Black Make Up Legends – Vanessa Evelyn

by michela wariebi

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.


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.


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.