Student makeup artists illuminate Champaign-Urbana


Photos Courtesy of Zainabu Lawal, Ifeoma Onyeka and Jaelin Kenner

University seniors, clockwise from top left, Zainabu Lawal, Ifeoma Onyeka and Jaelin Kenner launched their makeup careers thanks to the encouragement of their friends to put their work on social media. Onyeka and Lawal went from doing makeup in their dorm rooms to taking clients.

By Brielle Scullark, Staff Writer

Seniors Ifeoma Onyeka in LAS and Zainabu Lawal in AHS both started their makeup artist careers out of their college dorm rooms. If it weren’t for a push from their friends to share their work, they may not be where they are today.

Onyeka started doing her own makeup in seventh grade, but only the basic mascara and lip gloss that almost every preteen was doing. When she got into high school, she started practicing on friends.

Her freshman year of college, Onyeka did makeup causally in her dorm for $5-10, but after being pushed by her friend to create a website and Instagram for her work, her makeup career started to really pick up.

“When I got to college, people told me I should do makeup and have a website and Instagram so they could see my pictures,” Onyeka said. “From there I just started getting lots of clients and kept getting better and better.”

After her Instagram page started to gain traffic, she then created an Acuity scheduling page where clients are able to book appointments. From there, her business expanded from her little dorm room in Champaign to doing makeup for photoshoots for influential people in Chicago.

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Lawal has a similar origin story. She was also encouraged by her loved ones to showcase her makeup skills.

“My friend and cousin really pushed me to create an Instagram page (zeez_touch),” Lawal said. “Many people wanted me to start doing makeup on them, and they said they wanted to pay me to do it. I stepped out of my comfort zone and started taking clients.”

Lawal’s interest in makeup was awakened by watching YouTube makeup tutorials. She practiced heavily on eyeshadow at first, and then everything started to come together soon after.

“This year was a great pop-off year for me,” Lawal said. “I’ve gotten many clients and people that would come back for another makeup appointment. I take each client as a learning experience because everyone doesn’t have the same face, so it definitely made it different for me. I hope my business will continue to grow and develop into something bigger.”

Over the years of practice and perfecting, Lawal and Onyeka’s makeup skills have improved tremendously, but they both admit they are still growing.

Lawal and Onyeka both agree doing makeup on their clients is totally different than doing it on themselves.

“Everyone has different skin shades, undertones and textures,” Lawal said. “Everyone has different eyelids and shapes. What I might be able to do on myself might not work for one of my clients.”

Onyeka uses more universal products on her clients that would work well for everyone, but she uses products that cater specifically to her skin.

Jaelin Kenner, senior in AHS, is another makeup artist on campus. Doing makeup on other faces has actually strengthened her makeup skills because she has to think more about what works and what doesn’t work for her clients versus already knowing what products work for her.

“Doing makeup on other people is a lot more fun to me,” Kenner said. “Being able to practice and grow by working on other complexions other than my own challenges me and helps me grow in my work. When doing others’ makeup, I have to pay attention to skin type and plan ahead sometimes … wWhen I do my own makeup, it comes more natural, and I don’t have to think much about what my next step is or what color should I use to conceal my face.”

Communication with clients is a top priority. If a client comes with a makeup inspiration picture that doesn’t suit their eyes, face shape, or skin tone, makeup artists need to address the situation properly.

“The picture they might have might be someone with a lot of lid space,” Onyeka said. “I just let them know beforehand that, ‘your eye shape is different for that person’s eye shape.’ Even if they don’t understand that their eye shapes and faces shapes are different, I still try my hardest to give them the closest result anyway.”

Cleanliness is another important aspect in makeup artistry. Onyeka stresses the importance of having clean tools for each client.

“Now, even though I’m still growing and I’m still learning, my work is more clean and neat, more sanitary,” Onyeka said. “I have learned a lot about what you should and shouldn’t do … Always have clean brushes. Never use the same mascara wand on each client and the same goes for lips.”

But before the makeup comes the skin. Skin care is key to having a flawless makeup application.

“Skincare is very important,” Lawal said. “A lot of people neglect this part and wonder why their makeup doesn’t come out the way they want it to. A great makeup look starts off with a nice face.”

Onyeka recommends a simple skincare regimen. She said individuals should wash their faces with a good face cleanser for a full 60 seconds and top it off with a nice moisturizer.

The artists all share an array of favorite brands they love, from budget-friendly to high-end.

Lawal tends to use more budget-friendly products. Her experience working at Ulta has opened the door for more products she can use.

Lawal and Onyeka both mentioned their love for brands such as NYX, MAC, Maybelline and Nars.

The future for these artists is brighter than the best highlight on the market. They all see their makeup careers extending farther than the college campus.

Onyeka is already in a makeup group created by professional makeup artist Tiyana Robinson, who specializes in makeup for women of color. She wants to be a personal makeup artist and open up a studio that offers all beauty services.

For Kenner, makeup is more than just what is sounds.

“Makeup is self-expression, art and something used to enhance the facial features,” Kenner said. “Many people often slander makeup, but being able to do makeup is actually a gift that does make people happy and helps people in several ways.”

In the future, she wants to create a mentoring program for both men and women, young and old, that aids them in their makeup careers.

Lawal wants to host classes for makeup newbies who don’t know where to start.

“My goal is to make sure everyone has fun with makeup and get answers to all the questions they have,” Lawal said.

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