While in line at Joe’s Coffee Shop on 121st and Broadway, I noticed a beautiful black woman with pretty wispy lashes and a highlight fit for the gawds, walk up the stairs and into the coffee shop. “Charizma?!” I yelled out. I could instantly tell she was an amazing MUA. She quickly met me in line and we grabbed iced coffees to cool off from the sticky NYC summer sun.
At just 22 years old, Charizma has been in the makeup game for 6 years. From a very early age, she knew she wanted to pursue makeup and attended beauty school immediately upon graduating from high school. You may have seen her working and creating at some of your favorite shops. Her retail roster includes Sephora, M.A.C. Cosmetics, and NARS Cosmetics, where she now resides.
We sat down and discussed everything from “Instagram makeup,” the struggles of makeup artistry, and life at NARS. Check out the full interview below.
Ofunne Amaka: There's this riff between "Instagram makeup" and makeup artistry. You jumped into the makeup industry straight out of high school, so you were sort of indoctrinated into the industry in the “proper” way. I would love to hear your thoughts on "Instagram makeup enthusiasts" vs. "trained makeup artists."
Charizma Quarles: I love both of them. My everyday makeup look is probably what they call “Instagram makeup.” That beat brow, that full on crease, that full lip, thats what I love. Of course, I can do both.
It’s crazy and it's weird but I just feel like you should know how to do both. If you don’t, then I don’t consider that artistry. What you know how to do is what you know how to do but I feel like if you are gonna be an artist in this day and age you need to learn how to do both because that is the only way your artistry will grow. Thats just my take on it. I love Instagram makeup, though. Don’t change it.
OA: On the same subject matter, could you shed a little bit of light on why some makeup artists seemingly don’t know how to do makeup on deeper complexions. Is that something that is taught in beauty school? Or is that something an artist would have to learn on their own?
CQ: In beauty school, because I went to Empire Beauty School on 34th street, we did have a lot of African American girls in my class, so we practiced on them. I learned how to do African American skin tones because thats who I was around. They don’t teach that in textbooks because they feel like we don’t wear it and we don’t spend the money on it. It goes back to a lot of them saying we don’t have enough money for it and things of that nature. So, you do have to learn how to perfect it on your own. Contouring is very different for our skin tone. That “nude lip,” doesn’t look good on every skin tone.
We don’t have that many African American makeup artists. I feel like that’s why I get questions everyday like "Can you do my makeup because you are my skin tone?” or people that say they want me, specifically, to do their makeup. I find it so sad that you have to go to a specific artist to do your makeup instead of every artist. That goes to show that this industry is not educating every artist well enough to do all skin tones. So when it comes to me, I take pride in knowing what works for for what complexion, I just take pride in it.
OA: Do you have a favorite client of all time or a very memorable experience with a client?
CQ: At NARS specifically, I’ve had one client come in of African descent. She told me wanted to be the color of the inside of a banana and she was my skin tone. So I told her, "No girl, I am not doing that. Let me show you what your skin tone can do."
She told me that she just wanted to be pretty and feel beautiful. I told her,
I worked with her skin tone using all NARS products. I used NARS Sheer Glow foundation in "Beneras," which is one of the best foundations that they have. It is really for the everyday woman. Put it on with your fingers and blend it out from your nose around your face. Then I used some NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in "Amande," which is one of the best concealers for brown skinned girls. And she actually ended up loving it.
She actually said, " I didn’t realize I could look so pretty with this skin tone." She ended up buying everything.
OA: What role does a makeup artist play at NARS? Do you guys get to test things before they come out?
CQ: Yes we do, we get trainings. I feel like every brand does that. With products we test them out and see what we love.
OA: Do you guys get to give your feedback back to the brand?
CQ: Yes we do get to tell the trainers how we feel about them and how it will look on our skin tone. I know my trainer gets annoyed with me because I’m like, "Nope this looks white!" or "No! We have to fix this." So he definitely takes my feedback a lot of the time. And at work we play with them. Our counter is very chill, so in our downtime, we play around with the new products so we can see what might work for someone else.
OA: The new shades of NARS concealer - there were mixed feelings about the new releases because they introduced darker shades but when they were shown in comparison to the full suite of shades, it seemed like there wasn't much selection.
CQ: We haven’t gotten them in our store yet but I did see the shades. That is my brand but at the end of the day, they do have to make the shades. Especially when you have Aya Jones as your spokesmodel. You do have to do that when you are displaying an African American woman at the forefront of your campaign. You are going to attract more African Americans. They didn’t come out with new foundation shades for her but they came out with two new red lipsticks , three eye shadows and they came out with new contour colors. They are contour blushes and they are going all the way down to a deeper skin tone. So that I am happy for that, so I can use my brand. But as far as the concealers go, you really got to play with them and I mean you can’t force a brand to make as many colors for our skin tone as they want because that isn’t their direct client sometimes. No brand is going to directly say that but, through their shades, you probably can tell.
OA: What are some likes and dislikes about working at NARS?
CQ: What I like about it is that the artistry is very different. We use fingers for everything. We use fingers for foundation and concealers. We own not one foundation brush. So it has a different feel for me. It was uncomfortable at first but anytime you feel uncomfortable, that is when you are growing the most.
Dislikes about the brand: we do not have a lot of African American clients, and I don’t like that.
OA: Are you referring to clients that come into the store or more big time clients?
CQ: Clients that come into the store. We are across from M.A.C. So, when that girl sees M.A.C. there, she is gonna go to M.A.C. because she assumes NARS doesn't carry products for her complexion. That is something I am really trying to change at my location. I’m training one of the girls I work with, to do deeper skin tones. She told me“I’ve never done a black girl before.”
We have a lot of African clients and we also have a lot of Dominicans who have deeper skin tones and they come in and she tells me, “I don’t know what to do!” So I am training her on how to it. That is one of the best parts of my job: training, educating people about all different skin types.
OA: That is crazy though, that someone can get hired and only know how to do one skin type.
CQ: Thats the industry though. The industry has changed a lot. They are more focused on customer service than they are on knowing how to do makeup. You’d be surprised. You don’t need to have a license or certificate to work at certain makeup retailers anymore. Before they used to ask for that. Now they just ask for your retail experience.
OA: Do you have any advice for people trying to get into the makeup industry?
CQ: Every no equals a yes. I have had a struggle in this industry. I’ve been told no from about 10 places and that made me come harder. I was a freelancer at one point and had people tell me "Oh you are not special enough," or "You aren’t a "M.A.C. girl," or "You need more experience." I’ve heard it all. It just made me come so much harder. Every artist starts from somewhere. So just try to uplift everyone and take in what you can. You can learn something every day. I learn every single day, I study every single day, I’m on YouTube every single day and its not one type of makeup or one type of skin tone , its all different types on all different people so just keep learning everyday and if you hear a no you will eventually hear a yes.