Model Nykhor Paul calls out makeup artists for not being prepared to work with her skin tone

[Read the post]

She should take it a step higher. Don’t complain to the incompetent makeup artists. Complain to the people who hire them, so they will not make the same mistake again. Anyone who shows up without the tools to perform their job does not deserve the work.


I feel compelled to complain about the ultra-thin models who make the rest of us look - and feel - fat. I have no sympathy for someone in the modelling business.


And how about the ultra-thin models who make the rest of us look… at ultra-thin models?

The only reason they are relied upon is because it’s a difficult ideal to obtain, but I am not convinced that there is anything aesthetically appealing about it.

She’s beautiful and as an established model, it seems she could post a list of recommended products on her website so that makeup artists who know they will be working with her can come prepared.

I’m not saying that the makeup artists should not be prepared in general for all colors of the rainbow of people…but at least in this case she might have her agent give out the webpage when she is booked and put into her contract that there will be a makeup artist who has reviewed her preferred list of products and will be coming prepared to work with her.


I think it depends - if it’s a case of MUAs being told that there will be a black model, and being unprepared? Hell yes, you’re fired. But if you’re not told, it’s not necessarily out of the question to be caught flatfooted - according to this September 2013 article, only 8% of the models at fashion week that year were black. There’s definitely some racism in just assuming that all the models you’re working with will be white (or have lighter skin tones), but at the same time it’s racism that’s trained into them by the industry. I’m sure the logic they use is “Why spend extra money on certain products (makeup is expensive) if you’re never going to use them?”

ETA: this is certainly no excuse, but I can see why some people would get caught in this situation. The model in question should still never have to bring her own damn makeup.

1 Like

Let’s stick to the actual issue here.

Unless you were trying to argue that the modeling industry is prejudiced against African-heritage models in another way: for having a different body type. That wouldn’t be a derail.


Why stick to the issue when you can rail against pre-teens being taken advantage of, oh sorry, “working for” multi-billion dollar businesses! We should have no sympathy at all for 14 yr olds who probably don’t even speak the language their modelling “contracts” are written in! No sympathy at all! /sigh - man I can’t even keep going with the sarcasm.


I think a certain amount of complacency also comes into it. If you have to design for a very diverse cast of models, you have more challenges and things to account for (in this case, ensuring the makeup kit includes enough colours for everyone). Doubtless it is easier for a designer to just make whatever he wants and demand that all the models fit rather than tailor the designs/materials around a variety of human shapes and appearances.

That said, I think this is both a failure of the imagination and laziness, two things that are hardly exusable, especially in ‘creative’ people IMO.


My neighbor works at these fashion shows and she has tons of makeup that she buys, uses once, and throws away - she just had a yard sale and had a giant box of Nars, Channel, Mac makeup all priced at $1, $2, a lot of it new in the box or used once. She gets a big discount and I gather that the expense is just part of the job. I still don’t understand the money part of the industry because even with a 40% discount, and all the freebies, these products are crazy expensive. I know her hourly rate and even though it’s great, I don’t see how she makes a profit. Anyway, the point is, they buy stuff all the time that they barely use at all so I don’t think it’d be a big deal to have them come prepared for a specific client.

I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum - pale pale pale - and I cannot imagine a makeup artist telling me they don’t have the products to work with my complexion.

Honestly I’m uncomfortable blaming the make-up artist, if he/she had any professional training I’m sure the subject of how to work with different skin tones (and probably specifically dark ones) was covered. The issue is likely to be the disproportionate lack of black and POC models in typical fashion photography, runway work etc. The problem here is with the usual suspects: the editors, designers and what have who generally refuse or avoid hiring models who aren’t skinny and transparently pale. No matter how well trained, or how well a make up artists prepares themselves, if they only encounter one or two people with that skin tone in their working life they will not be prepared or have the working experience to work with such models properly. So I definitely think blame should rest a few stages higher. Not because those people made a mistake in hiring the wrong make up artist. But because those people hire so few people of color that it becomes difficult to find make up artists who can work with people of color.

This sort is issue is a great example of the sort of embedded prejudice in the media landscape. I remember back in film school during a cinematography class we had a lab session on a similar subject. So with either video or film there are certain limitations in terms of the ratios of certain colors, contrast, lighting etc that it can actually capture. And these are different than the absolute maximums and minimums of each individual element that the same medium can record. So in a practical sense working with low quality video cameras of a few years before, non-hd broadcast cameras of the time, and certain film stocks there were limitations on what you could shoot or how you had to shoot it. These problems were exagerated with film because you couldn’t neccisarily see, immediately as in video, exactly what was going to turn out. So if you weren’t careful you could run into it on any and all film stocks. Video you could see as you were going exactly what the footage would look light, but the limitations were (and are) much more severe.

So the example given was a very pale white man wearing a dark or black shirt. You have to be careful in how you shoot and light that guy to avoid either over exposing his face to keep the detail on the shirt, or under exposing the shirt to keep the detail in his face. There can be a very narrow band where that frame is properly exposed all round, and if its too narrow best practice is to make sure the face is properly exposed.

Now flip the situation. Its a dark black man in a white shirt. There are exactly the same mechanic problems. Except an over exposed white shirt looks lot worse than an under exposed black one.

Now lets add an added complication and stand them next to each other. Assuming even lighting if you expose for the white guys face you blow out the black guys shirt, and lose all detail on the black actors face. Expose for the black actor and you can blow out the white actors face. You have to know how to hit that narrow band where both turn out good. Or compensate by choosing a shooting medium with less tight tolerances, lighting better (more light on the black face, less on the white), or costuming (change their god damned shirts to grey).

The issue was that there were/are so few black people, and especially dark skinned ones, working in Hollywood that few videographers and cinematographers had experience shooting these sorts of setups. Or were even cognizant of the issue. So they would default to what worked for them in the past in difficult situations. A bunch of tricks to get white people’s faces to show up properly, there by making all black people look terrible. Like I said seems to be less of an issue these days. Video is better than its ever been in terms of these limitations. And while top tier film is still better, video lets you see right now what the finished product will look like. So you can see that you’ve fucked up and fix that shit now.

It was this nice, mechanical, unintentional example of embedded bias. I’ve long assumed the issues with make-up artists (cause this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this, I’ve done bookings where a make-up artist with experience working for specific ethnic groups was requested specifically) is the same sort of thing. The vast majority of make-up artists in the fashion business, even the non-white ones, will get barely any experience working with non-white models. There will be a handful who are aware of the issue and specialize, but they will be difficult to find and/or book.


That’s interesting - I wasn’t aware of the “use once, throw away” aspect of things, that certainly seems a bit… Crazy. But yeah, I wasn’t speaking to the case of not being prepared for a specific client - as I said, if they know they’re going to be working with her, and aren’t prepared? Fuck that noise. That’s a fire-able offense as far as I’m concerned. I was speaking more to the cases where makeup artists were expecting to work only with pale skinned models (which is the VAST majority of high fashion models) and were unprepared, not knowing they’d be working with a darker skinned model as well. Still doesn’t mean that this model should have to be bringing her own makeup. If it’s so rare to be working with somebody of her skin tone, then somebody - presumably whomever hires the makeup artists in the first place - isn’t doing their job if the makeup artists aren’t being made aware of it. Again - this all comes down to the assumption that MUAs don’t know they’re going to be working with her, and are therefore don’t have the right makeup. If they DO know, and are still unprepared, I’m totally fine with calling them out.


All of that make-up is a tax write off. She’s gonna get at least 50% of the cost back at the end of the year. So too all of her tools, and any professional training etc.

And that’s even if she passes a materials charge onto her clients. Which is typical. The low level make-up artists I’ve booked typically charge $100-200 bucks additional over their day rate for expenses. More if travel is involved.

Yes, this is how it was explained to me when I worked in video production that all the news anchors are blond women - because blond hair backlights so nicely. You just don’t think at all that stuff like that affects the media until you work behind the camera.

1 Like

Yes - she makes $300/face.

I didn’t think about all that makeup being a tax writeoff.

Such a cool job.

That just sounds like douchebaggery. What I’m talking about is if the answer to the question “why is the white anchor shot better than the black weather woman?” was “because blonde hair back-lights better!” to which one should respond “maybe you should learn how to light black people?”. Avoiding working with an ethnicity you don’t know how to shoot, or to enforce a certain aesthetic is more active prejudice than it is an embedded problem that spun off from past active prejudice.

Interesting on the pricing there. When I was booking make-up everything was per day rate, at minimum half day billing. $250-500 per half day depending on the number of people they were expected to cover, or the quality of the artist. I would imaging being paid by the face works out better. Particularly if you’re working on multiple models who need multiple hair and make-up applications in a day.


I argue that the WHOLE modelling industry is evil. I don’t care WHAT the skin color of the model is.

But really shouldn’t you be able to adjust the lighting and exposure between people? It does seem like it should be possible to have, say 5 different settings of light and exposure to account for all shades of skin. Should be possible to have set of standardized skin-tone cards to make those adjustments so that you don’t end up with some people completely blanked out or others who are just teeth and eyes swimming in a sea of black.

Agreed on your first paragraph - totally - how about we develop technology to light people of all skin colors properly? It’s not like the whole industry works on color and lighting.

Yes - she’s very high end - goes all the time to foreign countries for catalog shoots, does the runway shows, makes up famous people. This is what she told me her rate was but I imagine that they work out different deals based on the type of event. Like, I imagine for a catalog shoot she is paid a flat rate for her time.

1 Like

Oh have you seen that Neflix documentary about the Russian lady who recruits young models, mostly for the Japanese market. It is ghastly.