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The Artist Changing The Face Of Africa

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From the dusty streets of Harare to the glam green rooms of Hollywood, hers was a journey that transcended vistas and visages.

Jackie Mgido, Zimbabwean hairstylist and make-up artist to the stars, was a poor girl in a humble Harare neighborhood with big dreams, an artistic hand and an eye for beauty.

“I did not have an amazing childhood but I had an amazing childhood in my head. Everything that I did was magical and everything that I did, I dared to dream,” says the 42-year-old cosmetics entrepreneur, who worked with Hollywood A-listers such as John Legend, Morris Chestnut, Denzel Washington, P Diddy, Jamie Foxx and Sylvester Stallone, before returning home to start her own beauty brand Vault Cosmetics.

Mgido had moved to the United States 20 years ago hoping to make films, and for a better look at the beautiful faces facing the camera.

“I wanted to understand how they were able to make people look so amazing on camera,” she says.

She then enrolled at the Make-Up Designory, popularly known as MUD, in California, where she studied the art and later interned at several Hollywood studios. After spending almost five years meticulously planning her business strategy and her next move, she wanted to start something new but the fear of failure stalled her dream.

For a professional who turned dour to dazzling with her magic make-up wand, she was confronted with a new reality back home in Zimbabwe, and then came the epiphany.

“One time I visited Zimbabwe and noticed there was something missing, women were neglected, I looked at so many beautiful women but a lot of them were really dark and could not see their beauty, so I decided to do something to enhance their beauty,” says Mgido.

That was it. She launched her own line in 2012 but suffered major setbacks, even losing a staggering $60,000 in the first six months, of the $100,000 she and her husband had invested in the business.

“If it was not for my husband, I would have given up. What motivated me to continue is that I have a gift and it’s not about me. This is what I am supposed to be doing in life, touching lives through make-up.”

Vault Cosmetics is available in Zimbabwe’s cities and has branches in the US, UK and now South Africa. She says her brand is worth over $5 million.

Last year for the Emmy Awards, Mgido made up awards host and Glee star Jane Lynch, and has also been contracted by Food Network to do on-set make-up for celebrity chefs including Alex Guarnaschelli, Duff Goldman, Tyler Florence and Cat Cora. Last year, she was awarded Female Entrepreneur of the Year for her start-up business at the African Women Awards.

All her products are made in the US, but she is currently in Zimbabwe setting up a manufacturing company. Her biggest challenge has been getting the product to the people. Zimbabwe’s import laws and taxes have made things tough for her, she says, but she’s currently in talks with revenue authorities and hopes they will appreciate her desire to invest in her home country. Mgido has also invested her hard-earned dollars in Zimbabwean communities, opening windows of opportunity for many young women. Her make-up academy in Harare is training young artists passionate about learning more about the beauty business.

With the right investors, she intends expanding her business in Southern and West Africa, her targets being Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Kenya and Nigeria.

We meet her in Johannesburg on a recent visit to expand her business.

“I came to South Africa because I was told I could not and would not be accepted, knowing perfectly well that every woman has one goal and that goal is to be loved and seen, I had to bring Vault to South Africa.”

And this, she says, is only the beginning, with an excitement no greasepaint can conceal.

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