Meet Jackie Mgido, the first black African celebrity make-up artist in Hollywood
First things first, introduce yourself to our readers
My name is Jacqueline Mgido and I am the first black African celebrity make-up artist in Hollywood under a prestigious make-up union, and also the owner of Jacque Mgido Cosmetics. On a personal level, I’m a mother, wife and sister to many.
Let’s get straight to it. How was it growing up?
I grew up in Zimbabwe in a small suburb outside the city of Harare. My parents were hard working, with a vision that their children would excel in the academic world, but to their dismay, I was more interested in the arts.
I chose a career in make-up and specialised in a masters programme that included beauty and special effects. My goal was to work in TV and film in the coveted Hollywood world, and the dream came true. I wanted to show my parents that I could make a good living doing make-up.
How did it all begin?
At the age of 20 in the early 90s, my parents sent me to the US to study, but I decided to go to cosmetology school. At the time, make-up schools were unheard of in St Louis, US, where I was.
Cosmetology mainly covered hair and 10 per cent make-up. The more I watched The Cosby Show and Oprah, the more I knew make-up for TV is what I wanted to do. Years later, I went to the prestigious Hollywood make-up school in California, Make-up Designory, which started my career.
You would then become the first black African make-up artist in the Local 706 make-up union in Hollywood. Tell us a bit about that
Let me explain what this means. The Make-up and Hairstylist Guild (IATSA Local 706) is the official labour union for make-up artists and hairstylist in film, TV and digital media. In short, it is for artistic professionals that have created iconic looks for Hollywood’s most memorable characters and trends. It is also one of the hardest unions to enter, and it is an opportunity for your works to be nominated for an Oscar or Emmy.
You have had the opportunity to work with celebrities such as RnB singer John Legend, rapper Snoop Dogg and singer Jamie Foxx, just to name a few. How was the experience?
I have gotten the chance to work with celebrities that I used to watch on TV in Zimbabwe, and I continue to work on some that are still big now. It is an out-of-body experience. It’s been over 15 years, and every day when I work on big stars, I remind myself to never get used to it, and to stay excited like the first time.
You are also currently working with celebrity chefs. Would you name a few and how this has impacted your brand?
Celebrity chefs are now the Hollywood stars. Food brings people together and Food Network has done just that. I work on loads of shows and some of the chefs I have worked with include; Chef Alex Guarnaschelli from Chopped and Supermarket Stakeout, Duff Goldman of Kids Baking Championship, Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri, Tregaye Fraser from Food Network Star, Carla Hall, Duff Gold, Maneet Chanhan and Aarti Sequeira, to mention but a few.
The opportunity has brought awareness to the American market of the brand, and me, the African make-up artist.
Tell us about your decision to launch your own make-up line?
Ten years ago, I noticed a gap in the make-up world. As I soared in my career, I realised when I worked on darker-skinned celebrities, I could not find make-up that matched their skin. I had to mix many brands to achieve the right colour, and this affected my work.
I would visit my family in Africa and realise it was even worse; lack of products, and those that were available completely did not cater to our skin. This changed the trajectory of my career, and I had to do something by starting a make-up line geared for African climate, and in colours that complement darker skin. I went ahead to launch my make-up brand, Vault Cosmetics, which was rebranded to Jacque Mgido Cosmetics.
What made you rebrand, and how challenging was it to start your own make-up line?
I started Vault Cosmetics in Zimbabwe 10 years ago. I realised that Vault had no face to the brand, it was like I was hiding behind a mask. Coincidentally, someone else had the same name, and we found ourselves in a battle for it, and this was the big sign. The line needed a face, and going with my own name was the right fit.
Starting a make-up business has been one of the hardest things I have ever done and the most expensive. In order to start on a low budget, I started by branding, which is basically putting your name on a ready-made product and reselling it. I quickly realised that these big branding cosmetic companies were making products that were one-fits-all type instead of custom-made. The truth is, it costs money to get a chemist to individually custom-make a product. A couple of years later, I found one that fell in love with my vision and loved the challenge, and has been with us ever since. We custom-make our products to suit climate, such as the hot African weather, and various skin tones.
Talk to us about the different products under Jacque Mgido Cosmetics?
We have a wide range of products that cater to women of colour, as well as Caucasian women. The advantage of being a consumer, make-up artist and brand developer is that you are able to tell the products customers need and then create the same.
The needs can include foundations that are versatile in use, adjustable to dry and oily skin, and adaptable to climate; powders that work both as a light foundation and as a setting powder; eyeshadow that works for eyes, cheeks and contour all in one palette; blush that works as a corrector for dark under eyes, discolouration on the skin and correction of that natural grey also known as ‘ashiness’ in predominantly very dark chocolate women; a lip stain that adjusts to gloss when oil is added and is high in pigment; eyebrow products that last for 24 hours and can maintain colour and sustainability in water.
How has your brand been received, back at home and abroad?
The brand has been received well. Our biggest challenge is that we are a relatively small company, so it’s difficult to have big billboards so the world can know about us, but once one gets a taste of it, it’s magic.
Kenya was a market you were interested to venture into for a long time. What’s your take now two years in?
I am excited about Kenya mainly because the Jacque Mgido brand is still to be discovered. Kenyan women are curious and excitedly learn, and I love that.
What have been the highs and lows of your career and life so far?
My lows are when I regret and forget my accomplishments. My highs are every day I live to tell my story.
Where do you see Jacque Mgido Cosmetics five years from now?
I see the brand in more countries, educating women about personal discovery, enhancing everyone’s beauty and most of all, creating jobs and bringing awareness for women to learn how to surface their inner goddess. Basically, touching more lives through make-up.