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How Keita Moore became the most sought after makeup artist for stars like Kelly Rowland, Iman and more

Keita Moore speaks to HELLO! for Black History Month about the state of inclusivity in the beauty industry

Keita Moore - permission from The Only Agency
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Keita Moore is incredibly busy. When I speak to the makeup artist, he has just got back from traveling all over the country, from New York to Atlanta to Las Vegas. He was working at the Grammys and at the Super Bowl, but now he has arrived in Tampa for a friend's baby shower. 

This is what life is like when you are one of the most sought after makeup artists in the industry. Keita has worked with supermodels like Iman, actresses like Tessa Thompson and Yara Shahidi, and musicians like Mariah Carey, Kelly Rowland, Janelle Monae, and Nicki Minaj.

Yet despite having a dedicated roster of high profile clients, Keita remains humble and hard working, having come from modest beginnings. His secret? "Hard work, dedication and determination", he tells HELLO!.

Humble beginnings

As an art student, Keita helped a friend with a fashion show in his hometown of Rochester, New York after a makeup artist bailed. He went on to practice makeup on his nieces and work at MAC Cosmetics. But he got his big break working with the Love and Hip Hop girls.

Keita Moore - permission from The Only Agency© Keita Moore - permission from The Only Agency
Keita Moore is one of the most highly sought after makeup artists in the industry

"They were doing club appearances and being the go-to makeup artist led to me working with them and stepping out of New York City", he explains. "Because I'm from Rochester, which is six hours away from New York City. For eight years I would travel back and forth to New York doing clients."

Whether he was driving across the state himself, or catching a bus, he made sure he was there for his clients no matter what - and the hard work paid off when he started doing makeup for the Real Housewives of Atlanta stars as a step up. This led to him working with more artists, as he worked on three of Fantasia Barrino's tours.

Keita has done campaigns for Anastasia Beverly Hills, and even now if you go into your local CVS you might see one of his campaigns for Covergirl, where he did makeup for Issa Rae and Ayesha Curry.

"The first time I saw my work in Times Square, it was just such a magical moment filled with gratitude", he confesses. "I came such a long way from living in my mom's room looking at my vision board every single day and just seeing everything on my vision board in front of me in my life."

Working with A-Listers

Now, he's had the pleasure of working with some of his own idols. He admits he was "a little starstruck" when he started working with Kelly Rowland.

"I was a huge Destiny's Child fan, they carried me through my teens to now", he says. But you would never know this if you were in the room with him and Kelly, as he's keen to stay professional.

"I don't walk into that room a fan, even though I am," he affirms. "I'm excited to be here, but I think celebrities just want normal people."

Keita discusses doing Kelly Rowland's makeup© Permission from The Only Agency
Keita discusses doing Kelly Rowland's makeup

He also fanned out when he went to Mariah Carey's house to do her makeup for the first time. "She comes down the stairs and it's like, Mariah Carey is sitting right in front of me. This is crazy, but at the same time you're being a professional and you're reading the room. 

"You give them your very best work knowing that they have worked with every single iconic makeup artist in the past."

Keita has frequently worked with Iman© Permission from The Only Agency
Keita has frequently worked with Iman

Sometimes he even learns from his clients, as he has a long-running, strong relationship with supermodel Iman. "She led the way for so many people in the fashion industry, and to actually work with her, feel her presence and hear her stories, I've learned a lot."

Iman taught Keita, for example, to add a bigger lash when the camera is shooting far away so that her eyes "don't get too lost in the video". But when the camera comes in for a closeup, "we will take that lash off and we'll have a smaller lash so it's not too much up close."

This has certainly given the makeup artist an edge, as he's learned to take notice and advise on the lighting and angles during a photoshoot.

Finding inspiration

While he's able to do makeup on anyone of any ethnicity, Keita has a particularly strong roster of some of the most successful Black women in the industry. This seems to come from his biggest inspiration, his mom who was a Mary Kay makeup artist.

"She showed me how to put makeup on, how it can change your spirit and mood", he says. "I've seen her hustle and work hard and empower Black women."

CULVER CITY, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 28: Tessa Thompson attends Armani Beauty Celebrates Tessa Thompson on April 28, 2022 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Armani Beauty )© Kevin Mazur
Keita has done Tessa Thompson's makeup

"I've learned on Black women", he says. "That's where a lot of the magic happens. I'm a Black male, and I believe they trust you a lot."

As well as his mom, Keita is inspired by fellow makeup artists. Undoubtedly, Pat McGrath is a huge inspiration. "To actually see a Black woman be the leading makeup artist of the world is super incredible."

"I can only imagine the things she had to face and how she had to work so much harder for her talent to sell, and for people in fashion to actually trust her vision."

He's also inspired by Sam Fine, who has worked with the likes of Gabrielle Union and Queen Latifah. "He's led the way, doing exactly what I'm doing now with the most beautiful woman in the world."

Keita is also blessed to share a number of clients with Sheika Daley, of whom he gushes: "not only does she do incredible makeup, but she is sweet, smart, confident and her clients love her."

A more inclusive industry

Through Keita's 12-year-long career, the beauty industry has undergone a radical transformation as inclusive makeup lines were no longer seen as optional. The struggle more diverse shade ranges received a spotlight when Rihanna's Fenty Beauty line debuted a 40 shade range of foundations, later expanding to 50 and introducing some of the darkest shades the beauty world had ever seen.

But the journey to more inclusive makeup didn't just start with Fenty Beauty.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 12: Rihanna celebrates the launch of Fenty Beauty at ULTA Beauty on March 12, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Fenty Beauty by Rihanna)© Kevin Mazur
The makeup industry is growing more inclusive

"If you look at Mac Cosmetics - for years you were able to find shades. Then Covergirl who had the Queen collection since before I started doing makeup, with Queen Latifah as a spokesperson."

Keita also refers to one of his own clients, Iman's makeup line, "because as a model going through the industry, there was no makeup for Black women."

Queen Latifah during Covergirl's "Queen" Cosmetics Line Launch Featuring Queen Latifah as Covergirl's New Spokesperson at BB King's in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jemal Countess/WireImage)© Jemal Countess
Queen Latifah was spokesperson for Covergirl's Queen line in the 2000s

"To see everything being developed for everyone is incredible", he says. "It's disappointing we had to wait so long, but I'm excited it's here. I feel like Black creatives, makeup artists and influencers put brands on blast when they only had 15 white shades and four for Black people and it all worked for the greater good."

There are more jobs opening up in the fashion industry as well, he observes, and he's excited to see more Black people on set at shoots. But next, he'd like to see more Black people in hiring positions, in charge of the production.

Keita also talks about the importance of making sure representation isn't tokenistic. "I would like to see Black people, trans people, all sorts of people who have had to go through liberation - people who have fought to be seen."

Still, there's a lot Keita's excited about right now, like the Black Beauty Roster - a collective that focuses on amplifying the work of Black beauty artists and creatives for more representation in TV, Film, Runway, Commercial and Editorial spaces. 

"I did Culture Con this year, and being able to speak at events where there's thousands of Black people listening to your story on stage was incredible," he says. "It's refreshing to see. A lot of Black artists doing makeup covers and campaigns, that's exciting to me."