Monday, 4 May 2009

In her Sacred City...

SHE has worked at all the main cosmetics counters in Selfridges, Harrods and Harvey Nichols. Joined the Estee Lauder Bureau, which is the in-house team of consultants of the Lauder Group of companies. Among the members of the group are Clinique, MAC and Bobby Brown. An okay timeline for an adult, a more than impressive one for the then teenage aspiring makeup artist. By the time she was 18, she was offered the chance to launch Iman Cosmetics in the UK as one of their main makeup artists on their flagship counter. In her free time, she was working non-stop as a freelance agent on countless photoshoots, catwalk shows, music videos, beauty pageants and also did some print/editorial work. Eight years later, Sacred City was birthed — a one-stop agency for makeup artists, hairdressers, photographers and stylists. meets its creator, LOLA MAJA, self confessed bad driver; average scrabble player; accomplished make-up artist and holistic therapist, a true African pioneer.

I owe it all to my mother. I grew up in a family full of women but I was a real tomboy. On my 13th birthday, she sat me down and told me I was now old enough to wear makeup. I’ve never looked back! I’ve always been in love with art; I studied painting, photography and digital editing. Makeup was just something that came naturally to me. I started working while I was about 15, while I was still at school and worked for beauty agencies throughout college and when I started university. I’ve taken several specialist courses but the majority of my learning has come from hands-on experience. I’ve worked with a lot of people who have spent time and money training to become professional makeup artistes, and while it is important to understand the technical side of makeup, the health and safety aspects and good practice skills, no one can teach you how to be artistic. Working in store gave me a good grounding in the industry. I was trained by several different companies constantly dealing face to face with clients, and whether they were Black, White, Oriental, Asian, male or female I learnt to perform makeup on them all. After about eight years, I decided to establish Sacred, which gave me a chance to allow new makeup artistes to get experience in the industry by training and also give them the chance to shadow me on jobs as I didn’t have these opportunities when I was starting out.
Do you ever plan on having your own make up line?
It’s become very popular for make-up artistes to have their own brand. I’ve considered this option and it’s not something that I’ll ever rule out entirely but I’ve been blessed to be sponsored and named Head Makeup Artist by a professional brand of cosmetics called Pr1mero (Pr1), which is so far only available to makeup artists. They specialise in custom blend makeup for all skin tones as well as having a full range of products, which are suitable for humid climates. They also carry a line of mineral makeup as well as fair trade natural products. I am, however, planning on having my own line under the Pr1 brand name. The range will soon be on general release to the public. So, watch this space. A lot of time and money goes into researching and producing top quality cosmetics. I would rather put my name on products, which have been made by dedicated specialists. Products which I have worked with, are tried and tested and have been put through stringent certification procedures to make sure that they are of the highest quality. I’m currently developing a range of professional makeup artist brushes and accessories. I’ve been frustrated over the years with the cost of good brushes, especially considering many of the top name brands aren’t even 100 per cent natural yet they carry a premium price tag just for the label.
What should we expect from Sacred-City in the near future?
We’re going to be traveling a lot more in the next year or so. Expanding further into the African market not just in makeup but also to promote Holistic Therapy for everyone — male, female, adults and children. We as Africans need to understand how our lifestyles and the food that we consume affect us as a whole. I’m working with a Pharmacist to develop a range of organic custom blended skin care to target specific individual’s skin conditions. The range will only be available after one to one consultations with a qualified therapist to ensure each product is truly personalised. I want to bring a fresh approach to the way we see makeup in our every day lives, for weddings and also in fashion in general. Helping to train Makeup Artists and Holistic Beauty Therapists. After all… Beauty is Sacred’
How do you see the make up industry in Africa?
Africans love makeup. Unfortunately there just simply isn’t a wide enough choice of products. In America brand name cosmetics have now realized what we’ve known for a long time, that there is big business in cosmetics for ethnic skin tones, and they are now developing colours and starting to incorporate darker shades into their lines. However this hasn’t quite crossed over the Atlantic. The problem is that there is so much variety in darker skin, it’s not as easy to develop foundations, powders or highly pigmented eye/lip shades which will stay on and compliment our skin tones. Base products either end up too red or without enough depth leaving the skin looking ashy/grey. Even in Europe you’re hard pressed to find a vast range of cosmetics for non Caucasian skins. If you need to buy a base product you’re restricted in your choice of brands, which are available on the market, but luckily for other items such as shadows, lipsticks and glosses the choices are nearly endless.
The fact that a lot of the major brands are simply not interested in expanding to Africa in general means that we simply don’t have the choice of products that we should. The African market is a totally different entity. We need cosmetics that 1) compliment us and 2) stay on in the heat. This is where the trouble lies and people end up applying too much to compensate. It’s not just makeup as such but cosmetics and skin care in general. As Africans we have to change our view of and relationship with the beauty industry. But this can only be done through education. We need more products available in stores with trained professionals, who can work with you to explore and create different looks. Makeup is not a one shade suits all type of thing. It’s very personal to each individual. You can change your whole image to suit the occasion whether it’s a corporate look, daytime casual or evening. We don’t always have to use the same colours in the same way. Experiment and have fun. After all, if it’s not working for you, you can always take it off!
There has been quite an uphill struggle to get the industry regulated and professionally recognised. In the past, working as a makeup artist in general wasn’t considered to be a real profession; thankfully times are changing with several well known artists now being highly respected. But we still have quite a way to go. Beauty and Fashion are so closely linked in the media. Africa as a whole is expanding and new magazines like Haute and cosmetics houses are being launched bringing in an influx of fresh ideas, reflecting modern women and the way we view ourselves. Photographers such as SubySinem and modeling agencies like Confidence Models are dedicated to the same principles. We have beautiful women who can compete on the international stage and designers such as Deola Sagoe and Oswald Boateng who can stand side by side with top names. We can show who we really are as Africans, sophisticated and imaginative. As we fall in love with ourselves again, the world will follow suit.
Lola is now an accredited member of the Perfume Studio — they create hand made personalised custom blended fragrances. Working with you to create a unique and individual scent which will then also be named by you. No two people will ever create the same blend.

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