When Vanessa Chandler was in middle school, she used to sneak into her mother’s room when she wasn’t around and play with her foundation and mascara.
“Then I would hurry up and take it off before she came home and hope she didn’t notice,” she said.
This was Chandler’s first exposure to beauty products as a young girl. She also used it in high school and still fondly remembers her excitement while applying makeup for a high school banquet.
“It was really just, like, brown shadow and that was basically it,” she said. “But I was so proud of myself then.”
Chandler, a junior tourism and hospitality management major, is now a makeup artist who works specifically with women of color. Last month, she started the Instagram page “Vanessa Gabrielle Makeup Artistry” to launch her business as a makeup artist. Her account, @vanessagabrielle.mua, currently has more than 300 followers.
For Black History Month, she has been featuring different Black female creators on her Instagram story to uplift Black women and give them a platform to showcase their work.
“I also wanted to do it to prove to people …Black women are dope,” she said. “If you didn’t know, here’s 28 days why Black women are dope.”
“I just think we deserve to be celebrated,” she added.
Chandler even considers herself an artist and views makeup as a form of artistic expression.
“I wasn’t good at painting [or] drawing really nice facial features, but I would say that I was creative,” she said. “For me, [makeup] was just another way of expressing that creativity and artistry that already was in myself.”
She launched her social media platform after months of strategic planning that involved picking a brand name, designing a logo, setting a budget for purchasing makeup products and gathering clients.
Initially, Chandler said she wanted to feature historical Black women like Rosa Parks every day on her page, but she decided to instead use her page to promote creative Black women.
“Their story has been told and it’s going to continue to be told,” she said. She wanted to “tell the stories of women who need or are looking for that platform.”
Chandler added that she wanted to help Black women claim their own voices.
To find women to feature on her page, Chandler goes through her list of Instagram followers to find creative and artistic Black women. She also reaches out to her friends to recommend people to feature.
She reaches out to them and if they agree to be featured, she asks them to send pictures and quotes about themselves, along with information about their work.
Chandler’s idea isn’t limited to makeup artists. She’s also featured photographers, graphic designers, chefs and fashion designers.
Chandler shared work from her friend, Crystal Anokam, who is a portrait photographer and a senior public health major.
“When I met her and got close to her, she kind of opened up my eyes to how to be a creative and an artist, but also how to brand yourself,” Chandler said. “That’s something that I never thought of before.”
Anokam said featuring Black women daily on social media can be empowering.
“I think it’s dope,” Anokam said. “Because [it’s] not just makeup, it’s a platform. She’s already starting a network and creating something that unifies people, and we don’t see a lot of that for Black women, especially in the creative and arts field.”
After Black History Month, Chandler still hopes to feature Black women from different art backgrounds, although not as consistently as she did this month.
“No matter what stage I’m at, whether I have 300 or 3,000 followers, I want to use my platform as a way to uplift and encourage other Black women who are also building their brands and businesses,” Chandler said. “I will always use whatever I have to help somebody else.”