If you don’t know Cataanda James, who goes by Cataanda J , you will find out all about this creative soul in this one of a kind interview. To all the makeup artists venturing into the industry, you definitely need to keep up with her work. This woman has worked with celebrity artists from Laila Ali, Terrence Howard, and NBA all star Kobe Bryant. She has even toured with L’Oréal Paris, gaining her the opportunity to meet Beyoncé while dolling up the stans for sold out shows–The Beyoncé Experience and I AM Tours.
Although Cataanda J has worked with billion dollar stars, her perception on life and reality hasn’t changed. “It has helped me realize what reality really is. We look into the lives of celebrities through tv, magazines, and write ups, perceiving them [celebrities] to have the perfect life ,” James says. But we all know that no one is perfect. “A lot of times celebrities have more issues than the everyday person. Like Diddy says, mo’ money mo’ problems. It has opened my eyes to realize that they are no different than me or you. We’re all working towards a common goal in life, making our dreams become a reality.”
Cataanda J– a sweet and humble soul who was born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, shared her passion very young in makeup. She was inspired by her mom to become an artist and proudly expressed how her mom was also an artist. “My mom was very fashionable. She loved doing her hair and makeup, getting dressed up in the latest fashions. She always encouraged me to embrace the passion I have now.”
Ms. J gives honor to God as well as her grandmother, who was a single parent after the passing of her grandfather (who passed when Cataanda’s mom was a little girl). Cataanda reveals how her grandmother never went against the grain or her morals. She never dated another man again. Even as a widow her grandmother never violated her vows, which is something that Cataanda J looked up to.
Ms. J is a huge advocate for following your dreams and never letting anything get in the way, whether from a small town or a big city. Growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Cataanda J shares, “It’s different for people who grow up in big cities versus smaller cities. We didn’t have a lot of real life interaction with celebrities outside of attending a concert, so the perception as a kid was that your favorite star was untouchable. ”
Sometimes life will bring lemons and people may want to stop fighting for what they really want. When asked at any point did James want to find something else to do, she states,
“Yes many many times! There was a time when I was growing up and going to cosmetology school while attending high school, but I knew what I wanted to do. I had to be very mature because I could easily skip if I didn’t want to go. The cosmetology school was the same as my mom’s that I used to attend with her as a kid. It wasn’t progressive,, so some days I was teaching my instructors. Sometimes I used to skip and say forget it because it became boring. At one point I did quit and became a bank teller, I also worked in a retail store…The more I tried traditional 9 to 5 type jobs, I always eventually came back to hair and make up.”
When asked what she thinks is most discouraging while working in the industry, Cataanda J does not bite her tongue. She states, “there are a few things…It is a very competitive industry and I am not really a competitive person . To a certain extent we all have to be, but I’ve never played a competitive sport. I ran track and if you know anything about track, you’re just competing against yourself and the clock. I don’t feel the need to compete with other artists. I encourage everyone in the industry and I support my friends and colleagues. It’s not about who gets IT or gets there first, but being an inspiration.”
She warns those going into the entertainment world, especially women, not to disown their morals or beliefs.
“The way the industry is, being a woman can be tough because you always get propositions from people. There have been many opportunities that have passed me by because I do not compromise my morals and integrity. It’s been said, if you sleep around, you get a head and that goes for any industry. Normally a guy is in control and calls the shots. It’s funny because they usually think I’m the talent and not the crew.”
Ms J. shares that the most inspiring thing about working in the industry is getting a chance to work with artists that she’s watched on tv as a kid or heard on the radio.
“I ended up grooming Earth Wind & Fire. When working, I usually never ask people to take pictures with me, but Earth Wind & Fire was an exception. They are legends! I’m an ol skool hip hop fan and after meeting Whodini on a job, ironically, I became friends (how many of us have them) with Grandmaster D the DJ. I used to watch their videos on TV! What I’ve learned is that when you follow your dreams you will experience things that were never imaginable. I’ve met people and gone places which were beyond my wildest dreams. When you spend so much time on a project, you end up building a bond with the talent. Working with Laila Ali for the first time was for a TV show. The first time she invited me to her house outside of work I was like this is crazy, her dad is the greatest, Muhammed Ali!” Cataanda J also jokes about how she thought Laila was a firecracker. “When you have a perception about a person through media but then you get to know them for who they really are, like with Laila, it’s refreshing! But sometimes the experience is the total opposite– different than what you may have thought, but not in a good way.”
The media will tend to speak negative of someone in hopes that you feel the same way. It’s all propaganda sometimes. Or just making a story or two to get high ratings.
Cataanda shares “God flashes a light and shows you what is going to happen before it even happens, to prepare you for what you’ve been asking for. ” She urges the youth to just go for it and to always follow their dreams. “Everyone was born with a dream because God gave us that dream. When we get to the age where we actually comprehend what we are feeling, we begin to conquer everything we wanted. African American children can be whatever they want to be even facing racial prejudiceness. Cataanda J warns that adversity may appear but to still push through.” If you don’t go after your dreams you will never be fulfilled in life.”
If you think the road has been peaches and creme’ filled with lots of butterflies because of the industry Cataanda J is in, well think again. Don’t get it twisted, sometimes make up artists experience a lot of stress. Ms. J discloses,
“ You have to have thick skin. Know how to accept rejection and move forward after you have been rejected. You will get a million nos before you get a yes. It’s not always about the skill and talent in this industry. Many times it is about who you know, who referred you on the job or sadly enough for some… what guy you may be sleeping with! No one likes rejection. For most of my career I have been a freelance artist. You get into situations where sometimes your bills aren’t being paid. There have been times when I’ve thought, omg why don’t I just get a regular job. Sometimes you don’t have many zeros in your bank account and then other times you do! The business can be very inconsistent; But I always have to remember my gift…That is sharing the gift of beauty with the world!”
Although James is a beauty enhancer and uses her eyes and hands to create works of art, she is also a big advocate for women empowerment. James an advocate for self love, shares her views against domestic violence and sexual assault.
“I think many times it is taken very lightly. The woman is blamed , especially with sexual assault. Many people say if she wasn’t wearing a freak ’em dress then that wouldn’t have happened to her. Women could be respected more, even in the workplace. Women are often looked at as property” says James.
James goes on to say that women should support one another through hardships and trials, and not fight against each other by using judgment. “In the case of domestic violence, if you are married and your husband treats you a certain way, women have been taught socially that we should accept it because that’s your husband! Women should speak out more about it. If we don’t bring awareness to these issues, how can we change it?”
And what about the music that promotes negative views of women??
“The music is even crazy, promoting misogynistic views. Support is needed and campaigns need to be implemented more. It could be something simple… “like L’Oréal quotes Because you’re worth it, says James. Awareness is huge. As women we are ashamed to talk about those things because we think it is our fault . It’s easy to blame ourselves instead of really looking deep into the core of the issue.”
Once women take control of their own happiness and sanity and begin to understand that self love also plays a key part in attracting certain people into their life, unhealthy and negative relationships will be impossible to develop.
James gives the juice on her own personal relationships and why she chooses to remain single. “People ask me all the time oh you’re single when are you going to get into a relationship. My life as a single person has been great. Being in just any relationship isn’t worth having, but being in a loving and caring relationship is rewarding”, James says.
She wants young girls and other women to know that “Being single does not make you lonely. It’s a catch 22 , if you’re in a loving, healthy relationship it’s definitely worth having. When you are single, you spend more time with yourself.You have to get to know you! We need to have the most healthiest and loving relationship with ourselves first, otherwise you are not going to be any good for anyone.”
Cataanda James is even working on a clothing line for women with hidden insecurities. “I created a T shirt line, Catty Tees, that is all beauty inspired sayings. In my career and throughout my life, I run into many women that don’t think they’re beautiful. It has opened my eyes to so much. As a Make up artist, I don’t just help people look good on the outside. Part of my job is to help you feel beautiful on the inside. As one of the t-shirts quotes, Made In Beauty, we are all fearfully and wonderfully made!”
James describes how makeup artists and hairstylists take on a job as a counselor as well. You have to be a good listener, and speak life into other’s situations where they may see no hope. She talks about what it was like growing up as a black girl and being that “black girl” many were envious of.
“I’m very self confident and as little black girls, often times we’re not encouraged by society to take pride in who you are as an individual. I used to have really long hair and dressed nicely. Sometimes I would run into other black girls who didn’t like me because of this.The majority of my friends were [white] girls from elementary to high school because other girls of my ethnicity didn’t like me,” says James.
“Even now there are filter applications on our cellphones to enhance our selfies. Self esteem issues aren’t only prevalent in one particular race. As women, we don’t think we look good enough and nowadays, media contributes to the constant comparison of those exalted in entertainment! My T shirt line is a way to express your individual beauty. Certain things we don’t feel good about can cause insecurities. We need to share these feelings and compliment one another more often. I have a circle of Ride or Die Beauties”, another one of her T-shirts sayings. “We uplift and empower one another!” Says Cataanda J.
But with all the chaos going on in the world and people turning to alternatives to generate self love, fame, and beauty, what does Cataanda J have to say about the future of our children?
“It bothers me that kids don’t grow up with traditional morals and values as our parents did. The world is totally crazy now. Kids don’t have a fair chance. The reality is, kids aren’t born with that mindset. Adults have to instill these things into children early on. It starts at home! The kids are the future and everyone that knows me knows, I love the kids!”
For the new generation rising up , Celebrity Make Up Artist , Cataanda J, who has traveled all over the country, would like to see more positive role models . She says, ” Kids look up to celebrities and there are some who aren’t necessarily being positive role models. Our parents had positive leaders. Some kids may be blessed with having those people of positive influence in their personal life, but for this generation there are few positive activists.”
People of this next generation, it’s time to step our game up. We need more world leaders to encourage our youth. After hearing Cataanda J speak at a Project Uplift event, a STI and HIV/AIDS awareness organization at Western Michigan University, she left us with this, “never compromise your morals and values and always follow your dream.”
Follow Cataanda J
@CataandaJ on Instagram and Twitter
For more information on Project Uplift
@projectuplift_wmu on Instagram and Facebook
Cataanda J with Actress America Ferrera