Makeup novice, Jenessa Williams, placed her face in the hands of 'war paint' masters Illamasqua


Like most girls (and indeed guys) I have my qualms about my appearance, but on the whole I’m pretty happy with my face. My skin tone can be pretty uneven and I sometimes fear my cheeks are a bit on the round side but all-in-all, I’m quite comfortable sans make-up and think nothing of going about my day barefaced.

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Jenessa before for makeover: comfortable sans make-up

Although I dabbled with glitter and glosses in my teens, my frustration of the lack of affordable products available for mixed-race and black skin tones left me feeling frustrated, so I turned to fashion to express myself rather than cosmetics. For all of my adult years, my make-up bag has simply consisted of a mascara, an eyeliner pencil, one red lipstick and, for when I’m feeling especially fancy, a solitary eyeshadow. I’ve always admired make-up, but have just never been sure where to start. 

But all that was about to change…


Stepping inside Illasmasqua, it was instantly clear that I would be in good hands. With a wide array of products displayed across counter and the phrase ‘war paint against mediocrity’ splashed in neon across the wall, their ethos is all about having fun with your make-up and thinking outside the box – whether that’s using an eyeshadow as contour or a glitter gel on your lips, their products boast a versatility and experimental nature that allows a whole new look with just a small capsule of products.

See Jenessa Williams transform into 'Kenessa Kardashian' below:

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After settling in and choosing my desired look of smoky summer goddess (if it’s good enough for Beyoncé…), my education began. The first thing that struck me was the sheer number of different tools - I learnt the value of a sloped brush for definition, a fluffy brush for soft blending without streaks and a big powderpuff for finishing. There was a swift revelation that my 99p kohl liner just wasn’t cutting it – I had been depriving myself of a killer feline flick all these years. The gel liner is a product which Illamasqua can boast as the most highly pigmented black eyeliner on the market right now. Through stippling, blending, smudging and painting, I was slowly transformed from daytime errand-runner to sassy selfie taker with a set of cheekbones that I’ve only ever seen on Made In Chelsea. And as for that gold eyeshadow – fully sold. 

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Illamasqua make-up artist, Drew

My artist Drew was knowledgeable, gentle and friendly as we chit-chatted our way through my consultation, making sure that I was comfortable and explaining each step before she did it so I could take mental notes. She was able to recommend products I’d never tried (hello primer and false lashes) but listened when I felt things had gone a bridge too far – a red lip looked amazing on it’s own but a little too Ru Paul when paired with my bold eyes, so we happily opted for a much softer browny-mauve instead.

 On the paler end of the mixed-race spectrum, matching my foundation proved a little trickier, but Drew was patient and explored various options before acknowledging that another brand may provide a better alternative – the whole experience felt collaborative and helpful rather than an intricate way to trick customers into buying the full range.

 The products themselves were all lovingly produced and cruelty-free, with 30% of all Illasmaqua’s products currently vegan also, a figure they are looking to increase over the coming years. Despite the number of layers that went into my look my skin remained breathable and light, so much so that by lunchtime I had totally forgotten that I was wearing lipstick at all and tucked into my sarnie with aplomb, thankful to find that it barely budged. A worthy investment indeed.


Coming out of the salon was a strange feeling, and reactions were mixed. Whether it was just me being unused to such a glamorous look or the fact that it had been applied so expertly, people in the street seemed to notice me much more than usual. From the builder who shouted ‘Oooer, I like the look of you love’ (charming) to the two girls who approached me in H&M to examine my eyes and tell me that my eyebrows were especially ‘fleeky’, I definitely felt I was attracting more attention than I did as pre-made up me. On the contrary, my boyfriend wasn’t convinced at all – while he admired the artistry that had gone into my face he said I looked like a ‘snapchat filter’ and that he much preferred the natural me. True love eh?

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Jenessa after: "I looked like a ‘snapchat filter."

Whether you’re looking to brush up on your skills, trial a new look for a special occasion or are a complete novice like me, I would not hesitate to recommend the talented team at Illasmasqua. Will I be going full glamazon again? Maybe not – the full face with brows and contouring left me feeling a little too self-conscious and not quite my normal low-maintenance self. But with a solid education and some staple items making their way home with me, I’m definitely looking forward to experimenting with that beautiful lip shade and the smoky eye again next time I’m hitting Call Lane. Just maybe not both at once. There’s still a way to go before you can call me Kenessa Kardashian…

Illasmaqua offer a range of make-up tutorials and courses, starting from just £10. For more information, visit the website