I’ve always thought about how different life would have been for my now teenager if we had not moved to the UK, not that quality of life would have been any different, it’s more the opportunities and exposure that she has here and how its shaping her into such an emboldened young woman. My fears, my dreams, my aspirations for my eldest are similar sentiments that the parents of my next FJWOW heroine had too when they moved here 19 years ago. Meet Laisa Tanumi, a young and upcoming makeup artist who aspires to become the first Fijian Celebrity Make Up Artist. Getting to hear and share Laisa’s journey has been nothing short of an enlightening and not to mention encouraging experience. Laisa was born in Fiji and holds both her paternal and maternal links quite fiercely to her persona today. It’s fueled her passion and the desire to be the best she can be in her field.
Laisa came over to the UK at the age of 5. Her childhood memories of Fiji as expected of our cultural background, centred around that of family. When asked what it was that she missed most, it was an endearing relaying of snippets of time with her grandparents. The loving embraces and nicknames that only a grandparent and grandchild relationship have the privilege of. I saw this myself with my own children when my father came to visit in mid 2015. It’s an inner sanctum that they are only privy to and as a parent it’s not something you would be able to be part of unless invited to. All this coupled with the rich diverse lifestyle that only a life in the tropical isles can afford one prepared Laisa in ways she would not come to appreciate until later on in life. Laisa’s family’s move to the UK was brought about by an opportunity that was given to her father to further his education. The opportunity also accorded a new life for the entire family and with that the Tanumi family of Fiji came to be the Tanumi family of Newport, Shropshire. Laisa recalls how first impression of the new home country was the constant feeling of cold. On top of that, as expected was the language barrier. Laisa remembers not being able to converse beyond the salutations of hi and bye. However, as proven by numerous studies, children have the ability to learn and pick up languages so easily and she found that within a short span of time she was able to converse easily with her peers. Fortunately, unlike a lot of migrant children who move over to the UK, Laisa has managed to retain her knowledge of her native tongue. This is something she feels is so important as it sets her aside from others and also is indicative of her identity as a Fijian living in the UK.
Laisa’s foray into the makeup world begun at the age of 16, it was more gentle introduction in the world of makeup. She grew up in the era where less was more, the barely there look was the preferred makeup style so the only time anyone would have what is considered a fully made up face or “beat” face was on special occasions or on a night out.
This brief stint more or less stoked the fire that was to be revived in a few years time when Laisa decided to make a go for it and get herself formally qualified as a makeup artist. Laisa had the opportunity to do this in Edinburgh at GlamCandy Makeup School in 2015 where she specialised in Bridal Makeup This provided her with the professional platform that her budding career needed. Laisa’s artistic tendencies come out in her work, although makeup is expected to be glamourous, Laisa prefers to enhance her clients natural features instead. This she does by experimenting with different brands and different styles in her work. Laisa is a strong advocate for empowering young people to celebrate themselves and if makeup does that for them then she encourages them to expound on that aspect. Too often we are made to feel that we must fit into a box and look a certain way, Laisa feels that exploring the wonders of makeup breaks this stereotype and allows people to celebrate their individuality. Making the comparison to clothing where one is expected to be a certain size to be considered the quintessential model, makeup goes against that grain, makeup she feels fits all shapes and sizes, be it male or female – Makeup ALWAYS fits.
In saying that though, Laisa also respects that for some, makeup may not be their forte and she says that people should respect that too. She’s had experiences where young people have mocked or ridiculed other young people who may not feel the need to use makeup, and she feels this is where makeup tends to be seen with an evil eye because people go on to associate it with a negative tag rather than the artistic skill it entails. Not a stranger to having to overcome hurdles, Laisa says she was fortunate to have been taught how to manage her finances and work within her means form her childhood, watching her mom having to be the sole bread winner and having to support them as her Dad completed his tertiary studies as a fulltime student. Her parents work ethics and their principles and values raising them so far away from the comforts of extended family living of Fiji has instilled in her values that she applies to her own work. This experience is also a major contributor to the reason behind Laisa’s choice to retain her surname as her brand. Laisa wants her name to be synonymous to not only her achievements but also how far her family has come and hopefully be an inspiration to others.
I asked Laisa if she had any advice for young people wanting to go on the same career path and one thing that she reiterated throughout it all was the need to be consistent in all that you do. Consistency in this industry is key. You are an artist and inorder to be able to establish your brand and set yourself apart from others you need to be able to show that your work is not only evolving with the current trends but that you can put your own twist into it all. You must also show that being consistent with work makes you reliable and worthy of being booked. In addition to that, as is with all other skill sets, she stresses the need to practise and to make use of whatever equipment you are able to afford at the time of starting out. Using cheaper brands should not stop one from exploring their talents as is evidenced by her YouTube videos where she does tutorials using drugstore brands.
Laisa hopes to one day become a celebrated Fijian Make-Up artist, to be able to teach other young Fijians wanting to further their careers in the industry, to also provide a network and platform to help other artists to thrive in their field. The tenacity that this fierce, young Fijian Woman Of The World has to achieve her dreams has been nothing short of inspirational and it gives me hope that it will give young Fijian women the same drive to go above and beyond.
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading Laisa’s story as I have enjoyed the privilege of sharing it with you all.