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Mata Marielle is the make-up artist making space for black beauty

The firey make-up artist, art director and Lauryn Hill-lookalike on her decision to drop out of university and designing products to complement black skin

The Dazed Beauty Community is our ever-expanding encyclopaedia of creatives and emerging talent from across the world who are redefining the way we think about beauty. From supermodels to digital artists to makeup prodigies transforming themselves in their bedrooms, these are the beauty influencers of tomorrow who embody everything Dazed Beauty is about. Discover them here.

If you walk onto a shoot with makeup artist Mata Marielle you’ll soon see her holding court. “I'm definitely an Aries, always very fiery,” she says. The bubbly 20-year-old has spoken her success into existence. Often punctuating her speech with the epithet ‘mega’, she has the type of confidence many of us can only dream. “I would definitely describe myself as independent, I have grown up quickly because of the situations and jobs I have taken on over the last few years,” she says. These jobs include being IAMDDB and Nadia Rose’s go-to artist and shoots for British VoguePaper Magazine and Dazed.

Her makeup style is glossy and glowy and her makeup brand, MATA LABS, focuses on nude pallets for all skin tones. Her own aesthetic is bold – she’s a fan of a brown liner and an ombre lip. Her beauty icon is Lauryn Hill because she has “always” been compared to her looks wise. “I was on a job with her daughter once and she even compared me to her mum. That was mad, like absolutely mad. I swear to god I went home with the biggest skip in my step!” 

Mata’s transition from student to a fulltime makeup professional has been a whirlwind. After a friend reached out needing a makeup artist for a music video in 2017, she found herself doing makeup for 11 women on set. “Before I knew it I was a professional makeup artist. I was working every week for about 10 months straight. I mean, it wasn’t easy, sometimes I felt burnt out but I wouldn’t change it for the world.” The role suits her perfectly.

Tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up? 
I am originally from the Congo (DRC) but I grew up and have always lived in north-west London. North Weezy is my home man, I love it. I went to the Congo about five or six years ago. That was my first and only visit. It was cute but I got malaria in the last week which isn’t as cute but I made it, I’m alive.

My space is always messy but I see it more as controlled chaos. I understand my own mess, you know? There's never really been any organised order in things I do. I grew up with my mum, older sister and a bunch of African aunties. I spent a lot of childhood surrounded by only women so this is probably why men don't make sense to me! We moved around a lot when I was young, but I don't think that affected us much. I have always been able to adapt to places and people quite quickly.

In secondary school, I was always a bit of a class clown. I wore these massive Ray Ban reading glasses, baggy clothing and was obsessed with Pastry Glam Pie Sneakers. I wasn’t allowed to wear make-up till I was 16, but even then, there were still limitations. I could only wear mascara and foundation. I’ve always been obsessed with liner so I found a nude lip liner that suited me best.

What's the biggest life decision you've made recently?
Quite recently I made the decision to drop out of university. I worked so hard and I was so happy to get in but I found it just wasn't for me. Coming from a traditional African family, I mean, they haven't taken it too well. But sometimes you have to do things for you, and at this stage, uni just didn't feel right. In the end, I was exhausted and lost. It was my main goal to build an environment which felt at ease, not somewhere I wanted to escape from. My mum always envisioned me getting up on stage with a graduation cloak on, in front of many proud faces but I don't think that was ever going to happen.

What is it you do and why do you do it? 
I am a make-up artist and art director, candle maker and business owner. Without sounding cringe, make-up is so much more than making someone look pretty. I find so much joy in it; I have the ability to make someone feel at ease in their own skin. I love going above and beyond for my clients. I take so much care in my jobs, the people I work with and people in general.

What are you working on at the moment?
I have my baby, MATA LABS. The make-up line is designed to compliment black skin (but does suit other skin tones). There has been so much conversation recently on the limited make-up for black people and the industry is starting to change, but very slowly. The industry could be doing way more to offer products catered to black people. I've hosted a few pop-up shops and completely sold out. It's so fulfilling though, watching my ideas become a reality. Seeing people use my products honestly warms my soul, I'm so excited for the next few months.

What’s your earliest beauty related memory?
I think I was like 12 or 13, at that age make-up was a no-go. I remember going through my mum’s make-up drawer and locking myself in the bathroom to create some of the maddest looks. Looking back on it now, I wish I'd documented some of them; it would be so funny to recreate these looks for a shoot – BABY MATA. Anyway, after posing in the mirror and staring at my masterpieces I would then have to scrub my face quick time and neatly organise all her make up back in order. This one time, I forgot to remove some blue eyeliner. She wasn't pleased.

What’s your favourite smell?
Food! Oh my god – the smell of food makes me weak at the knees. I am definitely a foodie. Cooking, eating, prepping I love it all. Food is memory and experience, there’s so much joy around sharing a dinner table with the people you love. But don't get me wrong, I enjoy eating on my own too. When I'm hungry, I'm hungry. So the smell of food is my favourite. It can take you to a specific time, encounter, meeting or exchange. It also can remind you how much you've been craving something.

Which fictional character do you most relate to and why?
I hope one day I can be Rafiki, the absolute legend monkey in the Lion King. One day I hope I'm wise, spiritual and powerful.

What does beauty mean to you?
I find beauty in everything. I find beauty in words. Every morning, I spare a little bit of time to listen to poetry. My little zen time. Seriously try putting make-up on while listening to poetry, it's beautiful.   

I haven't always loved myself. I was confident yet I wasn't always confident in my looks – was I pretty enough? etc. I found the strength to laugh off the odd slur, but sometimes they cut through. Growing up as an African girl and going through school, I was so tempted by skin bleaching. Would that make me prettier, would that make me more appealing? Skin bleaching is very popular in African culture. Family members were using it; it wasn't frowned upon or looked down at. Products enticing you in with taglines about making your skin three shades lighter. Now I look at myself, my beautiful skin and I am so proud to be a black woman. I love my face. I speak openly when I'm feeling myself, when I look good you will hear it, see it, feel it. I am finally confident in my beauty and I love it. I don't want people to confuse my confidence for arrogance. It took a long time for me to get here.

What does the future of beauty look like?
The future of beauty looks BLACK. Times are changing. The industry is starting to realise that black culture has a voice. We are influential, artistic, academic voices who want to be represented. Brands are starting to realise that we too need make up catered for our skin. It's actually shocking when you think about the colour range of shades in Boots. The darkest dream matte mousse is a soft tan?!? Brands are slowly starting to produce products for our skin tones. And the idea of nude being strictly for insipid beiges, pinks and custards is done.

What is your fantasy future?
My fantasy future consists of making my family happy. Making sure that my mum’s comfortable, being able to offer her the world. Next, I want MATA LABS to be a successful black-owned bossy bitch business with offices in New York, London and Paris. And then I want happiness, beyond physical things, an internal sense of peace, a feeling that I have accomplished everything I wanted to.