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Orillia's arts community mourns loss of beloved hair, makeup artist

Shimera Dione died last week; Her passion was to 'share and support all avenues of creativity and imagination along with encouraging the youth to follow their dreams'

A week ago, I asked Orillia’s most beloved hair and makeup artist to answer some questions, as I wanted to feature her in our arts and culture series.

She responded most graciously, with lots of information and fulsome answers to my broad questions about her career and passion. Her last email to me, March 17, said simply, “Thank you for asking me. I look forward to next Friday.”

I am devastated to report that Shimera Dione passed away not long after she sent me that email. May this serve as a tribute to her. She was loved by many.

Shimera Dione had a life-long career in the field of hair and make-up artistry, with emphasis on artistry. As she put it, “I find this field is a blank canvas for creativity…As a life-long oil painter, it was not difficult to transition to painting faces. I had two important qualities: creativity and imagination.”

Shimera went from being a tomboy to being interested in hair and makeup thanks to a family trip to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“My father was a private tutor for a family, so it meant when they travelled south, so did we,” she explained.

Fort Lauderdale is the home of the Broward School of Cosmetology, and that is where Shimera travelled again, at the age of 18, to attend cosmetology school, “with my parents’ blessing and finances.”

Nine months later, she graduated at the top of her class. She found a lot of creativity and purpose in doing hair and makeup for special occasions like weddings, but she also found her imagination reaching for more.

“While sitting in a movie theatre in Vancouver, I said to a friend that I wanted my work up there on the big screen. And lo and behold, less than five months later I was working in the makeup industry there. That was over 28 years ago.”

How did she get there?

“I had moved back from Vancouver to Orillia, my hometown. One day I came across an ad in the Toronto Star that two university students had posted, requesting a makeup artist to work on a short film they were doing for school," she explained. "This was taking place in the Orillia area and I thought I would answer the ad.

'I believed I could do it because I had the training from school and two other qualities: creativity and imagination. A friend gave me some unused Mary Kay (from when she was a distributor) and I basically went through the house adding items that I could use, and off I went. It was the beginning of a passionate creative journey that has led me into theatre and film with such talented individuals mentoring my efforts and helping me to polish my skill.”

From that modest beginning, Shimera’s career in theatrical makeup was born.

She went to Toronto to replenish some special effects makeup from that movie with the university students, and wound up at Complections International, now known as the College of Makeup Design. She was taken under the wing of makeup artist Jordan Samuel and became a teaching assistant there.

“Jordan helped spread the word that I had an inherent understanding of makeup. And after I took the physical and written exams to become a member of IATSE -873, more work opened up. In this very political industry of film it helps to have good talented people in your corner," she explained.

Shimera stayed based out of Toronto and went on to work with such talented people as Usher, Martin Short, Christopher Walken, Michael Burgess and Jim Belushi to name a few.

“One of my most memorable makeup moments was when I was the special effects department head for Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang. I got to play big time with goop, glue, bald caps and so much slime," she explained. "The job was tedious as each slimer took about three hours to prep, each day. Not to mention the ongoing repair work.”

“Second to that was working with Martin Short at Casino Rama. He insisted on having fake abs that looked soooo fake and when the audience saw him, he brought the house down.”

Eventually, Shimera decided to move back to Orillia and “I did a lot of work with the Mariposa Arts Theater Foundation, commonly known as MAT, and 23 years later I am still involved with this non-profit organization," she said.

“Over the years I did workshops with students from Park Street Collegiate, OSS, the Sears Festival, along with a professional development day where students utilized their creativity and imagination in a planned workshop where they were the creators and the storytellers," she said.

“For many years I utilized the MAT warehouse to put on theatrical makeup workshops for all community theatre groups in the county, and on several occasions, I have headed to Barrie to give workshops for community theatre as well as the high school. In 2015 I received the Orillia District Arts Council Arts Achievement Award which was such a true honour. Thank you, Johnna Dalrymple, for submitting my name.”

Recently, she had been working with Somniatis, which is made up of a very creative group of talented people who give of their time freely to put on this fundraiser for charities in our area.

“My passion is to share and support all avenues of creativity and imagination along with encouraging the youth to follow their dreams. What I’m mainly sharing is an opportunity for students to explore their own creative self and utilize their imagination,” she explained.

“Thank you to everyone who have been supportive, encouraging, and trusting that this playground of makeup artistry has no ceiling. They have all helped me along my way.”

Rest easy Shimera and thank you for your artistry.

Click here to read her obituary.