Black Make Up Legends – A Series
by michela wariebi
Working as a makeup artist has progressively become a mainstream idea, but this career path has a lifespan that barely reaches 100 years of existence in the Western world. Icons like Max Factor and Way Bandy made innovations with makeup artistry that correlated with advancements in the areas of TV/film and fashion and this is how our industry as we know it truly began. Progressively more people joined the fold, adopting the title of makeup artist, the film industry expanded, fashion boomed and the world evolved.
Fast forward to present day and everybody and their mothers are all makeup artists, literally. Social media has made makeup more tangible to the masses and although an excellent medium for highlighting talent, it has skewed the masses on who is “iconic” and who is “legendary.” The eyes of the public can change as quickly as the seasons, but the truth is that those who are iconic and those who are legendary will always be despite what the masses might say at the moment. The forerunners of this industry who were hired and respected for their talents and techniques may be eclipsed by follower counts in some spaces, but they will always have a place in the hearts of minds of those who truly “know.”
This is a strange and hard truth about our industry. Many who have paved the way can quickly be forgotten; easily eclipsed by the newest on the block. And I consider the role of some of the first black makeup artists to be one that is especially peculiar. In 2019 black artists are still greatly underrepresented in many areas of the makeup industry and black skin is still grossly unrepresented in cosmetic product offerings, so imagine the solitude in the lack of diversity or the frustration in the lack of product options in the 70’s and 80’s. To be an artist working in the highly coveted and notoriously exclusive spaces only achieved by a few or to work on people of color at those times and doing GOOD work speaks volumes of their skill and ability to “make do” to make up.
And so, in an effort to show due respect to the legendary black makeup artists who were the firsts in an industry that still regularly forgets or chooses to ignore black skin, I give you The Black Makeup Legend Series. Over the following weeks I will highlight over 10 black makeup artist who were among the first to establish successful careers as makeup artist.
Click HERE to read about our first legend, Joey Mills!