Interview Via Zoom

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Images by @onagreenwoodart

Loved by SZA and Pat McGrath, 20-year-old makeup artist Myla is a star on the rise. A role model to university dropouts everywhere, Myla has already been tapped by Gucci and her loyal 100k followers have turned her face-painting hobby into a freelance career – in less than three years.

Also signed to Brother Models, Myla’s drive is to make sure curvy and dark skinned women feel seen and celebrated. Born in Ghana and raised all over Manchester, Myla is now based in Rochdale.

Here she talks about the pressure of going viral, learning to love her body and how she deals with online trolls.

When did you start seriously considering a career in the arts?

Until I started Loretto College, I wanted to be a forensic scientist. I've always been into art and studied it throughout secondary school at Manchester Health Academy, but I never thought of it as a viable career path. I grew up in an African household and you just can’t choose art as a career. You’re pushed towards a path where you can make a ‘stable living’, so it wasn’t an option. Becoming an artist has been a sort of happy accident after I started experimenting with drawing on my face in college.

Why was dropping out of university the right move for you?

I nearly dropped out in my second year of college too, but ended up pushing through. I liked learning but trying to cram so much information in my brain for exams was just too much. I was supposed to take a gap year after A Levels, but ended up going to Coventry University to study business last minute. I switched to advertising and marketing but dropped out after three months, I realised education just wasn’t for me. It ties into why I love being a freelancer so much. I get to decide my own schedule, I don’t have someone in my ear telling me where I need to be or what I need to be doing. I work on my own terms. I create on my own terms.

Tell us about your first experience with makeup.

My mum didn’t allow me to wear makeup until the very last few months of year 11, aged 16. She always thought it made me look ‘too grown up’. When I was younger, I’d tell my mum I was going out to play at my next door neighbours, then steal her mascara and experiment. I’d have to sneak back in when she wasn’t around and run upstairs to wipe it all off. Then when it was allowed, I didn't really wear much makeup because I had no clue how to put it on. I used YouTube tutorials like Jackie Aina to help learn the basics.

When did you start creating the colourful looks you’re known for?

At 18, I decided I didn’t want to do the standard smokey eye and glam, it was boring to me. I wanted to do something different, with a bit of dazzle. That’s when I got into editorial and avant garde looks. It’s thanks to my Instagram explore page really, I saw some shoots from Sickie and Hunger magazines and started experimenting.

Images by @onagreenwoodart

Tell us about the first look that blew up on social media.

I started on Twitter and posted the very first time I applied eyeshadow in late 2018. I got lots of positive feedback so transferred to Instagram. In 2019, it felt time to try something different, I used to watch Drag Race so much, I think that probably was like the biggest inspiration for me to step out my box. The first look I did totally blew up. It was inspired by my favourite singer SZA’s music video for ‘Love Galore’ and after I tagged her, she commented and followed me. I remember waking up from a nap to so many notifications and I just jumped on my bed and screamed. I only had about 6k followers at the time.

When did you realise you could make a career out of your art?

I wasn't getting any paid gigs before summer 2020. I didn't even know you could get paid for creating and I'm still learning the ropes of how to get those paid jobs. Even though summer 2020 was awful in so many ways due to Covid, it was a blessing in disguise for my own creativity. Staying at home really pushed me. For so long I was stressing about whether university was the right choice for me or if I should take a gap year, but as soon as the March lockdown hit, I said to myself, ’Okay, listen. You can't just stay at home doing nothing, you’ve got no job, you need to create.’ Then a month later, Instagram reached out after seeing a flower look I created. They reposted it and asked me to do an LGBTQ+ interview because they’d seen I was queer in my bio, then from that day all my posts just started blowing up. I went from having 10k followers in March, to suddenly gaining 10k followers every two weeks, it was a crazy time.

Tell us about how you express your queerness through your work.

Even as a child, I felt different in a way I couldn’t put my finger on. At 14, I was struggling so much with my identity and tried to convince myself that I was straight, but 17 was the firm age I knew I was not a het. But I don't see my queerness as just my sexuality, I see it as who I identify as – my feminine side and my masculine side. Both aspects have a lot to do with what I create. For me, queerness is what I do, what I create, and who I see myself as, rather than who I’m attracted to.

Has makeup helped grow your confidence?

In the beginning, I was very insecure, so makeup was more of an alter ego that I used as an escape from reality. I found such freedom in changing my whole identity, but now I don’t use makeup as a mask. I can wipe it all off and still feel confident. Now, I see beauty as a twin I get to create with, instead of faking it till you make it. Beauty is comfort for me.

You’re signed to Brother Models modelling agency, how did that journey start?

At first I thought I was being scammed when Joey Darlin – the model who helped launched Brother Models’ curve board in September 2020 – DM’d me on Instagram asking if I’d be interested in modelling. I didn’t reply for a week, but something made me return to the DM and it all went from there. I was one of the first people she reached out to. Joey is so inspiring and has helped me so much with my confidence, she really pushed me towards feeling good about my body. She's always reminding me and the other curve models that we are beautiful as hell.

Have you always felt confident in your curves?

I love everything about my face, but my body has been much harder to accept. The media's beauty standards makes you feel that bigger women don't deserve have to be on runways or commercials, but we're all beautiful really. We need to come together as a community and stop these silly beauty standards because it's just unrealistic and unrepresentative.

Tell us about your first ever shoot.

When I went to my first test shoot, I was terrified they’d get me in angles I'm not used to, it was really scary for me. But I also remember sitting down and thinking little me would be so proud. You don't see a lot of dark skinned and curvy representation in the media, so for me to be part of that community making change is incredible. I know that in a few years time, a little girl who looks like me is going to see herself represented and think, ‘Oh, my body shape is normal, my skin colour is normal. I can wear what she's wearing.’

What’s your aim in the modelling industry?

I want to show the world there’s more to curvy models than big thighs and slim waists, everyone comes in different shapes and sizes. The fashion industry needs to understand that curve models aren’t all built in one shape. I have broad shoulders, a bit of belly and big thighs, but I don't have a teeny waist. I've always wanted to see someone who looks like me represented on social media, so it’s really special.

Images by @onagreenwoodart

What do you love most about your job?

Definitely the messages I recieve from other women. Many women who reach out are older than me and it blows my mind that I have the ability to inspire them. I've got quite big boobs, but I tend to wear revealing tops and one lady messaged me saying, ‘We’re kind of the same size and I feel so much better after seeing you're able to wear bikini tops and not be afraid of it’. I remember telling her that just because social media has made us big boob girls feel like we can’t wear crop tops, doesn’t mean we have to listen, we can literally do whatever the hell we want.

A message that made me cry recently was a girl who said she used to be too scared to try brightly coloured makeup until she saw my account. She was scared that people would say, ‘You’re too dark skinned for that’. That made me so emotional. Receiving messages like these means so much and pushes me to carry on stepping outside of the box and representing people that look like me and are built like me. It's an honour.

How do you deal with online trolls?

Me and the block button are besties. As soon as I see negative comment, they’re getting blocked. You’re not going get a reaction out of me. I lost some weight last summer from stress and then put it back on and I got comments telling me I’d got fat and it really infuriated me. I see people commenting on other people's body type on social media all the time and I just think if they’re happy, why is it any of your business? My motto is ‘mind your business’, it costs nothing and it's really not that hard. I’ve filtered every negative word I can think of on my profile, I'm not going to give anyone a chance to come in my comment section with negative energy, my space is my space. It's a safe space for other people and it's a safe space for me.


Three words that define your aesthetic

  • Ethereal, angelic, bold.

Three words you want your art to make people feel.

  • Fearless, creative, etherealness.

What’s the song you always blast for max creativity?

  • Lately, it’s been ‘Telepatia’ by Kali Uchis and ‘Feed The Fire’ by SG Lewis ft Lucky Daye. Both songs have me grinning from ear to ear and get me grooving.

Last played track on Spotify?

  • 有吗炒面  by Lexie Liu.

Latest book that blew your mind?

  • Remember, Be Here Now by Ram Dass, about spirituality, yoga and meditation.

Most surprising thing in your beauty bag?

  • Hair glue – I use it for my eyebrows if I want a feathery look.

Beauty product you couldn’t live without?

  • Fenty Beauty's glass slipper lip gloss.

Favourite beauty brands for skin?

  • Fenty Beauty and Milk Makeup have the best skin tone ranges. I’m loving Paula's Choice skin perfecting 2% BHA liquid exfoliant right now, but my all-time favourite is the Gucci face gloss. It gives the perfect dewy highlight to my face.

Best beauty tip?

  • Warm a clear lip-gloss up by massaging it in circles on the back of your hand and apply on your upper cheek bone for a dewy glow.