MIRIANWho I am and who I’ll be
SEEING SOMEONE ELSE BE SO CONFIDENTLY INSIDE THEIR OWN ART, AND OBVIOUSLY HIGHLY UNAFFECTED BY WHAT ANYONE ELSE FELT ABOUT IT, THAT MADE ME THINK, “OKAY LET ME TRY THIS AND SEE WHAT I CAN DO WITH IT”.
19/99 How did you get started in your career in fashion? And when did you get into beauty?
Mirian Njoh Fashion is something I’ve always had a relationship with. My grandma sewed, my mother sewed, I always loved their fashion. We are West African, my mom is Liberian and she wears Ankara prints and stuff like that. So my relationship with fashion has always been simmering and developing in the background. My relationship with makeup is different though; my mom didn’t really wear a lot of makeup, only for special occasions, and neither did my older sisters. I stumbled into it out of curiosity and I was pretty awful at it, at first. It was kind of a complicated relationship when I was first getting into it; when I tried black mascara for the first time, I have blonde eyelashes, it freaked me out and I hated it. When I tried lipstick for the first time I thought it made me look just too much, and my sisters teased me. So it was very much like a baby giraffe learning how to walk; clumsy and experimental. Only over the last couple of years have I really started to feel like I’m getting my footing in it. I’ve always been more of a skincare person, so once I got my skin care to a really good place, makeup felt like the perfect accoutrement to that.
19/99 Does playing with makeup influence your style at all?
MN Yeah, it does. They work together and complement each other for a complete look. You can have a beauty inspiration and that can shine, with the fashion as a support, or it can be the inverse. I will see certain beauty trends and they will be inspiring and make me want to wear them, and also interpret them in a fashion way. They go very hand in hand.
19/99 What are your current and past major influences as a Creative Director?
MN There are two people whose work I really admire. The first person is Mel Ottenberg, who is probably most known for being Rhianna’s Creative Director. They are super close creative partners. All the things we know and love as Rhianna, Mel is two steps away, just off the camera, he is always there. I love the way he has shaped her, she is all about eras, like Madonna is – or used to be at least. Rhianna has so many different eras in which she is a whole different person. I love the way they create something so fresh and so new, yet still so authentically her. The other person who I admire is Laurieann Gibson; she did a lot of Lady Gaga’s main creative direction for the first few years, and Nicki Minaj. Again, it is taking people with these identities and who we associate with certain things, certain sounds, personalities and characteristics, and creating a visual interpretation of them that is so cool to me. I love music so it is no coincidence that they are people who work closely with high profile musicians; that is one of my goals. I definitely think those two are amazing.
19/99 Has your work as a stylist & Creative Director been influenced by your time in front of the camera as a model?
MN I think so. Firstly, on more of a subconscious level, being on set and being able to see how people work, before I necessarily saw that path for myself, I would take little nuggets of inspiration, knowledge and learnings and tuck them away. Also, I’ve got an understanding of what it is like to be in the model’s shoes so I always pull from those experiences. If I am pulling when styling, I would wonder how it would feel to be worn and if there is a way I can try to make it more comfortable for the model. And if there is not, I can understand and empathize and just keep it real. If there is no way it is going to be comfortable then just letting the model know it is going to be uncomfortable but they will be out of it in about 10 minutes. Even that just feels like a real exchange between people rather than just treating models as a clothes hanger.
WITH MY LOOK I LOOK SO DIFFERENT ANYWAYS, I LEAN INTO IT RATHER THAN TRY TO TRANSFORM MYSELF
19/99 Can you take us through your daily beauty routine, morning and night?
MN I kind of move around with the stuff I use, so I wouldn’t say I have a particular set of holy grail products, but I have a system that I always stick with. I start with a gentle cleanser – morning & night it is the same, follow with a witch hazel toner, and then a moisturizer. I kind of dip between moisturizers depending on how I’m feeling and what the season is. That is the foundation for morning & night. In the morning if I’m going out then I will do sunscreen, then maybe something simple like a lip balm. I don’t really wear that much makeup in my day to day life. At night it is the same cleanse, tone, moisturize. Then I will follow up with something a bit heavier that I wouldn’t want to wear during the day like an oil or serum. If I need a refresh then I will do a clay mask. So the night is a little bit heavier, but pretty much the same as morning.
19/99 Do you feel pressure to look a certain way?
MN In the past I did, in that general way that we all feel the societal pressure of beauty standards. But aside from that general pull, that I’m not sure ever really goes away, with my look I look so different anyways, I lean into it rather than try to transform myself into Kylie Jenner or something, which would be quite the stretch. Why take on that endeavour when I can just embrace what I’m already working with, like it and love it, and stay in that lane. I feel like I don’t really feel pressure because if I’m going to invest time and energy I can either be the knock off somebody else or just be me, and I’d rather just be me.
19/99 What was the path like from feeling uncomfortable with makeup to feeling open and wanting to experiment?
MN It was towards the end of junior high that I started getting into makeup, and at first, it freaked me out, and I thought it just looked bad. I am a visual artist, before I started doing anything I used to paint and draw a lot so it was sort of like transforming my face into a canvas. In high school I was wild with my makeup. I went to an arts high school and there was a girl I saw one day who totally blew my mind; she had doodled all over her face with a fine tip eyeliner pen, all of these swirls. I copied her and started playing and it grew from there. It was seeing someone else be so confidently inside their own art, and obviously highly unaffected by what anyone else felt about it and being the epitome of unbothered, that made me think, ‘Okay let me try this and see what I can do with it’.
19/99 Does the term age appropriate mean anything to you?
MN No, I feel like the concept of age is super grey right now. In beauty especially, with the way that people can so freely augment and care for themselves in ways that defy age, you can see somebody and not even have a concept of age by looking at them. With that being the case, for me it is about if I think something looks good. The only kind of appropriateness I consider is in terms of the circumstance I’m going into. The only time I really, really think about age as a number, is if I am styling and the model is super young. Then I don’t want to age her, or make her sexualized. That is probably the only time I am cognizant of age; if I’m working with a young girl, I want to be respectful of her youth. Other than that, if we are all adults and we are talking about grown people then I think the concept of age starts to matter less.
19/99 What makes you feel beautiful?
MN If my skin is clear, and moisturized, if I’m having a good skin day. Or hair; hair is my creative outlet more than anything else these days, so if my hair looks good. And bonus points if I’m wearing an outfit that makes me feel confident.
19/99 Do you think there is a point that we stop growing and learning?
MN Not inherently. I think that there are structures of learning and once we leave those structures of learning it is our own responsibility as to whether we are learning or not. In terms of our capacity for growing and learning I don’t think that ever ends. It can be a decision that you make, and decide to stop seeking out knowledge – consciously or unconsciously, if you stop making the effort to remain curious and open to learning. Considering there is so much out there, assuming that you have the capacity to access it, there is always an opportunity to learn something every day; anything that you didn’t know the day before is considered growing and learning. I think that definitely, we have an infinite capacity, but it is our responsibility to tap into that so we stay connected and continue growing and learning.
Follow Mirian at @miriannjoh