Bunmi Oyeniyi is the CEO of Unveil, a renowned makeup outfit in Lagos. In this interview with ADA ONYEMA, she expressses her belief in adequate training in whatever profession one chooses. If you were not a makeup artist, what else would you be?
I would have gone into modelling because I love fashion and looking good generally. I love everything that has to do with fashion. I love the runway. So, I would definitely have been a model.
Have you modelled before?
To an extent, yes. I started with photography modelling. I have modelled for some designers internationally and in Nigeria too. I modelled for Everywoman and some designers and London Magazine while in London.
Then, why makeup and not modelling?
I think makeup was a lot easier for me and less stressful. When it comes to modelling, you have to go everywhere, get an agent and all that. I also wanted to be on my own, and since makeup falls under the beauty sector, I decided to choose it.
You studied Estate Management, so what informed your decision to become a make-up artist?
After graduating, I had a baby almost immediately. Throughout my stay at home, I was bored and needed something to keep myself busy. Moreover in Nigeria, you have to be on top to be an estate surveyor, taking inventories, looking for places, letting and leasing. So while I was idling at home, I decided to get some knowledge in makeup from House of Tara.
Before this time, did you in any way practise makeup?
While in school, I did makeup for people. One incident stood out though. A friend of mine who got married then asked me to make her up for her wedding. After that, many people told me, ‘Bunmi, you are just wasting your talent; why not go into makeup fully?’ So I went to House of Tara for a course in makeup.
Was that when you discovered that you could make a success of making up for people?
Yes. I started working and went to the London School of Beauty and Makeup for further training.
How would you assess the business so far?
It has been challenging, tasking and mind blowing. You discover new things every day. I have discovered that in every household there is a makeup artiste. For me, that is a bit challenging. So, you see what I mean. It is tasking. You cannot sit and fold your hands. You have to discover new terrains otherwise you will be outdated in business, because we have so many upcoming makeup artists every day. When I see people that I trained and what they are doing, I feel so proud of them. But you know Nigerians, some people will go for the cheaper ones while some will go for the name, whether you are good or bad. They say Unveil or any other known name in the industry is doing their makeup. So you can see that there is no room here for any lazy man. You have to be on the move, keep abreast of what is happening in the industry, think of what to do all the time to take your business to the next level.
How are you coping with the competition in the industry?
I have had the opportunity of asking some people in this profession how they come about being make-up artists, and the answers I get are so amazing. Some would say they are gifted and all that. But the fact remains that there is nothing like one being gifted here. If you are going into a business, I think you should be fully aware of what you are going into. Everyone of us has his or her own talent, but if you are going into the business you should know what you want to do and what you want people to know you for. In essence, people should go for the right training whatever profession or business they go into. I think it is a 50-50 thing. I am happy seeing people in the business, and the industry is wide enough to take all of us. There was a time we were not having enough makeup artists, but now all that is changing. There are rules to making up, but those rules are not being observed by most makeup artists. If you want to practise makeup, it should be professionally done. Take a proper course before dabbling into it. I think the acceptability of makeup is very positive. Most women, when you see them at parties, their makeup and gele are okay, unlike before when you would see them with black brows and black lips. I think the average Nigerian woman now knows what time it is, how to wear the makeup, when to wear it and what to wear it with. In all, I think it has improved tremendously.
What are the basic makeup tools that every woman should have?
First of all, you should have your tools, professional make-up brushes. If you know you want to wear makeup, your brushes are very important. Personally, I don’t wear a lot of makeup. Sometimes, I wear close to nothing. But you should fill in your inner eye rein, so that you don’t look dull or sickly. Use your mascara, lip gloss and then your powder. You don’t have to wear shadows if you don’t want a heavy makeup.
Must one wear a foundation as well?
It depends on the individual and what she has on her face. If you have spots, why not. If you don’t care, you don’t have to wear anything. But if you are a conscious person, you have to wear something. When you have spots, you have to wear a concealer. But if your face is flawless, I think foundation is doing too much; just wear your powder. There are powders that have both the foundation and powder together; just wear that.
Should one wear makeup to burials?
It depends on the burial and whether the deceased person is elderly or young. Obviously, when you are bereaved and the person is young, you won’t even remember to wear makeup; all you are doing is crying. But if it were to be an elderly person and you are having a party, why not?
When do you consider a makeup to be too much?
When it looks as if you just slammed your face in makeup and removed it. There is no occasion whatsoever that would warrant you to wear six colours on your face at once. For example, wearing bright colours of eye shadows on your eye, wearing red lipstick, with blusher and everything, that is very wrong. For a day makeup, you should make it as subtle as possible.
And for night?
You can do anything. You can explore, experiment, do smoky eyes, colours. It is very important to state here that in makeup, you play with the balance of your face. When the eyes are heavy, the lips should be subtle and when the lips are heavy, the eyes should be subtle.
Talking about taking your business to the next level, what is next for you?
By God’s grace, I will be launching my line of makeup brushes very soon. After that, I have other things to do. That is why I always say that you don’t stay at a place; you have to think, use your brain because the world is a global village. Every day, new technologies, inventions, ideas break, and if you do not run along with them, you will be left behind.
Are these brushes you have with you made in Nigeria?
No, they are made in China.
Any plans to make them here?
In Nigeria, we do not have the infrastructure and the machinery to produce them. We are not known for that. That is why those machines are not in place. For anyone to start that, it will require a lot of capital.
Is it expensive to have the machines in place here?
For me, I can’t produce them here because I do not have what it takes to do that. But it is a lot cheaper there and they know what they are doing. They have been producing it for different brands. Also, you know our people, once it is made in Nigeria, they would look down on the quality.
Many people think you have to save millions to start a business, how much did you start your business with?
I may have started my business with N50,000, but I don’t do only makeup; I also tie gele. It is a complete facial turnaround. Makeup business is capital-intensive because you need to get different shades of colour. What you use for one person would not be used for another person.
How do you see the average Nigerian woman’s attitude to makeup?
It has really improved. It is not only about makeup but also tying gele. I was on TV for six months trying to teach people how to tie gele. A lot of people came and said that I had done so well, they now know how to tie gele, they don’t keep their husbands waiting anymore. So, it is wonderful. The average woman can do makeup on her face, identifying what colours would suit her; I mean the colour of powder, foundation and concealer.
What was your childhood like?
Wonderful. I happen to be the only girl in a family of seven.
In essence, you were a spoilt child?
Not really. My parents were very strict. I had no choice but to sit up. My brothers went abroad and I was left alone to finish my studies here.
As a professional makeup artist, do you still observe some makeup flaws amongst women?
Some women lack confidence when it comes to makeup. Most of them still have problems identifying the right shade, applications or what colours would suit them. Your personality and occasion should determine the colour of your eyeshadows. If you are subtle, of course your makeup should look subtle. Same goes when you want your makeup to be loud. The event should determine what you wear, the colour of your blush and bronzer. Bronzers are not to be worn during the day, but people don’t know that. If you wear a bronzer, it will look as if you are sweating. It supposed to be worn at night.
When you are not at work, what do you do?
Does your husband support what you are doing?
Yes, he does. He is so calm and sweet and that was what really attracted me to him