South African celebrity make-up artist ‘Drey’ Mofokeng has grown to understand issues of timing and destiny. The 47-year old self-taught MUA had to battle obesity and depression while trying to restart her life after losing her job in corporate SA. Facing the journey that ahead, Drey had to be brutally honest with herself and accept her own truth.
The Wits Business School graduate, who got her big break 8 years ago as one of SA’s best make-up artists, has since perfected her craft over the years and has become a make-up artist to some of SA’s household names. She spoke to Fortunate Nkosi about her life, career in the beauty industry and how she lives a balanced life.
Briefly tell who is Audrey Mofokeng?
Audrey Mofokeng is a simple girl from Meadowlands, from a family of 4 children. I grew up pretty much in the apartheid era and grew up believing that as a woman you are limited to certain things and careers in life. I’m a single mom, a celebrity and international make-up artist. I have a beautiful 19-year-old daughter and i’m living my best life.
Tell us about your many years in corporate?
My years in corporate were 20 years of my adult life. I pursued my tertiary education whilst working. After matric my mom had limited means and I think at that time my mom was working for a civic association and you know it was not an organization that was making money so it was pretty difficult for all of us. I had to work and started in retails, I worked for I&J for about 3 years and then moved to Quality Sugars, an exclusive marketing company for Selati Sugar. I spent 5-6 years of my life in that environment which was very exciting and very relaxed because it was a marketing division which was very intimate. I moved on to Cellular which took 10 years, I learned so much there and it was a marvel to grow with the cellular industry. I later moved to M-Web, it’s here where I started getting constantly uncomfortable and trying to find my purpose. In the 20 years I’ve spent in corporate I’ve learned so much – the amount of mentor-ship and experience that I’ve gained I don’t think it would have been possible outside the corporate world.
What hard truths did you tell yourself in the weight loss journey?
I had an epiphany this one time, I came out of the shower and I looked at this gigantic person in the mirror and I thought let me ask this person a truthful question, it was “Honestly, do you like what you see?” And the inner me said “NO!” It took me a good 6 months to get out of that state of depression because I could not believe what I had done to myself. And it had a lot to do with my internal conflicts, turmoil, so what you see on the outside is a by-product of what’s going on, on the inside.
How did being overweight affect you?
I was obese and this is just putting it mildly. Then I started seeking intervention in terms of doctors and other stuff like checking my sugar, my BP, cholesterol. It stole my confidence, it stole a decade + of my life, it affected my self-esteem left, right and center. It broke my sense of pride as a woman. It was always challenging for me because I didn’t have the luxury to steal clothes from siblings and friends. The people around you will not spend a day with you without reminding you that you are fat. They’ll tell you that “uyis’dudla esi-sexy” but you don’t look like the other fat people. They will compliment and bash you at the same. Society was not forgiving. It affected my dating patterns, I was not in a position to say I’d like to date any guy, it was a question of saying which guy would date a fat person like me.
How do you maintain your weight now?
I guess being educated about food and getting yourself well acquainted with true facts and supporting yourself with people around you who are equally conscious about what they put in their mouths. I manage my weight with putting things back to basics, I no longer obsess about eating greens and no starches. I know my calorie intake per day is at least 1200 calories. I survive and live by this motto: I exercise more like walking and doing other exercises. Luckily for my work, I walk a lot and I lift a lot of things so I do shed a bit of weight during the day at work. Before my operation I would at least dedicate about 4 days a week, an hour and a half at gym and try to burn calories. I drink lots of water and control my portions. I am the master of my stomach!
You are a celebrity make-up artist, has this always been your dream?
Nope! I thought I was going to be a doctor, until it became clear to me at the age of 9 or 10 that I’m so scared of blood. Then I thought I was going to be a lawyer, then back in the day I saw the OJ Simpson trial then I resented what lawyers do. Then I thought because I talk too much maybe I belong in the world of sales and marketing and that time you either had to be a nurse, a doctor or teacher. Luckily my parents were slightly enlightened enough to comprehend that whatever they taught me, I must be on to something. Make up has always been my passion but the first time I realized that I can be a make-up artist was 16, at my cousin’s wedding. The make-up was horribly wrong and I had to fix it.
Take us back to when you started on the make-up artistry journey, what prompted you to take this path?
When I first fell in love with make-up I was a baby, I was 13-14 and would mess around with my mom’s eyebrows, mascara, lipstick and when she had special occasions, she’d call me to check on her make up. My Mom (may her soul rest in peace) was my very first muse. I started realizing that now my sister is also calling me for touch ups and at 16 with my cousin’s wedding, that was my first serious gig. There was something about my make up that would make even people of other races that weren’t keen to talk, to come and ask how I got it right. It didn’t hit me that I was better than your average girl. This one day one of my colleagues was getting married and she confidently came to me, I must have been 21 that time in tertiary and working, she was confident that I had the whole kit, luckily we had the same complexion and I took everything I had for myself and used it. It was a hobby until God decided that enough is enough. I kept praying that I can’t be earning a pay-slip; I kept doing it on the side but I didn’t pay much attention to it. I got to a point where I lost my job, I had hit rock bottom and didn’t even think of pursuing this make up artistry as I kept trying doing small projects here and there.
When was your big break in the make-up artistry field?
This one friend of mine who was a TV host had a problem with her make-up artist who was a no show, so I was called in. At that time I was not confident with TV make up but I did what I had to do. On that very day I was so intimidated by professional TV make-up artists, people that I never thought I’d see with my naked eye. On the day the HOD of the Make Up Division called me and offered me a six-month contract. I went back the next day with total disbelief and with very little confidence but it’s been 8 years now.
It’s amazing that you are a self-taught make-up artist who has over the years perfected her craft
Artistry is something else. Art is incredible. Back in the day in Gr 3 I had to draw a spider during one of our class exercises and it looked horrible. The teacher joked about it and showed everyone in class. She told me I’d never draw to save my life. But painting faces was a God given talent. I don’t know how it got translated into something that could make a living but it’s something that I was confident in doing. Very confident in picking up a brush and draw on someone’s face. I love it.
There are a lot of pressures that comes with being in the lime light and being in the industry that you are in, how do you deal with those pressures?
This is where I realize and appreciate the 20 years I spent in the corporate world because, in your youthful years you succumb to pressure and you have friends that you have to be social with at the same time. You have to maintain and balance work at the same time. One thing that corporate SA has taught me is that you have to be professional all the time, you have to deliver nothing short of excellence.
You have worked on so many faces and a lot of prominent figures including Dj Zinhle, Boity Thulo, Thando Thabethe just to name a few, how has that been like?
It’s a different experience with every celebrity. The reason our relationship with the ones mentioned would still go strong 3-4 years later is because they are purely beautiful ladies, purely amazing girls who deserve the respect that they give. These are girls that you respect, they give you space and are quite professional. So it became easier for me to reciprocate that with what I’ve learned that your client is not your friend, first of all and you don’t get over familiar with your client.
Your job is to make women look beautiful and you are so good at it, being a make-up artist yourself it’s interesting that you hardly wear make-up, why?
I hardly wear make-up because there’s hardly no time. I’m TV junkie, sometimes I get home tired and there’s no time to watch TV. In between going to work and coming back home, I have 2 hours in the morning after gym, instead of me working on my face, I’d rather watch a movie. I’m also at a time in my life where I’m so confident and so comfortable in my skin and I don’t have to prove a point and I don’t have to explain myself as to why I’m not wearing make-up because that’s what I do for a living. But truly there’s no time.
Finally, why always black when doing your work?
The function and the role of a make-up artist is to remain invisible, it’s not about you. Don’t pop, be a silent backdrop. It also eases the pressure that I don’t have to look like a doll when I go to work. The person who’s face you are working on must pop, not you!