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  • Chelsea Abili

Where Art Meets Beauty: The Business of Makeup Beyond the Palette

What does it take to turn a blank face into a work of art? Is it creative artistry, facial structure, or the undeniable work of a skilled makeup artist? To feed my curiosity regarding the behind-the-scenes secrets of a successful makeup artist, Matchuela Mateus breaks down her journey to success in the industry. 

Working with the likes of Jordyn Woods, Ashanti, and Mel B, Matchuela tells me, “Music videos and art played a pivotal role in my love for makeup. From young, focusing on the visuals on the big screen and seeing beautiful women in music videos led to my desire to work in the industry.” 

She tells me that the enjoyment of studying GCSE art at school helped feed into her interest to eventually work in the creative space, whether that be in fashion or makeup. “There’s space for both, and I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to work in a field that allows me to succeed in all of my hobbies and passions.”

Diving deep into visual artistry, Matchuela spent her time studying portraits that she deemed worthy of her attention, which would generate an ability to marvel at minor details. “I became obsessed with all things art, whether that be audio, video or visual. I often watched YouTube videos which pushed me further to wanting to learn more about makeup, there were so many black women on YouTube at this point this was my driving force. It made me think to myself…’I want to be a part of this life, too.’”

Matchuela describes her signature makeup style as ‘clean girl glam’, referring to the recent increase of the ‘soft glam’ style as a statement of makeup that’ll “be around for a significant period of time” when asked about her predictions for the future of the industry.

 She values natural beauty as a form of relevance to the philosophy of makeup as a whole, believing that individualistic expression is still a form of art, and there shouldn’t be a significant change within the ‘product’, to which she refers to as the blank canvas of her client’s facial features. “Change can only be done from within. I prefer to work with what I’ve got and use my skills to enhance rather than change.”

“You don’t need to do too much girls, you’re already beautiful.”

We dive into a discussion regarding the concept of natural beauty and believe that every individual is responsible for how they view themselves, and the desire for cosmetic surgery or beauty treatment is up to the individual themselves - “It’s each to their own choices.” 

The main aspect is the driving force for physical change. Every person should ask themselves, ‘Is it social media that’s making me self-conscious, or did I come to this conclusion by myself?’

As long as the intentions are clear, there’s always a green light. 

Matchuela’s profession as a freelance artist comes with many challenges, as she explains her routine being “incredibly hectic”, but she wouldn’t change it for the world. Her day revolves around managerial calls with her team to discuss clientele, shoots and weekly schedules, which often include the process of travelling around the world. 

“Social Media anxiety is real.” Matchuela mentions her discussion with her team about the possibility of having scheduled posts, but the worry that comes with this structured mediated lifestyle can be “emotionally draining.”

Working hand in hand with Courtney, her close friend, who also partakes in her photography shoots as the Creative Director, she mentions how grateful she is to be working with people who are close to her, as “not everybody has that privilege.”

When asked about the most positive aspect of her career, Matchuela smiles, revealing that “It’s the moment I put down my brush, and the work is complete. I get to visually see the client view my creation, and the smile that comes on their face leads to the most exciting feeling that I experience in my job.”

When it comes to technique, makeup requires specific movements on the brush that lead to perfect outcomes. It helps to tell a client's visual story and adds significant structural focus to the stylistic qualities that are being revealed by the artist's hand. Makeup is individualistic. Makeup is exhilarating, confidence-boosting, and effective with its unique ability to transform an individual's self-identity, reinventing someone into whoever they want to be.

There’s a powerful force in the energy within makeup. 

Therefore, the artist holds a profound amount of responsibility, with the outcome of the visual artistry being a weight on their shoulders as they perform on the client’s face.

“My clients give me free rein of my creative art. I think that’s why it’s important to build trust within your workspace. Depending if I’m working independently with a client or if I’m working on a specific shoot, I occasionally create mood boards to replicate my client’s typical aesthetic, but that’s usually it.”

Matchuela refers to bronzer as her believed required product for every person’s face if they wish to unlock the most effective visible appeal using makeup tools. 

“It was inevitable that I would be here”, Matchuela smiles. “Hard work and self-belief never go unnoticed, no matter what industry you’re trying to excel in. I’ve always wanted to be in the creative space. I always knew that I would get here - I just never knew how.”

Graduating from the University of Huddersfield with a degree in Fashion Marketing, Matchuela mentions having SEN. “It was extremely hard, but I’m glad I got through it because it did play a significant role in the position that I’m in today. I wouldn’t have gotten here without that stepping stone so I’m glad that I didn’t allow anything to hold me back, but always strived forward to succeed in the most profitable way that I could, and I’m still living life with that mindset. It’s the only thing that you can do. Rather than dwell in unfortunate circumstances, it’s important to rise and to realise that you’re just as capable as anyone else.”

She values the art of working individually with a client because it leads to intimacy and the foundation of trust being met between a client and herself, which allows her to have a deeper, more knowledgeable understanding of her clientele, and that eventually works in her favour for future bookings. 

“Often, in this industry, you have to be prepared to be patient because things take a very long time to be produced, and not everyone will believe in you until you have a breakthrough. And even then, not everyone will believe in you.” Matchuela opens up about the struggles of working independently and the hardships that a profession in makeup can entail.

“Until you have something to show for yourself, people will continue to undermine you. There are a lot of people who question what I do. And working freelance requires the ability to consistently keep up with the makeup trends, and ensure that I’m not being repetitive or failing to keep up with the times.”

Being an ethnic minority, Matchuela understands the barriers that come with attempting to have a breakthrough in such a saturated industry. “You have to learn to not care and to use your ethnicity as a stepping stone rather than a drawback. You need to have a vision, and stick to it, with consistent passion.”

She mentions that reaching out to influencers in London, without limiting herself to Leeds as her only city with clientele, which she where she currently resides, added to her success in the industry. Seeing the potential in the larger cities, she quickly took to building her brand base and portfolio by collaborating with creatives in the greater city of London, as she discovered a way to market herself. Focusing on studying recent trends, Matchuela took it upon herself to implement those features into the work of her clients, while also placing her individualistic spin on her creations. 

“In the next 10 years. I see myself as happy, breathing, and continuing to do what I love. I’ll probably outgrow Leeds, and move to another city. All I want to do is to see my people shine, and continue to highlight the beauty within all the black men and women all over the world!”

When asked to give any advice to aspiring makeup artists, Matchuela says that you should “Never be afraid to invest in your business, because nobody is going to care more about the work of your craft than you. Stick at it, stay consistent. Even when everything else is crumbling down, the business cannot be a part of that. Never mix your paper and your personal life - keep them separate at all times. If you are consistent, things will always work out.”

Matchuela currently teaches makeup through her online course and enjoys the process of engaging with her students online and building rapport with those around her. 

When asked what her biggest achievement is so far in her career, Matchuela smiles. “Surviving. Just surviving, because every day is like a battlefield.”

Her simplistic, straightforward approach to life is amplified through her dedication, drive and desire to succeed in her craft.

She believes that for the industry as a whole to move forward, and to eliminate discrimination in the makeup world, social media needs to use its platform for the improvement of individualistic acceptance.

“Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner need to put it on their Instagram and then everything will change - these mega-star influencers need to capitalise on the power that they’ve been so given, and use it for the promotion of inclusivity in the world.”

Words by: Chelsea Abili


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