Micheal Okoh is the Instagram Sensation Here to Blend your Makeup and Bend your Perspective on Gender

We say the revolution will be televised, but at times we get so caught up with life and living that we overlook the micro-revolutions happening right beneath our noses.

Meet Micheal Okoh, known as ’the.kohh’ on Instagram, a male makeup artiste on the cusp of achieving social media stardom as he beats his own face while simultaneously serving as one of the proverbial straws that breaks the back of the camel of gender constructs in a heteronormative society.


How did you discover your love for makeup?

It used to be something that was just interesting to me. When I was younger, I lived with my mom and sisters and they’d do makeup on Sundays. I used to look forward to watching them coming downstairs because afterward, they looked like two different people. So, I always loved the idea of it. I guess that’s where I started falling in love with makeup even though I didn’t realize it.

After secondary school, while seeking admission, I went to register to write post JAMB and I saw a billboard just beside UI advertising a makeup course for free. Later I came to check my results and I failed, so I just went for the class. When I got there, we were just two guys among like 30 women.

The class moved really fast, she taught brows in one day and moved to skin the next. She then told us that in order to continue with the class, we’ll need to pay 5, 000 Naira for our certificate. I asked my mom for the money but I couldn’t get it and that’s how I missed that class.

From that day onwards, I started watching tutorials from Youtube and Instagram and I basically learned makeup on there. I was 16 then.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CCrOwBHDynG/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

How did you feel when you discovered your flair for makeup?

I was really happy because I’ve always been into feminine things right from childhood. And seeing my sisters wear makeup helped too. It was around the era when before and after makeup pictures were trending and I was always amazed by the transformation.

So, for me to discover that I was starting to like makeup, it was a really good feeling.

What was it like getting into makeup?

It was really okay. I already had a background from my sisters and I used to watch tutorials a lot. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

When and why did you decide to monetise it?

It wasn’t something I really planned. Back then when I was still on the come up, I always described myself as a makeup enthusiast because I felt I wasn’t good enough to attain that legendary title. My first paying job was a gele that I tied at a party. A woman was trying to tie her gele and my mom’s staff put me on, so they called me. I did okay so she paid me N500. Afterward, I worked on a bride and it made me realise that I was getting really good so I decided to practice even more to get better and make money from it. And as time went on, it just became part of it.

You create makeup videos and even incorporate them into skits with yourself as muse, how did this come about?

This is just a combination of my interests. I love acting; I was the president of the drama club when I was in secondary school. I love love dancing; I once won the prize for dancing in my secondary school. And then there’s makeup. So, it’s a combination of my three passions.

I always want my makeup videos to be relatable to everybody. I don’t want a situation where it appeals to only 50% of the audience. I want guys to be able to relate to the makeup and like the videos too. So, I would brainstorm ideas and go ‘how can I make this video funny?’ I’ve tried some that didn’t work out but well, we move.

How has the reception been?

It’s been encouraging to be honest. However, when I started, it wasn’t really easy. But I can say now, I’ve gotten a lot better, I’ve realised a lot of things and worked on myself and it’s been paying off because the reception has been good. I’ve gotten more positive comments than negative.

Sometimes, I post a picture on Instagram and I’m thinking ‘Oh my goodness, this picture is a bit too much, people are going to blast me.’ But then it goes up and people are in love with it.

Considering the fact that you beat your own face to create most of your content, how has this been for your business?

It’s been more positive than negative. People have started to recognise me for my work. Even in Lagos, a girl approached me at an event and told me she loved my work. I think it’s really crazy because I’ve had lots of people book me because of what they’ve seen. And that was really my aim from the beginning; for people to imagine how well I could beat my face, if I could do it so well on mine.

What is it like being a male makeup artiste who beats his own face in heteronormative Nigeria?

To be honest, it’s not been good. Aside from the encouragement, I still have people treating me in a weird way. I’ve had instances where I’d walk into a room and I’d hear people whispering about me. I’ve heard them say ‘No be that guy wey dey do like babe be dat?’ I’ve had people walk up to me and speak to me in a menacing manner. But I’ve learned that you’ll never progress if you pay mind to whatever people think of you. You need to grab your opportunities no matter what people say.

Does it affect you and what is the biggest issue you face?

That’ll be negative language. Sometimes strangers give me the stink eye or they don’t want to talk to me or are just plain rude to me. Other times, it gets me preferential treatment.

What do your parents think about your craft?

At first, it was really hard for them to accept it because of gender stereotypes they hold on to. But now we have people springing up and changing the narrative. Initially, my dad was against it and would complain about it. Whereas, my mom didn’t believe I was serious about it. But she came around when she realised I really liked doing it and wouldn’t stop. I don’t think my dad really knows about my content but my mom does because I’ve shown her some videos and she’d laugh. While it may be hard for her to accept it 100%, she has learned to live with it.

Do you ever feel like what you do is political in any way?

Yes, it is political because I’m changing the narrative on guys and makeup. There’s no rule in the constitution that says guys can’t wear makeup. There’s no label on the foundation that reads ‘for women.’ It’s just foundation. So why shouldn’t guys be able to wear makeup? I believe my doing this passes a message to guys that they can wear makeup, do whatever they want, and be whoever they want to be.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CBoSRc9jvHW/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Have you ever had moments where you wanted to throw in the towel as a result of backlash?

Yes. There’ve been times when I just felt overwhelmed. I’ve had people fight with their friends because of me. There are also times when people insult me for no reason. Other times are when I create a look I thought would be a viral sensational one but I don’t get any bookings.

Through it all, I have come to realise that everything is a phase and will surely pass.

Have there been any crowning moments that inspire you to keep at your craft?

Yes. I can’t count the number of times people have walked up to me to tell me they love my work or I’m an inspiration to them and shouldn’t stop doing what I do. That really encourages me so even if I get tired, I really can’t let these people down.

What would you like people that disapprove of your craft to understand about it?

I’ve had a lot of people compare me to Bob Risky and even Denrele. Some people call me ‘Low Budget Bob Risky’, ‘Ibadan Bob Risky.’ Honestly, I’m not trying to be any other person but myself. I want people to understand that makeup is my passion and my job. The same way some other guy would love being a banker or an engineer is the same way I love being a makeup artiste. So, I want people to broaden their minds and ask themselves why they don’t like me wearing makeup. Is it because of what society has told them or because it’s harmful to my skin?

It’s also a viable strategy for furthering my craft because when my face pops up on the timeline, you’re automatically intrigued. I’m not trying to be like anyone else and that’s all there is to it.

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