Beauty by its very nature is often hard to define, yet most of us believe that we can recognize it when we encounter it. The startling originality of an Elsa Schiaparelli dress or the exquisite lines of a Bentley Mulsanne remind us of mankind’s remarkable ability to be inspired by our surroundings and thus to endeavour to create things of beauty ourselves. For anyone fortunate to live on an island such as Trinidad, knows that they are blessed with a vast array of natural beauty; from azure seas and skies to the exotic flora and fauna that appear to compete with each other to radiate colour and warmth. Such an environment shapes the people, whose rich and varied heritage has ensured that they are equally of warm and of varied hues. The inhabitants of the island, whilst seemingly laidback compared with those from more monochrome backgrounds and climes value colour and confidence that comes from the quest to liberate inner beauty. One of those remarkable people keen to help give manumission to our inner radiance is the make-up artist Mario Francis.
An autodidact, the fact that Francis has never had any formal training has freed him from the strictures and hidebound conventions of a stylised art form. He has taught himself to look as well as see and has learnt from his peers, but always been guided by instinct. In seeking to enhance his art he sets great store by heuristic learning and has engaged in his own cosmetic research to in his words; “formulate my own interpretation of ‘beauty’ “. A perfectionist, he knows that in a highly competitive field of endeavour the expectation of clients is extremely high, but equally so is the price of perceived failure to satisfy. Inspired by the work that he regular scrutinises in international publications such as Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle and Essence he is ever eager to emulate the crème de la crème of the world’s make-up artists, whist ensuring that he initiates his own brand of creativity that is imbued with a delicious sense of the avant garde. “The difference with my work is that I focus on precision application, and softer beauty makeup, that's clean, flattering and comfortable, that embodies the standards and expectations of that of a trained professional. My aim is to make my client feel extremely confident and great about themselves. I have surrounded myself with great things, great ideas and great people, with the hope that my thinking and approach to the art will be just as magnificent...” Francis works assiduously to ensure that he accentuates the eyes and makes playful and striking use of light and shade in order to ensure that an individual’s unique ocular qualities are not only appreciated, but made more prominent. “Much of what I do is about experimentation. The human face and body is a glorious and complex palette. Attention to detail is everything. Hair colour and texture, the cheekbones and facial shadows, as well as the skins own sensitivity are all challenges that mean I must never assume that what works with one person will be equally successful with someone else.”
Far from being immodest Francis is his own harshest critic and his exacting standards mean that he constantly reviews and reflects upon his work in a detached manner that reveals remarkable insight. He pauses for a moment and then quotes Pablo Picasso; "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up", he confesses that he has really struggled at various points to maintain his own creativity; “...Picasso was on to something when he said that, but I'll try to focus on the key things and try not to stray.”. He is keen to acknowledge the inspiration and encouragement that he has received from others. He readily admits that owes much to his mother’s discerning eye for fashion and her innate sense of style and goes on to refer to her candour and occasionally acid tongue that has resulted in his own preference for straight talking that has led to many seeking his honest opinion. His piquant opinions and occasional waspish remarks may not have won Francis awards for diplomacy, but those who really know him value what he has to say and appreciate his discernment and desire to tell the truth. In his own pantheon of worthies he includes: Kevin Aucoin; Benjamin Becker; Marcelo Cantu; Sam Fine; Theresa Francine; Megan Martinez; Petrilude and Kirk Thomas. The latter figure, a celebrity makeup artist, has been central to Francis’ artistic development; “...his work and example opened by eyes to entire new world of what I perceived to be beauty...” Since then Francis has worked assiduously to nurture and develop his talent working alongside local amateur makeup artists, photographers and with a magazine as Junior Editor & Fashion Writer. His enthusiasm for his milieu is palpable. “I have a lot to prove that I can be matched to the great images that act as my muse, but makeup to me is an individualistic expression of a daring woman inside, a woman who loves to smile, and flirt with her eyes and blushing cheeks. I am almost certain that somewhere out there, there is a scientific study that makeup boosts the confidence in women and the high level of self esteem boosts estrogen and pheromone levels making the male find the woman more attractive there is certain laws of physics that I have no clue about (he laughs) but I know confidence is hot, sexy and alluring!”
Francis strikes one as a passionate advocate of well-being. He believes that men and women would be far happier if they cherished themselves rather more, not out of any sense of vanity, but because we are better and healthier people because of it. Diet, exercise and our work-life balance are all areas that he advocates we make greater priorities. As for his own career, he describes instinct as a key friend in this. “Am I ambitious? Yes. Not just for myself, but for others too. It will take time but patience is something you have to have when in the makeup business, clients will tell you that. I hope to draw inspiration from the past and present. One day I hope to achieve celebrity makeup artist status, and work for the likes of Christian Dior, Channel, Cover Girl, Mac and Sugar Pill to name but a few. I absolutely adore new artist Rita Ora, I hope to someday do a beauty campaign with her, as well as Katy Perry, Jennifer Hudson, Adele, Eva Mendez, Adriana Lima, Coco Rocha, Beyonce, oh my God the wonderful Beyonce! Megan Fox, Cassie as well as Amber Rose...The list can go on and on, these are some of the most beautiful women alive and any step closer to achieving just one of these dreams! I'll do it in a heartbeat!” Far from being on a quest to gild the lily, Francis recognizes that his artistry enables others to shine and thus allows luminescence the world to see something of who they really are.
So what does the future hold in store for this young and promising talent? In the near future he hopes to attend the prestigious Empire Beauty Academy in Manhattan, New York. Through his art he is confident that he can play a positive role in helping others feel good about themselves and in so doing he plans to make a success of what he does. He recognizes that there will be doubters along the way, but is eager to allow his work to do the talking. “Some of my friends laugh when I say, ‘I just want be successful, not rich, but successful’, I am glad that they understand me and they support my efforts to be successful; the money isn't important to me, yes there will be the money I have to survive, but it’s not about that for me. The idea of being successful and respected for my work is. God will reward me even more than he has already. Success is my aim, and makeup is my game! I would love to be remembered for being an artist, in my own small way a legend (he laughs) and an icon even for painting the world beautiful.” Anyone who has read On Beauty (Edited by Umberto Eco) will appreciate the importance of people such as Francis in helping create a sense of well-being all too often absent from our fragmented and increasingly frenetic lives. A remarkably talented artist in his own right, Mario Francis is certainly a name to look out for, and someone of whom Trinidad should be rightly proud.
Mark T Jones
London-based writer and journalist