An Interview with @maytahmi on being an MUA of colour

By Brenda Odria

Instagram is a platform dominated by influencers who precede over the rest of the users by promoting certain brands, but the relationship that forms renders the users as submissive and literally “followers.” Keeping this in mind it’s apparent that influencers hold a lot of power over what we purchase and subsequently, support.

Makeup artist Tahmina is based in Manchester but her family is from Bangladesh, her Instagram @maytahmi has been running for over a year that documents the art she creates with makeup. She is also vocal about how Instagram, as a platform for artists to get there work out there, is primarily a white space because most influencers are white and pages with large followings only repost white artists. This leads to nonwhite beauty existing as an irregularity in the community, from which, white people pick and choose certain features to adopt into trends without fully accepting or seeing people of colour.

Taken from Instagram @maytahmi

Why do you think it’s important to have representation on social media?

Visual representation on Instagram, with editorials, or makeup shoots, we as people of colour are struggling to get out there and to get a following in comparison to someone who is white. I know it sounds pretty black and white but it is harder and I feel we are having to push so much more just to get a percentage of the visual representation. I’m trying my hardest to do what I love and showcase my makeup but I can see how much harder I have to go and put into it.

So you’re saying you feel Instagram itself is a white space?

Yes massively, if you look at the people they re-post on big pages, the ratio of white people to people of color it’s just way off. Our beauty isn’t normalized if it isn’t on Instagram pages, it’s just white beauty that is promoted. You get a lot of influencers that adopt parts of different cultures, like black culture or south Asian culture. I can see parts of my culture being adopted- the big brows, big lips, the raised brow to make eyes look wider and thinner, which is a feature of East Asian people.

It has been all over in magazine shoots but I feel like they’re only taking parts of us and not embracing us. You’ll embrace our big brows but you won’t embrace me because I’ve got hair on my face or excessively bushy brows.

In terms of having issues, that’s the main issue, especially on my twitter. Whenever I post a picture on twitter and people comment like “this would be fine if you just plucked your brows” and I think that right now people just find hair offensive on my face but like why are you distracted by my hair when I just did some art on my face, why are you bothered?

Do you ever feel pressured by these types of comments?

Sometimes I do feel pressured, sometimes if I’ve had someone say something then I’ll have a moment of maybe I should pluck them but then I’m like no! I need to make it more acceptable because maybe there’s a girl who’s at school who is getting bullied for her brows and she needs someone who looks like her. Me being south Asian, me being unapologetic about my south Asian features and with my makeup then maybe I’m being someone that I needed back then. If I wanna be a role model then I need to stay true who I am.

As a person of colour do you feel a certain kind of responsibility within the community?

Massively I do feel a responsibility as a person of colour, I don’t even have a big following but I want my followers to know that they should stay as you are. To work with what you’ve got and not conform to what people expect of you, to standards or a one view sort of thing I wanna be more of a role model like I’ve said before for girls who needed someone.

What’s your opinion on social media as a platform, do you agree with the people who say that it is a toxic space or where do you stand on it?

The whole system, you’re always comparing yourself to other people and that can be a bad thing or a good thing. It just makes you wanna be better and push yourself harder than you normally would and it can also be toxic. It’s a place where we’ve seen a lot and I think it it can be toxic, I do agree, but its more about you’ve just got to be able to deal with it in a way that you don’t let it be toxic. If you need to take a break then 100% you should do that but if you just stay true to you and your art then it’s a positive space because you just meet people and it doesn’t really matter how many likes you get. Even if you’ve got one person telling you they like your work, that for me 100% is enough.

What do you think needs to happen for non-white beauty to be normalized and accepted?

We just need more people of colour within these spaces. If they had a higher percentage of people of colour then maybe you’d have more people of colour consumers attending events.

We need more people of colour in these spaces and in makeup campaigns. Beauty content on social media is such a big thing so why are we still seeing a cut crease being done on a white model with bushy brows? If social media is such a big thing why cant we have more of us there? We want people to know that we’re here, present and that we’re not going anywhere.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Follow @maytahmi on Instagram, support women of colour or bust!