As an ex-beauty editor at i-D and Beauté ambassador of YSL, Isamaya Ffrench has elevated her part-time face-painting job into an already impressive career. She is only 28 and has already worked with such famous brands as Kenzo, Iris van Herpen, Tom Ford Beauty and many others. We look back at her career which developed so quickly and unexpectedly.
It all began when Isamaya was seven years old and saw a book by the legendary make-up artist Kevyn Aucoin Making Faces in the shop window. The young girl was so struck by the magic of re-creation that she succumbed to the magic of makeup. “I tried every technique and remembered every single illustration,” she said.
At the same time, Isamaya never wanted to be a make-up artist. While studying at the university she began to do some face-painting on children’s faces during her holidays and just could not stop. The four-hour masterclass where she was taught to do the Spider-Man make-up taught the girl an important lesson. “If you have 25 children and only one hour, it’s only 2 minutes for a child. These crazy conditions gave me confidence, taught me to quickly draw lines and understand the structure of the face.” In the end, the young artist was noticed by a prestigious agency and began to face-paint the children of the members of Coldplay and Spice Girls.
Then a friend asked Isamaya to paint bodies with clay an i-D magazine photoshoot and she was invited to work with other well-known magazines and brands.
“I do not care about things that look beautiful just for the sake of beauty. It just does not affect me, like, for example, something more emotional. I prefer human emotion, where the personality is expressed.”
What Isamaya Ffrench does is about so much more than making someone look pretty; without straying into potentially sanctimonious territory she has found makeup gives her a platform for exploring issues of identity and gender.
“I’m interested in the idea of trying to project the internal externally,” she muses. “I always go back to this idea of identity, maybe not so much a comment as an exploration. Makeup changes the face—if you put a mask on it, distort it, it not only makes the viewer question what they’re looking at and who they’re looking at, but also question themselves in response to that.”
In today’s selfie-obsessed society these issues are more pertinent than ever. Ffrench notes how the digital world gives people a platform for “self-curation, self-projection.”
Text: Irina Gorskaia
Images: Isamaya Ffrench