Saturday, May 25, 2013

Ursula Augustine-Philly's Makeup Artist Extraordinare

Ursula Augustine
Owner of About PHace
It's not every day that I am impressed with someone enough to sit down with them for over two hours without looking at my watch every ten minutes; trying to find a polite and valid reason to excuse myself from the conversation.  In a way it sucks because a key aspect of being a journalist is listening to people.  I must confess... it's the one prerequisites I hate, but I realize it's a necessary evil, and trudge trough it like a trooper. So, when I come across a person like Ursula Augustine, I feel as if I found an oasis in a characterless desert.   

I first connected with Ursula via Facebook. She was a friend of a friend or something like that. I forget.  As with most FB people we tend to have those few friends that we interact with regularly, some that we touch base with occasionally...those who we'd like to know, those that we may need to know at some point... and the rest are just fillers to make the world believe that we have a shit load of people who actually like us. Ursula fell somewhere between the "like to know" and the "may need to know" categories.

I don't recall ever interacting with her until after I found out she was connected with the industry; and I did not reach out to her in any journalistic capacity until I saw her featured on local news program.  It was a report on how she used New Jersey mud for facials. Apparently it's "all the rage" these days. Who knew that New Jersey mud was in vogue?
Since we at BACKLINE love to support our local artists and people who cater to the entertainment industry, I knew she was exactly the type of person we needed for launch issue.  I decided to reach out to her for a possible interview, and she graciously agreed. 

At first I planned to send my partner and Producer or our radio show to cover this assignment since: 1). we didn't employees or interns at that time. 2). This was about make-up. I know nada about make-up.  However, I  was the closest one to Ursula geographically, and our Producer had an aversion to driving in Center City during business hours which she so adamantly proclaimed. It was decided that since I was the one who made initial contact, this should be my assignment (so much for being the boss). I took a deep breath to help me get over my hypersensitivity to meetings and made an appointment to see Ursula.  It only took several minutes to make the trek from my Center City office to 17th and Sansom. There was a chill in the air and the sky decided to take advantage of me not having an umbrella. I arrived at the studio slightly damp, but I quickly forgot my weather-related misfortune when Ursula greeted me with a wonderful smile that I am sure could brighten up any dreary day the universe threw at us. I immediately felt as if I reuniting with a childhood friend after years of separation.  

The studio was also as inviting as Ursula. The walls were decorated with classic photos of singers and actors from as far back as the 1940's, a time when class was paramount.  She had classic Life magazines and a 1950's issue of JET. Any "brotha" knows...the first thing we go to in JET is the Beauty of the Week centerfold; and lo and behold, they even had one back then.

Just like old friends catching up on years gone by, she and I talked about our kids, our lives and our dreams and other important aspects of our extraordinary lives.  It was about a half hour before we actually got to the interview. What I learned about Ursula was both hilarious, inspiring, and not too far from my own story.

Ursula did not start out like most young girls (sorry for the stereotype) dreaming to become a world re-known make-up artist and owner of a swanky spa.  In fact she tells me she never even used make-up as a young woman.  Career wise... she, like most people, wanted to follow the money, and Computer Sciences was an emerging industry full of financial promise. Ursula went on to tell me that how her career "found her" while she was one of the first female students at St Joseph University.  Minus the make up, she was considered the fashion "go to" person in the women's dorm simply due to the fact that she had more outfits than she knew what to do with. "Other girls would come by and ask to borrow an outfit or two" Ursula explained as she poured me a cup of her secret-blend aroma therapy apple tea. She continued, "After a while of being a good neighbor, I began to grow weary of lending out perfectly good outfits, and having them returned damaged or not returned at all. I didn't want to rock the boat and make enemies so I decided to start charging for the use of my clothes, hoping that would deter them".  The scheme didn't work. The girls kept coming... thus giving Ursula an entrepreneurial epiphany.

After a while of renting outfits, Ursula capitalized on that fact that these poor little rich girls had no sense of style, and added on another service help her clients improve upon here looks...make-up.  Alas, there was one small hitch.  Ursula did not have enough money to buy all the cosmetics she would need for the variety of skin types she had to work on.  Did that stop our girl? Not a chance. Where there is a will...there is definitely a way.  She had her clients meet her at a well known area department store in front of the   make up counter. Ursula not only used the samples at the counter to but she did it right there at the counter. You gotta love this person. This worked for a while until the store's management and security got wise. Her defense? The samples were free. Unfortunately, management didn't buy it. They escorted her to the door and told her never to return. For some people this would have probably been the end. For Ursula, it was only the beginning.

By this time, Computer Science was no longer a career choice, and unfortunately St Joe's did not have Cosmetology as a major. Therefore, Ursula did the next best thing. She quit college and began to dance to her own beat. Here's where it get weird, even for us bohemian types at BACKLINE. She went to New Castle, Delaware.  I know... I know. Delaware is not synonymous with high fashion or any thing remotely in that realm (I would have at least chosen Baltimore). However, Ursula  figured if she went to a place such as New York, she'd be a small fish in a big pond filled with bigger fish; and Delaware had no fish to speak of. 
She had a friend drop her off at the Christiana Mall; and there she was...with no plan, no place to stay, and no way back to Philadelphia.   It's been said that God takes care of babies and fools. I will add to that  by saying that God also takes care of those who dare to follow their passions regardless of the obstacles.    

Ursula landed a job at a cosmetics counter with a large chain in the Mall, and found an apartment all within three weeks.   Now, Ursula now owns her own shop called Ursula's About PHace: Philadelphia's first Professional Makeup Studio. In 2007 her shop was voted Best in Philly, Ursula is also creator of PAUSE health & wellness Phacial suite, PHace Model Management, and a signature line of vitamin and mineral cosmetics & nature based skincare. 
Refining her technique through a variety of assignments, Ursula has worked as an makeup artist for some of the top names in the business; Bobbi Brown, Francois Nars, Aveda, and Jeanine Lobell's Stila - to name a few, and has contributed to editorial projects featuring fashions from both national and international designers. Her artistry has appeared in various national magazines and publications including: Town and Country, Style Wedding, and Fortune Magazine.
Ursula also incorporates her artistic expertise into philanthropic involvement, she serves as a volunteer and held a seat on the Board of Directors for the Career Wardrobe; A nonprofit organization, based in Philadelphia, serving women transitioning into the workforce by providing professional clothing, educational opportunities, and lifestyle workshops to help them become financially independent, and a positive roll model for their children.   Ursula has also partnered with the Bridges Program, an internship and training program dedicated to preparing local Philadelphia high school seniors for meaningful careers in professional service firms, health care systems and government agencies. 
In her role as makeup artist and owner, Ursula conveys the essence of the UAPH brand, while continually communicating the core philosophy of balancing internal and external beauty.
Since I'm the epitome of a guy who is definitely no slave to fashion, I wouldn't know what to look for in a good make-up artist if the answer was staring me in the face; so I had partner and Associate Publisher guide me on this...both of whom are "girly-girls" to a fault. After her careful "girl" investigation, she gave Ursula the official BACKLINE nod, and strongly recommended her services to anyone in the "biz" who requires the services of a creative and highly-skilled make-up artist.  
If you've been on the set or in the studio for a long time and need a private studio away from the masses to relax before the next shoot or session, Ursula's About PHace gives you privacy, plus more individual attention than a larger salon. Ursula also provides the same high-quality work you'd find in Hollywood or New York .
Now...If I can just get her to give me the secret to her amazing apple tea.....
If you have any questions, comments, or would like to schedule a visit, you can contact Ursula via telephone at 267-557-1562. You can shoot her an email at,  you can follow her on Twitter at or you can visit her website at
If you're in the area, stop in at URSULA'S About PHace Rittenhouse Makeup Studio 1700 Sansom St. Suite 201, Philadelphia, PA 19103. Tell her BACKLINE MAGAZINE sent you.

-Mike Q.

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