This week we toast to a real life superhero, a modern embodiment of determination and flair. The world would be extremely dull without a splash of colour and our Person of the Week makes sure to bring the vibrancy on every visual project which she undertakes in a creative manner.
Zimbabwean entrepreneur Shannon Muchemedzi is the brains behind fast rising make-up and styling brand Zimbabwe Makeup Artistry; ZIMUA by Shannon. The 27-year old Harare-born creative is a firefighter, content creator and make-up artist who is fuelled by passion to create impressive special effects and stories. Shannon has a lot on her plate professionally but somehow manages to keep it balanced with motherhood in the mix as well, but how does she do it?
“My secret is loving all I do, that way I never really work at all. I do many things and I am a mother to my daughter before anything else. I feel that’s the hardest job but I’d like to think I’m doing good…don’t we all?” she says with a laugh.
“Being a firefighter gives me a chance to save a life every day and that motivates me to keep going. Sometimes there are hectic days that I always end up not feeling my feet at all. It is not a walk in the park but I love it. The fire station is like a second home for me. It helps being a close knit family with my teammates as it makes the hard days bearable.”
“Sometimes I cannot share some of the work experiences I have there with my family and friends, except my dad. He was an EMT so he understands some of the horrific scenes we encounter. My mum on the other hand is terrified every time I come home late but her prayers have kept me safe so far. That’s a part of my life I try not to bring home especially after hard shifts.”
Promoting safety, responding to emergencies and putting out fires is a natural reflex in the course of her duty. However, the talented artist has been starting fires across the creative sector with her special effects work garnering acclaim. Her creative work is the result of passion nurtured over time and to date she runs her own professional studio.
“Make-up is therapeutic for me and my studio is my safe haven; my sanctuary. That’s why I knew I had to have a home studio instead of one in the CBD. I get to work and unwind at the same time. When am creating a look or props I can be closed in for hours and won’t even notice,” said Shannon.
“I have always dreamt big that’s why I named my hustle ZIMUA. I was good at Art in school so make-up is an extension of creativity and art for me. It’s a way to tell a story so ZIMUA gives me that power and freedom of expression. It’s where I get to express how I feel whether good, bad or even crazy. I am pleased that I’ve also given my clients a place to express themselves too. Here you can be beautiful, crazy, ugly, scary, older or even be a superhero.”
Shannon’s work has grown to be more than just an aesthetic presentation but instead an expressive art form which speaks truth to power. To date she has had successful campaigns with Rapture Images and many others on various projects.
She covers a range of pertinent issues such as domestic violence, forms of abuse within society as well as celebration of diversity and creativity. Sometimes she models for concept shoots with her daughter who also exhibits natural talent in front of the camera.
One such educative creation is a shoot against domestic violence in which she and her daughter sport realistic scars and a battered look in order to raise awareness on rampant cases of abuse. The thought provoking piece, coupled with intense special effects depicting a severed finger present sober moments to real life issues in the midst of all the creativity.
“I’m a mood person so I basically just go with what I will be feeling at a certain time. Sometimes I recreate looks from other artists that speak to me. The audience is awesome though there is a minority section that is still trying to understand the special effects makeup. The majority are excited and very supportive,’’ she said.
Despite her breakthrough and apparent success, Shannon says she had to face some resistance and indifference from people but ultimately prevailed. She speaks of challenges that cut across her various professional activities.
“Where do I even begin? I remember I pulled both knee muscles during firefighting training. Everyone thought I’d quit and that’s why I couldn’t. Negativity motivates me. On the makeup side I started building my kit with no job or support from my mum. She never believed it was a real job or anyone would ever pay for makeup,” said Shannon.
“I asked for a dollar from her bought data and started selling products from catalogues. I started building my kit till I met my mentor on my first make-up booking and that really helped me. I had positive energy flowing in and was not allowed to quit and he made me realize my potential. After that, I always knew challenges are there to make me stronger, I push hard then I push through.”
The challenges have indeed moulded Shannon into an accomplished professional who cuts an inspirational figure within her communities as her impact starts being felt across borders. The challenges have also been countered by impressive milestones along the way which she shares with the world.
“When I had my first wedding client, first 100 followers, the day I officially became a firefighter and the day I realized my studio had become a reality. There have been a lot in between but these take the trophy,” she said, explaining her favourite moments.
“A lot more is coming from ZIMUA and I would want to groom other artists as well so that we improve Zimbabwe’s film industry. I want to tell Zimbabwe’s story with makeup and I have dreams to visit other countries and learn more.”
Shannon started with a simple dream and a few brushes but today sits at the helm of a fast rising brand with her signature works set to dominate and inspire for years to come. From recreations of the Avatar movie characters to wedding or event make up and styling as well as illusion art, one wonders what ZIMUA By Shannon will come up with next.