Light. Colour. Shadow. This is how Kangai Mwiti wants you to perceive make-up. In her six-minute videos on YouTube, applying make-up has never been made so simple. Using models, she display the products, tools needed and techniques of application.
Her light videos demonstrated how to apply foundation and other skin preparation techniques, the colour show how to play with bright and colourful make-up while the shadow show how to create smoky, sexy looks.
It was natural for her to have a YouTube channel after all she is a self-taught make-up artist who spent (and still spends) countless hours on the site everyday watching and learning from other make-up artists.
With more than 1.3 million views so far, Bellesa Africa — bellesa means ‘beautiful’ in the Catalan language named for its origins in north-eastern Spain — is her YouTube channel that made its debut in mid-2012.
She posts about eight videos per month for her 37,000 subscribers.
“I wanted to do something more with make-up. I wanted my impact to be greater than just doing make-up on a client who would wash it off in the evening. For a long time I have been watching YouTube videos and I thought that I could do it myself. I actually wanted to begin in 2008 but I didn’t believe I was good enough yet. Four years later, I realised I would never get good enough — I needed to just start,” says Mwiti.
Her first make-up tutorial video was with a project called Stingo, a group of creative friends of fashion and photography. The model was Brenda Wairimu, an actress. This gave her the motivation to continue doing more.
Mwiti’s love for make-up started while she was in high school abroad, where she experimented on herself. Her mother helped her put together her first professional make-up kit so it is no wonder her biggest motivator is her family.
“I want to be the best so that I can make them proud.”
When she came back to Kenya in 2007, some of her friends encouraged her to get more involved in make-up.
Then early 2008, a friend approached her to do the make-up in what was going to be a professional shoot for her album cover. Since then she has never looked back and has travelled internationally as an artist.
“The best shoots I have worked on are those where there is no process, where I’m given the freedom to do whatever I want. And I strive to fill my time with these sorts of shoots,” she says.
Currently, most of her work is in advertising, bridal and Bellesa Africa. Her dream is to one day work on the set of an epic film, free to be as creative as she wants to be.
To be good at her job, she has learnt to patiently understand the needs of a client.
“There is a misconception that bridal make-up should be demure, pretty and girlish,” she says.
“Surprisingly, many brides want to look memorable on their wedding day. They want bright and vibrant colours, especially when it comes to eyeshadow so I take it all in stride. There is one bride who used orange, blue and pink.”
Techniques? She says that is a hard question. “There are so many! I guess what I’m most known for is shaping eyebrows, which takes a lot of practice.
Other techniques that I frequent are creating contours and shapes that weren’t there before, creating dimension on the face, blending eyeshadows and so on.”
With the Bellesa Africa videos, she can be as creative as she wants but still has to listen to what the audience wants and try to recreate that.
The feedback has been positive as photographers and make-up artists all around the world send her emails that through her videos they have found make-up brands that cater to women of colour like Black Opal.
She also shares a few tips on how to avoid counterfeits, looking at the price with respect to the brand.
“What I like most about being a make-up artist is the fact that I don’t have to follow a set process to produce the end result. Being held to one way of doing things can be quite stifling,” says Mwiti.
“And being a make-up artist releases me from that expectation. It’s been a long journey getting to this point.”