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Meet Mesha: Fordham's Own Makeup Guru!

student startup


Fordham University


Meet Mesha: Fordham's Own Makeup Guru!

Transformations, techniques, and navigating the beauty world as a woman of color

Callan McCarthy


Read time: 10 min.
Photography by Katie Mays

Chances are, if you grew up before YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat made makeup tutorials easy to access and to follow, you were wearing awful makeup. My favorite look in eighth grade involved pink eyeliner on my upper lid and green eyeliner on my lower. I would use foundation two shades too dark. I had no idea how to maximize my face shape or eye color, and the mistakes I made influenced me to stop wearing daring makeup altogether.

Fortunately, there's a makeup expert right here at Fordham, and she's ready to help me with a bold new look!

Meet Mesha Joseph (FCRH '18): an English major with minors in Philosophy and African American Studies. She balances work study, a job at e.l.f. Cosmetics, and her classes, all while selling her skills to Fordham students and outside clients as a talented makeup artist. I first met her through a poetry class we took our junior year, and had no idea she had such a talented eye (and hand!) for makeup.

Joseph had her first experience with makeup when she visited a MAC (Make-up Art Cosmetics) counter for her high-school prom: "I used to be an athlete. I used to be so strong-headed, 'I don't need makeup. I'm great as it is!'"

This experience inspired her to start practicing on other people, and her mom and friends allowed her to test different techniques on them.

Joseph soon realized how passionate she was about makeup: "I thought it was interesting: how people transform when their makeup is done. I think that people walk with their head held higher, you know? I became so interested in watching people transform, and after I noticed that I could do that for them, I wanted to start doing makeup on other people."

She started taking clients a year ago, two years after she had started practicing on other people.

In every booking, Joseph emphasizes a tutorial aspect. She wants her clients to leave the session with a better idea of how to reproduce the results that she creates.

She doesn't want makeup to be a mystery; she wants it to excite her clients and open them up to the possibilities for many different looks.

"'For instance, I always wanted to know 'Okay, if someone has hooded eyes like I do, how do I replicate a look that this YouTuber has created before?' It's hard to find someone who looks exactly like you on YouTube."

To do the best job she can, Joseph spends hours practicing on herself and watching tutorials in her spare time: "It's actually really challenging to learn how to do someone else's makeup. Everyone's face shape is different, eye shape is different, their eyebrows frame their face took a long time for me to learn that, and it's a lot of trial and error. My big thing is learning."

Joseph tries hard to be affordable for her clients—and she meets that expectation.

For a natural look, Joseph charges $30, with an additional $5 if she provides false eyelashes. A session for a natural look can take 45 minutes to an hour, depending on what the client requests. For a bolder look like a cut crease or a smoky eye, she charges between $45-50, again depending on how glam you want to go. A session for a bolder look usually takes between 1 and 1 1/2 hours.

When I heard these prices, my jaw dropped. So I don't have to pay $100 at a Sephora counter for an amazing Senior Ball look?! Sign. Me. Up.

"I think makeup has become really inaccessible when you get to those high-end brands. I try to make it accessible because I love it, and I want other people to love it too."

Before my session started, Joseph and I chatted about what she'd be trying on me. One technique she loves? Cut creases. She described how versatile and flattering they are for people with all different eye shapes: "They allow me to create an eyelid on myself in a way that a smoky eye wouldn't, since I have hooded eyes." She spent careful time evaluating the undertones in my skin, my eyebrow shape, and even asked me what my favorite color is (it's yellow! She incorporated it into my eyeshadow look!).

Finally, we began our session. She had a vision, and I was along for the ride!

Joseph suggested an eyeshadow and eyebrow tutorial, and I was all in. Those are my weakest areas as a low-level makeup enthusiast, so I was excited to learn.

She began with my eyebrows, asking me to hold a hand mirror up so I could watch her as she worked. She taught me how to shape them, which products to use, and how to sharpen the look by adding concealer and highlight underneath the arches. With every small question I had, Joseph had a patient and helpful answer. Suddenly, I was no longer daunted with the prospect of doing my eyebrows.

We then got to the fun part—the eyeshadow! Joseph told me about using concealer as a primer, since it covers up imperfections and creates a blank slate for the color to pop on. She advised me to use warm transition shades (eyeshadow shades that work to transition one color into another more smoothly), and to blend them generously. The key is to create a soft look without it appearing messy or smudged. According to Joseph, it's best to build the product up, rather than dumping a lot of color on my eyelids in one go.

When it came time to add a cut crease to the look, Joseph taught me how to do it: "Place a small amount of a wetter product, like concealer, on the center of your eyelid. Look up at the ceiling, then look at your eyelid to see where the product transferred. That's the natural spot where you should start your cut crease." My mind was blown! This was a whole new world!

Here's the final product.

This is my face with only eyeshadow, eyebrows, and foundation. No contour, highlight, blush, mascara, or lip color. I'm not kidding when I say my jaw dropped. Joseph is an absolute wizard with her eyeshadow brushes. As someone with very bright blue eyes, I never in my wildest dreams assumed that an aqua shade would look good on me, let alone fabulous!!

I now understand what Joseph meant when she used the word "transform." I felt transformed, and I took dramatic selfies of my new look once I got home.

I felt unique and important under her careful gaze, and I appreciated all the time she took to learn my face and adjust certain techniques to create a look that suited my face.

If you haven't already noticed, Joseph also loves a challenge. She likes it when clients come to her with specific requests because it gives her the opportunity to learn something new and become a more skilled artist in general.

"I love when people request certain tutorials that they're having trouble with. Don't be shy on social media. Message me! I try to answer everybody. I'm open to learning anything."

In the spirit of improvement, I asked Joseph what she would change about the makeup guru world. She mentioned sponsored partnerships on YouTube, where a guru is paid by a certain brand to review a product for subscribers:

"While there are some very honest gurus, some will notice that there's a problem with a particular brand but won't stop using them. Say a brand doesn't carry as many shades of foundation as they should, but that YouTuber who reviewed the product still uses and promotes that brand. Yes, you were truthful in calling them out, but you're still using that brand. Beauty gurus have such an important voice now. Representation is such an important think to me, so I wish there were more YouTubers who would say 'This is wrong.'"

We talked about Jackie Aina--a favorite YouTuber of hers--who criticized and refused to support Tarte for their lack of darker foundation shades.

Above all, Joseph emphasized how powerful her journey with makeup has been, especially as a woman of color in the beauty world:

"I'm so accustomed to seeing the lampooning of darker skinned women and men in makeup. Because of that, I really thought it wasn't for me, or for any of us, really."

I wanted to prove to people who look like me that we can slay, and that we can do way more than people lead us to think.

Aside from the thrill of making friends who love makeup, and watching my own and other people's visions come to fruition, showcasing the versatility and the beauty of women of color really keeps me going."

If you want to book Mesha for your own makeup session, don't hesitate to reach out! You can find her on:

Instagram: @Crowned_Exquisite
Snapchat: @Exquisite_Mesha