What made you join the beauty industry?
I’ve always loved beauty. When I was really young, I was fascinated with beautiful women. I remember nicknaming a few of my older sister’s friends “pretty lady.” Even at 7-years old, I just loved a beautiful face! I was in high school when I first decided that I wanted to pursue makeup, but it wouldn’t be until years later that I’d actually do it. At that point, I was just in the admiring stage, taking notice of beauty ads, music videos, album covers, etc. I finally joined the beauty industry following my college graduation.
In my senior year at UCLA, I had an honest conversation with myself about how it didn’t make sense to continue chasing my then goal to be an architect when I had other creative talents and dreams. Architecture wasn’t going quite like I planned and I started to feel like I was forcing it. Following that realization, I came up with a plan to transition into the entertainment industry. This decision was scary and risky, because I didn’t know what it would take to build a successful makeup career. I just knew that my heart was always in entertainment and that’s where I needed to be.
When you became a MUA and what was the hardest part about learning makeup? What skill took you the longest to master?
For me, the hardest part about learning to do makeup wasn’t actually the makeup, it was more so the service. I’m very shy so I would get very nervous, and when a person is nervous, they don’t do their best. Makeup is intimate and there’s a lot of pressure. Not only are you sitting in someone’s face and actually touching it, but also they have to like what they see when you finally move out of the way. It took me a long time to become comfortable with working so closely on people. It took me even longer to build a confidence in my skill. I am very hard on myself and critical of my work. I had to learn to calm down and trust myself. I still get nervous sometimes. When that happens, I usually just say a prayer (laughs) … so dramatic, but it’s true!
How long did it take you to transition from learning about makeup to making it your career?
I am probably different from most makeup artists in the way that I never really experimented with makeup before I decided to pursue it professionally – not even on myself. I never even had a personal makeup bag – I still don’t! Outside of a bottle of foundation and liquid eyeliner, all of my makeup belongs to my professional kit (laughs.) When I decided to pursue makeup artistry is when I began working on other people and building a kit for them. For the most part, I didn’t practice. I got my practice from actual jobs – which is horrible, because that’s what every makeup artist will tell you NOT to do. Just like a singer rehearses before she performs, you want to build your skill before you present yourself to your clients.
Don’t get me wrong, I did test shoots like everyone else, but when you live in Los Angeles, there is no such thing as a test shoot. Those photos are getting used for something at some point. I can probably count using my hands how many times I’ve practiced makeup for the sake of practice. That said, I would not recommend doing that. I think I would have gotten a lot further faster if I set aside the time to practice and experiment.
When I first began my makeup career, I only worked on it part-time. I had a full-time job at UCLA, where I lived and worked as an “Assistant Resident Director” supervising student staff in the residence halls. I used weekends and summer breaks to assist on films and music videos, as well as collaborate with photographers and models. Back then I actually barbered three times more than I did makeup. I barbered at least 4 days a week cutting hair for boys I knew around campus and on the football team. After two years of that grind, I left, completed my job term and transitioned into a full-time freelance makeup artist.
Why did you decide to start a YouTube Channel and how do you feel it has helped your brand?
I started a Youtube channel in October last year with intension of sharing more of myself with my supporters. I was also interested in tapping into the beauty influencer realm. I launched my channel with two Halloween tutorials. By the time I got through the holidays, I was working so much I didn’t have time to create any more videos. Unfortunately, my schedule has not allowed me to focus on my channel, so YouTube has not helped my brand much at all (laughs.) YouTube is great platform; I would love to create more videos one day.
Why did you become an entrepreneur and what has been the most challenging thing about that?
Some of the most challenging things about being an entrepreneur are staying disciplined and developing a plan of action. You have to practice discipline every single day. There is no one to hold you accountable. It’s just you. You are the boss and you are the employee. You are a one-man company and that means there’s twice as much work to do. As an unrepresented freelance MUA (meaning I am not signed to an agency), I have a lot of administrative work that people often don’t consider. Not only do I handle all of my bookings which includes negotiating my rate and managing my calendar, I also have to process invoices, follow-up on payments, track down copies of my work, update my website and resume, post on my social media to keep up with branding, and the list goes on. These things take hours to do properly. And that’s only if we’re talking about maintaining… what about propelling your business to the next level? That adds a whole new list of things to do. It’s very easy to get distracted when you’re not on the clock and working from home. You have to learn to create a system of productivity and it takes time to master. It takes real initiative to be successful at entrepreneurship which leads me to my second point – developing a plan of action.
When you’re creating your own lane, it’s different from pursuing a career like a doctor or lawyer, because there’s no set structure on how to make it. You have to design your own approach and that process is difficult in its own right. To make it more challenging, most people can’t help you with it. They can offer ideas and opinions, but for the most part, you have to figure it out for yourself. People often say ‘the hardest part is getting started,’ but I believe that’s because the hardest part is knowing where to start.
Additionally, being an entrepreneur requires a lot of sacrifice. It requires a certain lifestyle and it can be challenging to maintain a work-life balance. You have to be willing and ready to accept every opportunity that presents itself. That readiness will ask you to work late nights, early mornings, weekends and holidays. There is misconception that when you’re self-employed, you can make your own schedule taking work and turning it down at leisure. On the contrary, entrepreneurship is a hustle and you have to work as much as you physically can. One door may open another which may open another and you’ll never know where an opportunity will lead if you don’t take it. Furthermore, work is not guaranteed, so have to work while you can.
What are your fave high end and low end products?
For high end-products, I love NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer. It’s a great formula and very easy to use. Unlike most concealers, you can get away with using it on its own. You can conceal the areas that need coverage, blend it in, and finish with a light powder all over the face –boom, flawless. I also love MAC’s eyeshadow in the shade “Saddle.” It’s my go-to eyeshadow for almost every person. It’s a great shade to use in the crease of the eye or all over the lid for a simple look. You can even use it to contour depending on your skin tone. My favorite low-end products are NYX Butter Gloss in the shade “Tiramisu” and L’Oréal Telescope mascara. I really like the consistency of the Telescope mascara and the brush is great for separating the lashes and easily coating bottom lashes.
If you could create the ultimate makeup kit for beginners, what would be in it?
Palettes, palettes, palettes! Palettes are great for beginners because it’s cheaper than buying each product individually and they offer a range of colors. It helps take the guess work out of choosing product shades and exposes you to shades and colors you might not have chosen on your own.
How did you become Justine Skye’s go to MUA and how has she helped your career?
Justine always tells me, “you’ve mastered my skin.” That’s what drew her to continue working with me initially. Since then, we’ve built a bond and working together never really feels like work. Justine gives me an opportunity to showcase a skill that a lot of people find challenging. She’s a great canvas. Not only does she have one of the most beautiful faces ever, but she also has gorgeous brown skin. I love my brown girls and I consciously show them love by focusing on perfecting my techniques for deeper skin tones. It’s important to me, because I know brown skin girls are underrepresented in the beauty industry. As a result, many make up artists are inexperienced with brown skin, which puts brown girls in uncomfortable/compromising situations. #brownskinmatters
What do you love most about being a celebrity MUA and what are some stressful aspects of it?
My favorite part about my job, whether my client is a celebrity or not, is having the opportunity to make someone feel beautiful. People’s mood and attitude change when they feel beautiful. Watching a person light up after seeing their makeup is the most rewarding feeling. A lot my clients are on the rise. The most special part about my job is that I get to take the journey with them. Their big moments are in turn my big moments. The most stressful part is the time crunch. When you’re working on set, you’re working on tight schedules. You have to be able to perform well under pressure and limited time.
What do you pride yourself on as an artist?
I pride myself on my professionalism, positive attitude, humility, and willingness to keep learning. It’s important that my clients have an enjoyable experience working with me. Humility allows me to really listen to what my clients ask for, as opposed to thinking I always know what’s best. I think that makes a big difference when it comes to their satisfaction with the finished product.
Who are some other celebrities you’ve worked with and who’s your dream client?
I have worked with Meghan Trainor, Mary Mary, Fifth Harmony, Winnie Harlow, Keyshia Cole, and Aisha Hinds to name a few. I don’t have a “dream client” per say, but I’ve had a strong desire to work with Viola Davis for about a year now. I hope to one day get that opportunity.
What do you think sets you apart from other MUAs?
I think what sets me apart is that I am very dependable. Dependability goes a long way. My clients know exactly what they’re going to get with me every time. There are a lot of talented artists out there, but unfortunately their lack of consistency and dependability holds them back.
Who/what motivates you to reach your highest potential?
My father. He is in heaven now, but he deserves all of the credit. He raised me to always do my best. The funny thing about trying to do your best is you will always feel like you can do better. In turn, you never stop learning and growing. My twin sister, Rachel is also a big motivator in my life. She’s always reminding me of my worth and pushing me to recognize my talent.
Do you have any upcoming projects you’re working on that you’d like to share?
The nature of the entertainment industry is that it’s fast-paced. My projects are often presented in short notice, and the ones aren’t are top secret! “G14 classified” (in my Chris Tucker voice.) I can share that I’m very happy about the year I’ve had. I was a part of 4 campaigns with Nike, Forever21, Claire’s, and Truth. A few weeks ago, the look I did on Justine was recognized on Elle Magazine’s 15 Best Beauty Looks for the 2017 BET Awards. It was pretty exciting to have my work stand out and be acknowledged by a leading, reputable beauty brand. I am looking forward to what the rest of year has to offer.