While the sky may be the limit for most of us, Raisa Flowers has none. With a style that is natural yet audacious, she sits fiercely in a purple robe with her legs crossed rocking her signature look — an inner corner highlight, long lashes, contour to hide her flat nose, and concealer for definition — a blend of long neon green and black braids, occasionally knotted up like a rope or hanging down from the middle of her head with the sides shaved for that extra touch of badassness.
As we sit in the living room while Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” plays soulfully in the background, we bask over our current boy issues over a plate of chicken alfredo — “When I broke up with my boyfriend I use to do my makeup every day, like religiously, if I accidentally bumped into him I had to be like “you mad or nah?” I was still hurt, but I’m not going to show that I’m broken. I’m just going to keep it inside and do my makeup and that’s when I really got into makeup at that time. That’s when I knew I really loved it.” Even though flexing on her exes has been ammunition in Raisa makeup journey, she fell in love with the artistry before boys came along. At just 12 years-old Bobbi Brown exposed Raisa the book, How Teens Do Makeup, which undoubtedly changed her future and gave her the endurance to build a clientele as extensive as Mykki Blanco, Sharah J., and OSHUN.
Who are some artists in this industry that you look up to for inspiration?
RF: Kevyn Aucoin, he has his own makeup line and it’s still very popular right now. He really paved the way for makeup artists to do big things, he’s in magazines, and his makeup is popular. Bobbi Brown, she’s one of the reasons I started makeup too because I bought one of her books in elementary school, you know how certain things connect you to who you are now. She was insecure when she was younger because she has a big nose, so she started playing with makeup and learning how to contour and these are greats. She also has her own cosmetic line and that’s super popular. Pat McGrath, who’s taking over the game. She works for Covergirl, she’s really inspiring, she does the basis of almost all the fashion show during fashion week and she creative directs and she has a makeup artist team that does the work because you can’t do 20 models by yourself. I would love to assist her one day or to be in that realm, because she’s going to obviously get old and retire and I would want to be one of the people that’s next or just even up there.
Did you have any insecurities about yourself when starting out?RF: I just thought it was fun because I use to watch tutorials. You know, when I was in high school I always wore makeup and whatnot, but it wasn’t for insecurity reasons. I think when I got older it became kind of a mask. I don’t go to parties without makeup unless I’m in the city all day and I just go to a party when I don’t have any makeup on, but I feel like I have to keep up with my image and be like me all the time. I feel like that’s how I have to be. When I first started I use to just throw the eyeshadow on and blend and do little cheap things, now I’m more intricate. I have to put my setting powder and I have to have my nose contoured. The thing is when you wear makeup you start to be insecure about certain things like now I notice that my nose is really flat. My dad used to always make fun of me for that, “oh you have a flat nose like your grandmother” so now I contour my nose so it looks more poise and straight. When I take off my makeup sometimes I say to myself “damn my face looks good.” I’m sorry for those who have bad acne — God forbid I get bad acne — but people who actually have to mask their skin. I just have to put on a little color corrector underneath the foundation of course because I do all the steps, but there are people who put in work on their skin because they have bad skin or they’re really insecure about how they look.
How did you get the opportunity to work with Missy Elliot’s artist, Sharaya J.?
RF: My friend Nicky does makeup too, but he’s more of an all-around artist, he’s great. His friend Sita from Spain, came to New York and she needed a makeup artist for her shoot and he doesn’t really do beauty or the style that I do, he does more artsy editorial crazy style, which is great and all, but he told me “I don’t think I be so good at doing that can you please do the makeup?” I was just like sure, why not, I wasn’t getting paid, but it was an opportunity. She’s pretty popular on the Internet and she’s a model. She’s on the cover of a few magazines and she’s in Nylon. We did the shoot, it came out great, I did three looks: a natural no make up look, then three editorial looks from light to dark, and then Anastasia hit me up and asked me, “do you mind doing make up for a shoot, I know you’re going to be excited when you hear this but it’s Missy Elliot’s artist Sharaya J.?” and I was like hell yeah!” I’m waiting for those to come out still. I had to go at nine in the morning to a studio in Brooklyn. It was really nice because they had like the whole set up: the table, the lights, and all that crap, it was really cool. It was a good experience for this year.
You’re basically Missy Elliot’s doppelganger, is that why you post so many pictures of her on your Instagram?
RF: I’m inspired by her because of course, she was plus size, she use to dance, she had style, her makeup was always nice, she had great videos, she was a great artist, she’s all of that tied into one. People say I look like her or I’m the futuristic version of Missy Elliot, so I tend to like play with them and throw pictures out and of course I love Missy Elliot. I use to love her albums and we listen to “I Can’t Stand The Rain,” “Super-Duper Fly,” and “Get Your Freak On.” She’s always dancing in her videos and I love to dance. Her style was always crazy, wacky, and funny. I wear a lot of black, but when I do wear colors, I go all out. I think it’s cool she was tomboyish but still girly and had her face beat. I never noticed how nice her makeup was until I really started watching her videos over and over again.
Who are some other artists you think is dope?
RF: M.I.A., she has good style, she’s a great artist, she’s a woman, she’s from Sri Lanka, but she’s British. I think she’s really innovative too, she changes her hair, her clothes are always cool, not everything she pays mad money for, she’s just definitely a great artist all around. I’m talking about woman artist. Male artist have their own realm, I feel like we have to be on a more woman’s side. Grace Jones — a great artist, great style, even though we’re past her time, she’s still someone. Queen Latifah, also had a crazy style was plus size, she used to always have the tunes, doing it up. I really liked her. Left eye also, R.I.P., she was a great style icon, I loved her raps, she was one of my favorites from TLC. She was different from all of us. I really respect her for that. That’s one of the artists that I really look up to as well.
What are some challenges that you’ve faced as a freelance MUA?RF: Since you’re freelancing, you have to find your own jobs. I find jobs on a weekly basis, not all of them are paid, I wish I free-lanced at least once a week and got paid four times out of the week, it will happen. You have to be positive, if you’re not positive then good things won’t come, but it’s annoying to have to look sometimes. I don’t have to look once I get tagged on the Internet, they hit you up to work with you, but the thing is not everyone takes it as serious. You have to break it down to people, this is my job, this is what I do, and this is a part of my life. I’m not at that point where I have an assistant or anything, but to go into my emails sometimes is annoying, to constantly check on it.
What steps did you take to perfecting your skills?
RF: Now that I do makeup so often, I’m able to practice on people and I’m able to point out things that I didn’t do right before that I do better now. It’s all practice makes perfect. The more people you work with, the more faces you do, the more into it you get.
How has creating your own hashtag, #MakeupByRaisaFlowers, help you find a job?
RF: A lot of the jobs I find, people tag me on Instagram. If a big photographer is looking for a makeup artist then they’ll tag me. I need to make a website so people see everything, my portfolio is not online. I try to tell people to use the hashtag and you’ll be able to find me or my work because it’s over 100 pictures of my work. I don’t feel like I need to send people pictures, it’s kind of annoying.
What’s your dream job?
RF: I want to work at MAC at least part-time as a makeup artist. When you work at MAC you can either be a freelancer, artist, cashier, or manager. There are different things like I did get an interview at MAC in November. Before we did the interview for iamfeistyy.com, I tried to get an interview at MAC and they never called me back, someone told me it takes them up to a year to call you back and I was like damn I’m really going to be waiting on this thing for a while. MAC is just a totally different that’s why I want to get into it, they do a lot of fashion shows and fashion week. I want to do that. People learn a lot, people advance in their career from working at MAC.
Do you get paid for a lot of your gigs?
RF: To be honest not a lot of them. I’ve been working with a lot of college kids from Parsons and a few other schools, and certain times I have to break it down to them because they’re also an artist, and to be honest I’m coming from far so I need to be getting something out of this. But a good 50% are paid, I charge if I’m doing something personal or if the work is not going to be publicized. I need to get paid because you’re doing it for a purpose but it has to be a bigger end out of it for both of us. I just don’t like when people try to use that whole “you’re doing this for experience” no I have enough experience like I need to be seeing dollar signs. It will eventually come it’s not all about the money, but in a sense, I need to see money because this is my career and this is what I’m doing for real, so I have to remind certain people.
A lot of the artists I work with are young, so they kind of don’t understand, they’re in college, they’re on scholarships, and all of that. Not saying that they don’t understand the struggle but it’s a lot when your older and you’re trying to get it. We’re 22/23 you know I have to save up a few coins you get and pay something, pay for my travel, pay for my food, throw me down $50, anything you have. I can’t just do it because you need help. Everyone needs help; I need help with certain things, I have to look for a photographer for my project. It comes to a point where I’m an adult now like I’m not at the start of my makeup artistry career, I’ve been doing it for a minute now and I’ve done jobs. When I started taking it real serious I’ve done a lot in a short time span and you have to choose certain things wisely. I don’t take every job people suggest me to and I feel like if I really love the idea and their struggling, I’ll help you out.
What will make you consider a job?
RF: To be honest, certain people you can help come up. I’m working with one of my friends right now with her fashion line and she needs a makeup artist, she can’t pay me right now, but I know I can make it really dope. I’m going to have my friend, who’s also a makeup artist and a hairstylist, do the hair. She can help me with the ideas for the makeup and I’ve been helping her with the ideas with the hair. We’re going to bounce off each other. I can’t do mediocre work, I need to do work that’s profound and build over time, so if I do any regular work I’m going to have to be like yo coins like I’ve been there done that. Not to diss anybody or disrespect anybody but you’re trying to uplift.
What’s one thing you’d like to improve?
RF: I feel like I could be on more things instead of it passing me by. I have connections. I know people at MAC that can get me a job, but I just sit around and complain. I don’t want to work there because it’s in a certain area and I want to work in the city. Which is a difference because you get paid less in Westchester, in the city you get paid a good amount of money and it’s like I want to work there because my friends are there. I have too many excuses for things. I’m getting older and I’m realizing that it’s stupid.
What are some misconceptions you’ve noticed about the makeup industry?
RF: People think you’re supposed to work for cheap, people feel like every makeup artist is the same, but all of them have different ways of doing things. Certain people feel like everyone can be a makeup artist when they can’t. They don’t realize how much time and money gets put into your makeup kit, I’ve spent thousands of dollars because it adds up. Like the other day, I spent $400 on buying new stuff and then another $300. I needed these things. That’s why I have to get paid, look how much money makeup cost. I get discounts and stuff now, but it’s a lot. Some people do it for hobbies and side jobs, but I’m doing this as a career, I want to come out with certain things.
What projects are you working on?
RF: I did a contest on Instagram where I had a drawing and my sister drew the number out of a bag and whoever had commented on the post were in the drawings. I had about 40 something girls comment and she picked 9 girls. The contest is a makeover I’ll be doing in April to May. I want it to come out before summer. I’m going to be giving different girls makeovers and I already created a mood board, but I just have to do the shoot, do the dates. I have concepts for certain girls, I’m doing their makeup a certain way for each girl, a certain theme. I’m not gonna give like the whole details on them because there suppose to be surprised, only the girls know how they look, but they don’t actually know which make up style are going on them. A few of them are editorial style, crazy intense, one is inspired by the spice girls, one is inspired by Christian Dior’s fashion show, another Diana Ross, then Twiggy. They probably thought they were going to get regular makeovers but I try to mix it up with editorial and glamour.
What’s your approach to dealing with clients?
RF: I say just trust me. First of all, you have to be clean and sanitize, you have to be very clean with people. I make sure people see what I do and some people say don’t make me look like this, I’m just like trust me, I know what I’m doing. I’ve been doing it for a long time. I’ve never had anyone really not like something at all, sometimes they’ll be like try this (brighter or something like that) but nothing like I hate this, this is weird. I want to change it.
What are your makeup bag essentials?
RF: I have to have my moisturizer, makeup wipes or makeup cleanser – because the skin is the most important foundation of course. I’m obsessed with this Sephora paint tone palette, my urban decay electric palette because it has a lot of colors and there funky, my concealers, funky lipsticks, color corrector palettes, and highlighters.
What’s your approach when dealing with haters?
RF: The more people see me, the more they try to say something like she looks crazy or her style is too much and to be honest I just tell people you’re just mad that you’re not as expressive as you want to be. You’re not who you really want to be because I’m truly who I wanted to be all my life since I was young. This is who I am this is how I’m going to be. The problem with people is they tend to dislike things they don’t understand so that’s how I deal with them. If you want to be basic, be basic. Like Coco Chanel says, in order to be irreplaceable one must be different, that’s how I am. That’s me and that’s how it should be.
What’s your ultimate dream?
RF: To be stable money wise, to have enough money to support myself, my family, and friends who hold me down for a good amount of time. Also [to] have my own company, my own name, my own cosmetic line.
I want to get into music in the near future. I want to make beats. That’s something I really want to do, I don’t know if I would take it professionally, but for my own personal self. I also want to learn how to DJ, not because a lot of people are doing it, but because I want to master it, how to flow a beat, finesse songs together, and blend. There are a lot of great DJs and I want to learn how to do it. If I have a party at home I want to be able to DJ my own little party instead of having to hire someone, just something cool like that and maybe my own cookbook because I love to cook.