When her childhood friends spent hours playing out in their neighborhoods’ playground, she preferred to stay indoors and look for old cloth to mess with. That was her play, little did she know that fashion was her innate drive. She transformed her childhood favorite game to a profession in which she’s glowing adorably at the age of thirty-two and a mom of two. We talked to renowned stylist, makeup artist and fashion mania Yorsaliem Zerai.
- Thank you for making time to be here with us. Let’s start with a brief introduction about yourself.
I love styling and fashion. For me fashion has been an art that I noticed when I was still a child. I didn’t enjoy much playing with my friends outside. I loved staying indoors to cut and sew little clothes for my dolls. I would also style their hair and draw on their faces. I bet they looked horrible by the end of the day but that was how I played. I had fun.
As far as my educational background I studied in Asmara from elementary up to high school and joined the 21st round in Sawa. I enrolled in the School Of Fashion And Training in 2013. As I grew up I applied my visions and ideas in my own clothing style. I liked looking different. I must say I was an avant-gardist!
- Do you remember the exact time you took your artistry out of your room?
Yes I do. I was in high school. In 2006 my high school, Keih Bhari Secondary School, was celebrating its 50th anniversary. The school organized a huge festival. The festival incorporated an artistic competition, and there I presented my designs. I won and got a certificate for it. That specific occasion was truly a special one as I realized that I could confidently start bringing my passion out for the world to see. I was extremely pleased with myself.
- What about professional start? When was it?
After Sawa I joined a fashion school and finally learned the technical aspects of fashion. I learned styling, make up and designing. I also participated in several workshops such as that of the Alliance France. As a result, alongside some other ten designers we organized a fashion show that same year. In few words this one is the specific moment to which I trace back my professional debut.
I had the opportunity of working with famous designers of Germany and France before I even graduated from the designing school. I then wanted to share what I learned with fellow designers. Therefore, the following two years, 2014 and 2015, I joined two groups of designers and sent my designs in several runways. I have also participated in several competitions and won some prizes. Working cooperatively with other designers helped me to gain confidence and go solo, so I did one soon after. Since then, I have had six fashion shows all in all.
- What type of designing do you like to work on most?
I personally want to work on clothes which are appropriate in our culture. Designers have their own interest but I like to bring classic styles. Again, I am more interested in male clothes. Designing female clothes can be easier, there are lots of ways that the posture can be helpful in so many ways. However, designing male clothes can be challenging and should be perfect in sizing. It somehow interests me and I love it.
- But nowadays you are actually more prominent as a makeup artist.
That is true. I started doing makeup way back. I took makeup courses when I joined the fashion school. I wanted my models to represent my designs, I want them to display it right. After school I first started doing makeup just for celebrities. For example, in 2016 I did Bisrat Aregai’s make up for her whole album. I also started participating in numerous fashion shows as a makeup artist. By the way as we speak Bisirat has booked me for forth her coming album, so we’re working together.
Then one day a music video director asked me to do his wife’s makeup on their wedding day at the beginning of 2016. I agreed. Word spread fast and the request I was getting for bridal makeup was unbelievable. People’s smile means a lot to me. Whenever I am done with my projects, the biggest reward I expect is the people’s smile. So I told myself I should do bridal makeup and do my part to help brides smile on the most important day of their lives. And so in 2016 alone I did the makeup for 300 brides. Now, I think I lost count of the brides’ booking me for their day. I am extremely grateful and honored that they put so much trust on me, and even if it is a physically demanding job, I do it gladly. So far I think it has been six years in makeup artistry.
- How is fashion viewed at in our society?
Young people are always up for change and something fresh, so they are passionate. The setback comes with the older generations. Our society is highly attached to tradition and so when young people try something new they might face criticism. Luckily nowadays our society is opening up bit by bit. There is nothing wrong with being part of a society that is fond of and aware of its traditional morals and values; it is us the youngsters that need to have a smart approach. We need to show that being modern doesn’t really mean condemning tradition. And I think we’re doing a pretty good job incorporating modernity to traditional exquisiteness.
- As someone in the profession, what do you think about the Eritrean makeup skills?
We have a beautiful skin, but I don’t think our sisters know well about how to use makeup. The make ups that are produced in the European and western countries aren’t for our skin. We have different shades and the make ups are designed for every specific shade. If not used properly make up can be damaging leading to skin diseases. I don’t approve of the teenagers using make up since our skin is at its best until the age of 25. If we start to use makeups at young ages, our skin gets old and makes us look older than our age. I also would like to tell everyone not to buy any makeup they can find as it can be unhealthy to the skin. Makeup is used to add to your beauty not to completely change your look.
- What are some of the natural skin treatments that you recommend?
We have plenty. The problem is that we don’t use them properly. Our skin needs treatments as any part of our body. We need to take care of it as it is easily damaged. We can find natural treatments for our skin everywhere in our kitchen. Again, if we are using hard makeups our skin should be supported with the natural treatments that can protect it. We have cucumber which is very nice for the sunburn skin, or we can use carrot for the moisture. It is also the best way to maintain our beauty.
- Do you plan to continue working as a designer like you used to?
I know I have been focusing more on makeup artistry, but yes, of course. I have such big dreams, international wise. I would like to get better in my skills and work on different designs. I want to someday represent my country in my field. A designer is an ambassador. If I am good and am recognized in the fashion industry, people would know me, my country, and my culture. That is my I dream and I hope that I would live to see that dream come true.
- You are also a mom, how do you manage with your career?
Being a mom doesn’t challenge me. It really doesn’t. I love what I do and I am 100% devoted to my profession as well as my kids. I have two beautiful kids, a boy and a girl. I gave birth to my little girl after working on a bride the previous night. I believe that mothers also are allowed to have dreams and profession, and they can do it all.
- Any last words?
Eritreans are beautiful in every way. They have a beautiful face and amazing color. As the chemicals damage our skin, it is best if they learn to know the makeups that are good for their skins and avoid the ones which aren’t. It is always good to use the same marks, it helps avoid the chemical mixtures to the skin. Again, I hope to share my experience with many so that there would be more girls who are interested in the field and know more about the importance of keeping the skin healthy.