The first eyebrow pencil kit Naezrah Desir ever got was from her mother.
“Makeup wasn’t really popular until I was in college,” she told Insider. “And my mom bought me some Sephora kits with an Anastasia eyebrow pencil and eyebrow gel.”
As a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, where she studied menswear, Desir explored her passion for art and design. But that passion soon developed after her mom gifted her with those Anatasia Beverly Hills makeup products from Sephora.
Now, the 25-year-old makeup artist and beauty influencer — known as @naezrah on TikTok — has amassed nearly 300,000 followers since joining the app in 2019 by wowing users with vibrant makeup content.
Desir, a native New Yorker, told Insider that her artistry is a reflection of her environment and upbringing — especially around a family that loves to “pamper herself.” For example, she remembers her childhood ritual of going to the nail salon with her grandmother, who claims to have long manicured nails and still has them painted every week.
It was those interactions, as well as her time at FIT, where she learned to have her own style and learned that “precision and constant practice make perfect.”
‘I like to change shape’
Following her mother’s gift, Desir taught herself how to apply makeup and soon began experimenting with neutrals, experiencing “a lot of trial and error” during her journey. As her skills developed, she started doing makeup on Facebook Live with her friends.
Then her audience started to grow.
She expanded her online presence to Instagram – where she currently has 328,000 followers – and started showing off more colorful looks. Desir describes her makeup creations as “idiosyncratic, ambiguous and otherworldly.”
“I like to shape-shift,” she told Insider. “I do body painting sometimes and change myself into other things. It’s nice to see the result when I body paint, and it’s just different.”
She added: “I know I do the same thing that millions of people do in my makeup, but I feel like I’m a little bit different. I’ve always been a little bit different from other people.”
The makeup artist’s social media portfolio ranges from vintage glamor to transforming special effects looks. She said she finds peace in her craft and is steadfast in distinguishing herself from her peers.
“It’s definitely a safe space. It’s something I consider my own job. I’m not trying to jump into someone else’s orbit,” she said. “I’m not trying to be someone else. I just post my art and enjoy it as I post, enjoy sharing it with people, enjoy people who love the art I make.”
Naezrah is the inventor of the rainbow-colored under-eye makeup trend on TikTok that went viral earlier this year
Growing an online audience as a Black beauty influencer has not come online without pushback. The harassment and racist remarks were rife from the time she first started, years ago.
†[I’ve been] cried everything under the sun. As a black woman it is difficult to navigate this industry – as a black woman with dark skin -. Everyone will doubt you, everyone will say your stuff will look better on someone else, and I often get this comment when I’m reposted somewhere. The reactions are very negative.”
She added: “Actually, I would say that all the harassment gives me an extra drive. I never let the comments sink in. If I had let them hit me, I would have stopped in the beginning.”
But she told Insider how she was able to turn a negative comment on Twitter about her signature white clear under eye into a positive moment. The following week, she decided to post a bright baby blue under-eye makeup look as a jab at her critics.
“I just did it like a, ‘Because you think the white looks so bad, I thought, I’m just going to do it in color.’ And then I think that’s what it took to take off, I think,” she said.
Days later, she posted a rainbow version of the under-eye look, which started a viral trend on TikTok earlier this year. She called it an “interesting experience” – one she is “very grateful” for.
She wants to be a ‘staple’ for creative makeup artists in the black community
Like other Black creators on TikTok, Desir has faced the burden of not being credited for her content, but she’s not afraid to call it out, she said.
“People stealing my work… and not giving me credit is nothing new. It’s been going on for years. So I think, okay, right now, you know, I’m going to have to ask for credit,” she said. “You don’t want to be seen as the whiner or the ‘angry black woman’, but I’ve gotten to the point where, who cares?”
She continued: “If I see something that I’m sure is my work that you’re copying, and you don’t give credit, I say softly, ‘Hey, this is my look. †
Desir’s content has led her to work with makeup brands such as Colourpop (a company that was accused online using her content as inspiration for their ad on TikTok) and celebrities like R&B superstar SZA. She said she aims to be an inspiration to those who are like her.
—𝔱𝔥𝔢𝔢 𝔰𝔥𝔦𝔣𝔱𝔢𝔯 (@Naezrah) June 27, 2022
“I just want to make a big impact on the black community, black creatives, black artists, black people, but especially dark-skinned people, because for some reason it’s always negative comments, people doing things that come out of the box come with dark skin,” she said.
“And I just want to be that staple that people have, like” [beauty influencer Jackie Aina] that we grew up on YouTube. That’s what I want to be, but for creative makeup.”