Prior of her ‘Bimpe in London’ Masterclass scheduled for 30th of July, professional makeup artist and Artistic Director, Maybelline New York Nigeria,Bimpe Onakoya gives us an honest insight on what it takes to be a successful makeup artist having been in the beauty industry for 13 years. In this interview she opens up about her journey to where she is now, challenges she has faced along the way, the importance of creating relationships and staying ahead with the latest techniques and innovations in her industry.
Over the past two years the makeup industry has become a popular job for many Nigerian entrepreneurs worldwide. However, tell us how did it all start with you ?
Bimpe Onakoya: I started officially 13 years ago even though I discovered my flare for makeup like 26-27 years ago. While we were in secondary school, my then best friend went to Paris and returned with a makeup palette. Coming from just seeing methylated powder, this new palette was exciting. I was in awe. We kept practicing with it. Sure we looked like clowns. Ok, make that masquerades, haha. But that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship between me and makeup. Fast forward to my undergraduate days in OAU, I couldn’t get enough of making my friends look beautiful. There I knew there was no going back. I was in love. I picked up anything regarding make-up and took it from there.
What were the challenges you faced when you started as a makeup artist?
BO: Hmm what challenge did I not face? My greatest challenge was for people to accept that makeup artistry was more than a hobby but a profession. For them to take me seriously. It was really hard during that time.
How long have you been a make-up artist?
BO: I officially started in 2003 so it has been an interesting 13 years.
Can you recall that time when a client didn’t like the work you done?
BO: Yes of course. I cried as soon as I got home. It was with an established editor… I think at the time, I had more enthusiasm than skill. I was not prepared for the skin type nor did I have the right product to tackle the skin. The client was very open and direct with her dissatisfaction. I was just thoroughly unhappy, it was so many years ago but it gave me a crazy drive to deeply understand skin. It was a wake up call for me and I decided it would never happen to me again. So I went all out.I studied, researched and practiced to ensure I could fully understand what products were needed to work with various skin types.
You were the first Nigerian Professional makeup artist to sign an endorsement with an international brand. How did that come about?
BO: It was definitely a new territory for me. When the Maybelline brand came to Nigeria, they were looking to work with a makeup artist whose core competence is in fashion as Maybelline New York is a fashion focused brand and voila, they found me. The journey with them has been amazing and it has allowed me to travel the world further.
With thirteen years in the industry, how do you continue to find new clients?
BO: One of the important lessons I learnt early on in the industry is the importance of creating ‘relationships’. With that tool, over the years I have found that my clients just find me. You know, when people say they want a particular look, their friend or people around them would often recommend me. Even though we are in the day of Instagram and social media I have also found it is important to protect my clients privacy. Provide them with an exclusive experience. It’s not everyday upload image.
When you are not busy with clients how do you ensure your stay ahead with new techniques and innovation?
BO: Darling, the world is a global village. Every day when I am not working, I am on my IPad, checking what’s going on via pintrest and digital magazines. Looking at fashion trends globally, as that tends to also inspire makeup trends. Checking out what new brands and products have. Seeing what other top makeup artists are doing. I love what a lot of the younger makeup artists are creating. You can never stop learning within this industry.
What does a typical day for you look like?
BO: Work work work that is all I do. Apart from weddings and personal makeovers I work on a lot of editorial jobs. My job requires me to often travel around the world for a shoot. This often means an early morning rise. As the makeup artist I often need to be the first person on set. If, I am on a photoshoot sometimes we can spend all morning working on different looks making sure the photographer and stylists are happy with the look. I am blessed as I get to work with a lot of talented people. Once in a while if I am less busy I might go to the movies to laugh, unwind and basically clear my head.
Do you find that your job takes over all of your life?
BO: Yes, when I was trying to establish myself as a makeup artist, it was my life. But these days, I am able to strike a balance. Or should I say ‘trying’ to strike a balance. At the beginning of ones career you need to put the work in. In this industry you have no excuses for being lazy. If you don’t take the opportunities someone else will.
Unlike other makeup artist you are also known to work on TV commercials, and editorials. How do you think that has helped you in your career.
BO: It has given me a broader spectrum and the versatility to handle all sorts of people and the authority to handle all manners of jobs. Advertising taught me how to interpret visuals and scripts and that helps me translate client requests today. I would encourage any up and coming makeup artist to broaden their job profile. The wedding industry is great for weekend jobs. However, if you want to increase revenue for you’re business you would need to venture out into other territories.
We often see the glamorous images of makeup artists. However the question is how many of these make-up artist are successful and ‘rich’?
BO: There are plenty. You can even become mega rich and a billionaire even if you want. Makeup is one of the biggest selling items today. L’Oreal is today the largest cosmetic brand and they sure started from somewhere. Maybelline started with someone making mascara for her sister and look where the brand is today. You see people on social media everyday starting by advertising their work to launching products which are literally sold out in minutes. That is one of the reasons I wanted to start my masterclasses. I want to equip other makeup artist with the business insights needed to develop a successful makeup business. It really does go beyond the artistry.
Instagram and social media has played a big role in helping up and coming makeup artist develop their skills. How do you think this has affected the industry?
BO: It has affected the industry in a very positive way. I am like, why didn’t this happen when I started? When I started, for people to see your work, you had to pay for magazines to advertise your work. But now people can see your work (explore on Instagram) both locally and internationally, without even going to your page. It is amazing. But on the other side some makeup artist are not investing in training beyond this. It is easy to use a filter on social media but if a client pays you to achieve that look. Are you confident that you can actually create it?
What advice would you give to other make- up artists who are trying to build a career?
BO: Pursue excellence first, before anything, with excellence comes success. Being a make-up artist is not as easy as it looks on social media. It takes determination, research, understanding of beauty and people. If you are going to do it then invest in it in wholeheartedly.
What are your plans for the future?
BO: My main focus is on my present projects of Training both locally and internationally and also in the expansion of the Maybelline stores all over Nigeria. I have a lot of followers in London so I am looking forward to my summer Masterclass where I will get to teach and share my knowledge. Investing in other people is very important to me. Life is not about staying in the fast lane alone.
You have worked with some amazing celebrities. Tell us what comes to mind when we mention their names
BO: Omosexy: Screen goddess, amazing wife, fantastic mother, awesome friend and fiercely loyal. Agbani Darego: The Face. Stunning, drop dead gorgeous, sweet, exotic, mysterious and reserved. Ty Bello: The Mind. Intense, Perfectionist, a deep Christian, a deep thinker and a deep lover. Toolz: Fun, happy, energetic, mischievous, driven, shape of life. Asa: The Voice. Sweeter than sweet, deep, a well of kindness
The ‘Bimpe in London’ Masterclass is scheduled for 30th July in London. Tickets available at www.eventbrite.com