If you obsess over editorial makeup looks on the ‘gram, odds are freelance makeup artist Jaleesa Jaikaran is behind more than a few of them. She’s done makeup for publications like “PAPER” and “Glamour”, and has worked countless seasons of New York Fashion Week. We recently caught up with the Trinidadian-born artist to talk about how she got her start, the moment she realized makeup was her passion and what beauty means to her.
Here’s what she had to say:
How did you get into makeup? Tell us about your journey.
I was helping with the organization of a fashion show in Trinidad and they kept asking me to walk in the show. After much resistance, I gave in and was told I needed to buy my [own] foundation. I was pissed about that. My view at that time was that foundation was heavy and cakey. I bought the foundation and immediately fell in love. I started buying new makeup when I got paid and would practice every Sunday by watching videos and researching everything I could find. [During] this discovery phase is when I started my YouTube channel.
I eventually decided to take a makeup class but I never actually finished the course. I didn't know I had a natural knack for it. After a year of assisting my coach on jobs, I started booking my own shoots and eventually started working for MAC Cosmetics. I spent a year and a half in Trinidad and travelled with the brand as a product specialist before realizing I wanted to move to NYC. I interviewed and moved with the brand in 2013. I stayed with the brand for a little over three years and started assisting more established artists part-time, most notably, Kabuki. I became the first assistant and did Fashion Week and ad campaigns. Now, I have been freelance full-time for the last two years working in fashion and beauty while also creating content around my love for makeup.
When did you realize makeup was your passion?
I always knew I loved makeup but I didn't realize it could be my career. My initial goal was to be in marketing — I lived on sites like Ad Age and Ad week. When I started doing clients and seeing their reaction, it was amazing. Ever since buying that foundation, I found myself buying books of all kinds — photography, lighting, face painting — anything that would make me a better artist.
What’s the coolest shoot you've ever done?
I would have to say the story I did for Paper Magazine. Our model was absolutely stunning, and I played with different lip colors and iridescent and gold highlights. I would also say a creative story where I stuck real flowers on the model’s eyes but it hasn't been released yet.
What’s the makeup look/trend you're currently obsessed with?
Even though I don't wear a lot of eyeshadows often, I am in love with glitter! Just a hint of it applied with the fingers can upgrade any look. I'm currently in love with Lemonhead Glitters.
Name a makeup product you can't live without.
Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage Concealer. It's my forever favorite.
Any advice for someone who wants to become a makeup artist?
Oh my! That would be a long conversation as there are so many directions you can go. I am launching my podcast @thelifeofamakeupartist next month that gives you an insider look with no filters, on what it's really like to be a makeup artist. I will be answering questions like this and sharing my journey and the stories of other artists to inspire and educate.
If you're looking to become a makeup artist, my advice would be to experiment. There are so many different lanes. Try bridal makeup, special FX, clean makeup — try it all! This will be your compass as to what direction you should take.
What does makeup mean to you?
I always say that makeup is to be unapologetically you. Like a painter and a canvas, makeup is a form of self expression where you can do what you want, when you want and have it be OK.