Bajan makeup artist builds carnival brand

Entrepreneur Natalia Forte puts make up on a model during a photoshoot. Makeup artists, designers, hairdressers know that beauty and Carnival is linked. -
Entrepreneur Natalia Forte puts make up on a model during a photoshoot. Makeup artists, designers, hairdressers know that beauty and Carnival is linked. -

Natalia Forte spends her year travelling to nearly a dozen Caribbean and Caribbean-influenced carnivals.

She starts with Trinidad, then Jamaica, Guyana, St Vincent, Grenada, St Lucia, a stop in her home country Barbados for Crop Over, then works her way through the other festivals, including New York and Miami.

While she loves mas, soca and everything Carnival-related, her travel schedule is less about spending money on the things she likes and more about earning money doing what she loves.

At 24, the entrepreneur behind Studio Beauty Cosmetics, earns foreign exchange for her country. In fact, 90 per cent of her business is Carnival makeup provided to foreigners across the region.

"I started doing makeup at age 16 with my aunt. Every evening after school I would go with her to the TV company to do makeup for the evening news and from there I realised, that's what I wanted to do.

Natalia Forte, the entrepreneur behind Studio Beauty Cosmetics. Photos courtesy Natalia Forte -

"After that, I worked for Mac cosmetics for about three years until I realised, I wanted to be more independent. I decided to resign, and I started Studio Beauty Cosmetics at 20. I started by freelancing for weddings and special occasions. I was doing well."

It took Barbados' carnival to expand her business.

"One Crop Over I had seven clients and none of them were local. The next year it multiplied by a lot and my clients go from island to island, from carnival to carnival and would ask me to come do their makeup there."

In 2018, she decided to do it. She advertised her makeup service on social media and had about 50 clients booked.

"I do about 11 carnivals for the year. I went to Trinidad and then to Jamaica and realised how much fun it was and how successful it was."

In 2019, she had to hire three other makeup artists. They each took 50 clients for Jamaica carnival that year. Marketing has been strictly word of mouth and social media tags.

But a business like hers, that offers services in multiple locations in the region can be challenging, especially regarding the banking limitations in the Caribbean.

She can’t take credit card payments on a website and banks refuse to allow small businesses to withdraw Paypal payments.

She and many other makeup artistes use remittance services in order to book clients.

"Up to today, I still haven't found the perfect system when it comes to receiving funds. Most banks in the region are not receiving Paypal. The banks started giving a whole heap of issues. On one hand, it is easy to travel through the Caribbean and get from island to island so my business can grow that way. On the other, the financial part of things can be disastrous. One remittance agency had transaction limitations and I got flagged when my clients would send their downpayments. There aren't options."

She said she spoke to several bank managers in her home country and they couldn't offer an alternative.

It's a struggle for small businesses who earn foreign exchange but find it difficult to use the banking system. It's something that needs to be addressed as carnivals grow across the region as the beauty industry grows with it.

Makeup artists, designers, hairdressers know that beauty and carnival is linked.

These businesses get a boost during carnivals in the region, from people who've spent thousands of dollars on costumes and want hair and makeup to match.

"It's the finishing touch. There are cameras everywhere and people want to be 100 per cent polished for the road. You aren't going to spend all that money on a costume and hair and makeup isn't cutting it."


"Bajan makeup artist builds carnival brand"

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