Why We’re Crushing on MUA Jaleesa Jaikaran

November 07, 2018
Why We’re Crushing on MUA Jaleesa Jaikaran

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.