Wait... is that Zayn Malik? Or Maleficent?
Read on to find out
Last July was no ordinary July at the Mall of the Emirates. Flanked by three bodyguards, when Zayn Malik entered the premises of the mall, at first, he didn't quite inspire curious gaze. It wasn't until he stopped by at Vox Cinemas that onlookers - intrigued by the hooded, well-guarded man - realised they had a celebrity for company. They did what they do best - took selfies, asked for autographs and went home with the assurance that they'd bumped into the former One Direction singer!
That is, until a story in the UAE-based publication 7 Days appeared the next day, stating it was 23-year-old face and body artist Alicia Goveas, who had masqueraded as the teen heartthrob. The prank, if it can be called one, went viral, with even the British tabloid Daily Mail taking note of the transformation.
In the past one year that Alicia's makeup transformation made international headlines, she has gotten into the skins of many a celebrity and character. Be it Mother Teresa's angelic smile or Kanye West's candour, you name the look and chances are she's owned them in her own creative ways. Today, she's among those handful of makeup artists in the city who has, efficiently and effectively, taken the idea of creative makeup a notch further to use it as an art of makeup transformations.
Her craft, says Alicia, draws heavily from her childhood fascination for art. A passion that came to the rescue of the organisers of a Nando's anniversary event, where a face painter was needed at the last minute. "I was freelancing as a promoter there, and they badly needed a face painter. The organisers said they had a bunch of face paints and needed someone who, even remotely, had painted or practised art at some point. I came forward and began to paint on bodies - just basic butterflies and hearts."
The 'basics' were enough for her to invest in a small set of face and body paints with eight basic colours. Watching YouTube video tutorials to understand how colour combinations and brush strokes work, Alicia soon found a perfect canvas to experiment on - her face.
"I literally just picked up the brush and started playing with highlighting and contouring, and soon realised that it really helps you transform into another person," she says. To make her transformations seem more accurate, Alicia began to invest in the accessories that her famous subjects would sport. "For Zayn Malik, the nose ring was important. I tried to do my hair like him; the similarities were stark."
Today, social media, particularly Instagram, is a level-playing field for beauty influencers. Log on to an account, and there is a good chance you will find your timeline flooded with tutorials teaching you how to perfect a certain makeup technique. Amid the flurry of gorgeousness that populates Instagram, Alicia has found a niche by metamorphosing into renowned celebrities and characters. "Makeup brands in the GCC are so used to seeing pretty makeovers that the one or two unusual posts they see on different kind of makeup generates interest. This is how brands started approaching me."
The world of creative makeup is vast. While on one hand, fashion platforms have been using it time and again to create a more dramatic look, Alicia's craft is all about using the same tools, or more, to create art on human faces and bodies. "Face and body painting is a broad term and can include face painting for kids, body painting for adults, themed body art, special effect makeup, prosthetics, mimicry. Not all is synonymous with makeup, but it is often confused with it," she clarifies.
A basic makeup transformation, says Alicia, takes a minimum of two hours. A more challenging one, however, can take five or six hours, as was the case with her making over as the Game of Thrones character Khal Drogo. "The character has a beard, and at that time I did not know how to make a false beard. I bought a wig, stuck it to a sponge and then stuck the sponge on my chin and painted it black. Similarly, Kanye West was challenging because he has unique features - big eyes, big lips and a different skin tone. Usually, I study the character, their facial features, where their wrinkles form, where the hairline starts, etc. It goes a long way in recreating that look."
Despite being niche, face and body art is a segment that is gradually being picked up by beauty brands to expand the scope of creative makeup. For artists like Alicia, who has been shortlisted this year as one of the top 20 creative makeup artists at the NYX Arabia Face awards, this is a welcome move. "A lot of people can stand in front of a mirror, look at their features and highlight and conceal. It's a bit basic. Going one level up to use body paints to create a comic look is something that requires so much more skill and time," she says.
Morphing into famous men and women for her Instagram, Alicia's next stop - she hopes - will be movie makeup and prosthetics.
Having (adequately) filled Zayn Malik's shoes at 23, it's safe to say she is inching closer to that dream.