Give Moshoodat Sanni some vibrant body and face paint and you can be assured the result will be aesthetically gratifying with a profound inner connotation core. Based in New York City (NYC), this licensed Aesthetician, a Make-Up Artist (MUA) and Creative Director has had a remarkable career in the makeup industry. She’s been fortunate enough to work with networks such as Oxygen, VH1 and Oprah Winfrey’s OWN. She’s no stranger to top modelling agencies such as Major Models and Wilhelmina, as well as, a long list of bridal, celebrity, music video shoots and daily clients. But you probably recognise this Nigerian artist from her 2016 eponymous series, ‘Moshoodat’s Paint Series’. The first in her passion projects inspired by women of colour.
The idea for the series came to Sanni as she grew weary waiting for someone else to create a platform that illuminated the beauty of black women. In an interview with Essence Magazine, she elaborated, “I created this project because I’ve always wanted women of colour to see the light and the magic we carry! I want women of colour to be looked at on a high pedestal.”
However, it wasn’t just for Instagram’s sake, she wanted to generate images that would appreciate women of colour in the art and fashion sphere as well. To do this, she teamed up with Joey Rosado of Island Boi Photography to get the project running; with Sanni as the first subject. After rave responses from this image, they began incorporating models into the series. A move that saw the series go viral and land features in publications such as Glamour Magazine, Elle UK and Buzzfeed.
There were two images, in particular, which stood out in this series. The first being of cancer survivor, Erica Hart, who showed her scars in a bid to highlight Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Hart explained that the significance of this series was to present a more inclusive view of society. “Everyone is not white, cisgender, heterosexual, or able bodied. Breast cancer ads/awareness campaigns are often consistent with the media’s erasure of marginalized communities.”
The second being model, Khoudia Diopwho, who trended due to her skin tone. Sanni chose to apply white paint on Diopwho to highlight the richness of the beauty through colour contrast. All the black models incorporated in the series were a symbol for every viewer to take pride in who they are. Additionally, Sanni hoped that black girls would be more encouraged to experiment with colour and not feel limited or confined by their hue.
This passion project served as an affirmation of the beauty and artistry around women of colour in a colour-struck society that doesn’t like to acknowledge the fact. Secondly, doing a project that had significance very intrinsic to her own life reinvigorated her as an artist and as a person. A necessity, considering that the project may have never happened. Rosado wasn’t just instrumental at visually capturing Moshoodat’s vision, you could say he’s the reason it even came to fruition.
Sanni was having second thoughts about continuing her MUA career and was considering becoming a flight attendant instead. Although Rosado understood that breaking into the industry can be difficult, he encouraged her to stick with it. The chemistry between these two creatives resulted in a business partnership that perfectly captures the African stories using photography. Sanni’s creative artistry, that combines femininity, simplicity and heart-felt zeal seamlessly, inspired Rosado to become a more ‘creative, out of the box, Avant Garde’ photographer.
Sanni followed ‘The Paint Series’ with the ‘Splat’ photo series. a collaboration project with Rosado that told the story of the racial comments and abuse she received growing up. According to an article by Glam Africa, Sanni utilised the photo series to talk against the hatred she experienced and ‘takes her followers on the journey that gave black people a voice in certain places that were regarded as a no-go-zone for Africans.’ The Paint Series, for example, has imagery that represents how society finally embraced Nigerian culture to a woman embracing the statistics society has placed on her as a woman of colour by gracefully sporting the numbers drawn on her skin. Thus, explains the reason that, although Sanni is trained to do makeup for any gender or shade, she’s passionate in highlight the essence and beauty of women of colour through her work.
While her childhood experiences have left her feeling occasionally less beautiful or more lacking in society, she realised it was up to her to change how she perceived herself. Subsequently, by producing art that she can allow others to express themselves, she was in the process of healing herself too.
From the comments and direct communication, it’s clear that the project was one women of colour having been longing for. In future, she hopes her project will reach the masses be it through galleries and museums or by traveling and ‘painting the world beautiful’.
Even though her career has been fortunate enough to work with talented photographers and agencies, it’s her passion projects that brought her to the limelight. Her endeavour to constantly provide the world with visuals that celebrate the natural beauty of women of colour. And the result is more women who have constantly found it difficult to see the representation of themselves in fashion and art, finally seeing themselves appreciated in society too.