“I remember getting in trouble for wearing my mother’s makeup from time to time,” Kadienne Henry chuckles at the memory from her childhood. And although her interest in makeup followed her through childhood, it was only until her final year studying Agribusiness Management at The UWI, St Augustine, that she came to the realisation that her passion and love for makeup was something to be nurtured and taken seriously.
“That’s when I would start practicing more and snap pics laying on my bed,” she says. “Eventually I was invited into a few local makeup groups on social media and I started posting and engaging more; I would ask questions and take advice on how to perfect my craft.”
In fact, Kadienne is a self-taught makeup artist and online content creator. Her YouTube channel features makeup tutorials and a quote by musician Dave Grohl: “No one is you and that is your power.”
“It’s a reminder to myself that what I create is mine to develop, love, and cherish,” she says of the marriage of her passion for makeup and creating online content for Trinis and foreign markets to take in.
She likens being a self-taught artist to a seed; “The more you water it, the more it’ll grow,” she says, adding that teaching herself through online tutorials and many bouts of trial and error has developed her own unique sense of style. For example, while there are “universal rules” of applying makeup, being self-taught also gives her the room to experiment and find her own creative and artistic methods to work with, and the comfort and confidence to try new techniques that are her very own.
“You create your own story and the proud feeling that you get when you make something on your own is priceless.”
Her original content is also featured on her Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages, and she understands that social media is a modern frontier through which she can expose her work to a wider audience.
“It’s important for me to create unique content because the goal is to gain recognition,” she says of the large glut in the market of social media content. “I want to be a wearer of many hats, so I always strive to be different in my own way.”
Her makeup business – which incorporates both her social media content as well as the makeup services she provides to clients – is called “Chocolate Envy”, a brand with the initial goal of cementing Kadienne as a makeup artist and showcasing her talent across online platforms. However, over time, Chocolate Envy has come to mean something that is deeply personal to the artist.
“My focus has changed as I became more aware of the beauty community overall. I remember someone telling me ‘that colour makeup is not for you, you too dark’. I honestly thought it was ridiculous. The best thing about makeup is that you can do anything you want; it’s not just about a job; it’s an art,” she says of the self-imposed rules as they apply to race and skin colour in the beauty industry.
She believes with makeup, any artistic expression should be allowed and is possible, without rules and limitations that seem to leave darker skinned persons in the shadows. “That’s why a lot of my looks are so bright and colourful!” she says excitedly. “I want to show other dark-skinned girls that we can wear colour too. Yes, I can wear pink and purple eye shadow; yes, I can wear red lips if I wanted or even slay black lipstick!
“People of colour, specifically dark-skinned beauties, have a hard time gaining recognition in the beauty community,” she expands on the reasoning for her focus on and celebration of “chocolate” skin, features, and people. “They have to work twice as hard to get brand deals or beauty features. Some makeup companies don’t even make foundation shades for people of colour,” she says about the adamant exclusion of darker skinned customers, an entire community that is sometimes overlooked.
She also comments on the slow uptake of darker skinned beauty gurus on social media sites, whose subscriber lists have a slower growth spike than other content creators with Eurocentric looks. “I’ve always said that I want to be that dark skinned Rasta girl from TT to make it. I want someone to see what I do and how hard I push and be motivated to do it too,” she says, hoping that her own resilience in the face of such westernised beauty norms can inspire others who look like her to reach for their goals – be it in the world of beauty or any sphere of their choosing.
“It’s not just about working with people of colour but INCLUDE us along with everyone else,” she says passionately. “Let us have a voice too.”
While she only recently started taking on clients through her Chocolate Envy brand, she has already received international recognition from several sites that have featured her stunning work and tutorials.
“In February, I was contacted by a makeup company asking to feature my work on their website and two weeks ago I was contacted by the owner of a beauty blog because my work was featured with some other talented content creators.” These shows of support from recognised sources give her added confidence in the work she creates, and affirms her dreams of having an international platform to rouse others to do the same.
She believes practice makes perfect, and there is not a day she does not work on her craft, whether through watching other makeup and beauty tutorials online and finding ways to make them her own or practicing on herself.
“Times are hard but as long as you stay focused and work on yourself, you would reach somewhere,” she encourages. “Slow and steady wins the race.”
Recently, she has entered another niche market: special effects (SFX) makeup. An avid fanatic of the genre of horror, she describes her love for makeup and the use of prosthetics to create gory illusions. Two years ago, for Halloween, she tried her hands at recreating a “zombie bite” she saw in a video.
“I bought this cheap Halloween makeup kit that included scar wax, fake blood, and cream paints and tried it but last year was when I really took it up a notch and did more looks, like a blown eye look and Harley Quinn with a twist,” she says.
This year, however, she truly took her SFX makeup up a notch when she did a glam zombie and “melting face” look which garnered hundreds of shares and responses online.
“One thing I love about SFX makeup is that I can use household items and create something amazing; simple stuff like cotton, paper towels, or oats can create something that would gross people out,” she says cheekily of the ease with which she can create these stunning illusions.
She hopes to expand Chocolate Envy to a full time and sustainable business in the near future, and her long-term goals are to put TT on the map through her makeup artistry and work alongside some of the biggest international beauty influencers and makeup companies to effect change and nurture inclusivity of all skin tones.
“My skin colour does not define who I am and what colour eye shadow I can wear. I want to reach everyone who is willing to see change.”
Her message to those with similar goals and aspirations is simple, but effective – and it is a mantra she herself has taken on personally: “Live your life to the fullest,” she implores. “Do what makes you happy. Take risks, take that chance, and go for it. Don’t ever quit.”
To get in touch with Kadienne and see more of her amazing, jaw-dropping, and spine-tingling looks, follow her social media handles:
Instagram & Twitter: @luv_kaddi
Facebook: Chocolate Envy
YouTube: Kadienne Henry