I had the pleasure of spending my Monday afternoon with Charlene Kongolo, a makeup artist based out of Raleigh-Durham, originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Charlene can recall experimenting with her hair and makeup at the age of 10, each time coming out of the bathroom with a different look. What helped her to flourish as an artist from such a young age, was the unwavering support from her parents who encouraged and applauded her creativity and experimentation.
Her formal training began at a beauty school in Belgium where she focused on aesthetics and hair, further nourishing her childhood appreciation and love for experimenting with color. After exclusively doing freelance work, she “got her foot in the door” and has spent the past 11 years working for some of the biggest names in the industry including Trish Mcevoy, Lancôme, and currently MAC at Nordstrom.
Charlene draws from a variety of sources for artistic inspiration. The late American makeup artist and photographer, Kevyn Aucoin, who is best known for initiating the design of makeup for women of all skin tones, is one of Charlene’s favorites. “I have all of his books!” she exclaims with a sparkle in her eye, and uses the word “liberty” to describe his work and influence on the industry. Charlene is also inspired by Tyra Banks, stating that “She speaks beauty” and admires how the former model is self-taught, moving herself up the ranks of the industry. Pat McGrath, the British makeup artist who, despite her lack of formal training, has become one of the most influential names on the runway with her unique use of material and color, is another important figure that Charlene looks to for creative development. Charlene does not forget to mention the importance of the client, as well as her coworkers when it comes to sources of inspiration; she is inspired by those around her, and hopes that she does the same for them.
As a creative person, Charlene has a variety of outlets including painting and photography which allow her to “capture color and tone” in a different way. Charlene’s most recent project, that she did for a client 36th birthday, demonstrates both her versatility as an artist and ability to incorporate many facets of art into her work. Beyoncé’s “Run the World” music video, inspired the shots and poses for the photo shoot that actually took place on a baseball field! Charlene was the mastermind behind the makeup, outfit, composition and photography. She achieves this level of creativity by allowing herself to step out of her comfort zone to expand and achieve beyond the immediate.
Charlene embraces new ideas, keeps an open mind, and recommends that others do the same. She gives the example of the current bold lipstick trend, “it started four years ago but people were hesitant to try it…now it’s more acceptable.”
One of the most important parts of Charlene’s job is to stay abreast of trends, styles, and looks. Charlene stays at the forefront of what is going on in the world of beauty by looking to her idols and inspirational role models. She watches a lot of fashion shows, especially international ones “Many of them show their back stage…where you can see how the artists try to get in touch with every day women to create a less structured look.” By paying attention to the fabrics that are used by designers on the runway she is able to gain insight into what looks will work with the trends that are featured. The influence of the artists that she works with does not go unmentioned.
- Signature Look: “Blending!” Unless you are going for a dramatic look, Charlene stands by the notion that makeup should be blended and look “realistic.”
- Favorite trend for Spring/Summer 2012: the bold lip “Make a statement…show your confidence.”
- Make-up tip that applies to all women: Most people would say that you shouldn’t leave the house without putting on mascara but Charlene asserts that framing the face with the brows, and evening out skin tone is the most important.
- Beauty routine: her advice is to start with a polished skin “If you start by exfoliating ,you might find that you don’t need to many other things.”
Makeup Application: social events, wedding, modeling, boudoir, bridal portraits, self-portraits, and most other themes.
Photography: for portfolios, websites, advertising, businesses, and most other themes.
How to reach Charlene:
Follow her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CharlykoArt Instagram: @charlyko Twitter: @charlyko82
Alternatively, visit her at the MAC counter at Nordstrom at The Streets at Southpoint.