Feature: An Ethiopian Makeup Artist Shifts Our Perspective on Beauty

Reading Time: 7 minutes

It is with great excitement that I finally begin a series that has taken me far too long to launch. A dream of mine has always been to sit down and interview incredible people living out their passions and documenting their stories. This specific series focuses on people that I meet who are self-driven and passionate about the things that they do in their lives, aka people who are living fully expressed! As the kick-off to this series, I am especially happy to feature Leah Dejenu and her story. This is extra special for me because I had the unique opportunity to collaborate with her in making her visions come to life. Before I get into all of that however, I want to simply share her story.



Leah and I met in Addis Ababa through mutual friends and quickly connected through the similar upbringing we shared growing up with an Ethiopian hyphenated identity in the western world (Ethiopian – country of residence). We could also relate to one another as we each decided to return to Ethiopia and see what life we could make for ourselves. Through time, she shared with me that she wanted to follow a passion of hers that she had already began while living in Canada. Being a makeup artist, Leah believes she can bring a new and holistic approach to the art that would elevate the way women look at themselves and understand makeup as a whole. Our discussion was fruitful and quite insightful and helped me to better understand what she’s trying to accomplish. She’s a daring and bold woman with a gift to share.

the meet up

I was waiting for Leah at a trendy and comfy restaurant in Addis called Bunni. As Leah walks in, she graces me with her retro almost vintage style with white high-waisted trousers and a black off-shoulder top. Her top makes it just visible enough to spy the beginning of a floral tattoo. We sit and catch up for a while, almost forgetting about the interview as a whole. I then collect myself and review my notes to begin our discussion.

Leah began her career as a makeup artist in Canada as what she described was a boutique much similar to that of Sephora, an international makeup holy grail. She received her interview from the manager simply by showing off her own face and displaying the skills she had on herself. From there she spoke of the extensive studying that she had to do on the products she advised her clients to use. She mentioned the emphasis she placed on talking about the chemistry behind these products and which skin types to recommend them to. It was here that she began to understand that holistic approach when it came to putting products on your face. In addition to gaining her wealth in product knowledge, she began to see the most important side in the experience of doing others makeup.

LFE_LEAH'S_STORY-6Q: How long have you been doing makeup?

L: I was in college looking for a part time job. I always did makeup on myself and others, I was just naturally very gifted at it. I ended up working at a beauty boutique, like a Canadian Sephora. The manager at one of these boutiques just saw my face and agreed to give me an interview and that’s how I started working in cosmetics. It was for the good because you learn product knowledge. I was one of the makeup artists that people liked going to. A lot of it is the experience, talking to them getting to know someone. It’s like a therapy session for women. I like to get to know more about my customers. You know, you don’t just go in there to get your face painted, and then leave. It’s like you really take care of their skin and make sure that they’re doing ok.

Q: What does makeup represent to you?

L: To me makeup is a tool, but not a necessity. It’s totally up to the individual. You don’t need it to feel beautiful. That’s why I prioritize skin care a lot because if you don’t take care of what’s underneath then it just becomes a mask. You enhance what you naturally have to transform it as well. I think it’s so cool to see beautiful transformations.


Q: How do your services differ from other artists?

L: The industry is very big, there are some amazing artists doing some amazing work, but I think the skin care and therapy part is what I bring to it. On top of that I want to embrace all types of beauty regardless of age or gender or complexion. In Canada, I worked with very different types of skin, Asian, White, Black, even aging skin. There are so many techniques that I just don’t see being applied here. Even with Habesha women, we come in so many different shades and I really understand undertones. Not all dark skin is the same dark skin, not all light skin is the same light skin. Everybody has different tones to them so you can’t just make them all look the same. A lot of the questions that I do get even with clients that I’ve had recently is skin care questions. They wonder, “what should I do?” A lot of the clients that I have are also ok with their natural beauty and they just want to maintain it. There is such a hunger for learning. But here nobody wants to share their trade secrets, nobody wants to share the information. Moisturizing is necessary. For example, girls with oily skin don’t know that your skin overcompensates for a lack of hydration which is why it gets oily. It’s all about figuring out what works for you.

Q: What do you want your services to say about your brand?

L: I want my brand to reflect, cleanliness, professionalism, respect and being kind, relatable and approachable. I want more diversity in looks, not just with the women but in the types of looks you can achieve. There are so many types of looks you can achieve. Bringing something new to the scene. A one-size fits all type of look doesn’t work. There are so many beautiful girls and they disappear into the makeup.


Q: What would be your best makeup advice?

L: First of all, I would say internally, love yourself before you apply anything on your face. Genuinely love what you have underneath, or at least try. Of course, we have different phases in our lives, we have our moments but it still doesn’t make you who you are. Along with the internal confidence aspect of that, physically take care of your skin. Drink lots of water, because you can have whatever skin type but you have to figure out what works for you in general. And even with the type of makeup you apply. The reason why I say, love yourself first is because whatever else you do afterwards, will look good. You have to love your own skin, love your skin tone, love the light or brown skin you were born in. The reason why I do a more holistic approach to makeup is because the type of women that come to me, they’re either looking to feel more holistically beautiful or they already are but they’re not seeing what the market is doing for them. Like the market right now in Addis. They don’t identify with the mainstream form of beauty. There are so many more looks than the classic red lips. And you see such beautifully talented Habesha makeup artists like BlushbyMakki or Makeup by Fifi. I also believe myself as a makeup artist, I’m always learning. I’m not trying to be the best, I just want to do what I love. I want to project positivity and self-love in my brand as well.

next level 

Leah has proudly represented her brand and philosophy through the launch of her makeup company, Eye Candy Beauty. She approached me to take the photos of the various looks that she was offering and to bring her brand’s vision to life. As she briefed me on this project, she made it extremely clear that she wanted the photos to look natural and not heavily edited in post-production so that women can still see the beauty of the models that already exists. We were on the same page. I absolutely fell in love with her simple, bold, dramatic, and soft looks. Not only was she creating more simplified looks but each of the looks fit so perfectly with the models and their own natural features. I had the most amazing time and couldn’t have asked for a better person to collaborate with on my first makeup photography project. Check out some of her featured looks!

the natural look


color pop


full glam


Eye Candy Beauty has officially launched and will be hosting an event Saturday June 30th in Addis Ababa at Ambiance restaurant called, “Let’s Drink and Makeup!” Leah will be providing mini-makeovers along with great food, shopping and delicious drinks! To RSVP email or call +251 944121349.

2 comments on “Feature: An Ethiopian Makeup Artist Shifts Our Perspective on Beauty

  1. Jade wright

    This is fantastic! I love your website! I think this is fantastic on what your doing! You go Girl!

  2. Pingback: How My 2018 Goals Held Up – Aida Solomon

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