For just about two years Ackeem Francis had dreams of becoming a celebrity make-up artist. He had one particular celebrity in mind – international superstar Rihanna.
Ackeem can now add that to the list of dreams that have come true for him.
Last month, the passionate 18-year-old got the enviable opportunity to assist the Bajan singing sensation with her make-up when she visited the island for a christening and, for him, it is still surreal.
“I dreamt about doing Rihanna’s make-up a million times before I actually did it. When I did it, it didn’t feel real at first. That was like the biggest thing I ever did. It’s everyone’s dream to probably work for her. She is like the fiercest person in the industry, her style is so important to her, and any person in general would love to do her make-up . . . .” he said.
Ackeem explained how that opportunity came about for him.
“I actually went to do her cousin Noella’s make-up. When I was finished and was getting ready to leave, I said to myself ‘Oh lord I won’t even get to see Rihanna’. Her cousin probably went back up to the room and Rihanna saw her face and she loved it and she sent back for me.
“While I was walking out, in my head I was hearing someone calling but I thought my mind was playing tricks on me because I wanted to go back so badly. Noella got my attention and told me to wait, ‘Robyn wants her lashes done’. I couldn’t believe it. So I scrambled back and packed out my stuff and I laid out everything for her. Then she came down, I did the lashes for her and I asked if she wanted anything else. She said no but then she asked me if she thought I needed anything else and I said I could finish up the rest of the face for her and she said ‘fine’, and that’s just how it happened,” he explained.
He admitted that he was nervous, but said Rihanna’s down-to-earth personality relaxed him.
“Yes, anyone would be nervous. But she let me do what I wanted. I kind of asked her throughout the way if this is what she liked and so on. She is a very fun person and very nice. She complimented me, she told me she loved my set-up and told me I am going to get really far, so hearing that from someone like her was very heart warming.”
Ackeem told Bajan Vibes that since then, his “name has gotten even bigger”.
“I posted some of the pictures on Instagram and it just blew up. Obviously the media was on it. The pictures were all over. It was on so many international media sites, Media Take Out and so on. Seeing me next to her on all these different pages, it was like a big thing, because these are people that I don’t even know. It kind of opened up my name a little more. It did really well for me in a sense,” he said.
But he was making strides in the world of fashion before he used his make-up brushes on Rihanna.
It was at the age of 16 that he decided it was the path he wanted to take.
“I was getting ready for exams and something just told me ‘I don’t think this is for you’ . . . I wanted to be a paediatrician; I just have a love for children but I got a sense it wasn’t for me. Then I decided I wanted to do hair, but that was a little off . . . but not really strange because my mum is a hairdresser, so I guess that’s why it was the first thing I chose in the beauty industry. But then over that week I just decided to go for makeup and that’s how it started,” the fun loving Ackeem said.
After deciding that was the career for him, Ackeem took the steps he needed to make his dream a reality.
“I went on YouTube and was looking at videos and tutorials and so on and practising on myself. I just got better and better. [I] was still was a hot mess, but gradually got better and I decided there is a make-up store called Exotica, and I started there. It was a big thing for me at that point in time and I applied. It was a little ways before graduation and I got through and that’s how it started.”
From there he moved on to Mac which, for him, was the next best thing.
“The job at Mac was like a new start for me. It’s like the biggest thing here in terms of make-up, like every make-up artiste would like to work there. And I was 16 when I got it so it was like a ‘wow’ for me. I tried to do my very best. Then before I knew it, everyone wanted their make-up done by the little boy. Being the only boy there and so young, everyone loved my personality so it kind of worked in my favour a lot. And I just became more popular,” Ackeem said with a laugh.
But that job still wasn’t enough. Ackeem wanted something more, something bigger and better and he knew that he had a lot more to share. From there he created his own company. Faces by Ackeem.
“A lot has happened and a lot has changed . . . I just sat and I felt like I wanted to do something, I wanted to create a brand for myself, and I sat with a friend and I was thinking I wanted to make it into something more and that’s when I created Faces,” he said.
And now when he isn’t doing weddings, which he said were about 18 for the year already, and mostly destination weddings, doing photshoots and pageants, he is busy teaching others how to do make-up for themselves.
“Yes I am a make-up artist but it goes a little deeper than that. I can’t do everyone’s make up, and everyone doesn’t always have the time to go get their make-up done. I believe it’s something that you can learn how to do, so I think that if I could offer the knowledge to women so they know how to apply their make-up during the day or when going to work, it would be good,” he said.
Ackeem told Bajan Vibes that the support from his family and close friends is what keeps him going and helps to keep his eyes fixed firmly on the prize.
“At first my mom was a little skeptical. Make-up is such a vague thing, so it was like a little scare going from paediatrician to make-up. She wanted me to go back to school but I just knew within that this is what I wanted for myself. It took a little time to realize and to see what it is, but now she does because I have made it something so big. Now the support is really good. Everyone backs me now, all of my family and close friends,” Ackeem said proudly.
Now, after a whirlwind of opportunities over the last two years and his recent achievement of doing mega star Rihanna’s make-up, Ackeem knows that dreams really do come through. It is for this reason he is comfortable in taking his next move to the life he really wants.
“Right now, I am just building up myself a bit more while I am here in Barbados because my ultimate dream is to become a celebrity make-up artist. I don’t want it to be just a one-off thing like I did with Rihanna. I want to work everyday with top brands. I plan to move within a year. I am still exploring my options on where I will actually go through,” he disclosed.
Ackeem continued: “A while back someone gave me this tablet and it [had a wallpaper that] said ‘if you can dream it you can do it’ and like I always dreamt about the things I’m doing now. I only recently looked back at the tablet and I said to myself ‘it’s really true’. Once you have dreams you should go after them because they can become real.”