How Keita Moore Went From Behind The MAC Counter To Working With Nicki Minaj
His story is one-of-a-kind.
Back in 2014, makeup artist Keita Moore stepped into the beauty spotlight with a fateful Instagram post. More specifically, a little someone named Rihanna (you might have heard of her) was the reason for him going viral. While working at the Rochester, New York MAC Cosmetics counter, he posted a recent makeup chart he designed to his social media account. “Rihanna came out with a MAC line and I did a face chart of her, she reposted it on her page, and I got like 10,000 followers from it,” Moore tells TZR over the phone. “It was literally like I hit the lottery.” But although he’s now one of the biggest names working in beauty the industry, Moore never actually intended on being a makeup artist.
Growing up, the Rochester native’s calling was painting, and he was initially recognized for his artistic talent in first grade. He enrolled in art class all the way until he graduated high school, and then received a scholarship to attend the School Of The Arts in Rochester, New York. Still, this artistic passion initially didn’t include beauty at all, even though Moore’s mother was a makeup artist, so he was introduced to products at a younger age than most.
“She used to have me help her do her Mary Kay parties, just really light things like putting pink eye shadow on someone,” he explains. “I didn’t think much of it; I didn’t even want to do it.”
It wasn’t until he helped out a friend doing makeup for a local fashion show that his interest in makeup really sparked. “The other two makeup artists had these two professional kits full of makeup,” he recalls. “I was so intimidated.” Once he started doing a few of the models’ makeup, all the other models wanted him to do theirs, too. “I was like wow, maybe I can do this. That’s what gave me confidence.”
Moore then began practicing makeup on his nieces, acquiring skills that eventually landed him a job at the MAC Cosmetics counter. Then the Rihanna regram happened, his makeup work outside of MAC began to pick up, and he eventually left the company for New York City.
“I heard Love & Hip Hop was doing auditions, so I went to a few of them,” he says. “I spent my last little money to get there, we got a car and drove up.” While interviewing for the show, he was surprised his work as a makeup artist was being recognized. “Being from Rochester, you don't really realize the power of social media and how it reaches the world, so I was really shocked.”
Moore landed a gig on the television show, where he assisted for the Love & Hip Hop reunion, and slowly built out his clientele over the next year. “I worked with Chrisette Michele and I started to work with girls from The Real Housewives Of Atlanta,” he says. “I started to work with NeNe Leakes and Fantasia.
Then the major beauty campaigns came knocking. “I did an Anastasia Beverly Hills — that was my first makeup brand campaign,” he explains. “Then I got noticed by Cover Girl, and I started to do all their campaigns.” From 2018 to 2020 Moore was the artist behind all of the makeup giant’s campaigns and commercials, working with all sorts of celebrities, including his most memorable, Issa Rae. “It was a really magical moment for me because Cover Girl is a household name. So you go from seeing Cover Girl ads all your life to actually being on set working with the brand on the full production.”
He soon signed with The Only Agency, which ultimately introduced him to Nicki Minaj. “They sent a few different people over [for her to see], but she really liked my work,” he says. Moore has now done two tours with Minaj, as well as campaigns with the star. “It was really a mind-blowing, amazing experience because you look back and your like — how did I get from Love & Hip Hop to Nicki Minaj? This is pop star stardom right here.”
In addition to the rapper, Moore also met none other than Mariah Carey. “I was a huge Mariah fan, so this was a really big deal to me,” he says. “I remember doing her for the first time, and she just looked over at me was like oh my gosh, you’re so gifted.” Moore worked with Carey for years and even went on vacation with the A-list celebrity. “I have some stuff coming up with her,” Moore reveals (although he is unable to say more at the moment).
While he admits that he’s been blessed with the opportunities that have come his way, Moore acknowledges that the makeup industry still have a long way to go to address the systemic racial inequalities for people of color. “As a Black makeup artist, it's literally 10 times harder for us to be able to level up and to be able to get the type of pay and jobs that our counterparts get,” he explains. “One thing I’ve been really noticing in the industry is when it comes to celebrities, it's hard for a Black makeup artist to get a white celebrity.” In fact, Moore notes that it’s nearly impossible. “But, you have a lot of non-Black makeup artists working on Black celebrities.”
“This industry is heavy in white privilege,” he explains. “At the end of the day, when I go on set, I don’t want to be the only Black person in the room.”
Moore does see change happening, though, albeit slowly. “Everything that we’ve been going through over the past few years with Black Lives Matter and holding brands and people accountable for their actions have really been working,” he says. “It’s opened up doorways for more opportunities and more Black artists to come in and be in positions that we were never able to be in before.”
As for his current projects, Moore is thrilled about his ongoing partnership with Armani Beauty over the last year. “They are a prestige brand, [and] I’ve always used their makeup,” he says. “It’s a partnership based on talent and love, and to be in these places where you’re hired for a job based on your talent and not the color of your skin really is a big change — the change that we need to see more of in the industry.” Likewise, Moore is also working with Maybelline at the moment. “This has never been done before where a makeup artist has two partnerships with a brand,” he explains. “To be able to work with both of those brands is such an honor.”
If you’re a beauty obsessive, it’s clear that you’ll want to keep close tabs on the makeup artist, because his star is only going to continue to rise. Has Rihanna ever been wrong before?