Sunday, 02 September 2012 02:30
By D Francis
Antigua St. John’s - ‘The brush is only the beginning’ is the motto professional makeup artist Kumia Lee is using to ‘brush’ her way to major success.
To get a deeper appreciation for the wonderful achievements of this young woman, for those who may not remember, Lee is the daughter of local musicians Calypso Val and Jagga Martin, but was raised by stepfather Alexander Lee (Tybu). Since migrating to the U.S, Lee and has been growing in leaps and bounds in the fashion world.
Caribarena.com contacted Lee to speak with her about achievements and goals and aspirations as a beacon in the industry.
She recalls: “I’ve always had a love for fashion, wanted to be this famous model. However, reality sunk in that I would never make it to the point of super-stardom. When I migrated to Miami, Florida, I was cast as a hair model and this opened a few doors like Miami Fashion Week.”
Lee said being close friends with her personal makeup artist Kellyann Charles from Trinidad has catapulted her opportunities to rub shoulders with the greats of the industry.
Charles is famous in the industry for her flawless body painting and makeup in music videos for artistes such as Ja Rule, Ashanti and Nas, among others.
“Kellyann would take me on her jobs as her assistant and that is where I grew a love for the art of makeup artistry and decided to take it to another level and get formal training,” Lee explained.
She said that Kellyann told her, “‘If you want to do beauty makeup I could teach you; learn how to do the stuff that will count’. I have always had a fascination with how movies created these creatures so with the advice from Kelly, I decided to study all aspects of makeup -- from beauty, bridal, glamour, high fashion, character and special effects.”
According to Lee, although her heart was set on her goal, the issue of finance was a factor but it so happened that the job she was at was closing their call center sending to the Middle East, and provided scholarships to their workers 100 per cent up to three years -- and she jumped at the opportunity which allowed her to attend the number one makeup school in the world, Cinema Makeup School located in Los Angeles, California.
Lee was asked about her most memorable moment in her career and she recalled, “It was when I won the Angie Martinez Natural Hair competition in New York in 2007.”
She noted that it opened many doors for her as she travelled across the country participating in many hair fashion shows. She said this win also gave her the opportunity to get casted to be the main girl in a music video for Trinidadian Singer Isasha ‘ Don’t You Know’ and also appeared in a few hip hop and Caribbean magazines.
Placing in the top four for a character makeup competition and having worked many red carpet events with famous models and actresses, including America’s Top Model’s cycle 9 winner Saleisha Stowers, were also mentioned.
Lee shared with us that “Phacez by Kumia” was established upon finishing her formal makeup training. She originated it for mainly makeup, however, due to its success; there are plans to expand the brand.
“We are in the process of expanding this brand further into other creative markets,” Lee said. “So far, we’ve gotten overwhelming positive responses to this brand and this is a major motivator for us here at Phacez by Kumia.
Lee remarked: “We are keeping up to date on all the latest trends in fashion, beauty, special effects, glamour, character and all the rest of it, so that we can integrate these aspects to give our clients the whole package. We never want to keep anything ordinary; we always want to give a little extra so we can be remembered.”
The question was put to Lee about the perception which some people placed on jobs in the fashion and modeling world.
Among our culture there are many who look on these careers as ‘side jobs’.
To this Lee replied, ‘As my instructor once said to me, there will be many who seek careers in makeup artistry and modeling, but there will be a few that actually will be good at it. To be good and succeed at it, practice…practice…practice, this will perfect your skill that you already have.”
She added: “I was good when I graduated, but with a few years under my belt I have gotten better with practice from photo shoots, fashion shows and film projects.
Lee said that presently she is still not where she will like to be in her career but she is working on getting there.
“I have worked with Strayone Productions and CW5 Network. I am also in the works to start a project with Jach Productions, about to sign on with Rick Backer Studios who has done the makeup work for Men in Black series, Warewolf in London and Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video, so this will be a big break for me once I do well.”
Lee was asked if any of her big plans include coming back to Antigua to revolutionise the industry in any way.
“I honestly cannot go into details; however, I do have a few ideas to incorporate Antigua & Barbuda and the beauty, fashion and film industry. One is bringing designers, models, entertainers, makeup artists and anyone involved in this industry from all over the world. My sister Naomi Lee just graduated film school where she studied editing, producing, directing, cinematography, screenwriting and sound, etc, so we will be working on a few projects. And my biggest baby I am working on right now is launching my cosmetic line -- Kumia Lee Cosmetics”. And also whenever I have freedom of creativity, I usually try to implement a bit of my culture into my work, especially from carnival, like rhinestones, glitters, feathers and sequins.”
Lee who lives in Los Angeles, California used the opportunity to tease the appetites of the women going for a natural flawless look.
“Well, for me personally, I do not wear a lot of makeup. I know it may sound weird coming from a makeup artist. However, when I go to work, I do put on a fabulous makeup. To achieve a natural makeup look, you can opt to not use liquid foundation or if you do use foundation, apply very lightly and powder to set the foundation.”
She continued, “For the eyes, first thing we need to do is prime the eyes. I usually use NYX eye base or an eye primer from Mac.
This will allow the eye shadow to last longer depending on what colours you want, but when I am trying to get a natural look I use medium brown to dark brown pencil depending on the effect I am trying to get. Use the pencil to create the crease from the corner of the eye to the middle or to the eye’s inner corner. I then use Mac dip down liquid line and apply a very small amount to the lid area. I then use a shimmery gold colour or for a natural look, use a matte colour and this would go on top of the brown. Make sure to blend very well”.
To those interested in the field Lee said, “Never give up on your dreams; there will be negative energy but dust that off and keep going. Work hard because nothing in life comes easy. Determination is the key to success, strive for the stars and once you have the drive and passion, you will succeed.”
Lee was the first to be crowned Miss Wadadli in 1997 and has modeled for many years since the age of nine.