Michela is Zooting

A beauty & lifestyle blog by creative Michela Wariebi

Month: March, 2019

Black Makeup Legends – Reggie Wells

There’s currently a renaissance of sorts happening that encourages people to follow their dreams and passions.  There is undoubtedly an uptick in people choosing to abandon the status quo and to pursue the things that truly bring them joy. But imagine doing something so daring and vulnerable at a time when society readily embraced conformity, ESPECIALLY in black men.  Enter Reggie Wells, a makeup artist’s dream personified; an artist willing to take the chance of pursing his dreams at a time when every odd was up against him.

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Wells has always had an interest in art, earning a Masters in Art Education and subsequently teaching art in the Baltimore Public Schools from 1968 to 1976.  In 1976 Wells chose to leave his teaching career behind and moved to NYC to take his chances at becoming a makeup artist. Upon arrival in NYC he found employment at several makeup counters and that laid the foundation for the true start of Wells’ career. At the counters he was able to hone his skills as a makeup artist by working on the everyday woman on a daily basis.  The counters were also where he came into the radar of a fashion editor who gave him is first opportunity at print work!

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Wells’ work can be seen in Glamour, O magazine, Life and Harper’s Bazaar, but his true legacy in print began with the work that he did with Ebony and then fledgling magazine, Essence. In the 1970s and 1980s, he became a go-to artist for publications whose readership was primarily black women. His work was present throughout the pages of Essence magazine regularly and he amassed an impressive 100 covers with the publication.  The first of these covers was in 1986 and it featured Oprah Winfrey.  This was also her first cover for the magazine. Talk about, historic.

The outstanding work produced during his 30 year career gave Wells the opportunity to work with the likes of Lauryn Hill, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Beyonce, Anita Baker, Michelle Obama, Robin Givens, and Lauryn Hill.  He is credited with being a key makeup artist for Hill’s iconic “Doo Wop” music video. He was also the makeup artist for Givens’ marriage to boxer Mike Tyson. Wells’ impressive list of celebrity clientele includes the names of some of the most iconic black women during the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s.  The most remarkable of these client relationships is the approximately 21 years of service that Wells provided to media mogul, Oprah Winfrey.

 

 

After doing her first Essence cover in 1986, Wells began working regularly with Winfrey in 1989 and relocated to Chicago in 1990 to be her full-time makeup artist. During his time with Winfrey he amassed a remarkable 142 covers of O Magazine and was regularly called upon to share his makeup expertise on the Oprah Winfrey Show.  Wells also won an Emmy for Outstanding makeup for his work on the show and was subsequently nominated 3 additional times 2003, 2004, 2005.

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Wells was able to craft a remarkable career during a time where things were anything bust easy for a black creative.   Can you imagine the struggle of finding a suitable range of products for women of color during his time at Essence?  Well, he made do to makeup.  He is known for saying that in the past he had to concoct his own foundation formulas and shades because the range for his clientele just wasn’t available.

Reggie Wells was indeed one of the first makeup artists in celebrity and print to specialize in women of color and for that alone he must be remembered.  He chose to specialize in making US look beautiful when most didn’t know how to approach painting our skin. He is a part of our history having touched the faces of so many of those we admire and even the faces of models who would in turn become makeup legends themselves. His influence is undeniable. His daring to pursue a dream and achieving just that paved the way for all of us currently working in these spaces.  And for that, we are thankful.

 

 

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Black Make Up Legends – Bernadine Anderson

When we speak of the history of professional makeup artistry, we must speak of Bernadine Anderson. A legend by all definitions, she specialized in makeup for film and some of her work was essential to several of our favorite cult classic films.  She is undoubtedly a part of our history for anyone in the industry. The fight that she fought to make a space for herself, made a space for all women and specifically black women in film.

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Anderson’s career barely spanned 20 years, but she accomplished much during her time as a professional artist. She was the first woman and the first black woman to gain membership in the IATSE Local 706 Make-Up Artist & Hairstylist Guild.  With a strong desire to work in the film industry she made multiple attempts to find opportunities in that space but was repeatedly denied because of her race.  Frustrated, but determined, she filed a class action lawsuit against the union and won.  Her tenacity and insistence on being recognized set a precedent that not only had a moral obligation, but also a legal one.

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Another prestigious milestone of Anderson’s career was a 3-year makeup apprenticeship with iconic tv/film studios, Warner Bros. Interestingly enough, that was the last makeup internship ever offered by the studio. That time at WB fortified her with the skills that would lead to her being a highly sought after personal artist for celebrities working in film including icon, Cicely Tyson. Not only did she do makeup on the main talent, but she also used her skill set, which included prosthetic work, to make stunt doubles and triples look like the primary actor/actress.

That work brought Anderson’s artistry to the attention of then “it girl,” Jane Fonda. Fonda personally requested Anderson to be her artist and that connection and relationship subsequently lasted for 8 years with Anderson working as Fonda’s personal artist on 10 films throughout the early to mid 70’s.  During this time, she also slightly dabbled in makeup for blaxploitation films, “Trouble Man,” independent films centered on telling black stories, “Black Girl” and print publications.

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After Jane Fonda, Anderson began to work with Eddie Murphy as his personal makeup artist. This relationship with Eddie Murphy led to her working as a makeup artist on some of our favorite films featuring Murphy.  She was the Head Make Up Artist for “Coming to America,” the Make Up Department Supervisor for “Vampire on Brooklyn” and the Personal Artist for Eddie Murphy in Boomerang.

Even with such an important place in the history of makeup there is limited information about Anderson online. Though her career happened before the age of information, there should be more evidence of her existence in the industry. Click below to see a clip of Anderson herself chatting about her career.

Let’s hope to be inspired by the boldness that Bernadine Anderson showed in insisting that she had a right to be in spaces, where woman and black artists were told they did not belong.  We should be thankful for her commitment to the craft and we are certainly grateful for the recognition that she has gained due to her historic work.  Anderson’s original makeup kit can now be viewed at the National African American History Museum.

Black Make Up Legends – Vanessa Evelyn

Have you ever heard the name Vanessa Evelyn? How about Petra Alexandra?  Somewhat of a living legend with those who are aware of her existence and a bit of a mythical creature to those who don’t know much, she is part performance artist, part makeup artist, part educator, part brow expert, part creative director, part genius, and 100% unique.  

Ms. Evelyn as she demands to be called, began her career in the early 90’s and continued well into the 00’s, with her specializing in fashion/editorial and celebrity makeup.  She is an undeniable talent and though not a household name, she is definitely worth the acknowledgement by the industry at large.

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The trajectory of Ms. Evelyn’s career was rather remarkable.  She entered the industry as a model and had some success in that arena, but her true talent came to light when she began pursuing makeup artistry.  Within 6 months of working on building a portfolio, she was given the opportunity to do makeup on rock icon Iggy Pop shot by David Simms for Sunday Times.  Sims was then integral in using his influence to help Evelyn sign with top artist agency, Streeters NY.

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Over the next decade, Evelyn became an integral part of music, sports, film, and pop-culture, with her providing makeup for some of the most iconic celebrities of the time. Her list of celebrity clients is nothing short of impressive and includes, but certainly isn’t limited to Tupac Shakur, Rosa Parks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sting, Prince, Seal, Viola Davis, Misty Copeland, Serena Williams, Etta James, Benn Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Kate Beckinsale, Lena Waithe, Moragan Freeman, Tyra Banks, John Galliano and more. Her editorial credits are equally as impressive with her work appearing in publications such as Italian vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair, O Mag, Essence, I-D, Marie Claire, Instyle, Esquire and British Elle.

10 years after being signed with Streeters, Evelyn stepped into a new chapter as an educator, launching educational offerings to makeup artists through Petra Alexandra, Inc. Over time she built a reputation in the industry as a precision brow expert and a master of skin and color which attracted artists like Valente Frazier and Sophie Ono to seek her tutelage.

One of the things that really distinguishes Ms. Evelyn from the crowd are her unconventional methods used in her artistry.  She is known for her unusual tools including rolling pins, neck braces and gardening tools of all varieties.  Her unconventional methods are also worth noting especially her controversial, “blow job” powder application technique.  And this in part is why she can be considered a performance artist of sorts because there is an element of “show” to how she executes her work. Click the photos below to see video of some of Ms. Evelyn, techniques.

 

You cannot witness Vanessa Evelyn do makeup and not be impressed to believe that she is an expert of all things makeup artistry. She undoubtedly has an artistic mind and sees the world through a lens that most do not.  Here’s to hoping that the world is lucky enough to receive more of her gifts.