Meet Ayopo Abiri, the makeup artist behind the looks in your favorite music videos

Pulling off the perfect music video involves getting as many talented hands into the melting pot as possible, from the directors and producers to the videographers, models, beauty directors, and also the makeup artists. Each person is an indispensable ingredient in bringing the vision of an artist to life and should be treated with as much respect as each other. Here in Nigeria, makeup artists are still fighting to have their craft respected, and this is no simple feat, given the general lacklustre attitude towards creative ventures.

Cue in twenty-year-old Ayopo Abiri, the talented makeup artist behind the ’90s old Nollywood-style makeup on Lady Donli’s “Corner” and the delectable looks on Zamir and Amaarae’s “Munchies”. She’s a self-taught makeup artist inspired by the likes of Pat McGrath, Alissa Ashley, Celine Bernaerts, and many more, as she crafts detailed looks on her face–the girls just aren’t doing it like she does.

 

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Ayopo Abiri may be racking up the dream CV but she still believes that she is a long way from being a professional makeup artist. ‘I’ve always liked makeup for as long as I can remember but I won’t say I am where I want to be in terms of being a professional’ she tells me over the phone. ‘I only started taking the craft seriously after graduating from high school about four years ago. My mum didn’t really let me wear makeup prior to this, but from my graduation to now, I’ve remained committed to trying out the best looks on myself and my clients’.

Since starting out full-time as a makeup artist, she’s already had her fair share of naysayers determined to diminish her work and underpay her for her services. ‘I would get called up by clients on big projects requesting I create 10 looks within a short time frame, and when I send my rates, they’re shocked. One actually told me once ‘is it not just eyeshadow you’re slapping on’ she reveals to me.

“I get comments like this all the time and it really diminishes my craft, because there’s a lot that goes into getting the right look and I’m literally creating an entire face that fits within different scenes. Also, the products I buy are expensive because I like using high-end products on clients and I feel like they deserve the best so pay me what I’m owed.”

 

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Armed with an eclectic range of Fenty and Too Faced products for her first shoot, Ayopo has since found her feet and she’s lived and breathed by them. I think my first shoot was one of my most memorable ones. It was a real challenge for me because it was for a male artist, infiniteYCG and he wanted a punk look’ she adds. Despite it being her first time working on a male face, she rose to the challenge and stepped outside her comfort zone.

Since taking on this challenge, she gained the confidence to conceptualise even the hardest looks because, for her, she always wants to be better than she was the last time she beat a face. It’s what inspired the ’90s glam makeup on Lady Donli’s “Corner” video, the desire to nail exactly what was expected of her.

“So I actually didn’t know I was going to do the makeup for Donli’s shoot. I was called up by the director some days before the shoot and he was like ‘hey someone recommended you for this, are you free?’ and I was like hell yeah, Donli is one of my closest friends and it’s great to be a part of such a monumental video”.

In contrast, working on the set of Zamir and Amaarae’s “Munchies”, Ayopo was exercising an entirely different skillset, given the different requirements from each video’s theme.

 

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She’s also dedicated to representing the queer community in Nigeria. Although she’s not all the way out – ‘my mum still thinks I am doing rainbow makeup’ she tells me over the phone – but she’s determined to put out a look each year during pride month to connect with Nigeria’s queer community and let them know that she is one of them. This sense of community and belonging is a big thing to Ayopo and she’s never one to take it for granted at all.

“I want to show my pride in any way that I can through my makeup looks. Every pride month, I always try to turn out at least one look celebrating the LGBTQ+ community. It really does help me express myself further”.

While may look like she’s confidently churning out these looks on the gram, people tend to only show the sides of themselves they want highlighted. Ayopo Abiri admits she’s been dealing with anxiety for a while, and it’s something that’s affected her craft. ‘Honestly, it’s not easy, but makeup has always been something I love and find extremely enjoyable, so I, first of all, have to remind myself of why I started this in the first place. I just have to tell myself that this is work and I cannot let my anxiety get in the way’ she tells me. ‘I always take a friend to a shoot and it’s great to have them there because I make all of them my assistants and they’re also very observant, so before I start freaking out, they know and they help me to get through that’.

“I have just come to the conclusion that this job will make me meet new people, and I have to get used to the fact that I will be in uncomfortable positions. I’m a bad bitch with bad anxiety ready to get the job done”.

As the weeks become months, we can’t really point to exactly when the adverse effects of the pandemic will ease up on the world as a whole, and Ayopo has definitely been affected by it. ‘No one is really looking for anyone to be that close to their face. There is nothing happening right now and business is literally at a standstill’ Ayopo admits. She recognises the imminent struggles she will face as clients become more relaxed with booking appointments, ‘It’s going to even cost more money in the long run, because I am going to have to buy disposable brushes for different clients.’

Till she’s able to revive her business from the adverse effects of the ongoing pandemic, Ayopo wants everyone to know she’ll be working on herself and her craft. ‘

Given that things have been brought to a standstill, she’s now thinking of different types of revenue streams.

‘I probably won’t do as many makeup tutorials anymore, it’s really not for me and as I mentioned before, I deal with anxiety. But I’ll be doing a couple of shoots with friends in the coming weeks, so hopefully, that will get people talking’. I really want to be able to produce my own ethical cruelty-free makeup products if I ever get the chance to’.

In the world’s current climate, with racial and gender-based injustice being confronted, it’s time for people in minority groups to look inwards and divert their spending power to people who are like them. It’s clear that the world doesn’t have our back, so we must have each other’s backs and support ventures such as Ayopo’s prospective business.

 

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Featured image credits: ob3hireme/ayopo


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