I believe that the sum of our experiences shapes and moulds us into the unique people we become.
This is a brief story of the journey that has shaped me, my work and my creative practice.
It’s the sum of these experiences that have allowed me to see the world a little differently, and approach old problems with renewed thinking, and sustainable eudaimonic solutions.
My mission is to make a positive impact on the lives of others by inspiring them to think, feel and see through a different lens, while upholding the principles of ethics and ecology.
I aim to forge long-term relationships, built on trust and mutual respect – prioritising quality over quantity.
One Saturday morning in early March, I was born to two astonishing but vastly different parents in Cape Town, South Africa. My mother is a rebel that can make just about anything with almost nothing and has an unparalleled attention to detail, and my father; a recluse that can imagine undiscovered universes and explain them to you like a poet.
I was an only-child, raised by a single mother, although my father was omnipresent throughout my childhood. This has made me comfortable with solitude and has taught me how to be independent and self-reliant.
When I was young, I wanted to be a human rights marine biologist—embodying the multi-hyphenate mentality from an early age.
We moved around a lot during my childhood, and I have been to more schools than most (Eight, not including tertiary education, to be precise). I was always the new girl, the outsider – but never for long. I always found my way… and my tribe. I still call many of those kids my friends, and we are still showing up for each other’s lives.
I loved high school – until I didn’t. So I left to study art. I loved studying art…until I realised I had no idea how I could make a living from it, so I got a job working in a stationery store.
Having grown up visiting my mother on film sets (she worked in the art department), I quickly saw that the hair and makeup artist got to sit down a lot more than anyone else – and there was even an opportunity to be quite creative at times. That suited me.
I vividly remember the “meeting” between my parents and me about leaving art school to study makeup & hair instead. My mother said, “if you do this, you have to finish it!” My father said, “You do whatever makes you happy.” That meeting was a very defining moment. I did both.
I didn’t become a makeup artist because I loved makeup. It just happened to be the medium I could make a living from. It has to be said, my career as a makeup artist has afforded me many incredible experiences, life-changing encounters, and personal growth—made up of short stays, beautiful memories and then on to the next thing.
The Cape Town film “season” was primarily a summer affair, which meant, in the winter, I had to find temporary work with built-in flexibility for the sporadic shoot. I worked for my aunt’s corporate fundraising business for many years. I started out licking and stamping envelopes and eventually co-authored (my aunt did all the writing, I just did a lot of the research and illustrated the book cover) an e-book with her on how to fundraise on the internet. At Papillon Press and Consultancy, I learned how to research and develop working systems within an organisation.
Another year, I followed in my father’s footsteps and qualified as an estate agent. We specialised in selling vacant land to people who dreamed of building their own homes rather than making someone else’s space their own. Here, I learnt office management and how to read and write contracts. While this brief foray in sales was profitable and afforded me European travels, it didn’t resonate enough to give up hair and makeup.
In early 2006, after an incredible few months of travelling, I felt that it was time to stay still and put my career first. I planned to stay in Cape Town for an entire year and rebuild my career (if you’re not around, people stop calling).
Three days later, I got a call to be the 1st assistant to the crowd HOD for a film called Blood Diamond. It meant leaving Cape Town for a few months. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity. I had never worked on such a significant production from start to finish. This film changed the course of my life. It taught me about humanity and humility. After several months in a film bubble, I set off on a road trip across America with the most unlikely (and ultimately incompatible) travel companion. But it was in America that I first discovered mineral makeup. The concept was new and exciting, and like nothing I had ever seen before in makeup. The philosophy also aligned with my own.
After seven years of assisting, I decided it was time to spread my wings. I made the conscious decision to stop assisting work. I shifted my attention to working on stills and advertising instead of films. At the time, you were either a film makeup artist or a stills makeup artist. That didn’t make sense to me. The skills were transferable, surely? It’s extraordinary how quickly things happen when you take risks and learn to say no to things that no longer serve you. I was very blessed and remain incredibly grateful to my teachers for the lessons they taught me over those years. Not only how to be a professional hair and makeup artist, but how to be a compassionate human being. Working on films taught me how to work quickly, efficiently, inventively and with a team. Stills taught me how to hone my craft alone.
In 2009, I started my first business called Mukup Creatives. The first agency for assistant makeup artists or those looking for more flexibility in their representation. It wasn’t planned; I just got sick of finding assistants and then explaining to them how to write and submit an invoice afterwards. I juggled the agency remotely and with my own work and learnt that you don’t need to be sitting behind a desk to run a business.
While my career took off in the direction I had dreamed it would, winter had come around again, and “season” was slowing to a trot. In mid-2010, I had unintentionally embedded myself into a new tech startup. 36Boutiques was South Africa’s first premium, online fashion retailer. I forged a role for myself as art director and shoot producer (I also did the hair, makeup and styling in the early days). It was my first time working in a genuinely corporate environment, and I thrived. It was exciting and innovative, and I was able to balance my career with my job. It was the first time in my life that I had a salary, some disposable income and regular working hours, and I loved it…until I didn’t. After six months of working ‘permalance’, I reluctantly accepted a full-time position with the company. I quickly learnt that the trouble with big corporate companies (who own the agile and creative startups) is that they are rigid and inflexible, and they expect you to be creative but remove the tools you need with bureaucratic red tape. Here, I learnt about duality and how to transfer skills across industries and sectors.
2011 was a hugely pivotal year of personal growth for me. I met friends that changed my life and let me see the world in a new way. They taught me to see myself in a new way. It was a year of impulse and letting go. I even found myself living on an island in Thailand! After going there to fulfil a lifelong dream of learning to dive – but instead found a flying trapeze and realised my true calling was actually learning to fly (but that’s another story for another time). Ultimately, despite the idyllic life of the tropics, I had never felt so uninspired. So I went home, and I got back to what made me genuinely happy. Being creative.
In 2012, I came back to London for what was meant to be a winter visit. I was sleeping on a friend’s couch (one of those I spoke of earlier – we became friends on our first day of Kindergarten), and I got to thinking about the last time my career went the way I wanted it to go. When I made a conscious decision to be present, so there and then I decided that I would give London one year of my life. I was going to give it 110% of myself. If I didn’t make it, I would still have a life and clients. I’m still here. Cape Town is where I grew up, London is where I found myself, found my voice and learnt to use it.
I had just moved into my third apartment in less than a year. It was a bright, happy place in one of my favourite parts of London. I had what some might call a “lightbulb moment”. That moment when you realise that your worlds don’t align; the things I believed in (caring for people and the Planet) we’re not being adhered to in working life. So I set out to do something about it and disappeared down a rabbit hole of environmentally friendly beauty products and practices. I actively finished what I had in my kit and replaced them with better. As my kit became leaner and the availability of brands became fewer, my signature and voice grew louder. In no uncertain terms, I became a better makeup artist when I had less to play with because I had to think differently.
In 2013, I met [sustainable] stylist Alice Wilby on a shoot. After discovering our shared passion for environmental and social justice, and the difficulty that presented in finding an agency to represent us, we decided to start our own. We called it Novel Beings: Conscious Creatives. It was the first agency to exclusively represent stylists, hair and makeup artists, prop and food stylists who worked with a sustainable practice in the film, fashion and advertising industries. After four years as an artist agency, Novel Beings emerged into something more sustainable for our wellbeing. We turned our approach into our strategy. A Novel Approach was an award-winning boutique creative agency and sustainability think-tank that worked with sustainable fashion brands and organisations like Birdsong and Fashion Revolution to design campaigns with a low-environment-high-social impact from the outset-not the after thought.
From Novel Beings, a number of other businesses were born to support the work. First came Wardrobe Bank in 2014. Wardrobe Bank was a rental solution for stylists to “bank” their collection of clothes and accessories, keep clothes out of landfill after photographic productions, and build up credits to hire other items for their own shoots when money is often in short supply. Then came Novel Creatives in 2016. Novel Creatives was an online marketplace where creatives of all disciplines could find freelance work with brands and businesses that shared their ethos and values.
Both of these ‘novel’ off-shoots proved to be slightly ahead of their time. Nonetheless, in building them up, I learned a number of valuable lessons about the sharing economy, online stores, developing new business models, and that seed funding is essential to get big ideas growing!
I am pleased to say that The Styling Bank (with my permission) is built off the back of the concept of Wardrobe Bank, and that Climate Creatives and The Now Work now exist to fill the space of Novel Creatives.
The truth is, while this non-conformist, free-flowing career journey has enriched my life, and it’s one that I would do over again in a heartbeat -it’s been a hard sell. I’ve always known what I could bring to the table, but I didn’t have the words to articulate it in a way the world understood. Then, in early 2021, during lockdown, I was gifted a book that changed my life (or, at least, the ability to articulate what I do).
The book (and subsequent framework) is called ‘More than my Title’ by Dr Sarabeth Berk and explores the concept of the hybrid professional. A hybrid professional works in the intersectionality of their skills, rather than switching ‘hats’ to perform their duties. That’s what I do and have been doing for nearly a decade. It doesn’t matter if I am doing hair & makeup, or writing reports or presenting workshops. I always use my multi-disciplinary creativity to speak about, teach about, and learn about ways to live in collaboration with nature and connect society.
Today, I call myself a Creative Sustainableist.
I run Vujà Dé (meaning: approaching old problems with a new perspective) Creative Solutions from a shared co-work space in North London. I continue to marry my passions, interests, and curiosities across all my disciplines. The solutions I offer include various creative services, from fine art to low carbon web design, sustainability consulting and beyond.
The collection of my skills and expertise are housed here on this website, providing you with the complete works of what I do and what I can offer you.
I look forward to working with you and adding our shared experiences and learning to my story, as I hope I add to yours.