A Q&A With The Makeup Artist Determined To Bring Out Black Women’s Beauty

April 5, 2017  |  

Black models have stopped having to hide the fact that many times they are the ones who have to bring their own foundation to a photoshoot or touch up their faces after a makeup artist fails to properly match them. But of equal importance are the voices of those makeup artists who get it. Those who understand the undertones of dark skin, and realize skin tones don’t stop at caramel,and know what makeup to use so that lighting accentuates Black skin and doesn’t make it look discolored. Makeup artists like Ohio native Christopher Michael who is responsible for these beautiful images of model Kimberlyn Parris shot by Francesca Andre and Gustavo Torres.

Here, Michael tells us about his background, how he created this look, and what you need to know about breaking into the industry and beautifying Black women.

MadameNoire (MN): Tell us a little bit about your experience working in the industry.

Christopher Michael (CM): I’m an NYC transplant via Cleveland, Ohio, which is where I got my start in makeup as one of my electives in college, taking a Theater Makeup Course. I parlayed that into doing makeup for everyday women. I have been working in fashion and entertainment for a little over a decade, and have worked with countless celebrities such as Beyoncé, Naomi Campbell, Angela Simmons, Tyra Banks, Diahann Carroll and Kimora Lee Simmons to name a few.

MN: So many Black models have complained about makeup artists not knowing how to work with their skin. What are the dos and don’ts of applying makeup on African American skin?

CM: When it comes to Black models and their skin, I highly suggest studying undertones! Know that there are over 50 shades [of skin], research products, test them out to see if they turn to ash on dark skin, find shades that cover without oxidizing. Lots of times dark skin has several undertones so you have to be careful when selecting foundations.

MN: How can we recreate the look you created on Kimberlyn?

CM: To create Kimberlyn’s look I used a walnut foundation and evened out her skin. I then applied bronzer to warm her skin and give her a glow. I also applied bronze highlighter to make her skin more luminous. I then played with her eyes by applying a purple shimmer eyeshadow and encircled her eyes to add warmth and make them pop. Then I applied lashes and lots of mascara. I applied black eyeliner to her waterline to make her eyes more dramatic. Then I used a warm bronzer as blush and a soft, nudish lip to keep the focus on her eyes.

MN: When did you know this was your calling? 

CM: I knew this was my calling after my Theater Makeup class, when the teacher taught me the basics I would do women’s makeup for a whopping $25.00 and I got a following. I would look at fashion magazines and compare my work and I felt that I could do just as good if not better. So I moved to NYC and gave it try! I was here with a vengeance to succeed!

MN: What is it about the craft that keeps you going? 

CM: What I love about my craft is the countless women I come across and being able to present them with an enhanced version of themselves. Most people didn’t know they could look like what I create them to be.

MN: Any career advice for a novice? 

CM: My career advice for novices is to study, study, study, try to assist a seasoned artist whose work you admire, invest in your tools– brushes –it truly makes a difference. Also research products and constantly be willing to learn. When working with a celebrity, know you are there to enhance their beauty not change it! Celebrities usually have an image already and you are to stick to it. Know their image is a part of their livelihood. Know it’s not about you.


Photo: Francesca Andre/Gustavo Torres

Make up: Christopher Michael

Hair: Jamila Walrond

Model: Kimberlyn Parris

Wardrobe: Sophia Bonny 

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