“You have to see this.” We’re told as we’re being ushered behind the scenes of a popular fashion event in the Nairobi calendar. Having been granted access to a couple of backstage, we were a little apprehensive. To say it can be a chaotic carnival is putting it mildly. Being an observer to Models running between stylists, hair crew and the makeup squad is like watching America’s next top model with the emotion cranked up to the power of 10. A MAC backstage, on the other hand, was a different story.
Not only was the atmosphere composed and unperturbed, but the models were simply waiting for their final touches; with an hour to spare. We’ve all heard it before. That MAC Cosmetics is the leading authority backstage for Fashion Week. But to see this military precision first hand was positively stupefying. At the helm of this operation was MAC Cosmetics Senior Artist for Sub Saharan Africa, Marco Louis Ackers. When we first encountered the South African Makeup Artist, MAC had been in Nairobi for a few months and was hosting an event to promote its latest trend. After a quick demo, we had the opportunity to jump into his chair and get our makeup done by Marco Louis himself.
The same artist who worked multiple seasons backstage at New York Fashion Week. A platform that has afforded him to work big shows like Michael Kors, Zac Posen, Carolina Herrera, to mention a few. And though he’s worked with top names in modelling including Kendal Jenner, and Gigi Hadid, we can confirm that you get the A-star treatment. Not just because he’s giving you curated makeup styles/strategies that suit your face but also because he makes you feel great about what you have already. Makeup being an accentuation of that.
Perhaps it’s his 10 years of experience within the fashion and makeup industry that has taught him the fine balance of punctilious implementation and altruism in the creative arts. Or that the MAC ethos of inclusivity has helped shape modus operandi. We talk to this Senior Artist with an adroit and inspired eye for makeup to get some insight to his career.
I love that men are starting to become comfortable with the idea of using minimal products to create an all over refined look.
Why did you become an MUA?
I have always wanted to be a visual artist but in attempt to start anew in a new city back home in 2010, I decided to branch into makeup artistry. MAC Cosmetics seemed like the perfect fit for painting all day, the canvas was just different. I have never looked back.
In a previous interview you highlighted that you started out in the fashion industry as an illustrator and design assistant. What makes makeup tell a better story than illustration?
I think all facets of the makeup industry critical in telling the full story. So that collaboration is what I enjoy the most. There definitely is something amazing with makeup and regard to someone wearing the art you create, and that it is so delicate in that it can just be wiped off.
Where you professionally trained?
My professional training is within the fashion industry as a designer. My love and ability for makeup has been developed over the years. The MAC counter was honestly one of the best makeup schools I could have hoped for.
How would you define your signature style that makes you stand out in the MUA industry?
I find my style to be very simplistic. I love classic beauty that is not too transformative. I do however try to be well versed in all different kinds of makeup to ensure full diversity.
Truth is, I wear a full face of makeup
On a side note, because your work life is predominantly in all black outfits, do you feel compelled to go the full colour spectrum off duty?
I still wear black most of the time. I feel like there is something so CHIC and timeless about all black. I feel like a professional when I am in full MAC black. A touch of colour on the weekends definitely make things a bit more fun. And by colour, I mean denim.
You seem very comfortable wearing makeup…we’re curious to know the kind of feedback have you been receiving?
As a teenager I had always been fascinated with how woman use makeup to create an almost ‘alter ego’. This fascination lead to trying it out for the first time in college and I have not stopped since then. The feedback I always receive is that it doesn’t look like makeup and my skin just looks flawless. Truth is, I wear a full face of makeup, from foundation to powder, blush and mascara, and even a brow filler. Naturally I always finish this off with a spritz of MAC Fix + to make it all look as natural as possible. I love that men are starting to become comfortable with the idea of using minimal products to create an all over refined look.
Why did you decide to join MAC?
MAC and its inclusive nature really made me feel at home in wanting to be part of a family that celebrates individuality. The artistry focus and creative take on how makeup is perceived has been my greatest pleasure in my work.
And now you’re a Senior Artist for Sub Saharan African… what are your roles?
The biggest part of my job is to create teams that will represent the brand backstage with me for events. I also focus on artistry development within our stores and am available as a link to the media.
The greatest opportunity now is for us to focus on conducting the most professional and quality driven experience in all our fields. It is our time now.
What differences have you seen with the way different countries approach makeup in general?
The consumer across SSA is so vast in that we see everything from new users, enthusiasts, professionals and just good old MAC Junkies. This makes for such an incredible experience trying to service everyone as best we can. That can be seen not only in the incredible product line up but also with our variety of experiences and services available in our stores. There is literally something for everyone.
Having been involved in multiple fashion events on the continent, in what ways does Kenya need to improve its industry.
A large part of my year includes a lot of travel across the continent to engage in backstage opportunities with my team. With the events I have participated in Kenya, the standard is undeniably great. I do see a great opportunity for more collaboration for BTS, when it comes to hair, makeup and fashion and the collaboration of that, we have a great journey ahead of us. I foresee nothing but great growth and success in the quality of the industry in general. With the world having its eyes locked on our wonderful continent, it is our duty to focus on making everything of an international standard.
One thing that stands out for you, being an MUA in Africa…
The highlights would have to be all of the incredible events happening all over the continent right now. After every successful event I am reminded that I am exactly where I want to be. The greatest opportunity now is for us to focus on conducting the most professional and quality driven experience in all our fields. It is our time now.
But you must have faced your own share of misconceptions in the field?
Perhaps the biggest of these is that we are merely a small part of the bigger picture, when in fact I find that makeup artistry is a critical part of the dream weaving nature of the fashion industry. We are the final detail that brings the entire story together.
Editorials or purely runway?
My work encompasses absolutely every facet of the makeup industry. Depending on the time of year, I work through all of it. Editorial, runway, private one on ones, facilitating master classes…
Makeup artistry is a critical part of the dream weaving nature of the fashion industry. We are the final detail that brings the entire story together.
MAC is known for its mastery of the backstage. What’s the secret? How do you plan the process and avoid the chaos?
The process always begins with selecting the right team from our stores. To date, we have an official team of artists trained by me in both Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya. Days before the show I meet with the designers and producers and we create the looks to ensure that the team is completely clued up. On the day of the show, I demo these looks to my team and brief them on my expectations for both face and body makeup hours before the actual runway show, and from there it is just a matter of being practically invincible and relying on the incredible skill of my team. Everything is planned down to the detail.
With all this exposure are there any looks, that you helped create, that stand out for you?
As I always say, ‘The devil is in the detail’. My all-time favourite look would have to be the signature blue triangle placed in the outer corner of the eye for Milles Collines at Johannesburg Fashion Week in 2015. The look can still be seen on their business cards and in store. Another look I loved was a floating liner I created for Sarah Diouf of Tongoro Studio (Senegal). We cut out plastic liner shapes and used adhesive to attach them just before the show went up. [But most importantly], if you ask anyone I have worked with, I pride myself on creating a beautiful skin story for both face and body.
Have you thought about launching your own makeup line?
For now, MAC has given me many opportunities including product development. I think it is safe to say that I am perfectly at home.
What top five things do you wish photographers, designers or clients knew that would make your job much easier?
- We know what we are doing.
- Make the time to discuss what is expected before hand.
- Have a clear brief. We can tell beautiful stories but the narrative of what we need to accomplish has to be clear.
- Trust the process. It’s just makeup. If it doesn’t work we can take it off and start again.
- Enjoy it.
Who are you dying to collaborate with and why?
Osborne Macharia in my opinion is a true visionary and trailblazer as an African Artist. I love his aesthetic. His work is edgy and futuristic and yet resounds with so much of the past. He is the ultimate visual story teller. I think it’s a big dream of mine to be able to work with him at any given chance.What can we expect from this second half of 2018…Any big projects in the works?
The second half of the year is usually my busiest season. From international Fashion Weeks to big shows on the continent. I will also be doing my annual roadshow across all our African locations to talk all things MAC Studio fix foundation and all its famous sidekicks. Keep it locked to my Instagram for dates and cities.