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Edgy creativity in the art of makeup

Fashion and Beauty
 Edgy creativity in the art of makeup 

Art is limitless. Modern-day makeup artistes are using faces as canvases to create beautiful pieces that require precision and a high skill level just like other traditional artistes. Here are three women using their passion to stamp a mark in the world of makeup.

 Sinnita Akello


Sinnita Akello is a professional creative makeup artist based in Nairobi who has been doing makeup professionally since 2013. From working with Vogue magazine to starting her agency, Sinnita is redefining what we thought we knew about makeup and art.

“I have been doing makeup professionally for about 10 years. What inspired me was this blog I started called Captured Ego that showcases alternative African fashion and music,” says Sinnita.

She remembers the days when celebrated fashionistas and creatives Sharon Mundia and Joy Kendi were the leading bloggers but she did not want to do things differently.

She saw a callout by Suzy Beauty on Twitter when they were quite new, they were looking for interns so she responded and joined the team and that is how she got started.

“I am a little self-conscious and quite shy and did not want to be the one that was on camera. I would get girls and we would showcase different brands. I would do their hair and makeup, style them and then take photos. I realised through doing that makeup was what I enjoyed a lot and I decided to take that path,” says Sinnita.

Three things inspire Sinnita’s makeup style and signature look.

“The first is our heritage as African people. The second is I like to play around with mixed media material; I can go to a tree with thick bark and create a makeup look from that. Anything unconventional and nontraditional is what I like to play around with.

“The last is structure unless the brief calls for something specific. I am in my beads era; I like to use a lot of beads on the face like Maasai beads or from the French community and then I will create a look. So that is how I would describe my signature look,” says Sinnita. 

Staying creatively inspired is something artistes struggle with and Sinnita is no exception.

“As a creative when you are going through a creative slump and a client calls you for a creative brief, you have to deliver. As creatives and as humans, we do not know how connected we are so that is something that is bound to happen.

“Our ideas are not unique really, someone across the world could have the same idea as you but executed differently. Pinterest helps; sometimes if I have to deliver on a shoot and I do not have the luxury of time to let my brain think. Walking and being out in nature is inspiring. I call it my eye travelling so I might see a flower, a bird or some kind of leaf,” says Sinnita.

She adds, “I like to draw inspiration from something that is not makeup and transfer it into makeup, which makes it unique. A random inspiration is the shadows on people’s faces and bad makeup.

“I once saw a woman do her brows one day and she used eye shadow or something and did not blend it out and I was like that would make a perfect editorial look. Sometimes when I am having conversations with my friends I look at their faces and the way the shadow hits their eyes and then create graphic liners from the way the shadows appear on their eyes. The eyes have to travel; you use your eyes to see and get inspiration.”

When Sinnita came back from Kenya from England, she had to leave her brow person behind. She had to figure it out on her own.

“YouTube was not a big thing back then so no one was doing tutorials like that so I had to figure it out using eye shadow. So that was my beauty school,” says Sinnita.

Sinnita has had monumental moments throughout her career.

“I had an amazing opportunity to work for one of the biggest editorial publications in the world. I worked directly with the team from vogue.com, and I loved that. I was featured in the Cool Girl’s Guide to Nairobi so that was amazing and one of my proudest moments,” she says.

Sinnita has never shared this with anyone but in 2016, the person that inspired her to do makeup the way she does, Pat McGrath put out a competition. She would choose four people to join her backstage at the New York Fashion Week.

“I was one of the people who won! That was amazing, and I am gutted that I have never been able to share it with people. The people put on the competition but did not think about the logistics of everything. I never actually went but at least I can say that I won. It was amazing to be recognised by her, by my idol literally but I never actually went that is why I did not share about that,” she says.

Sinitta has also worked with the Nigerian clothing brand IAMISIGO.

“I wanted to work with the designer Bubu Ogisi for a long time and I finally got the chance to. I liked working with her, how her mind thinks, and how she lets you push the boundaries.

“The launch that we did I started calling it anti-makeup because it was so weird-inspired by the Fulani women who tattoo their lips black. I like working with people who allow me to go outside and be weird,” she says.

She is proud of starting a platform that promotes African-owned brands. She started an agency that hires makeup artistes and that was a big dream she had for a very long time and she is proud to have achieved that.

However, the business is not devoid of problems.

“There are things like not being taken seriously and people expecting you to do things for free. The business is challenging, especially in this climate but it is also about being able to be flexible and roll with the punches, manoeuvre, and pivot when you need to. As artistes, we have to justify the work we do and our compensation.”

Sinnita is grateful to people like Muthoni Njoba and Suzzie Wokabi because when they were starting it was not a job and they paved the way for makeup artistes to be what it is now.

“There is also this pet peeve of mine like being rushed on set. We are all a team and it is good to respect that everyone needs efficient time to do their job,” she says.

Her dream project is working with people who allow her to push the boundaries.

“My dream project would be to work on something creative. I like how weird and expressive FKA Twigs and Doja Cat are,” says Sinitta.

We ask Sinnita for beauty tips for both men and women, and she insists heavily on skincare.

“The thing is makeup consists of the features on your face and out of all those features your skin is the largest. For your makeup to sit well, you have to take care of your skin, man or woman. Whether men are doing makeup or not, skin care is important and they can start with getting a good moisturiser,” she says.

Sinnita enjoys the many skincare steps there are but for anyone not interested in all the steps, she recommends finding something to help clean and moisturise your skin.

As you get into it a little bit, Sinnita recommends getting something to protect from the sun. For women, she recommends they avoid microblading and just get themselves well-groomed.

 Tinashe Mwaniki


Tinashe Mwaniki is a self-taught makeup artist who specialises in creative SFX and glam makeup.

As a Computer Science graduate from Strathmore University, Tinashe’s work is more than a hobby and she is driven by pure passion and a drive to excel in the industry.

This is just the beginning for Tinashe and as she explores new avenues to let out her creativity, she continues to enhance her skills as she breathes life into the characters that she is tasked with creating. Tinashe has been doing makeup for six years.

“My interest in SFX makeup began during the quarantine year. We were backdoors for a long time, and there were all these TikTok trends with makeup artistes from around the world. I discovered this community of SFX, cosplay, and editorial artistes like Abby Roberts, MeMicrosoftnd Mimi Choi. I decided to challenge myself and do such looks, and that is when I discovered my love for creative makeup,” she says.

Tinashe says she learned most of her skills from YouTube and TikTok.

“When I gained interest in creative makeup during the Covid-19 pandemic, I was still in university studying computer science. I would do my looks in between breaks and learn new techniques depending on the look I was doing,” she says.

She adds, “The internet has many avenues and you discover a lot of things as you keep swiping. Learning and trying new things has also expanded my creative skills. I am starting to get into videography, both for my makeup look videos and short film concepts. Meeting new people with similar if not better interests than you keeps you creatively inspired too,” says Tinashe.

The beauty got cast and featured in the cast of an Airtel ad as a creative makeup artiste and it has been one of her proudest moments.

“It was amazing having a space to create my art on someone and have it featured in different countries around the world. I did the makeup look on the muse and everyone was pleased with the outcome. The whole experience was surreal and the networks gained from that space were unreal,” she says.

One of the biggest challenges Tinashe has faced as a freelance makeup artiste is maintaining a consistent income.

She does not have a physical studio for clients, and since she specialises in creative makeup, the clientele is seasonal (the highest number of clients during the Halloween season).

Her dream is to work in movies and films that have heavy SFX makeup. She would like to work with legends of SFX makeup artistes Robin Dick, and Keand Vin Yagher among others.

Tinashe describes her signature makeup looks that set her apart from other artistes as mainly creative makeup looks. She specialises in cosplay and special effects makeup.

“Most makeup artistes do glam everyday looks, but there are a few of us who are in the other art world of makeup,” she says.

If Tinashe was not a makeup artiste, she would probably have continued studying and become a web designer or a pathologist. She loves solving puzzles so she could be an investigator too.

 Christine Lando


Christine Lando is a 26-year-old body artist based in Nairobi. She has taken her love for makeup and her love for art and merged the two to create beautiful masterpieces. Her looks are bold and take 10 to 14 hours to complete!

She studied Molecular Biology at university but had no interest in continuing on the same path.

“I am a passion-driven person and I am usually only interested in investing my effort into things that ignite that fire in me. One way or another I would have found my way back to art. I cannot imagine myself doing anything else honestly,” she says.

Christine studied Art and Design in high school and she feels lucky the subject had been introduced just when she joined Buruburu Girls.

“That laid the foundation for me to be creating the art that I create right now. However, getting into body art and special effects makeup has been a self-taught process and I am still learning and embracing as I go,” says Christine.

“Growing up, I knew deep down that I wanted to pursue an artistic path. The problem was I never knew what niche I wanted to get into. While I was on campus, make-up tutorials had started becoming a thing and I had this feeling that is what I should be doing,” says Christine.

After a while, Christine started getting bored and was feeling unfulfilled. During the Covid-19 pandemic, she discovered the Netflix show Glow Up and her journey of makeup art began.

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