The makeup and beauty industry in general is really evolving. Now more than ever, we are seeing more Males joining the beauty industry as stylists, brand ambassadors to makeup brands, makeup artists etc.
At just 23 years of age, Dennis Karuri is on the rise to becoming a prolific and much sort after Makeup Artist (MUA) from Nairobi. This self-taught MUA studied Agribusiness in University but it is makeup that stole his heart. “Although I studied Agribusiness, I was always interested in fashion. I actually started out modelling and did a few runway shows, commercial photo-shoots among other gigs. During these events, they would apply makeup on us quite often and that’s where I would say I discovered my passion for Makeup Artistry.”
Dennis Karuri is not only incredibly talented but also outspoken, lovable and has an infectious laugh. A typical sanguine if I do say so myself. I sat down with ‘The Boy With A Few Blending Brushes’ in a bid to learn more about him and his line of work as well as pick up some new makeup tips and tricks.
How would you describe your makeup style, Dennis Karuri, and what is your favorite cosmetic product?
I think I would describe it as extra! By extra I don’t necessarily mean using lots of product. I always seek to incorporate a pop of something extra into my makeup looks. It can be extra-long lashes, a super long liner or bold lips. As for my favorite cosmetic product, it has to be mascara…I am obsessed with it. Anytime I am wearing mascara I’m just living!
How do you prepare different skin types before applying make-up?
Preparing the skin for makeup is very important. In fact, it’s the secret to a flawless makeup application. For a client with dry skin, I always start by asking if they have applied any product on their face. If they haven’t moisturized, I like using petroleum jelly. Its super moisturizing, locks in moisture for the longest time and the best part; a little bit goes a long way. For oily skin, I don’t use petroleum jelly. If the client hasn’t applied anything on their face, all I do is apply a sunscreen first followed by a primer.
If the client wants their makeup to be matte, I will apply a mattifying primer. However, if they are going for a dewy look, I just spray their face with a spraying primer that I use from M.A.C.
What are the top 5 things you always use from your makeup kit?
Oh that’s easy!
Concealer: I never miss concealer…I can work with concealer alone without using foundation.
Contour Kit: This is a must have! Whenever your foundation doesn’t match your skin well, contouring is a great hack.
Then of course there is mascara, lip gloss and compact powders. I love compact powders because they are well pigmented. Therefore you can apply minimal foundation, then go in with a compact powder for that really nice finish.
Name your biggest makeup pet peeve?
Unblended foundation! This one just irks me; oh and bad eyebrows. If you can’t take the time to blend your foundation or fill in your brows well, you are better off just doing mascara and a simple lip gloss.
Have you ever been asked by a client to do a makeup style that was unsuitable for them? How did you handle that?
Yes that happens often but what I do is, I quietly just work my magic and ask them to take a selfie. Cameras and makeup bond very well. When you take a picture, you are able to see how the actual makeup look turns out. Now granted, I cannot make you look like Kim Kardashian but if you show me an Image of the look you are going for, I try my best to deliver just that. However, if I feel the look is unsuitable, then I will advise accordingly and go for a different look.
What fascinates you about this line of work?
I love that there are no limits when it comes to makeup. Makeup is art and it’s limitless: you can go from chill to creative with just a few tweaks. I also love the fact that makeup is not gender specific. It suits/fits all.
If you weren’t a makeup artist, what would you be doing?
I would be a dancer. An entertainer; my passion is in entertainment, fashion and glam.
Who are the people that serve as inspiration to you locally?
I literally just met one, and we actually worked together her name is Nallah Sangare. I also love Steve Koby, Njanja and of course Muthoni Njoba. There’s a lot more people that serve as inspiration to me and that I would love to meet and work with in the future but these are the main ones.
If you could work with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Beyoncé! I would love to work as her makeup artist. She has made it in the entertainment industry and entertainment is what gives me life! I actually follow Sir John her MUA; I admire his work.
What has been your proudest moment as a makeup artist?
Well… I have a couple. Meeting my mentors is one. I have also had the opportunity to represent brands as well as being a lead Makeup Artist for runways. I was also a judge at ‘Madora’s Got Talent’ competition (that was huge for me). Considering I have not been in the Industry for a long time, the fact that brands reach out to me for PR is something I consider a proud moment and I am extremely grateful.
Let’s talk money and earning income as a makeup artist in Kenya.
When I was starting off I was very lenient when it came to payment. I would just take what I was offered. With time though, I have learned quite a lot. I started off with upgrading my makeup kit with quality products…that has played a key role to my rate card.
Nowadays, I don’t compromise! Whenever I give a client my rate card and perhaps they feel its way above their budget, I just refer them to another MUA who is just as capable and can work within the given budget. At the end of the day, this is my business. It’s what I do for a living and to be honest, quality makeup products are not cheap!
In your opinion, do men have the right to wear makeup?
Men have all the right to wear makeup. Makeup is not just about how you look, there is an extra boost of confidence that it gives. For the men that are a bit apprehensive about it, there is the ‘masculine’ kind of makeup. That’s makeup that is barely visible; like what male news anchors usually have on.
Is there any stigma associated with being a male MUA?
Yes there is. First of all there is the stereotype of your sexuality. Also, makeup is not viewed as a ‘proper’ career. It is not considered your typical technical/manual job that a man should be doing. Neither is it considered as a career that can make one rich. There are people that look down upon Male Makeup Artists, perhaps doubting our capability to provide for ourselves and our families through such a career.
What would you like to see grow/change/happen in the makeup and beauty industry in Kenya?
I would really like to see our skill level grow. I often look at MUA in other Countries and they have really mastered their craft. If our skill level improves, even the appreciation of Makeup as a career in Kenya will improve. We have plenty of talented Artists in our Country, we just need to refine our skill more in order to be up to par with the global beauty industry. If we can master that, I believe we can get to a point where we can be able to live comfortably off our craft.
What’s next for Dennis Karuri?
Well I really want to go BIG! I want to have a pop in ‘Makeup hub’ where it’s just strictly makeup; you can just quickly pop in for a face beat then leave. Something that will be super convenient and I want to hire strictly Male Makeup Artists. “I want to break that stigma associated with being a Male MUA. We have so many talented Male artists but I feel like they lack the confidence to practice their craft. A Makeup Hub with an all-Male staff would be just perfect.”
Who would you like us to interview next?
I think you should Interview Shiku Mwangi. “She is the one who encouraged me to start modelling and she is the one that got me my first Makeup gig.” Also you could interview Mokeira Oyaro; she is Muthoni Drummer Queen’s MUA.
Check out ‘The Art Of Beauty | Makeup Art by Sinitta Akello’ here
Media courtesy of Dennis Karuri’s Instagram.