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An African Minute: 5 Questions with Celebrity Makeup and Hair Stylist Jackie Mgido


In the past 10 years, Jackie Mgido, a native Zimbabwean, has worked as a makeup and hair stylist with celebrities such as Cuba Gooding Jr., Jamie Foxx, Jane Lynch, Gayle King, Snoop Dogg and too many others to count. As part of Okayafrica’s new series, “An African Minute,” we caught up with Jackie in New York City where she was working hair and makeup magic on Food Network star Lisa Lillien (aka Hungry Girl) to ask her 5 questions.

1. How did you get started in the makeup industry?

Being from Zimbabwe, my parents always wanted me to go to college and become a vet. Truth is I’ve always loved makeup, whereas my Dad hated it. He always thought that it was for women of the night. I used to put on makeup and he actually didn't notice that I had it on. After arriving in the United States I started working for a cosmetic company. It was my husband’s idea to move to California, where I attended MUD (Make Up Designery). Before you know it, I did my first gig in the industry and that's how it all began.

2. You worked with the very funny and talented Jane Lynch from Glee during her Emmy hosting stint, what was that experience like?

That woman is so amazing, patient and great. She knows what she wants and made things simple.  She's really professional and that pushed me to be as precise and as professional as possible. It was awesome, especially since she's the biggest thing out right now.  She's naturally funny. I had to  transform her into to a Jersey Shore/Real Housewives/Mafia Wives woman (photo in series below). That was awesome, I really loved that day. They cut out a lot of things, just her character alone "Donatella" would have been enough.

3. So you’ve worked with entertainers Snoop Dogg, Jamie Foxx and Lil Jon - all guys. Hold up! Men get their makeup done too? What do you do for them?

When anyone (male or female) is on television one of things you have to do is even out their skin tone. A lot of people don't realize that African American skin has a tendency of looking oily and ashy on film. If men have pimples its important is to even out their skin tone cause nobody wants to look at that (laughs). One of the people that has really great skin is John Legend. He's so cute and so polite, I love him. I also had to even out his skin tone. I’ve also worked with Sylvester Stallone and the thing with Sylvester is he's very red, so you don't want him to look that red on television, so you have to counterbalance that. There's a whole science behind it.

4. As an African woman, born in Zimbabwe, What would you say African attitudes are towards makeup?

The thing is, at home, it's not part of our culture. It’s associated with luxury, so we are not educated in that realm. It's funny, cause my Dad would say to me "Do you sell Mary Kary?" I'm not saying there's anything wrong with selling it but I would say "No Dad, I don't sell Mary Kay. I'm not getting the pink Cadillac" (laughs). A lot of people don't get what I do. They keep asking when they are going to see me  in the movies and I'm like “No, you don't understand, I make these people look presentable". I love doing special effects but I find that when I do them a lot of people don't quite understand it.  In Zimbabwe I see a lot of young people working with clay and it’s really special to me because I did a master’s program in that art form. I see the makeup industry  as a developing field for African youth especially for men, it's a big industry. I think what’s missing is the education behind it. If I could just go home and get all those artists to come to the United States and work, then perhaps the perceptions would change.

5. Do you find it difficult to balance being a mom to a beautiful 4 year old, a wife, and a career woman all the same time?

I don't think it's a matter of being difficult. It's about having a supportive spouse and knowing that each one has a dream and you have to live it so you don't regret it later. My husband is extremely supportive. So yes of course I do feel a certain amount of guilt leaving my daughter, but if Mommy's not happy then baby's not happy. So you need to make sure everyone is happy. Who's to say you can have a family and also live your life? Having a supportive spouse I can do both and it's great. I have a lot going on in my professional life. I'm working on a sizzle reel and I want people to know about makeup and get excited about it. I’m trying to pitch something to the networks and I'm really excited about. I'm also starting a lip liner line, I've noticed that what often happens is that these lip liners always come off. So I'm working with a company right now and we are creating a semi-permanent lip liner line. I'm also an educator at heart so you can always find me on YouTube educating people about the art of makeup.

Find out more about Jackie’s hair and makeup skills on her site.

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It took the author Lemn Sissay almost two decades to learn his real name. As an Ethiopian child growing up in England's care system, his cultural identity was systematically stripped from him at an early age. "For the first 18 years of my life I thought that my name was Norman," Sissay tells OkayAfrica. "I didn't meet a person of color until I was 10 years of age. I didn't know a person of color until I was 16. I didn't know I was Ethiopian until I was 16 years of age. They stole the memory of me from me. That is a land grab, you know? That is post-colonial, hallucinatory madness."

Sissay was not alone in this experience. As he notes in his powerful new memoir My Name Is Why, during the 1960s, tens of thousands of children in the UK were taken from their parents under dubious circumstances and put up for adoption. Sometimes, these placements were a matter of need, but other times, as was the case with Sissay, it was a result of the system preying on vulnerable parents. His case records, which he obtained in 2015 after a hardfought 30 year campaign, show that his mother was a victim of child "harvesting," in which young, single women were often forced into giving their children up for adoption before being sent back to their native countries. She tried to regain custody of young Sissay, but was unsuccessful.

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