KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka
HER list of clients includes Amber Riley, an American actress, singer and author; Michelle Williams, a member of Destiny’s Child; Draya Michele, American actor and television personality; Sam Faiers, English television personality; India Love, an American artist and model, and Mariah Huq, another television personality, among others.Those are her make-up clients.
In terms of male grooming, the list of clients includes Krept and Konan (artist/musician), Patoranking (musician), Terrence J (American actor and television personality), Joey Essex (English television personality) and Darren Criss (actor).
Her brand partnerships includes Barry M, NYX Cosmetics, Smashbox, Hairburst, Pantene, Boohoo, Windsor Store and Barbara Casasola.
Her name is Vee Chanda.
She is a Zambian London-based celebrity make-up artist with nearly 10 years’ experience within the beauty industry.
Largely self-made, Vee looks at herself as the poster child for the modern business woman, whose combination of high-profile and celebrity client work as well as her use of social media to share her journey has established her as a go to make-up artist in the United Kingdom beauty industry and beyond.
Her official website describes Vee as someone whose “positive outlook on life and attitude towards work have become her calling cards”.
It continues: “Vee’s skill and determination have seen her work with some of the world’s biggest brands and platforms, be it in sport through Nike and Puma, entertainment through Children in Need and the Graham Norton show, and of course beauty and fashion with the likes of Smashbox and Pantene.”
But while these incredible brands each represent memorable achievements in Vee’s work, it was the chance to assist industry heavyweight Alex Box at London Fashion Week that Vee holds as a true career milestone.
As one who is always striving to improve her craft, Vee has had the privilege of learning and training under renowned international make-up artist Mario Dedivanovic, who is Kim Kardashian’s personal make-up artist.
But who is Vee Chanda?
“I was born in Ndola and grew up in Lusaka until I was 11, before moving to live in the UK. Up until then, I had a great upbringing, my father was successful and I enjoyed life as a little girl growing up in Zambia, going to school at Lake Road PTA,” she says.
“Things changed when we moved to London permanently. Up until then, my family and I had been back and forth between London and Zambia, shortly after we’d arrived and settled, my father passed away. I was a daddy’s girl and his death really hit me hard.
“This changed the dynamic of my life, perhaps forever. We went from being a happy family who had the world in front of us to a single parent household of four – I actually have 13 brothers and sisters. My mum did everything she could to keep a roof over our head and put food on the table, but with that, it meant I had to grow up fast. As the oldest, I became like a second mother to my siblings.”
Vee remembers being 16, finishing school and wanting to build some sort of brand around her name. However, she did not know how or what that would be; she just knew that she wanted to build something that represented her.
Fast forward a few years, she had fallen into a routine of working two jobs to try and help ends meet but they were never jobs she liked.
“I knew that I had to start thinking about a career, so I started to work a ‘main’ job and then work anywhere I could that was fashion and beauty-related,” she says.
“At first, I wanted to be a hairstylist, so I trained at different hair salons across London while doing a 9-5 somewhere else on top of that I was also doing a variety of different courses in and around beauty and I started to enjoy working with make-up.
“If you follow me, I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about how I borrowed money to buy an old make-up kit that I saw for sale on eBay. I don’t even know why I wanted it so bad, I just knew it felt right. It felt like this was the creative outlet that I’d been searching for. It was the first time that I really felt like I was about to create my own future and I couldn’t wait for the old kit to be delivered… that was 10 years ago.
“The second I got the kit, I started practising on myself and telling anybody that would listen that I was a make-up artist. I would attend as many make-up events as possible and network like crazy.”
Vee started offering her services out and admits that although it sounds cliché, she had actually done a lot of work for free, but atleast she was getting better and better. That is how she started building a portfolio and people started recommending her.
Finally, she started getting paid for her work.
“My career was really starting to take off. I got the opportunity to train with international make-up artist Mario Dedivanovic, Kim Kardashian West’s personal make-up artist,” she says.
“It was from training with Mario that inspired me to start doing masterclasses. At the time, I was starting to get my own celebrity clients and his class gave me that extra confidence I needed to start a class of my own.
“I’ve been blessed to work with the likes of Michelle Williams (Destiny’s Child), Patoranking, Siba Mtongana, Amber Riley, Draya Michele, Krept and Konan as well as working with make-up brands like Smashbox, NYX and Barry M.”
Vee says her ultimate ambition is to be the best version of her that she can, and that ambition is what made her want to come back to Zambia and try to build something here.
“It’s weird, I really don’t mind taking risks. I think that if you have self-belief and work ethic, you can achieve amazing things,” she says.
“My career in London was on the up, everything was going great but I just knew I had to try and come home to see what I could achieve here… so I did.
“I’m a proud Zambian, I had an overwhelming desire to come home to not only work but to also inspire other women and girls to go for their dreams no matter what.”
Vee admits that living in the UK has not been easy as there had been many times when she had not had a penny to her name but just believed in her journey and had faith in God.
“I had faith that I would make it through and 10 years later, I’m still on this amazing journey, just as determined and just as excited to build the brand that I dreamed of as a teenager,” she says.
Going forward, Vee wants more masterclasses, more brand collaborations here and in the UK, more live demos and just finding ways that she can really try and inspire and help as many people as possible.
“I actually want to do more talks at schools and universities while I’m here in Zambia, so, please, do get in touch if you’ve a project where I can help,” she says.
“I want to share my story with the young girls and women of Zambia, show them that anything worth having is hard work. But if you’re willing to commit to the work, then it’s possible, and that applies to life in general, not just your career.”
KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka