Tell us who you are and what you do!
My name is Jessica and I am a self-taught makeup artist located in North Carolina. “Jess N’neka” is my makeup artist name, as well as my name on my social media accounts. Jess is my nickname and N’neka is my middle name which is pronounced (N-knee-ka). My father is the one that came up with that elaborate name, so I decided to go with my actual birth name. It may catch people off guard on how to pronounce it at first glance, but it’s unique and ended up working for me.
I started doing makeup about two years ago after being pushed by my mother and friends. I was always known for how my own makeup looked on me at ECU (my alma mater) but I never pictured myself doing makeup. People would say “You should do makeup” and I would brush it off and say “No it’s not for me, but thank you”. Finally after being asked numerous times I decided to start doing makeup in the year of 2016. I sold my space jams that I had just bought and used that money to start building my makeup kit (it wasn’t much, but I researched and made do of it). I decided to advertise myself and to my surprise I began to actually receive bookings from clients.
Within the first month, I checked my booking reports and noticed I had ended up making triple of what I had expected to make initially. With each client I continuously became better and better, and I was soon known for doing makeup. My name began to stick, even if it was mispronounced.
My makeup looks on my clients range from soft neutral glam looks to bold glittery looks. Now, I could never picture myself NOT doing makeup. I eat, sleep, and dream makeup. If I am not working on a client then I am working on doing makeup on myself, and if I am not doing either I am researching videos and pictures on the latest trends in the makeup industry.
I love seeing the reaction on my client’s face after I finish doing their makeup. I have had clients just stare in the mirror in shock and awe, and it makes me feel great to see that. In fact one time I had a client’s mother cry after seeing her daughter glammed up. That truly warmed my heart and I knew right then and there that I wanted to do this forever.
I never would have imagined a couple years ago that I would have been doing makeup for clients going to prom, special events, weddings, and even pageants. I have only been doing makeup for about two years and I have landed so many opportunities, I am ecstatic about what the future will bring.
What is the inspiration for your work?
Glitz and Glam! I love over the top eye looks. I love trying new and exciting things for myself when it comes to hairstyles, makeup, and fashion so I always like to talk my client into stepping out of their comfort zone and trying something new. If you try something new and don’t like it at least you can say you tried it. It’s also not permanent. I aspire to be a makeup artist for the stars one day. There are a couple of makeup artists and hairstylists who, just like me, have started at the bottom and are now doing hair and makeup for A-List celebrities. They are my biggest inspirations and I learned from them that it definitely takes time and I am willing to be patient.
What would you say to prevent an upcoming artist from making the same mistakes you have made?
Never doubt or hesitate to start and perfect your craft. I held off for so long on becoming a makeup artist because I was so nervous and I doubted myself. Never be afraid of what others will think of your work, your work is a perfect representation of you and you should stay true to yourself.
What obstacles have you faced as a Black Artist/Business Owner? How did you overcome them?
Black businesses and black owners tend to have that negative stigma “Black Businesses are unprofessional” so, from the jump I made sure that I would never have that reputation as a business owner that is lazy or unprofessional. First impressions are everlasting, so I made sure that when you see my work and my portfolio everything is legit and together. I created and designed my website in mind of what my clients want to see. I am very responsive to emails and messages about services. I make sure I give my clients water and candy while being serviced and I even give my clients goody bags at the end of each service. I want my clients to know that I really appreciate their services. You are your brand and how you carry yourself and your brand is very important.