There are many challenges to face in an industry as small and unexplored as the make-up industry of Kenya. For Kavengi, like most make-up artists in Kenya, money was her first challenge as she was starting out. There are a lot of things to consider if you want to become a make-up artist and as Kavengi points out, quality make-up and good photographers cost money.
“A lot of challenges in the industry revolve [around] funding in my opinion. The tools of the trade and equipment are very expensive [not just] for the make-up artist [but] the hair stylist, the photographer and the designer,” she explains.
However, challenges did not emerge merely in the form of finances but from her abstract and unique style as well. What was and is still Kavengi’s concern is that most people consider her work to be quite absurd and eccentric making it difficult to popularize.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is to stick to your style, my work may not pay as well yet but am sure in a few years it will be the hit,” she affirms. Kavengi is no longer focused on the idea of likeability. Loyalty, passion and a deep love for make-up are vital for success, she states.[bctt tweet=” If one enters this profession thinking solely of money, then it will be easier to despair and quit.”] As she bends the rules and explores the madness in make-up, it is important for Kavengi to customize her work to express the African experience. Moreover, she encourages those interested in pursuing her sort of abstract make-up style to practice courage, patience, endurance and form partnerships, it’s tough because of how conservative the industry is now.
” I believed then and still believe now that the industry is still very narrow in focus and not diverse enough,” she adds.
Additionally, the make-up industry in Kenya is closely knit which makes it hard for not just start-up artists but other artists to become popular. As a freelancer, she has the freedom to discover her own style, but even if she wanted to work with a magazine, it would be a challenge. Firstly because of her style and also because of how exclusive the makeup industry can get.
“I feel that the magazine industry is close knit in that the same photographer, makeup artist, hair stylist and fashion stylist will appear in consecutive magazine issues,” she discloses.
Although Kavengi has not interacted with many artists, she has received support from several, most especially Muthoni Njoba. Still, it has not been easy for Kavengi as there is not enough diversity and the industry still lacks an avenue for multiple expression. [bctt tweet=”Kavengi looks forward to an industry which will embrace dramatic make-up and variety in style. “]For Kavengi, when it comes to expression and range, there is still a wide gap between local make-up standards and international standards. As of now, the industry still has ways to go in terms of diverse expression and ‘absurdity’ in style and this for Kavengi, constrains the growth of new ideas.
“The day I see gowns resembling those at a John Galiano show; hair and make-up akin to that of a Vivienne Westwood show, then I will believe we are on an international platform,” she muses.
Moreover, in the Kenyan culture, there is a lot of emphasis on careers that are fruitful, and for many being a make-up artist does not feature in that category. Art in Kenya is still disregarded but Kavengi still strives on, doing shoots in town, Karen, Mathare, Kibera, basically just about anywhere.
“Fashion taste is not confined to a chosen few, it lurks everywhere,” she reasons.
Still Kavengi sees the potential of the make-up industry in Kenya, with a combination of amazing stylists, photographers, make-up artists and hair stylists, the future is hopeful. The industry just needs persistence and consistency, two aspects she used to get to where she is now. [bctt tweet=”Remaining passionate, studious and continuously learning are a priority, everything else follows.”]
“I believe in being good at what you do, which means you need to love what you do, which then means you must cultivate your own definitive style,” she concludes.
Images sourced and subject to Copyright © Kavengi Kitonga © Shifteye Photography ©Armstrong Studios