Five years ago, I was a fresh graduate of mechanical engineering who was thrilled by the world of beauty and makeup artistry; a delta boy, who schooled in the East had landed for NYSC camp in Lagos by virtue of a friend’s fiancé who happened to be a government official. So far, I had succeeded in making my parents and entire family proud by studying a “prestigious course”. One of my uncles had links with DESOPADEC and was eagerly waiting to offer me a job. He even dashed me 100k for my NYSC trip, perhaps to give me a glimpse of what awaited me. My friends in camp urged me to join the application queue to multinationals and A-list companies, I got job offers from banks, shell, and NNPC, but I had made up my mind; enough of doing things for people, it was time to pursue that which set my soul on fire – beauty and makeup!
At that time and till date, I have had no formal training in the field, I had to learn on the go. I had picked up a few experiences in school by fire and by force (lol) but that was all I was armed with. First, I had a childhood friend in the same University called Jite who I thought was very pretty and would make a good model but she was a tomboy so I took it upon myself to teach her (hahaha…what did I know, right?) Anyway, I did her makeup every time I got the chance, taught her to catwalk in high heels, and encouraged her to tow the modelling path. Today, she’s a top model, residing in South Africa and we’re discussing on how to expand my business to that region, talk about small beginnings! I also had a friend who had a modelling agency called “Blazing Models,” so I joined him as a makeup artist while I was in school, I didn’t know much, but whenever they complained about my work, I would say it’s the models who were not smiling well (hahaha)… I believed and still believe so much in myself, that’s one thing that has really helped in bringing me this far.
Another friend of mine was an organiser of beauty pageants in DELSU, I always hung around and helped out so when the opportunity came through a neighbour of mine, I quickly claimed that I was a makeup artist and was brought on board to do the make up for a movie that featured Oge Okoye, Chioma Chukwuka and Pete Edochie, can’t exactly remember the name now but it was something about love (as usual…lol), I think I was paid about 5k for that job. Back in NYSC camp, a lady came to conduct a skill acquisition session and afterwards asked for people who would love to work with her, I raised my hands and got selected and that’s how I got my PPA. I also won awards as the NYSC idol and best parade commandant in camp, I only took the plaque and left the fridge and cash to my platoon leader who later turned out to be my LI so it was automatic upgrade to the status of “Executive Corper” (hahaha) with no issues with travelling and signing rules.
When I got out of camp, it was time to face the real world, I called my uncle who I had pre-informed that I was coming to Lagos but his number wasn’t going through. I had to squat somewhere in Surulere with a friend who lived with the owner of a restaurant while I worked with the skill acquisition centre at Ikeja. , I was thrilled by what I saw when I got to their studio, of course, I was a makeup artist but mehn, this was another level. I told the lady in charge to show me how she does her own makeup so that whatever I do will be in sync with what they already do and I watched and crammed her every step (I no fit fall my hand, abeg). By the time I was give the stage, everybody was wowed at my work and I resumed. Guess what my job was – training people on makeup artistry especially corp members, hundreds of them. The pay was okay but wasn’t enough considering transportation and entirely fending for myself. A few weeks down the line, the person I lived with wanted me to manage the restaurant business so I was going to leave the skill acquisition centre but my boss had taken a liking to me and discussed with her husband to give me a room to stay in the training complex to convince me to stay back, which I did, that’s how my new career started.
I didn’t stop there, this was good but I wanted more, I really aspired to make up top celebrities so while I improved myself with online videos, magazines and TV programmes, I kept telling people to link me up with big time celebrity makeup artists, that’s where I had my eyes all the while. A friend, Nkechi Ukpaka eventually introduced me to David Sucre at MUD. The first time I met him at MUD Studio, he asked me to make someone up so he’d see my work because there was a wedding magazine project coming up soon. By the time I finished, he kept asking if I was done, I said yes, then the guy took the stage and did the most flawlessly excellent job I had ever seen in a very short time. I was wowed, sad and angry at myself because it was clear that I had not even started, I even shed tears but he encouraged me and told me that my humility and willingness to learn would distinguish me. We did the magazine job and some other celebrity makeup jobs together. I was getting much better with my skills and speed by the day.
In course of my NYSC year, a friend came to live with me in my room at the skill acquisition centre but this didn’t go down too well with the owner of the place so she asked us to move out, we moved and started squatting from place to place. A family in one compound I squatted at Allen, Ikeja eventually decided to take us in because they noticed I was nice to their kids, we slept in the parlour but at least we had a roof over our heads. By the time I passed out in 2012, the mother of the home also linked me up with Blackup and this became a major stepping stone for me. This was about the time I lost my uncle. When I got to Blackup, it didn’t take long before I was made the lead (and highest paid) makeup artist. I also got through to my uncle after a while and he apologised and said he was out of the country, I lived with him temporarily but his wife wasn’t too receptive towards me so he gave me some money to rent my own place and had asked me to find out what I would need to set up my business and be comfortable. Unfortunately, he died in the Dana crash, it was so painful because I had spoken with him that morning and even after the news of the ill-fated crash, it didn’t occur to me that he could be in it. I was actually called from home by my dad to tell me the sad tale because they had expected that I knew since I was in Lag; my mom was devastated and my hopes were dashed but I knew I had to keep pushing.
I got links and did some fashion shows with David Sucre for a while so he hooked me up with celebrities, then I started working with this great director, Unlimited LA and that’s where my work announced me. I’ve had clients refer me and call me repeatedly for jobs probably due to my personality added to the speed and expertise with which I work. By 2013, I had become a full blown celebrity makeup artist and by God’s grace, the jobs have kept flowing in. I was able to save up some money and launch Advanz Studio early last year where we do monthly trainings on makeup artistry and gele tying; we also have a salon session and would include a spa soon. I have also got franchise rights for three luxury cosmetic brands – Jade, careline and cover girl but I’m focusing on two right now, the first of which I got through the same man who assisted with my NYSC posting, he even helped financially and wrote off the loan with which he assisted me, I’ve really enjoyed the grace of God . I have opened two other branches of Advanz Studio in Onitsha and Asaba with a total of about 17 staff across board and I’m looking at launching a human hair brand soon too so you can watch out for that, we’ve tested the market, people love the product and there is already a demand for it. You know, the makeup industry evolves every day, so to keep up with trends, I’ve joined groups of national and international makeup artists who I learn from and ask questions and I practise consistently. Today, I have made up the likes of Genevieve Nnaji, Tiwa Savage, Eku Edewor, Stephanie Coker, Lil Mes, Lil Kesh, Olamide, Skales, Wizkid, L.A.X., Reekado Banks, Banky W, Bimbo Akintola, Toolz, Uti Nwanchukwu, etc. I also do a lot of video shoot makeup and TV commercials’ makeup.
Mine has been a story of passion and focus, of people and favour, of hard work, diligence, discipline and dedication, most of all, it has been a lifetime of God’s grace and His covenant to lift me up as long as I stay faithful and give Him the place of priority in my life. I don’t work on Sundays, if I have to, then it has to be after church time or my best hands would go. I’ve let a lot of jobs slide because of special church programmes but God has been faithful, I’m not doing badly at all. I work a lot with beautiful women and I have seen all shades of harassment and seduction. Merely working in a room full of beautiful ladies who may need to change their attires right in front of you isn’t exactly easy and I’m not a bad looking guy myself (wink). I’m single but not searching at all… I’ve found her and we’re just trying to tidy up a few things before we walk down the aisle. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted. Some jobs have also been very challenging, for instance, I had to make up about 40 ladies in the Lil Kesh and Vitoh Efejoku video and by the time I was done, I couldn’t move my fingers. I have assistants who are good but you know how people can be; they want the “main guy” to do their own make up. The pay isn’t bad but I prefer wedding jobs where you can charge per head rather than the lump sum that locks you in for hours working on numerous people and sometimes having to change their looks for various scenes. One thing that kept me going is my pastor’s word which says, “Discover your purpose, for there is no fulfillment outside purpose.” I want to sincerely appreciate my pastor, Pst. David Ifechukwu who helped me through his teachings to discover and follow my path in life. My special appreciation goes to Hon. Mike Balonwu(former Speaker of Anambra state) for his strong financial support. I’m truly grateful.
My word of encouragement to everyone out there, especially young people is to stay focused on your passion no matter how rosy other things seem to be, constantly improve yourself by every positive means possible, be diligent and strive to be the best, don’t get carried away with the glitz and glamour when they come, respect and relate well with people, you never know when they would be in a position to help, above all, always put God first and you will succeed beyond your expectations.
Enrolment and registration for training on Starting a Professional Makeup Career is currently ongoing at Advanz Studios: 80, Ogunlana drive, Surulere, Lagos. You can reach Eric for business purposes via;
Tel: 08032068055, 08067339292
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