Celebrity Makeup Artist Monifa Mortis

Celebrity makeup artist, Monifa Mortis, has made a name for herself creating soft, pretty makeup for celebrities like Queen Latifah, Jill Scott and Heather Headley.  View her portfolio and you’ll see looks that are understated yet striking.  In an industry where many makeup artists are perfecting “fierce”, Mortis gravitates toward the natural. I caught up with Mortis for a candid conversation that was part lesson, part lecture and a few laughs.  Get ready for Monifa Mortis’ Makeup 101.

RDD: A lot of women don’t want to wear a lot of makeup or they say their husbands and boyfriends don’t like it.  What do you say to them?

MM: I hear women say they want a pulled-together look.  Every woman should have a polished look.  Makeup is not the enemy.  It’s not the makeup, it’s the technique. What’s in the magazines is intricate and men have that visual attraction.  But when they are face-to-face in an intimate setting kissing and hugging, men don’t want to end up wearing the makeup.

It can be hard to please that duality.  You can’t get everything you want in a husband. You need a BFF, your uncle, and a gay friend.  It’s the same with makeup. You need different looks.  When I’m at events or speaking engagements, I wear makeup that pops!  But when I’m at home with my husband, it’s mineral powder and lip balm.  You don’t wear the same hair or shoes every day, so why the same makeup?

RDD: How did you get started in the makeup industry?

MM: It was borne out of passion.  I always loved makeup even as a teen.  As an African American with fair skin it was hard to find foundation.  European lines like Clinique and Estee Lauder didn’t offer shades with yellow undertones.  Then, Fashion Fair was too brown for me.  I was in foundation purgatory.  Initially I received my bachelor’s in Fashion Marketing, but I left the retail industry due to the hours.  I went to a 9-5 at Chase Bank.  I wasn’t sure if I’d continue in fashion.

Years later I started selling Mary Kay and perfecting my face.  My friends saw my talent and started asking if I’d do their weddings and proms.  I had a friend who was a plus-size model for Wilhelmina and she needed a makeup artist for her photo shoot. She liked my work and so did the photographer.

RDD: What do you love most about the makeup industry?

MM: The 45 minutes when I’m in the face.  Pulling together foundation, popping lashes, and working the brows.  When I’m finished and I see a woman straighten up. When she looks at anything reflective to see herself, “ooh a spoon!”  That’s what I love.

RDD: What’s your approach to makeup?

MM: I don’t have a systematic approach.  I allow the face to speak to me.  It depends on what that face needs.  If the need is under the eyes or the brows then that’s where I begin.  My only consistency is the softness.  I want them to feel comfortable-not like their makeup is six inches thick.  Comfort and feeling beautiful-that’s the goal.

RDD: Do you have any tips for creating soft, pretty makeup?

MM: Well for one, I just want to clarify that soft doesn’t mean less.  It’s not “lite” makeup.  It’s the same amount of foundation.  It’s the blending, the amount of contour and the texture that makes it soft.  It’s also about making sure you have the right product.  A lot of women wear the wrong bra, but they do it because it’s comfortable.  It’s what they’re used to.  And it’s the same with makeup.

If you want your makeup to look polished and beautiful, you can’t short-change the process.  Don’t just go to a makeup counter and speak to a sales person.  Talk to real women who wear their makeup well, bloggers and so forth and see what they do. Don’t give up!

RDD: What products are we sleeping on?

MM: Let’s get down to basics.  All the crayons and glosses are cherry on the cake. Skincare is the meat and potatoes of beauty.  We’ve got to hold on to these faces until our 70′s and beyond.  So let’s focus on proper makeup removal.  Many women aren’t washing their faces before bed.  Makeup removal wipes are wrong.  You have to lift and dissolve gently-not rubbing, scrubbing or tugging!

Do this simple test.  Put mascara on the back of your hand.  Soap and water won’t get it off.  A makeup towel will, but requires friction.  The skin around your eye is too delicate for that.

I also wish women would stop using soap on their faces.  You don’t use soap in your hair, don’t use it on your face.  You don’t need suds!  Use a cleanser that is creamy, gel or lotion based and use only your fingertips.

Then groom!  Groom the brow and curl your lashes.  Real divas know how to groom and take care of themselves.  You can never get a great face without skincare, brows and curling lashes. Then you won’t have to over-compensate with makeup and camouflage.

RDD: A lot of women are intimidated by brows and lash curlers.  Especially lash curlers. What do they need to know?

MM: When it comes to brows, just because a person is licensed to wax doesn’t mean they have the eye to shape brows.  Over plucking your brows, ages you.  It screams, “I’m a woman of a certain age.”  A full brow is more youthful.   When choosing someone to groom your brow, consider culture.  Certain cultures gravitate toward a thinner brow.  Whereas, in East Indian cultures, for example, a fuller brow is appreciated.

When someone threads your brow you can watch and say, “You are going too deep.” With wax, there’s no going back.

One suggestion is to pencil in the way you want your brows with a brown pencil. Then with a white pencil shade only what you want removed. Then when you’re finished with removing the hairs in white, put the tweezers down and walk away.

Curling lashes is good even if you’re wearing false lashes.  Make sure that the lash line is clear.  It opens the eye, making you look fresh and awake.  You can also use a heated lash curler.  It looks like a mascara wand and it doesn’t get too hot, only warm.  Some people can’t get all their lashes in the curler so a heated lash curler can be a benefit.

Always comb your lashes with the false lashes, so you don’t see the difference.

RDD: What’s next for Monifa?

MM: Product development and education.  To meet the beauty needs of women in unconventional ways.  I’m thinking outside of the box!

To view Monifa’s portfolio click here. If you have questions for Monifa about any of the makeup techniques mentioned, leave them in the comment section, below.

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