Brittney Taylor is a North Carolina-based makeup artist whose passion for racial justice and artistic expression are obvious in her work.
Liz: Can you tell us a bit about your background? What was growing up like for you?
Brittney: I was born in Kansas in a small town called Junction City. It's right near a military base. My mom is a single mother, so I would often visit my dad in North Carolina, as well. I have four siblings; my older brother is 10 years older than me, so I don't remember us really ever living together much, but the other three are younger than me. They are like my babies (laughs)—two girls and three boys is what my mom had, and we are all VERY close to each other.
My childhood was pretty normal I suppose for a low income family. My mom has always been really amazing at loving us. The woman is so full of love I can't even explain it (laughs). But it was tough being the oldest (in the house). I had to grow up pretty quick. When I was 12, I moved to Baltimore to live with my dad and my stepmom for good. I don't know how much I should tell about my childhood (laughs). It could be a book.
Liz: That's great; thank you! So what was transitioning into adulthood like for you?
Brittney: Ahhh that was really fast and foggy (laughs). My dad left Baltimore when I was 16/17, so that sort of threw me into adulthood. I decided I wanted to stay in Baltimore because I was just tired of not making my own decisions, I guess—tired of not being completely stable. Or just tired in general. Whatever it was, I stayed in Baltimore. Shortly after, I had my first baby, Breeze, at 19, so from then on it's been all adulting (laughs).
Liz: Yes. And today you are a professional makeup artist. Were there signs along the way that you would pursue something creative or entrepreneurial?
Brittney: Ummm I don't recall any signs at all actually. Growing up, my dream was to always be a dancer or a psychiatrist. I never really had time to sit down and hone any type of skills or figure out what I liked. I did know I was good at helping people and that I was always wanting to know why, so psychology fit. My mom did always tell me to go to cosmetology school, though (laughs). I didn't listen.
Liz: So what was the path like to professional makeup artistry?
Brittney: It was pretty quick and totally random. We moved to Italy in 2011, and while there I started wearing makeup. So when we got back to the states, I decided I wanted to do something for me—I was losing myself being a wife and mom. So I was online and saw a course for makeup and enrolled (laughs). I first learned that I didn't know a thing about makeup, then I learned I enjoyed learning about it, and then I learned I was pretty good at it. I haven't stopped since.
Liz: That's awesome. So what does your business look like today?
Brittney: A hot mess to keep it short (laughs).
Liz: (laughs). I love it.
Brittney: No seriously, my business is honestly still a baby, so it is kind of a mess compared to where I want it to be. I'm in the beginning stages of branding; I used two whole years just to make connections and hone my skills a bit. I'm currently in my third year, which is my branding year. It kinda sucks.
Liz: So do you do mostly editorial work or bridal or privates?
Brittney: I offer quite a few services: I do event makeup, print, and bridal. Bridal is my latest venture and indeed the most challenging.
Liz: So it's #wokewednesday. Do you consider yourself woke, feminist, or otherwise an advocate for social justice? What does it mean to you?
Brittney: I've never even looked into what woke actually means, but I can say I share similar views to people that carry that title. Feminism is touchy for me because I feel it was created (or given the title and taken mainstream) by white women and fails to include black women. Black children, women, and men are my FIRST priority and who I scream the loudest for. So when something puts that second, it's hard for me to carry the title—although I do understand and agree with the views of feminism. I would say I'm an advocate for social justice because I do believe in equality, and I know the system is fucked up. What it all means to me is pulling your head out of the sand and saying, "That's some bullshit, and it's not okay," and then doing whatever you can to change it.
Liz: How do you incorporate racial justice into your own work through your business and creative work?
Brittney: My main goal is to show people the beauty they already possess. I spend quite a bit of time with my clients, and the joy I get to share with them is amazing! I think I incorporate racial justice by making it my mission to work with very diverse groups of people. You can look at my port and see so many different races of women, and it's beautiful! I know that we are underrepresented in this industry, so I put together personal projects to showcase women of color in many different ways. I wish there was more I could do.
Liz: Thanks, Brittney. Do you have any advice for someone starting out in the industry who wants to make waves?
Brittney: I'm still looking for advice on how to make waves, but I will say just always stay true to who you are. Don't do what the crowd is doing just to fit in or get a pat on the back; only do something if it makes you feel really damn good to do it. I think the most beautiful part of being an entrepreneur is the freedom, and I exercise mine all the time. Also be open to criticism and grow—always grow as a person, and in turn your art will grow. I always say, "I ain't for everybody, and why would I want to be?"
Liz: Awesome. Is there anything else you would like to share?
Brittney: I'd just like to thank you, Liz, and the rest of the team at Catalyst. I've been learning and growing so much since coming into contact with you all! Also shout out to my momma who made me this way.
Liz: (laughs) Thanks, Brittney!