in London for a then-Prince Charles interview, Walters had a dinner engagement and didn’t want to wear her $15,000 pearl necklace.  

“So she gave me the necklace to hold since I was returning to the hotel,” she said. “A lot of people might be considered so-called ‘brown-nosers’ in that position, but that’s not in my nature. I would always speak my mind and be very honest with Barbara, which endeared me to her and helped build a personal relationship based on personal trust.”  

The longtime makeup artist said Walters referred her to several of her well-to-do friends like Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, and others who lived on the very chic Park and 5th Avenues, who expressed an interest in meeting her makeup person because Walters always looked so beautiful.   

“On one occasion there was an evening event Barbara and many of her friends were attending. My services for the event were requested by most of the ladies. A limousine was conveniently provided by each client to arrive on time at the next location for her friends,” Sajata said with a giggle, recalling having seven fabulous clients to make up that night.”  

Sajata noted being around the rich and famous gave her insight into their behavior and the things they considered important. These exposures also impacted her worldview and behaviors.  

“For instance, Barbara introduced and taught me about fine jewelry, like canary diamonds and differences in the color of pearls, and so much more.”

Walters also ensured that the makeup artist was compensated fairly and accordingly. 

“She once had a company pay me retroactively,” Sajata explained. ”I was so lucky and truly blessed to have such a wonderful life and career jet-setting here and there with Ms. Walters. It was great fun!”   

The Inspiration Behind the Makeup Artistry

Sajata revels in adventure and loves her makeup artistry profession. She credits her mother, Gerry Robinson, with being a very significant influence on many parts of her life, including her life’s work as a professional makeup artist.  

“My mother was a very creative, positive, empathetic woman.  She was a professional fashion illustrator, and when I was a young girl, I’d watch closely as my mother applied makeup for work and was extremely impressed with the results,” Sajata said. “So, I’d dabble in her makeup which she did not at all approve,” she said laughing. “However, these observations prompted my initial interest in makeup and a desire to get into the cosmetics industry.”  

Describing her as a beautiful, stylish model who studied Balinese dance, Sajata’s mother set the tone for the creative life she’s had.

“I was named after a Balinese dancer named Sujata. My mother changed the ‘U’ to an ‘A’ so that people would not shorten my name to Sue,” the artist noted. “Also, her desire was for me to become a professional dancer and use one name: ‘SAJATA!’  She said someday my name would be in lights!  In that regard, at least in our modern world, she was prophetic, as my name is always in broadcast credits.  

Her career also aligns with her mother, who was a professional fashion illustrator.

“As the old proverb goes: ‘The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,’” she said. “I credit my mother immensely for her unconditional love, both inner and outer beauty, great fashion sense, and creative mind that had a huge impact on me and the woman that I am today.”  

 “Parents are so important,” the makeup artist emphasized, also considering her father Willard “Johnny,” Robison, a well-dressed electrical engineer and military man who was the son of a tailor.

Advice for Aspiring Makeup Artists

The professional also works to offer advice for anyone seeking to enter the makeup business. 

“Practical experience is the best teacher,” she said, adding that asking family and friends to serve as canvases to practice makeup application is the best place to begin.

“That’s exactly what I did after learning about makeup at modeling and charm school,” she explained. “I would ask my mother if I could practice on her. Of course, she always did her makeup but gave me the opportunity only on her non-working days — at that moment and time, there must have been a good reason!”  

The longtime makeup expert said her life has gone lightyears beyond anything she imagined as a child, and is eternally grateful, especially to her mother and Walters, for encouraging her to shine.  

Sajata is currently doing makeup for Paramount/ViacomCBS News shows like “CBS 60 Minutes,” “CBS Sunday Morning” and others in New York City. She is also writing a memoir to share, what she describes, as an incredible and enchanting career.

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