Five Detroit makeup artists you should know

When Rashida LaShawn Williams was asked to be featured in a commercial for MasterCard’s Strivers campaign, the opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time. 

A well-known makeup artist who is highly sought after for weddings and photo shoots, Williams was greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. With weddings on hold, she was forced to innovate. She launched virtual classes that got more and more popular and, before she knew it, she was in a commercial alongside Jennifer Hudson and other Black, female entrepreneurs. 

She said the commercial made people “pay even more attention to small Black businesses and women-owned businesses.” She has taken the opportunity and the approaching end of the coronavirus pandemic to expand her business, partnering with a photographer to create opportunities for others including offering low-cost professional headshots with a full face of makeup. 

We sat down with Williams and talked to her about the Detroit-area makeup artists that she respects and admires. We narrowed her list down to five talented people. 

George McKenney
Instagram: @officialgeorgemckenney

A Detroit native and celebrity makeup artist, McKenney is the preferred makeup artist of international gospel sensation, Kierra Sheard, and her mother, Karen Clark-Sheard, among others. 

McKenney is known for his glamorous yet soft looks that he shares with his more than 39,000 followers on Instagram. 

“He is a great artist, aesthetically. He has a great eye for makeup. I love the way he does Black women’s faces, it’s so beautiful and so etched. I love his style of makeup, and he has an outstanding personality. I would always tell him, ‘You’re like the Sam Fine of Detroit.’”

Sydni Jones
Instagram: @facesbysydnij 

Experienced in dramatic makeup looks, Jones is also a personal fitness trainer who works out of Jabs Gym in Eastern Market. Her business Instagram page is filled with elegant looks that feature elegant sculpted brows and magnetic looks. 

According to Williams, what makes Sydni great is her personality. “Very edgy, very spunky. She’s also a personal trainer. She’s also empathetic and she shows her clients a lot of care; they walk away from her with good energy.”

Sylvia Farmer
Instagram: @sylviafarmermua 

Farmer and her team are bridal beauty specialists. They have serviced hundreds of satisfied brides by traveling throughout the Metro Detroit area with their expertise. Her website boasts, “We will keep you feeling calm and relaxed while you and your wedding party kick up your heels by enjoying a pampering, luxury ON-LOCATION experience.”

Williams says, “What I love about her and her team is they’re great at what they do. They are great at hair and makeup. I was inspired by her before I even started. She has great leadership skills, that’s one thing I can say about her because she has a team that has been with her for a very long time.” 

Talya Ashford
Instagram: @talyaashford 

Ashford has been doing makeup for well over a decade. On one website, she writes that she loves people and making them feel beautiful and completing artistic visions. She does every type of makeup style and freelance gig work including plays, print, film, weddings and more. 

Williams calls Ashford great because of her ability to teach and coach people in the makeup industry. “I was one of her mentees. She was a manager at MAC and she helped a lot of artists get started in their careers. You can ask her questions, you can go to her anytime; she’s very knowledgeable.

“Now she’s an instructor at Michigan College of Beauty, she really changed the game at that school by growing their makeup curriculum.”

And what about Williams? 

Rashida says what makes her a great artist is her ability to connect with people. “So that when they leave my presence, they feel something,” she says. “I want people to take that away from me. Because I have God in my hands. I want people to know that they are beautiful before they get in my chair and after they leave because God made them that way.”

Find Rashida LaShawn Williams on Instagram and online.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Biba Adams.

Biba Adams is a regular contributor and project editor for Model D. Formally Model D's Editor at Large, she is a longtime journalist whose work is fueled by her passion for people and her native Detroit. Find her on all social channels @BibatheDiva.