Malika James is a celebrity makeup artist who has worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Gabrielle Union, Yara Shahidi, Keke Palmer, Janelle Monae and more. Among her many TV credits are “Grown-ish,” “America’s Got Talent” and “The Walking Dead,” among others. We spoke with her about working in the industry, maintaining longevity, and Black-owned makeup brands.
What was your introduction to the beauty industry?
My introduction was the hair salon. My aunt owned a hair salon. I grew up in the salon watching women come in to transform [their] everyday [look]. My introduction to film and television was a TV show called “The Game” that was on the CW and then went back to BET. When they did that, I was in Atlanta at the time and the film industry was flourishing. That’s how I got into film, TV and beauty.
You’ve become a trusted makeup artist in the industry. What advice do you have for those hoping to work with celebrities?
Keep your mouth closed. The more celebrities you’re around, the more the trust is there when you don’t always speak about what you see. This is a service job, so you have to keep in mind that you’re really there to service that person, to make them feel better, and to enhance their natural beauty. I would say have integrity, don’t just try to be around clients because they’re hottest at the moment and you have the latest information about them and you want to come out and share it. Keeping your moral compass intact. Do your client, get your money and try not to befriend the star. If it happens naturally and organically, let that happen, but really keep your mouth closed, keep your legs closed if you’re a woman, and keep your heart intact.
What is your personal philosophy about beauty?
My philosophy is that beauty is an inside job. The more I worked in film and TV, I would work with stars that had chefs and trainers. Before I worked in the business, I thought, “It’s so easy for Janet Jackson. She has a trainer and she has a chef.” What I didn’t understand was the discipline that came with that. Beauty is an inside job, whether you have millions of dollars or $10. If you’re eating your fruits and vegetables, drinking a gallon of water, and being consistent, your inner beauty will come out and you won’t need as much makeup as you typically think you do. For me, beauty and health go hand in hand.