Building a brand in special effects make-up

Raziah Akimu is making a name in a field that is not popular in Malawi; special effects make-up (SFX). Her talent is associated with film production, where make-up artists create scenes that depict anything from blood to zombies or aliens. In this conversation with our reporter YVONNIE SUNDU (YS), Akimu (RA) talks of her journey and her dream.

Akimu: I see myself working with Malawian movie makers

YS

: Tell us a little about yourself.

RA

: My name is Razia Akimu, but I am known as Razia Al-Fayeed or Beauty by Raz on social media and in the make-up circle.  I am a professional beauty and special effects makeup artist. My world revolves around make-up, positivity, creativity and anything artistic. I come from Mangochi. I am a holder of a bachelor’s degree in mathematical science education majored in statistics and computing from University of Malawi, The Polytechnic. I am currently a law student at Chancellor College in Zomba.

YS

: What drove you into SFX make-up?

RA

: I actually didn’t do any art course at school. I was mostly into sciences, and even now what I am learning is quite different from art. I guess we can say the fact that I can drastically or subtly alter an individual’s appearance. With SFX make-up, you have so much more freedom to get gross and gory, ranging from all kinds of looks, from burns and injuries to nightmarish monsters and futuristic cyborgs. You have the ability to design your own sculpt and choose your own colours and wardrobe, and the whole process and dedicated time and work that goes into this is so fascinating to me.

YS

: How did you start and what are the challenges you have faced this far?

RA

:  It all started in 2015 when I decided to try out special effects make-up. This is the kind of make-up that is used in movies to create illusions. My interest in SFX make-up sparked as a result of watching movies. I am huge horror movie fan, thanks to my mother. As such, I often wondered how the creatures were created in the movies and at first, I thought they were usually computerised, but I found out otherwise. So, as usual, I went back to YouTube, started digging around and taught myself. In the beginning it wasn’t easy. I had no SFX products such as fake blood, fake skin/flesh, mouldings and prosthetics. So, I had to make them myself. I watched a lot of DIY [Do It Yourself] videos on YouTube which helped a great deal. In terms of safety, all these were made using food stuffs such as food colouring, honey and other beauty products such as lotions, eye shadows, foundations and powders. Granted, SFX make-up products are more expensive than normal beauty products, but if you have the passion and are determined to finish what you started, it all works out.

YS

: How profitable is your sector (SFX) in the make-up industry?

RA

: Generally, SFX make-up is the most profitable of all in as far as make-up artistry is concerned. I am saying generally because in Malawi currently it is not that profitable yet. For example, in the US, a special effects make-up artist may make an average of $75 000 (about K54.7 million) per year while the normal make-up artist averages $34 000 (about K24.8 million) per year. However, a point worth noting is that SFX make-up is not easy, it’s three times the work and three times the patience.

YS

: What do you use to come up with all pieces of SFX art you do?

RA

: It depends on what am trying to make. For example, if I want to replicate a cut or a burn on a certain body part, I will have to pull up reference images of real-life injuries to really sell the believability aspect of the prosthetic. It is so important to know about the human body when it comes to designing prosthetics. I am currently learning the anatomy of the human body like how to create limbs, muscles, blood vessels etc. In terms of products, this ranges from fake blood (a variety), prosthetics, gelatin or 3D gel, liquid latex, adhesives, body paints and the everyday make-up products.

YS

: Where do you see yourself in the next few years?

RA

: I see myself working with a variety of Malawian movie makers, even foreign. Amongst my dreams is to be recognised internationally. Another is to help promote the movie industry by bringing realism to characters on screen. It is high time Malawians embraced such art. Hopefully, we can one day reach such levels as Nollywood or even Hollywood. It’s all possible as long as we are opened-minded and determined. I also see myself starting my own skincare and make-up line.

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