Kenechukwu Emmanuel explores the beauty of art by practising as a professional in the art or makeup. He is among the select class of men who thrive by bestowing beauty on people in a world that is continuously losing it. Born to a middle-class family and hailing from Aguluezechukwu, a village he describes as small, in Anambra State, his original intention was to carve a career in the field of medicine and be a doctor, but that was not to be.
He has now carved a niche for himself in the world of makeup. Discussing his journey into the world of beauty and makeup with New National Star on a sunny afternoon, he was seated comfortably, wearing a black tee-shirt and grey shorts. He looked like someone who knew he was doing exactly what he was meant to be doing and passionately so. Before he ventured into makeup, he was a catwalk coach while he studied to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration at the university. He now goes by the name Kene Kardashian and his company is Kinetics Beauty. “I love the KKK ring to it,” he said and he chuckled.
The name Kinetics Beauty was inspired by his desire to never be static, changing to fit the times and trends, a decision which is important to the growth of his business as the beauty industry is always changing too. The Kardashian affixation in Kene’s moniker springs from his undiluted love for the Kardashians, a wealthy socialite family in the United States of America who are popular for their actions in the limelight.
He regards them as his alter ego or spirit animal. “Growing up, I was always obsessed with the Kardashians. I aim to be better than them though,” he said. He considers the Kardashian sisters, Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, Kylie and Kendall his soul sisters and dreams of the day he would hold a brush to Kim’s face in particular. Kinetics Beauty, Kene’s company, covers beauty at every end. Kene explains that it is not just about the face of a person but about how the person complements her environment.
The love for his job comes through again even as he explains this. “Makeup’s primary function is to complement. It complements the model, the event and the production house entirely. It is vast.” Kene, who says he is self-taught, started out in senior secondary school with painting and sketching, a hobby that made him desert his dreams of being a doctor. “ I n s e cond a r y school, this thing just called, and was like ‘Kene, the world of art is for you!’ and I was like oh yes that’s what I’m going to do.” He finally decided on makeup six years ago when he was about twenty years old just as G o o d l u c k J o n a t h a n w a s preparing to seek his second tenure in office as president of Nigeria and a year after Kim Kardashian gave birth to her first daughter, North.
He had only finished at the university. The mistake most prominent in his mind was his first gig as a MUA, he had made a bad foundation choice for a girl whose skin was quite dark. He talks about the mistake and says, “I can’t believe I did that. The foundation had a red undertone which was bad for the overall balance and the brows were as dark as a labourer’s bum.” At the time though, it was a job well done to him. He’s grateful the client was a novice to makeup artistry and that he had a friend who called to tell him that he could do better, correcting him with love, an action which was important for his esteem.
Now he is particular about his procedure when approaching a face. “I have three different procedures. To me, the base of my work is the foundation, for some it is the eyebrows or the eye shadow but to me it is the skin work. So there is a different approach depending on the shade of your skin.” “The blend game matters a lot, the artist work is paramount to the end result. We are like tricksters, illusionists for beauty though,” he said. Kene has a depth to him that one would not easily suspect. He has had his share of discrimination but has learnt let it not bother him.
Given his chosen profession and his gesticulations which are mostly feminine, he does not conform to the idea of the macho man and toxic masculinity.
“This is Nigeria and people ask all sorts of questions. I try my best not to judge people and I don’t want to be judged either,” he said. “The thing is guys feel more comfortable around a masculine representing girl and judge them less. I think most straight men like to mingle with such girls than with feminine representing boys. They believe that guy to guy vibe is the best.” This time his face was grave. “But we are equal in the eyes of God. So there is no reason one should be marginalised because they do not conform to gender norms.
There is no need to force people into a box. It is our choice to be who we want to be.” He quickly resumed being chatty again. God, to him, was a central part of his life. He said he was churchy as a child but was no longer that way in the original sense of the word. “I don’t mess with God,” he said smiling, “I make sure to live like Christ but I don’t visit the church as much as I used to.
I would rather stay at home and talk to God from the depth of my heart than go to church and get distracted by the latest fashion and gist.” He has been a Roman Catholic member since birth. When asked if he felt he was missing out on opportunities by not being based in Lagos State which was where most artists built a haven for themselves, he replied that he did not believe he had to relocate to Lagos State to be successful. He plans on being a global brand though, reaching out of Nigeria and Africa.
“I can shuffle between Lagos and Abuja and still make my mark. There is nothing really special about Abuja for me. As long as my services are required as often as I want them to be I am good to go.” He wants his services required every five minutes, to always be on the move like his company name, Kinetic, implies. Kene Kardashian is still growing in the business and he is quite assured he would reach his apex.
With confidence, he said, “I tell myself I can do better always, that I can be my best self. Now, I only get negative feedback once in a burgundy moon and that is quite satisfying for me. I will get to where I am going to.”