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Heart felt . . . Warren with his mum, the late Josie Rose Donahue. PHOTO: DAVE RICHARDS

By AMANDA BOWES

Warren Dion Smith has a jet setting lifestyle on a par with celebrities, but his heart belongs to the small town of Waikari.

Three years after the North Canterbury News wrote about Warren’s extraordinary career working as a prosthetic technician and make up artist for Sir Peter Jackson, the multi-talented artist has just won the NZARH Editorial Stylist of the Year Canterbury Westland Regions.

This award has meant the most to him as he submitted the entry at the same time his mother Josie, passed away from cancer. Warren says she was the driving force behind his career choice.

“As a young child I loved doing my mother’s and grandmother’s hair for them.

“Then I learned from a hairdresser in Waikari who made house calls.

“My passion was to work with hair and if it wasn’t for mum I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

From hairdressing, Warren’s career branched into make up and prosthetics. His skills became sought after and now he travels the world.

As well as working on movies, Warren recently represented New Zealand and Weta Workshop, in Singapore, San Diego and Canada as a guest artist for conventions.

He has been working as a make up artist for magazines ranging from Vogue to smaller fashion publications, done transformations on radio stations and given shows demonstrating stylist work, make up or prosthetics.

Warren has had the privilege of working with people from Broadway on videos and conceptual arts and working with Oscar award winning make up artists and stylists, which has helped to inspire and shape his creations.

While his mother was ill, Warren completed a costume with her in order to preserve her artistic talent by creating a lasting memory.

Being near his mother over the three years of her illness was crucial for Warren, and because his work comes to him, rather than him seeking it, he was able to be with her in moments of crises.

Travelling the path of cancer with Josie has seen Warren give talks around the country about the disease which he says no-one really likes to talk about openly.

“It has made me aware that it is such a big disease and there are some people who have no-one to travel the path with.”

He says the support available in the small community of Waikari has been amazing, from St John staff to medical professionals and cancer support people.

Away from his high flying life, Warren says he dreams of being a stylist for rest-home residents and cancer patients.

“Elderly women like to have their hair set properly and there are many cancer patients who have lost their hair that I could help. I grew up learning how to set hair and it is a skill not seen often now. I would love to be able to provide that service and give back to communities.”

No matter how much glitz and glamour his job involves, Warren’s roots will always be tied to Waikari, the small North Canterbury town where his mother was always his biggest fan.