How Katie Jane Hughes Went From Backstage Manicurist To One Of Instagram’s Most Recognizable Makeup Artists

By now, it’s been well-established that social media has turned those who might otherwise be beauty enthusiasts into downright industry powerhouses. People like Marianna Hewitt and Jackie Aina have been able to build entire businesses through channels like Instagram and YouTube.

But while Katie Jane Hughes definitely leveraged Instagram to get to where she is today, her path has been slightly different from your average influencer’s. For one, she’s not shilling her own products; for another, she isn’t known for doing one signature style of “Instagram makeup” — and that’s because her actual beauty signature is experimentation.

Welcome to Artist Spotlight #50 series on my blog.

“As soon as I started to wear makeup myself, and the crazy changes of makeup styles that I did go through — which were terrifying, now that I look at it — you have to go through all of those to find your signature style,” she says. “And I don’t think we ever really land on our signature style; I think that we land on different signature styles throughout our lives.”

That means that followers of Hughes will learn how to do something she dubs “Big Mac Energy” (yellow lids with bright red-lips) one day, and how to layer Weleda Skin Food under Glossier Haloscope for a glossy highlight the next. That sense of playfulness is partially how Hughes got where she is today as an in-demand makeup artist. A few years ago, she began experimenting with the kind of editorial looks she wanted to do professionally on her own face and posting them to Instagram. 

From there, she grew a huge following pretty organically; now, she works with brands like Glossier and the newly launched Rose Inc., creating looks for campaigns. It’s a bit of a leap from where Hughes first began: She learned how to do nails and was working with brands backstage at fashion week, even though her real passion was in makeup. But while it may seem to the outside world that Hughes is undoubtedly, well, “making it,” she’s not resting on her laurels just yet.

“I’m not where I want to be, and I feel like that sentence — ‘I’m not where I want to be’ — is something that I don’t take lightly, because I don’t think any of us are ever where we want to be,” she says. “There’s always room to grow, room to develop and learn more stuff.”

When did you first become interested in beauty?

Really, back when I was a little kid, because my mom was a singer and I always used to watch her put her makeup on before she would go on stage. She would have these scarlet-red lips, these black lashes that were super-thick and bushy and beautiful, and loads of bronzer. She was just super, super glam. Seeing my mom transform into this stage siren was really cool.

I wanted to do music too, initially. You know, music and beauty really weirdly go hand in hand. I think you’ll find a lot of people who are talented in music and are also talented in makeup. I don’t know what the actual tie is, but it’s often a common thread.

What were your first jobs within the beauty industry?

My first job in the makeup industry was at an Estée Lauder counter back when I was 17 in my hometown of Birkdale, in Merseyside, [England]. It was the first time I started finger-painting with eye shadows, and I remember getting kicked under the counter by my manager, because I was like, “Yeah, just use your fingers for all these eye shadows, it looks great!” and she was like, “No, you could be selling brushes!” I was like “Whatever, I like the way this looks with my fingers.” I just painted Rosie Huntington-Whiteley for a Rose Inc. shoot with my fingers for one of the looks, and it’s a funny, full-circle kind of situation. 

I didn’t really love that counter experience and that counter lifestyle, but you have to go through it; it’s training, and it’s an integral part of doing makeup. You have to learn on real people before you learn on models. 

From there, I was 17, 18, and I got a job in a nail shop and learned how to do nails. I was a manicurist for about five years, doing nails in salons, and when I moved to London in 2008, I started to do nails in London in a fashion environment, which helped me connect with all these people. I knew I wanted to do makeup, and that was a very much a stepping-stone career for me.

Then I began assisting people who wanted someone that could do nails, as well, for jobs where there wasn’t a manicurist on set. It was a weird, fortunate situation to be in, because people wouldn’t necessarily [hire an artist to do] their nails with their makeup — which I totally get now. Even though I was already there in my head, I wasn’t being taken seriously by my peers. 

I always knew that I wanted to rebrand when I moved to the U.S. in 2013. I was Butter London’s global ambassador for about three and a half years, and I moved there to be with them because they were also wanting [to launch] makeup. I thought, this is the perfect opportunity to go from nails into makeup.

I started putting makeup more at the top of my priority list, and then when I left the brand in 2016, I just disassociated myself with nails completely. It was like, this is it, this is where I’m going to cut ties with my nail past. A lot of people don’t even know that I used to do nails now, and it’s only been two years. It’s quite amazing how [social media has helped] going cold-turkey into makeup.

How did social media help you make that transition?

I honestly don’t think I would be where I am now without social media. I never really assisted for anyone because of the nail thing, so I definitely took a different path. I think that it would’ve taken a lot longer, and I think that social media is changing the game for so many talented creatives like me. It’s become this mini-agent and given us a platform to show what we can do, and what our styles are. 

For me, my social media blew up because I was basically posting creative looks on my own face that I wanted to do in an editorial setting, but I wasn’t really getting to do it because editorial was so neutral and natural. Only the biggest and the best makeup artists would get to do the creative stuff. 

If my Instagram was what it is now, but four years ago, the people that take me seriously now would not have taken me seriously then. I strongly believe that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what I just said, I think it’s just that things have to get there on their own, and people have to get there on their own. Even though I was shooting a few editorials and a few branded things every month before my social really took off, you didn’t really get the opportunity for jobs back then, in 2014 and 2015, to do the creative stuff that we get to do now because of social media. People weren’t as expressive on social media like that.

Where did you get the idea to use your social media as a platform?

I was seeing a lot of what I would call “Instagram makeup” on Instagram, but nothing else — that heavy brow, that heavy contour and that heavy lip, and the cut crease and the liquid liner and all of the things, the lashes. That’s totally fine, and I loved watching those tutorials; it’s not my style or my aesthetic anymore, but I was there at one point in my life. I genuinely have such a deep appreciation for it, because it’s really fucking hard to do that makeup. I actually tried to do it on myself a couple of times, just out of the sheer fun factor. I had to stop halfway through, because I couldn’t actually do it. 

I’m okay with that, because it’s not the style of makeup that I do, and it’s not the style of makeup that I think I would ever get asked to do on set, which is what I care most about. My makeup in an editorial setting and an advertising setting, because that’s my career. The Instagram stuff is really just a bonus, cool little side project for me. It’s my passion project, being able to educate women and men and whomever wants to wear makeup around the world doing the similar styles that I do on myself.

I really like feeling like I’ve got a minimal, fresh complexion; quirky, cool color combinations that inspire me. I think that I put something out there that spoke to me as a creative and [it resonated with people] because they didn’t find that many accounts like mine. Now my Instagram is literally my agent; it books me every single one of my jobs.

Makeup done by KJH.

Why is it important to stay accessible to people who follow you?

Because it’s like, without them, what’s the point? Without actually helping them reach their beauty goals, or inspiring them to try something new, to get closer to what they want to be at that period in their life, what’s the point? It’s very hard to engage back sometimes, because it really takes everything out of you when you’re just feeling a little bit like you don’t want to be on and you just want to do nothing. 

People notice that you’re not there. It’s funny, I was away for a week and somebody was like, “Is everything okay? I haven’t seen you on Instagram,” and I’m like, “No, I’m good, thank you so much for checking in, but I just needed to take a week off.” It’s amazing that people would notice that, but it’s also amazing that it takes that much work. I don’t think of it as work, I think of it as a hobby that just takes a lot of my time up. But everything relies on engagement. Why do it if you don’t have the time to engage? 

How did the experience of working within a brand prepare you for what you do now?

I don’t think I would ever work with a brand exclusively ever again. Not because it was bad, but because I really, really love being able to use multiple brands. Back then, I did use multiple brands; I just wasn’t able to talk freely as much to the public about what I loved and used, because I was always talking about that brand — and I wanted to talk about that brand, because I had a big hand in some of the product development.

I don’t even think if I ever did my own line — which I probably won’t, because there’s just so much stuff on the market, but who knows — I don’t think I would even be exclusive to my own brand, ever. I just think everybody loves Chanel Soleil de Tan, and everyone loves Nars Creamy Concealer.

How do you choose which brands you work with?

If something goes in my kit professionally, it’s 99.9 percent on my table at home. The best thing a brand can do if they know that an artist likes something is send them two, because they’ll get double exposure from that person’s social channels, if they have one, and then in their kit. 

Texture is a massive thing for me; if something has a beautiful texture and reads beautifully in a photograph, then it’s definitely going in my kit and in my table. Like, Weleda Skin Food is an absolute massive one for me, as are most Glossier products, like Stretch Concealer, I use at home and I use in my kit, as does Haloscope; Creamy Concealer from Nars is also on my table and on my kit, as is the Caudalie mist. There’s so many.

How do you choose which projects you take on?

This is another amazing thing about social media. I work quite closely with Glossier, where I do some of their shoots and I create some of their content, and I’ve seen a few products [prior to launch], but I was talking about that brand super-organically on my Instagram prior to working with them. 

I always start talking about a product organically first, even if the brand approaches me and says, “Oh, we really want to work with you.” I’m like, “Well, send me stuff, let me use it first, see how it feels, let me use it on my social and Instagram Stories, see if [my followers] like the product, if they’re interested in seeing more, and then we go from there.” I wouldn’t just take a random product out of thin air and go, “Oh, look at this, it’s cool!” It’s not my style at all.

What’s your favorite part of the job?

It’s getting involved in the creative process from start to finish. I just worked on a campaign with Innisfree; the content will be out in September, but I worked on a project with them from start to finish where I weighed in on the casting of the girls, weighed in on the photographer and weighed in on the looks that I created for the campaign, and I’ll weigh in a little bit on the editing. The same goes with brands like Glossier. It’s more of that whole, full-circle creative process from either a branded or an editorial standpoint.

[From a] social standpoint, the best part of it is just feeling like you’ve made somebody’s day and helped them achieve their beauty goals that they’ve struggled to achieve.

What’s something you wish you’d known when you were first starting out?

Nothing really. I feel like about four years ago, I probably would have said that I wish I had known that it was more important to spend more time assisting and try to get on as somebody’s first assistant for a good four or five years. But I think, because of the way my career took a turn, I’d probably be doing myself a disservice by doing that. I feel like my path took a turn that I didn’t think it would take.

What advice would you give someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Find a signature makeup style that makes you happy, share it, post it, don’t over-edit your content if you like that real-life kind of skin. Keep promoting yourself in a way, but not in an obsessive way; just do it in a very natural, organic way.

It’s such a collaborative industry nowadays. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley found me on Instagram and was like, “I really love your work, I’d love to work with you sometime,” and it went from me doing her makeup for an event in New York to working on a bunch of Rose Inc. stuff with her. You’ve just got to figure out who you want to create with and try to make that happen and learn from it and grow from it.

How have you seen the industry change since you started out?

There’s definitely more room for the new guard of talent; the old guard of talent are doing a slightly different thing. They’re launching brands and they’re doing more collaborative things with brands, whereas the new guard of talent is doing more social collaborations and getting more of that airtime on editorial websites and editorial Instagram. Before I felt like a lot of the talent that would’ve been featured in print, like quotes about products and that kind of stuff, would have been the iconic, old-guard kind of crew, now I feel like it’s much more my generation, the up-and-comers getting that space, which I think is awesome.

What is your ultimate goal for yourself?

I think I’ve done a lot of amazing things so far — I led a fashion show at Lincoln Center, that was a massive moment for me. I cried at the end of the show because there was so much pressure on it, and I was just so proud. I got emotional after the Rose Inc. shoot. There’s so many things that I’ve done, I feel ungrateful to say that I haven’t gotten there yet. But I feel like more of what I’m doing now is what I want to do more of. 

I think if I did a collaboration with a brand that I really, really, really loved, that had my name on it somehow, that was super-organic and true to my brand as well as their brand, that would be a pretty special thing. 

@katiejanehughes ON INSTAGRAM

FASHIONISTA article

Hindash – Painter, Photographer, Artist, Redefines Beauty As We Know It

“As a painter and an artist that has been inspired by how beauty is perceived globally, it is very important for me to create a universal brand.”

Welcome to Artist Spotlight #49 series on my blog.

Mohammed Hindash is an artist born and raised in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Hindash studied and graduated with a degree in Studio Art, and later gained his exposure internationally for being one of the leading pioneers in makeup artistry and photography. Hindash began as a painter and YouTuber reaching over 68 Million views with 1.7 million subscribers. Crowned as one of the hottest makeup artists in the industry, the beauty mogul encapsulates the entirety of his artistic journey. Transitioning from portrait paintings to makeup and photography – and now into his own brand, his most intricate masterpiece.

Timeless. Authentic. Innovative. The brand’s drive stems from creating complex cosmetic masterpieces inspired by the true foundation of art.

“Art and beauty has always been an extension of me, so when I started experimenting with photography I knew I wanted to give into the world of cosmetics through make up artistry. It felt like a seamless, natural transition from being a painter.”

The creation of such an innovative product for the beauty industry should not come as a surprise, then.

The 6-pan gradient color story is inspired by a painter’s palette, deconstructed, and reassembled in a sleek, contemporary multi-use product. Beautopsy is made of a vegan formula which blends 12 fundamental colors that flatter and enhance all skin tones. Use as eyeshadow, eyeliner, contour, highlight, blush, and bronzer – the gradient colors offer a limitless color way pay-off.

Beautopsy is a multi-use pressed pigment palette that can be used on the eyes and face. Create the ultimate look by swirling your brush along the gradient pans to customize your perfect shade. Sweep along eyes, cheeks, brows, highlights and contours of the face. You are the artist of your masterpiece.

TAN + LINES –  a soft tan brown that blends into a pure white

WET + PAINT – a beige that blends into a banana yellow 

BOY + WONDER – a peach that blends into a bubblegum pink

FEEL + REAL – a neutral brown that blends into a true concrete gray 

LOVE + KILLS – a fiery orange that blends into a hot red

INTRA + FATUM – a chocolate brown that blends into a pitch black

Contents made in Italy. 100% vegan.

Shop $70

@hindash ON INSTAGRAM

Hindash ON YOUTUBE

WEBSITE

This Make-Up Artist’s Avant-Garde Looks Will Inspire You To Use Your Face As A Canvas

Beauty model and make-up artist Ali Hicks, 19 (who prefers to go by the mononym Ali), has begun showing her work IRL, adorning Rina Sawayama’s face with delicate peace signs during fashion week in 2019, and appearing in a Maybelline campaign earlier this year. But the bulk of her creations should be consumed on Instagram, where the Columbus, Georgia-based artist shows off her original, avant-garde make-up looks.

They include electric eyeshadows, larger-than-life lashes, butterfly- or flower-festooned faces, and glitter galore. Ali, who goes by the handle @sweetmutuals, uses make-up as a catalyst to catch her followers’ attention and draw them into important conversations, among them protecting Black women, supporting Black-owned businesses, voting, and saving the USPS. 

Welcome to Artist Spotlight #33 series on my blog.

With nearly 200,000 followers, Ali views her Instagram handle as an homage to the love she has for her followers. “When I first started posting my editorial looks, I had a wonderful response, I had a lot of support. The reason why I have such a big following is because of my mutual followers,” Ali tells Vogue over Zoom from her home. “They’re my mutuals because we follow each other. They’re sweet because basically, they gave me the platform that I have today. So, Sweet Mutuals.” 

Ali was first inspired by her mother’s approach to beauty. “I grew up reading Essence magazine because of my mom’s subscription. I saw all of these beautiful Black women with bold make-up looks,” she remembers. Ali would regularly watch her mother do her make-up, and accompany her on shopping trips. “She had MAC back when MAC first came out, and we would always go to the MAC store to pick out one little item for her. I remember her picking out lipsticks and being like, ‘Well, I want to wear lipstick now, too.’ ” The employees said Ali was too young to have lipstick, so they gave her a MAC chapstick. “I thought I was the ish,” Ali says, laughing. She finally got her chance to put on lipstick at age four, when she went to go see Barney. “I had this desire to put it on myself. No one else could do it for me,” she recalls. “I looked a mess, but that wasn’t the point. I was always obsessed with make-up.”

The obsession carried over into middle school, when she consumed YouTube tutorials from Jackie Aina and Alissa Ashley. “I didn’t have a lot of my own makeup at the time, but I did know how to paint. I’ve loved to draw ever since I learned how to hold a pencil. I’ve always been an artist first,” she says. These days, her greatest canvas is her own face, and she loves to freestyle. “I get a general picture in my head and I try to recreate it to the best of my abilities,” she explains. “Most of my make-up looks are really just me winging it.”

When building her looks, Ali’s go-tos include Fenty Beauty, HipDot palettes, Milk Makeup Star Tattoo stamps, ColourPop’s brushes, MAC’s Lipglass lip gloss, and Wet Liners from Glisten Cosmetics. When she’s not creating new looks, Ali keeps her skin make-up-free so it stays clear. “Maybe I’ll pop on star stickers and lipgloss but that’s about it,” she says, though she adds that she’s diligent about her water intake, eating fruits, and maintaining her skin-care regimen. “I use Patrick Starrr’s mist, and it takes your make-up off.” 

She also uses make-up wipes and micellar water, twice, to ensure the make-up comes completely off. “I go in the shower, wash my body. Afterwards, I take a clean cloth and rub off any excess make-up. Then I wash my face.” Such a thorough job is needed, especially when removing glitter or FX glue.

Ali plans to continue reinventing herself. “I have a Walmart bag full of different items and different goodies. I’ve posted a few and have a few up my sleeve that I’m saving,” she says. “I’m going to make my make-up looks more like a photo shoot rather than just me posting in my bathroom. I have backdrops,” she says. It’s clear she’s excited about what’s next: “I have a whole little set-up, I have different coloured filters for my studio light… I’m going to be imitating different magazines, and instead of the original person in the magazine, it’s going to be me,” she says. After all, she’s her No. 1 muse.

@sweetmutuals on Instagram

VOGUE article

Queer MUA Michael Brooks, AKA The Brooks Brother, Says Beauty Has No Gender

Canadian-born London-based makeup artist Michael Brooks, also known as The Brooks Brother, made his YouTube debut in 2017 and has since then been inspiring his followers with his mesmerizing, artistic beauty looks. Having landed his role as Smashbox Cosmetics UK’s pro MUA earlier this year, Brooks has been paving the way for queer creatives by advocating for better representation and diversity within the beauty industry.

At a young age, Brooks already had an eye for glamor and beauty. The moment he saw his favorite alternative, pop punk boy bands wear makeup was when he decided to experiment with his own looks and explore his talent. With additional interests in music, art, digital content creation and fashion, the multi-disciplinary creative is changing the game and is definitely a talent to watch.

Welcome to Artist Spotlight #25 series on my blog.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how your passion for makeup started?

I grew up in Canada, in a suburb just east of Toronto. I’ve always had an interest in the arts and I studied various areas of visual and performing arts throughout my entire childhood, but I’ve always been fixated on glamor and beauty. At around 12 or 13 years old, I began to take notice of men I saw wearing makeup in my favorite alternative/pop punk boy bands and I wanted to try it myself. Around that same time, I was involved in some performing arts extra-curricular activities, so the idea of wearing makeup on stage didn’t seem odd to me. I’m very fortunate to have grown up in a home that prioritized my happiness, self-expression and safety above all. As I got older, I moved farther away from my music, dance and theater studies and grew an attachment to wearing makeup and providing it as a service to others. After high school, I decided to take a certificate course in makeup artistry. I’ve been doing it professionally since.

How did the opportunity to work with Smashbox Cosmetics UK come to be?

I’ve been working on and off in retail makeup for the better part of my career, and a lot of that has been within the Estée Lauder group of beauty brands. Most recently, I started with Smashbox in their studio space in March of 2020. I had worked on a few freelance campaigns in their studio for another cosmetics brand in 2019 and happened to meet the manager of the space. When they had a position become available, I was put forward and was looking for a change, so I went for it. As you can imagine, with all the changes our world has seen this year, it hasn’t been at all what I expected. Starting a new position with a new brand in the midst of a global pandemic certainly has impacted the process.

“The online social community is a real place for inspiration and discovery, which keeps me going through this challenging time.” 

You started making YouTube videos before moving to London. What would you say are the biggest differences between Canada and the UK’s creative industry?

The sheer size of the creative industry in the UK is the biggest difference I’ve noticed. In London, there’s always room for someone to break in, as long as you’re willing to work for free, network until you’re blue in the face and never give up. I feel like my attempts to break into the creative industry in Toronto barely scratched the surface because it’s much smaller. Bigger cities tend to have more opportunities, as long as you’re willing to take them on.

Who are some of your queer beauty icons?

Being totally honest here – there aren’t enough queer beauty icons, especially men. I’ve always admired RuPaul Charles and what he’s done with his career, as well as NikkieTutorialsKevyn AucoinIndya Moore, Kabuki and Munroe Bergdorf.

What are some challenges you’ve faced working as an MUA amid COVID-19? How have you been able to overcome those obstacles?

Well, I basically surrendered my entire freelance makeup artist career to the virus and I still have not picked it up. Unfortunately, I simply don’t feel safe working that close to anyone’s face. Over the last two and a half years, I hustled to make a name for myself in a new city and country, only to have it completely squashed by COVID-19. That one still hurts.

But in staying home and making more use of my own face, I turned my hobby of posting online into a job. Now, I’m spending my time creating looks, video and photo content and getting paid for it. There are so many people out there using platforms like Instagram for creating content and to express themselves. The online social community is a real place for inspiration and discovery, which keeps me going through this challenging time. The loss, which is hopefully temporary, came with a gain.

In what ways do you think the dynamic of the beauty industry has changed this past year?

Generally, I think the beauty industry is changing entirely. The beauty industry for online creatives and beauty content creators is in the midst of a continuous shift, and over the last year, I have seen more accountability from beauty brands, transparency on the inner workings of the “influencer” sphere, and a lot more people and former working makeup artists using themselves as their own canvas. The beauty industry desperately needs to prioritize more queer voices and faces, especially those of BIPOC folks. I’ve seen it more this year than ever but there is work to be done. The retail makeup space is undergoing a change in terms of the consumer experience, and a lot of brands are primarily e-commerce now. As for the creative world and working on set (not that I can speak from experience anymore), safety precautions are continuously evolving, but the show must go on. I feel like we’re all becoming more independent, and I think brands are starting to see their consumer as the authority, rather than the other way around.

“The beauty industry desperately needs to prioritize more queer voices and faces, especially those of BIPOC folks. I’ve seen it more this year than ever but there is work to be done.” 

What does beauty mean to you?

Standing in your truth. Accepting what you love about yourself and also accepting what you might not love about yourself. To me, beauty is not only about how crisp your eyeliner is or how glowy your skin looks. It’s accepting all of yourself in all forms. Most importantly, it’s about doing what feels best, regardless of how the world sees you. If it feels right, do it.

What is your creative process like when coming up with your beauty looks?

It’s usually based on an image, shape or a specific group of colors. Sometimes I sketch it out when I’m really organized, and other times I wing it from an idea floating around in my head. When I can’t get it right, I’ll take a selfie and doodle on my own face until it makes sense to me. Executing it is a whole other venture. I’m a Pisces so my head is always in the clouds thinking of ideas.

What are your do’s and don’ts when it comes to makeup?

I don’t like telling people what they should and shouldn’t do with their makeup. My least favorite part of working as a makeup artist is the expectation that my opinion and experience is superior to someone else’s. It’s important to be able to offer my input when it’s needed, otherwise, I mind my business. What I will say is, don’t be afraid of makeup. Wear as much, as little as you want or nothing at all – however you want. It’s your face and it washes off.

Can you share with us any exciting projects you’re working on for the rest of 2020 and in the new year?

I was recently named one of three winners in a contest with a well-known makeup brand, so over the next few months and into the new year, I’ll be working collaboratively on a collection with one of my favorite musicians that is set to launch next summer. Easily the most exciting project I’ve ever been a part of!

I’m also taking part in Instagram‘s #ReelSelf Sessions this October, which is a virtual three-day event packed with exclusive content and inspirational talks to support creators to learn, grow and express creativity. The sessions themselves will cover everything from creativity online, how to get noticed and insider knowledge to keeping well online and offline, as well as forecasting new trends. The online world has been a great place of support for me, and I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences.

Otherwise, I’m always brainstorming ideas around how I’d like to leave my mark on the beauty industry. Hopefully, 2021 will bring me a return to my freelance makeup career, a new set of goals and more exciting opportunities.

HYPEBAE article