The Make-Up Business

Four African Make-up Artists Share Their Journeys into the Facial Beauty Business

Mirror, mirror on the wall,

Beauty is always on call.

It may be a crowded sector, open to all comers. It may even have no standard pricing regime, but the make-up artistry industry has found its place and is firmly here to stay.

From Zimbabwe to Ghana, from Nigeria to Uganda, we talk to four female practitioners in the blooming business of facial beauty.

Ghana: @Lydiashitey_mua | Leedy A Xpression

Nigeria: @just_makeup_studio | Just Makeup Studio

Uganda: @Kebirungiroselily | The Beauty Bar 256

Zimbabwe: @mc_makeup_zw | MCMAKEUP

GetFundedAfrica: When did you realize this line of business was for you?

@Lydiashitey_mua: Right from childhood, I’ve had an interest in transforming people. But not until the age of 12 in junior high school did I know that I will definitely become a make-up artist.

@just_makeup_studio: The feeling of accomplishment after each job, especially when I see a happy and satisfied client. I was convinced that I was on the right path.

@Kebirungi Rose Lily: I never thought it would be a business at any one time, but it had quick money, and always paid bills so I decided to take it seriously. And even when I did it, I always would save up enough money to chase my fashion designing dream but later I realized I could do both.

@mc_makeup_zw: After resigning from a customer service job at a local retail company early in 2020, I enjoyed working for myself as a make-up artist, and I was making more than I used to as a salaried worker. I also enjoy doing makeup. I can do it all day, nonstop without getting tired.

GetFundedAfrica: How long have you been a make-up artist?

@Lydiashitey_mua: I have been a make up artist for 17 years now.

@just_makeup_studio: I’ve been making clients up for 11 years.

@Kebirungi rose Lily: Professionally 6 years, but I started out when I was 15 in boarding school, shaping students’ eyebrows and doing make-up for school events.

@mc_makeup_zw: One year and three months.

GetFundedAfrica: How did you train for your craft?

@Lydiashitey_mua: I went straight to a film school, Academy of Screen Arts, from senior high school to learn make-up artistry.

@just_makeup_studio: I went for a professional training for a few months.

@Kebirungi rose Lily: Social media. YouTube and Instagram have been my go-to and I can’t say I’ve mastered it. Everyday I learn something new from those two places and I practice what I’ve learnt.

@mc_makeup_zw: YouTube. I watch YouTube videos and tutorials, do research on Google then practice on myself.

GetFundedAfrica: What, in your opinion, is the most important quality of a make-up artist?

@Lydiashitey_mua: I will say adaptation is the most important quality of a make-up artist. You know you have to be abreast with time, be passionate, learn new techniques, be more conscious and flexible with your clients.

@just_makeup_studio: A make-up artist should be patient, polite, skilful and have the ability to learn about trends in the trade.

@Kebirungi rose Lily: A makeup artist should be flexible and have good customer care; you are able to adjust from what you think you know because make-up trends change almost all the time, and maybe listen to your customer about their needs and advise appropriately. Don’t force them. If they don’t like it, they won’t pull it off.

@mc_makeup_zw: Patience. No matter how hard the client is, with patience you get it right at the end.

GetFundedAfrica: How did you start out – capital, tools, etc.?

@Lydiashitey_mua: I had actually saved some money. So, starting up, I did everything myself. I actually went straight to a cosmetic shop to get my products and tools.

@just_makeup_studio: With a little capital I was able to get some vital tools to start. As I progressed, I acquired other required items with better quality to enhance my work.

@Kebirungi rose Lily: Initially, especially during the learning process, I improvised. My aunty would give me eyeshadow, then I used earbuds as an eyeshadow brush. And my uncle, who’s also practically my father, used to bring in for me little make-up from the USA but it would always be lighter; he’s also supported all my crafts from childhood. But back in 2017, I landed a very nice international film project and got a nice pay. So, I went out and bought cheap make-up from downtown Kampala and just grew my tools from there.

@mc_makeup_zw: At first, I didn’t have products. So, I’d ask my clients to bring their own and charge them for my workmanship only. After every client I got, I made sure to buy at least one product/ tool. No one helped me with capital or anything, I started from zero products & tools. I remember I’d use my hands to blend foundation because I didn’t even have a foundation blender. I treated my business like a newborn; every little cent I got I invested back into the business.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

GetFundedAfrica: How did you land your very first client…and subsequent ones?

@Lydiashitey_mua: My first project, right from my film school in 2005, was a film project, Wordlock of the Gods, produced here in Ghana. A friend told me about their audition prior to the film shoot, so I went there during the audition and handed my cv to the production manager and was assigned as make-up assistant to the Nigerian make-up artist who was flown into the country for the shoot. From there, recommendations from actors and the crew members shot up and I am where I am now.

@just_makeup_studio: Through my personal face beat I got my first client – a bride. Subsequently, I told people what I did. Later on, social media became the place I got clients from.

@Kebirungi rose Lily: My very first client was my aunty, who’s also my guardian, I created many things while in art school and she was either marketing or buying them. She’s my enabler and I love her to bits. But most of my clients were my friends from university or

school and their recommended of my services boosted my business. I still have most of my clients whom I started out with.

@mc_makeup_zw: I used to make-up my eyebrows and people liked them and wanted to know how I did them and if I could do theirs too. I started making them pay for my work. That’s how I started.

GetFundedAfrica: What is your most effective marketing method to get new business?

@Lydiashitey_mua: Through social media. I also have unique business cards. I collaborate with photographers, and I attend bridal fairs/fashion shows, etc. Being a make-up artist requires a lot more than a good set of skills.

@just_makeup_studio: Through social media. Sometimes too through my business card and signboard.

@Kebirungi rose Lily: Social media is always the best – Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp Facebook and many more. Because someone out there needs your service but they’re not aware you can do it. It’s free and also effective.

@mc_makeup_zw: Instagram. Advertising on Instagram has worked for me. Whenever I post, people like my posts, enquire and come for my services.

GetFundedAfrica: What type of make-up is most popular in your country, and are you doing a lot of it?

@Lydiashitey_mua: In Ghana, I’ll say the most popular make-up looks now is contouring and high lighting, of which I find myself doing a lot.

@just_makeup_studio: Party makeup-aka owambe- and birthday shoots are most popular and I find myself doing them a lot.

@Kebirungi rose Lily: I’m lucky to have explored two types – special effects make-up and beauty make-up and, of course, I have more beauty make-up gigs than special effects makeup.

@mc_makeup_zw: Soft glam make-up is most popular and yes, I do a lot of it.

GetFundedAfrica: What do you think is the biggest challenge for make-up artists in your country?

@Lydiashitey_mua: My biggest challenges as a make-up artist in my country are when I have to restock my make-up kits, wash multiple brushes in between shoots and client go in for my make-up kits.

@just_makeup_studio: The market is flooded with practitioners and pricing is uncontrollable.

@Kebirungi rose Lily: Maybe the biggest is accepting us. People are having hard time accepting that make-up is a job and needs to paid what its worth. I have heard clients say: “All that money for make-up that am going to wash off at the end of the day?” And maybe also make-up products being very expensive. For example, a make-up artist is required to have at least 10 shades of lipstick and a relatively nice lipstick would cost about $20 each. Almost $200 for lipstick. That’s a lot of money in Uganda shillings.

The government here is not involved in make-up artists at all. Maybe if it was, it could reduce taxes imposed on make-up products.

RELATED POST: Gore, Blood and Shivers: The Special Effects Side to Make-up Artistry II

@mc_makeup_zw: Make-up products and tools are very expensive and it’s hard for us to have everything we need for our use. We don’t have proper make-up schools teaching the current trends and stuff; so we depend heavily on internet tutorials. We lack sufficient exposure – no make-up fairs or competitions like Glow Up Britain’s next make-up star.

GetFundedAfrica: Heavy or light make-up for your client?

@Lydiashitey_mua: I always advise my clients to go for a very light and subtle make-up look because that’s what I do a lot.

@just_makeup_studio: Light make-up is always my go-to style, but sometimes the client can insist on heavy make-up.

@Kebirungi rose Lily: Depends on the client If you have not done makeup before I would advise you go light the first time. But if you are familiar with make-up, I would suggest according to the occasion. But less is always more.

@mc_makeup_zw: Light make-up. Natural make-up is timeless. I also feel that makeup should enhance a person’s beauty not change it.

GetFundedAfrica: Any role models in the industry who you look up to? And how have they affected your approach to your craft?

@Lydiashitey_mua: I do look up to Pat MacGrath a lot, especially being black and doing so much in the make-up artistry world. I just love her make-up line, a little product goes a long way.

@just_makeup_studio: Bimpe Onakoya. She has affected me by her simplicity of make-up application.

@Kebirungi rose Lily: Yes, I have many locals here but I’m not loyal. I’m always evolving. Locally there is Shakira Kibirige, my friend and mentor in special effects makeup. Then there’s my former school mate, Mona faces in beauty make-up. She has built an empire out of make-up.

But I like the Asian special effects make- up artist in the USA Tym Buacharen. He has done almost all the big projects, – Black Panther, The Harder They Fall and so many more. He has also won a couple of Emmy Awards but still strives to change and get better. The Nigerian beauty make-up artist, Bebe Amagbemi, is another favourite; she always has clean face beats and new trends.

@mc_makeup_zw: Lauren Damelio. I’ve learnt how to manage and present myself before a client. Jackie Mgido for Vault Cosmetics: she’s doing great in the States and has her own make-up product brand. It showed me that the make-up business is not only doing art on human faces but there are a lot that can be done. So I’m working towards having my own make-up products one day.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

GetFundedAfrica: Do you have a signature look that you have perfected for your clients?

@Lydiashitey_mua: My signature look is from my shea moisturizer that hydrates the whole day on my clients and the beautiful eye look which I first worked on the crease area to create a bridge between the brow bone and the eyelid.

@just_makeup_studio: Yes, my brows are always my signature. I prefer a subtle eyeshadow, and perfect contouring and highlighting of the face.

@Kebirungi rose Lily: Different face shapes require different attention and detailing, so I wouldn’t say there’s a signature look, but maybe the smoky eyeshadow. It fits most eye shapes, so if I’m stuck or hard up for time I go smoky and maybe a red lip.

@mc_makeup_zw: Yes, very subtle eyeshadow, well -defined contour and dewy skin.

GetFundedAfrica: If you weren’t a make-up artist, what would you rather be doing?

@Lydiashitey_mua: I ‘ll probably be a news anchor because that’s what my dad really wanted me to do.

@just_makeup_studio: I’d have become a system engineer if I wasn’t a make-up artist.

@Kebirungi rose Lily: I’m also a low-key fashion designer. So, I guess I’d be out there looking for my space at the top of the fashion industry.

@mc_makeup_zw: An accountant. Before I fully committed myself to make-up business, I was an accounting student studying for the ACCA.

GetFundedAfrica: Would you recommend this job to others? Why? Why not?

@Lydiashitey_mua: Yes, I will recommend it especially if the person has a passion for it because the great thing about make-up artistry is that you can work anywhere. With a job a as a make-up artist, the whole world is open to you. You can work anywhere because make-up artists are need everywhere. And I would not recommend it if the person has no interest or passion in the art.

@just_makeup_studio: Yes, I will recommend this line of work because it’s lucrative, fun and you make money too.

@Kebirungi rose Lily: Yes, 100 %. For the youths out there passionate about beauty; they should try the make-up industry. There’s so much space, especially here in Uganda and all it requires of you is practice and good behavior. Not a university degree or 10 years of experience.

@mc_makeup_zw: Yes, I would. It’s fun. There are no limitations or rules when it comes to make-up, its art. It’s like playing but making money at the same time. Why not?

GetFundedAfrica: Favorite beauty quote?

@Lydiashitey_mua: Your eye make-up says a lot about you and your style.

@just_makeup_studio: Enhance your beauty; never distort it.

@Kebirungi rose Lily: Confidence is beauty; beauty is confidence. And beauty comes from within first.

@mc_makeup_zw: Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.

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