If you think makeup artists only work in Hollywood then you are wrong. Just like those beautiful faces on Chanel and L'Oreal billboards, Kigali too has billboards with models used to advertise a brand or company. Several companies in Kigali, especially telecom companies, extensively advertise using models.
But have you ever thought about the person who makes the ladies who appear on these billboards look so great? Claudine Utuje Mwangachuchu is the woman behind their facial makeup.
The 26-year-old is a daughter of Pastor Rudatinya Mwangachuchu and Mrs. Antoinette Wizeye. She is the third born in a family of five.
In an interview with Women Today, the jovial Claudine narrates how her childhood passion is paying off.
"I happened to get a chance to work as a sales personnel for Evon, a cosmetic company in the Philippines. The company would bring in experts to train us on how to apply makeup. To convince the clients, we had to apply the makeup on them first and if it satisfied them, they would buy a lot of products," Claudine narrates.
She was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but at the age of eight, they moved to the Philippines as a family.
She adds, "I believe that being a makeup artist is a God given talent. I'm thankful to God. As a teenager, I was well equipped in the cosmetics department but my father wouldn't let me wear it and always made me wash it off as he was a pastor and didn't believe in young girls wearing makeup. In fact, one day when I came back home, I discovered that he had thrown away all my cosmetics. But because I worked for a cosmetic company, getting more wasn't a problem. Today, he is happy that I earn a living from it. "
"When my family came back to Rwanda, I wasn't sure I would continue in the makeup field at first. But each time I attended a friend's wedding, oh my God, the makeup was just horrible. I believed I could make them look better, so I offered to reapply their makeup and that's how people started contacting me to apply makeup at introduction ceremonies," Claudine reveals.
Apparently a friend brought her a variety of makeup material from Canada, something that helped her embrace her passion even more.
"I basically got customers just by word of mouth. This is precisely how Tigo contacted me. I currently have a wide client base and I am planning to open up a shop in June this year. I have discovered that most women in Rwanda apply makeup without knowing the colours that blend well their complexion. I currently have makeup for all sorts of shades, ranging from the lightest person to the darkest," she explains.
She adds that being a makeup artist requires confidence and patience.
"Convincing a customer that you are good at what you do requires a lot of effort. For example I always have to apply makeup on a bride prior to the wedding day and when they like it, they hire me. That might just be my biggest challenge - getting people to trust what I do," Claudine reveals.
Her customers vary depending on the season, if it's not musicians participating in the Primus Guma Guma competition then its brides about to walk down the aisle.
Besides her passion for making people look awesome, Claudine is a teacher at International School of Kigali. Currently, she is pursuing an online Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Penn Foster.
"Teaching children and being a makeup artist are two different things, both being things I love to do. I teach children between the ages of two and four. I don't think I will stop teaching even when I open up my makeup shop which I plan to call Fashion Freak. Working with children gives me great joy. I remember one of the most beautiful things anyone ever told me came from a student who said they wanted to be like me when they grew up," Claudine expresses.
"Children have a way of making your day. Therefore I could never give up teaching nor can I give up being a makeup artist since it is also my passion. I teach during the week while my makeup jobs come in on weekends. I'm glad that I earn a living doing the things I love to do."
Regarding the concerns related to men applying makeup she says, "All movie stars and musicians apply makeup. Even Obama applies makeup when he is going to appear on television. Makeup just brings out something beautiful. However, men's makeup is mild."