Meet the 3 Kenyan Women in fashion collaborating for the culture

By Ruth Mbugua

In 2009, Nelly Tuikong was a nurse in America but there was something tugging at her heart about makeup for the African woman.

Her entrepreneurial instincts kicked in after looking around stores for makeup that suited her African skin and didn’t find any.

With no prior knowledge in manufacturing makeup, but armed with a passion, Nelly started her journey that birthed Pauline Cosmetics (named after her mother) after three years of learning, research, and trials.

Nelly Tuikong

Pauline Cosmetics is a makeup brand that designs, develops and manufactures makeup products with the African woman in mind.

The brand has now grown to become an established makeup brand with a line of lipstick, lip-gloss, eye shadow, and mascara.

Enter Caroline Mutoko, a celebrated renowned media personality, a woman of her own caliber.

With more than 20 years of experience in the media, her name speaks for her in the Kenyan entertainment industry. Caroline Mutoko also has a YouTube channel where she takes the spotlight that is on her and shines it on you.

 In 2017, she was featuring Kenyan women who were making strides and shattering glass ceilings on her YouTube channel. One of these women happened to be Nelly Tuikong of Pauline Cosmetics.

In November 2018, Caroline Mutoko challenged Nelly to work with her to come up with a lipstick line for all the women who are ‘becoming, women in different spaces and phases of their lives and for every woman in you. This brought about the I AM limited edition lipstick.

Caroline Mutoko

To add more synergy to this powerful collaboration, these two amazing women, Pauline, and Caroline Mutoko, didn’t just stop there.

They collaborated with Wandia Gichuru of Vivo Woman to distribute the limited edition lipstick in 8 of the Vivo Woman stores in Nairobi. Wandia Gichuru has rewritten the narrative of modern day fashion.

She founded Vivo active wear in 2011 to offer comfortable casual wear for the sporty woman and official clothing for the professional woman.

Wandia Gichuru

Here are the 5 things I have learned from the partnership of these three glamorous women.

1. Collaborate instead of compete

An African proverb says “If you want to go fast if you want to go far, go together”.

Nothing is better than working with other women who get your perspective and challenges you face as a woman in business.  

2. Have a defined purpose and vision

When you have every partner pulling in different directions, there is bound to be no progress. To collaborate, you need to have a clear and shared vision and an agreed direction on how to achieve it.

3. Bring a unique value

Each partner should bring a differentiating factor into the equation. This helps to ensure that you do not view each other as competition.

4. Have mutual benefits

The partnership should be beneficial to all partners. This removes the perception that one person is bearing a bigger load than the other.

5. There is room for more than one queen

There is no winner takes all award in entrepreneurship. As women, we need to get over this attitude and view women as a community to help each other grow and not competition.

“My advice to girls is always this: Be supportive of each other. I can’t say this enough. We have to be our best friends, each other.  That means we cannot be catty, we cannot compete and see one person’s failure as our success.

We can all rise together, we can all win!

We’re sometimes taught in our societies that we have to compete and we have to hold each other back in order for one of us to succeed.

That is not true. We need each other.

And all over the world, we have to be a team of women and girls who love each other and value each other and cherish one another.

Because if we don’t cherish each other, no one else will,” – Michelle Obama

Maureen Isikaku: I find a lot more joy and fulfillment when I’m painting faces

@radiantbyreena: I'd really love to give Ini Edo a facebeat. I hope she reads this & calls me up Click To Tweet

Maureen Isikaku is a part-time freelance beauty artist with intent to go full time pretty soon,  she is also a school administrator. Maureen caters to beauty, bridal and editorial makeup and is working on expanding her artistry into bridal hair styling and organic skincare.

She started her freelancing makeup career in October 2015 and has grown in leaps and bounds since then. She had her makeup training done with Zaron Cosmetics, Ikoyi.

She has worked on celebrities such as Victoria Kimani, Arese Ugwu, Kayla Oniwo, Uche Elendu and a couple others and backstage at high-profile events (Miss Nigeria and The Headies) and enjoyed every bit of it

Maureen Isikaku lives in Lagos, Nigeria and is available to travel worldwide.

You run radiantbyreena and also have a 9-5 job, how do you manage both successfully?

Yes, I do. It has not been easy managing both but I have learnt to put structures in place and allocate specific amounts of time towards each job.

My makeup appointments are majorly for now, during the weekends or in the evening, that allows me to juggle both effectively. Luckily, so far out of town jobs have been during the school holidays.

Eventually, if you have to choose between the two jobs, what will it be and why?

It would definitely be makeup artistry, the reason being that I find a lot more joy and fulfillment when I’m painting faces. I am very passionate about what the outcome will be on a job that I can think of nothing else.

Maureen Isikaku
Face beat by RadiantbyReena

The number of makeup artists in Nigeria have gone off the roof, how do you deal with the tough competition and gain customers?

Dealing with competition can be emotionally draining, as you have to constantly observe and try to offer better than your competitor.

So I focus more on developing my craft and business than I focus on my competition and this has really helped. I attach value and quality to my services. When I accept a job, I always strive to give the best regardless of anything. I continually invest in my craft and in myself.

When I am with a client, I make sure that she is satisfied and happy. All these lead to referrals that go on to become repeat clients and my client base keeps growing.

What are some of the common mistakes done by makeup artists during a face beat?

I would say forgetting to prime and mismatch of foundation shade (a very common mistake).

What do you love about makeup artistry?

I love the opportunity to get creative, the satisfaction for both the client & I after a job well done, the travel and getting to meet new people. Also the fact that I have a lot of makeup to play with. I just love the beauty of makeup artistry.

Maureen Isikaku
Face beat by RadiantbyReena

Which celebrity would you like to face beat?

I would really love to give Ini Edo a facebeat. I hope she reads this and calls me up.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Patience Nkosi: I’m obsessed with making women look extraordinary

patience nkosi

In business, one needs to do thorough research and have a plan before executing their idea - Patience Nkosi Click To Tweet

Patience Nkosi, makeup artist and founder of PashyN, affectionately known as Pashy, is a small town girl with an unstoppable passion for transforming and enhancing how women look and feel through makeup.

Pashy is obsessed with making woman look extraordinary by eliminating self-consciousness in young women one brush stroke at a time. She believes that if you look good, ultimately, you do better.

After completing her BSc in Computer Science, Pashy found that her true calling was in makeup. SLA contributor Jeanette Nkwana talked all things beauty, business, and PashyN with her.

Have you always wanted to go into the beauty industry?

It is true when they say that certain situations only happen because they are all part of the process of leading you to your true path.

Being in the beauty industry was never really my plan. I somewhat “stumbled” upon an opportunity which led me to my destiny, a founder of a beauty brand & makeup artist at PashyN.


What challenges did you face going into a market (that you have previously worked in) as an entrepreneur?

Starting a company isn’t as easy as it may seem. One needs to do thorough research and have a good plan before they execute. One major challenge I came across amongst many others was acquiring startup capital, a setback which delayed my progress.

Who do you look up to in the industry and how do you identify with him/her?

I’m such a groupie of so many of international makeup artists. I follow them on Instagram, some have worked with famous international celebrities. Makeup artists like Jack Emory, Alexandra Annele, Sonja Deluxe to name but a few inspire me.

I draw my inspiration from them and try to incorporate that in my own craft. Literally, I’d spend hours and hours on YouTube checking out their stuff. They pretty amazing.


What is the biggest misconception people have about what you do and how do you address it?

Beauty is NOT standard, it moves, transforms and differs from person to person -Patience Nkosi (PashyN) Click To Tweet

Society has placed us with the burden of enormous expectations of what beauty seemingly is or should be. The popular phrase, “true beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder” speaks to me in volumes. To my understanding, this implies that beauty is NOT standard. It moves, transforms and differs from person to person. Therefore no woman needs to be validated by society norms.

Makeup is not a way to hide a woman’s beauty but rather to enhance the beauty that already lies in her. Many women that had never had a single touch of makeup applied on their faces today wear makeup simply because I had taught and made them understand this phrase.

You are now an official ambassador for Elizabeth Arden, how did this come about?

My first ever job was in retail where I found myself working as a cosmetics generic. Five months in the field, I worked for one of the world’s leading prestigious brands, Elizabeth Arden.

Today I am proud to say, in a period of just over a year, I became an award winning Elizabeth Arden Brand Ambassador. This was after long hours of hard work and determination. I set goals and I achieved them, being a go-getter worked in my favour.


In our field of work, we are given sales targets which we are expected to meet on a monthly basis. Targets set according to how the counter would’ve performed in the previous year ultimately rounding off to a yearly target. In my first year of being with Elizabeth Arden, my sales performance skyrocketed and I had grown the counter just over and above 60% from the previous year. My performance led me to where I currently am, an Elizabeth Arden Ambassador.

What did you do to become a makeup artist?

I’ve been trained under Elizabeth Arden as a beauty advisor with the right skills set for a clear understanding of skincare and makeup.

However, most of the advanced makeup I practice was self-taught. I believe one can never stop learning therefore, I do dream of someday enrolling in an international makeup institution where I can further my skills.

I believe one can never stop learning. - Patience Nkosi (PashyN) Click To Tweet

What is the most fulfilling aspect of what you do?

Too often we find that we women tend to have a low self-esteem. This may be due to events from their past or present that make us forget to look after the one thing that speaks volumes when we walk through the door, our canvas, the face.

A person buys your face before they buy you. It is the reaction a woman shows when she finally get to realises how beautiful she is through my art that’s most fulfilling when it comes to my work. Knowing that I’ve changed one’s perspective about themselves and giving them a dose of confidence in their looks makes my heart complete. It drives me to reach my absolute potential with each client.

If you had a time machine and could travel back in time, what would you do differently and what would you do the same?

If I had a time machine and could travel back I’d probably believe in and trust myself a little more. I’d use my God-given talents to my advantage as opposed to shying away from them.

My teen years were probably the best times of my life and I wouldn’t exchange that for anything, I would relive that time of my life any day.


What can we expect from PashyN three years from now?

Expect the unexpected. Our ultimate goal at PashyN is to be amongst one of the best leading brands, and with time we can only believe that shall come to pass.

Three years, I believe, gives us enough time to build a solid foundation and prepare to take off into greatness.

What three qualities/skills do all makeup artists need to be successful?

Firstly one needs to have the passion for this art in order to succeed, that way it is not seen as a job but rather play time. Secondly, one needs to be very artistic and thoughtful. This simply means that they need to be able to envision a certain look before they can demonstrate it or bring to life.

Thirdly, one needs to portray a certain personality in order for them to be able to relate with clients. It’ll be your job to make them feel comfortable because the last thing a client needs is someone who they are not compatible with.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Jackie Mgido: It’s taken me years and I’m still in the infancy stages of my business

jacki mgido

They were thinking, “Who is this Zimbabwean that claims she knows how to do makeup?” Click To Tweet

Jackie Mgido left Zimbabwe about 24 years ago; now that’s a long time. Always a dreamer, Jackie wanted to do the unexpected and always wanted to feel fab.

In the United States, she looked into what she loves best and found that was everything to with makeup and hair. But, you know that struggle with being African and having passions that are considered outside the norm. First, Jackie did what her parents wanted her to do then after that she decided to go with her passion because it just felt natural.

Jackie Mgido is a talented makeup artist and founder of Vault cosmetics.

Where did your passions originate?

As a little girl I was very insecure, I never thought I was cute. I grew up at a time where there was a division between whites, coloured and blacks. I grew up in a time where women bleached a lot in order for them to be noticed.

That’s where it all started; I also wanted to be noticed. I wanted them to say, “Hey, you’re so pretty!” but I realised early that bleaching cream wasn’t going to do that for me.

Your passions sprouted from wanting to be noticed as a dark skinned girl just like the light skinned girls were noticed. What are some of the things you would teach your daughter about loving herself?

I have a 9 year old daughter. I will continue to speak of kindness to her. You can teach your child confidence all you like and tell them you are who you are but if inside they don’t feel it, it’s a misdirected arrow.

When you are kind to other people and people start seeing you for your heart, they really start seeing you for your beauty. Because it will just draw in those people, your popularity goes up; you attract the people that are amazing and your confidence goes up.

What would you say are the fundamentals of maintaining a business and keeping it going after you have started?

Connecting with your customers! They are the ones that make your business, if you lose that connection with them, then you have completely lost it. Let your customers drive whatever it is that you are selling. Yes, I am the expert but my customers are the ones that buy the stuff, so if I am not giving them what they want and what they like then it’s not going to sell.

If you lose connection with your customers, you have completely lost it - Jackie Mgido Click To Tweet

The fundamentals are:

  • Understanding your customer
  • Connecting with your customer
  • Letting your customer drive your business

vault jackie mgidovault jackie mgido 2Where do you see Vault in 5 years in terms of sustenance of your business?

So far Vault has been a trendsetter, we started a revolution. Vault is fostering the mind-set of people trying to start their own businesses, the mind-set of people wearing things that they’ve never tried their whole entire life and most importantly the expansion into other countries and education.

Education is key! We are going to be one of those makeup lines that are an education-based and that have hubs all over the world not just in Africa. It’s going to be one of those makeup lines where the customer also feels a sense of ownership because its important for the customer to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves.

Have you felt like changing people perception and the mind-set around makeup has been easy in Africa?

I’ll speak on Zimbabwe particularly because it’s my culture, I know the people because I am part of the people. Interesting enough it is harder to show and it’s easier to show and tell. Our philosophy is, teach it, feel it then they’ll buy it.

The reason Vault has grown so much in four years is because it’s been a little easier for us to show and tell. So changing the mind-set hasn’t really been that difficult because we are getting people to understand why they are wearing makeup. When, people come in we ask them why they’re wearing makeup. “Are you wearing makeup for you?” That changes everything!

Who is the most interesting person you have put makeup on?

Charity, she’s a newspaper vendor in Msasa, Harare who stands with a bunch of men at the traffic lights and sells newspapers. Charity had no exposure so she never thought, “If I put on a suit, high heels and glasses, I could sell more”.

When we saw Charity and I told my girls we had to Vault her. Now not only does Charity have her glasses, she has her lip-gloss and she can fiercely sell her newspapers. Sometimes, she works for us at big events, handing out pamphlets to attendees. When I’m in Harare, I make time to go and see her.

Which man would you love to put makeup on?

All the ministers in Zimbabwe