Currently offering make-up lessons at the London Transgender Clinic, we speak to founder Jessica Blackler about the importance of gender-neutral beauty
Jessica Blackler has always been obsessed with make-up. It started with meticulously organising her grandmother’s make-up drawers and has been growing steadily ever since. From the age of 16, she decided to take her passion seriously, honing her craft on the sets of Ealing Studio. It was only when she started sharing her work on social media, that requests from people wanting make-up tips came flooding in - a large proportion of which, she noticed, were from trans women undergoing their transition. As conversations with these women continued, Blackler realised just how badly they were being overlooked by mainstream beauty brands. Keen to help, Jessica began offering make-up lessons in her studio to support the needs of those who were transitioning. From there she built up a large client base and in 2015 went on to launch Jecca Blac, a gender-neutral make-up brand, whose signature products include the Correct and Conceal Palette designed to cover dark circles, acne scarring and beard shadow and the Sculpt and Soften Palette which can be used to contour and ‘feminise’ the face.
“Our products are the invention of our customers, she says. “They are products that offer solutions. My clients in the make-up studio always had similar requests so we began creating products as I couldn't find solutions on the market.”
Now, with their make-up successfully up and running, Jessica, along with make-up artists Louise and Megan, a transgender woman who wants to provide the type of service that was lacking when she first came out as transgender, are launching their latest make-up lessons at the London Transgender Clinic.
We spoke to Jessica to find out more about Jecca Blac’s gender neutral products, what the lessons will cover and why this is such an important initiative.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your background?
Jessica Blackler: I’ve always been a very creative person and began studying to become a make-up artist at 16. After studying make-up and hair at Ealing Film Studios, I went onto film and TV sets and began working with clients in my spare time. From there it kind of snowballed and I quickly built up a large customer base of people who were transitioning and wanting to learn more about make-up. The demand was huge. I was getting all kinds of clients contacting me from all over the UK, I even gave free make-up lessons at prisons to inmates who were transitioning.
How has your background shaped your beauty identity?
Jessica Blackler: Having worked on hundreds of different faces, I believe highlighting your uniqueness is key. Clients always used to ask for the 'Instagram Look' and I’d always refuse to do it. Beauty begins with being comfortable with yourself and loving your own beauty, not trying to be someone else.
What's your earliest beauty memory? How did you first get into make-up?
Jessica Blackler: My earliest beauty memory was my grandmother’s dressing table. My grandmother would have deep set draws and I would spend hours organising the draws, rather than messing up lipstick (which is what most five-year-olds tend to do!) I have always appreciated beauty and beautiful products.
How has your relationship with beauty evolved over the years?
Jessica Blackler: When I was younger I used to try and 'fit in' to what everyone else was doing at the time. However, over the years, I’ve become more comfortable in my own skin.
Can you tell us a bit about Jecca Blac? Why did you set it up? What space were you hoping to occupy in the industry? What did you think was missing?
Jessica Blackler: Jecca Blac began by offering make-up lessons to trans women in a safe space where everyone was welcome to experiment with make-up. I began the make-up lessons after receiving loads of requests from social media. In less than a year I had hundreds of clients travelling from all over to visit the studio. I soon noticed that we were popular due to being different, accepting of all and understanding needs that were normally overlooked and misunderstood by mainstream beauty brands. I received lots of requests asking me to create products that offered solutions to suit their skincare needs as clients just couldn’t find the right product to help with beard shadow etc.
What does the brand stand for? How would you describe its aesthetic?
Jessica Blackler: Our motto is that make-up has no gender. Being inclusive of all make-up wearers is key for us, as is educating the customer and the beauty world about the importance of the LGBT+ community. Our customers are the core of everything we do, from new product developments to modelling for our campaigns.
What is the importance of gender-neutral make-up?
Jessica Blackler: I always say, make-up is just pigment and of course anyone can use it. However, our customer base felt very overlooked by mainstream beauty brands – they just didn't resonate. We offer make-up lessons, products and support that simply hasn't been done before, such as beard shadow coverage and tips on how to 'feminise the face'.
Why was it so important to you to offer a safe space for transgender women to explore and learn about make-up?
Jessica Blackler: Our customers weren’t always open about exploring beauty to family and friends, therefore it was a lonely journey for them to do alone. They needed support, education, reassurance, encouragement and other people in a similar situation to talk to - our safe space helped them through that.
What inspired the make-up service for transgender people at the London Transgender Clinic?
Jessica Blackler: I met two amazing people, Megan and Louise. Megan wanted to provide transgender women with the type of service she struggled to find when she first came out as transgender. They’d both trained at the London Make-up School and had further trained in mature and male to female make-up. Megan already knew Mr Christopher Inglefield and Mary Burke at the London Transgender Clinic, so we approached them to see if they would be interested in offering a make-up and styling service in house. We felt this would be a great way to get our business off the ground and thus began a very fruitful and supportive relationship with LTC. It's an absolute joy to see clients at the London Transgender Clinic, which is housed in a beautiful Georgian building in historic Wimpole Street. The rooms are beautiful to work in and the staff are wonderful. Clients can come to the clinic, knowing they are in a completely safe and supportive environment.
What will the make-up lessons include? What areas of make-up will you cover?
Jessica Blackler: The session includes a full makeover lasting two hours, covering various techniques such as contouring to feminising the face, beard cover, tips for correcting features such as hooded eyes etc. A full list of products used is supplied so that the client can recreate the look themselves and Jecca Blac products will also be available there.
5% of profits will be donated to the Mermaids charity. Why did you pick this charity?
Jessica Blackler: Mermaids is a wonderful charity and is something close to Louise’s heart – her 21-year-old nephew is currently transitioning (female to male) and has had invaluable support from Mermaids. It seemed a perfect fit for us to be able to show support for them by donating some of our profits to their cause.
For many people in the transition process, make-up is very important. How do you think your make-up lessons will impact those you work with?
Jessica Blackler: We recognise how important make-up is to those who are transitioning and of course Megan knows first-hand! Good make-up application can be vital to creating the confidence needed for transgender women when they present in public. We also pride ourselves on offering moral support and encouragement to our clients and in fact many have since become friends with the whole team. To make up a client and see the joy it brings when they look in the mirror is a truly wonderful experience.
Does the brand have any plans for the future? Any new products or initiatives?
Jessica Blackler: We have lots of new exciting products that will be launching in the near future and will continue to work with LGBT organisations and allies to create a positive brand that works towards making a difference.