ROSE NTONG’ONDU Using makeup to change women’s lives

To many people, makeup is just makeup but to Rose Ntong’ondu, makeup is a tool for women empowerment – economically and appearance-wise. Through her venture, Makeup by Rose, she not

ROSE NTONG’ONDU Using makeup to change women’s lives
  • PublishedJune 6, 2016

To many people, makeup is just makeup but to Rose Ntong’ondu, makeup is a tool for women empowerment – economically and appearance-wise. Through her venture, Makeup by Rose, she not only transforms many a woman’s face, but also supports aspiring makeup artists through training, mentorship, networking opportunities and advice. She spoke to LILY RONOH.

Who is Rose?

Rose is a professional makeup artist, a trainer and mentor. She is mother to two adorable kids and has been married for eight years. She is also the proprietor of Makeup by Rose – a makeup services company.

What inspired you to venture into the makeup industry?

When I was young, my elder sister had a salon in Meru and I would spend my free time at the salon. I was fascinated at the transformation women underwent once everything had been done on their hair. When I cleared high school, I knew what I wanted to do and it had to do with beauty. By then, my sister had relocated to the US where she operated a salon. Hence it is in the US that I studied cosmetology. I had an affinity to the face and thus concentrated on makeup.

How did you make inroads in the industry?

I came back to Kenya in 2000, as my dad was sick and there was no one to take care of him. I dabbled as a makeup artist in between looking after him. I wanted to find my footing in the industry but I did not know anyone and I really needed mentorship. By chance, I met Dr Irene Njoroge, a skin care specialist and makeup artist guru who was at the time writing a beauty column in the Nation. She took me under her wing.

How was the experience?

I worked under Dr Njoroge for a year and it was a good experience. I got a chance as a stylist for the Hair and Beauty segment in the Daily Nation and makeup artist for the Saturday Nation cover and although it wasn’t a paid for job, it provided the boost I needed. I did so many other jobs without pay so as to get my name out there. So much so that my landlord almost locked me out due to rent arrears.


Yes. I used to stay in a bedsitter in Umoja Estate and the rent was Ksh 5,000. It was pretty hard especially since Dr Njoroge relocated to Kerugoya where she had set up a clinic.

So how did you manage?

I knew I had to do something else apart from makeup to supplement my income so I started making and selling popcorns. I noted that the popcorns being sold in the area were plain and to set mine apart, I added butter and it made all the difference, as clients preferred them to others. Within no time I was supplying to two supermarkets and a school. I thereafter opened a hotel.

Had you given up on makeup?

Oh no, makeup is my first love and I couldn’t let go of it. While running the hotel, I used to save money to enable me buy good quality makeup. When I had saved enough, I closed the hotel and went back to makeup.

When was the big break?

It took sometime for me to break even. The hardest part for a makeup artist is to get a constant stream of clients but when you do, you are home and dry. I needed big jobs to help me get by so I made fliers and circulated them in salons, who in turn called me when they had brides who needed a makeup artist. After grappling for a while, the break came when the Standard Group contracted me as a makeup artist. Thereafter the county First Ladies came calling; all the 47 of them and things have never been the same again. In 2015, I was among the Top 40 Under 40 Women in Kenya.

Do you work alone?

No. I have a team that I work with. When I started out, it was just my husband and I but we have since grown. He actually left what he was doing to come support my work as a marketing manager.

You described yourself as a trainer and mentor. Expound please?

I really struggled to get someone to show me around the makeup world and I thank God for Dr Njoroge who mentored me. The makeup industry is very competitive and it is very easy to get lost. I don’t want other aspiring artists to go through what I went through trying to make a name for myself. So what I do is take aspiring artists under my fold, train them and mentor them. By the time I release them to the world, they already have a footing and they know there is someone urging them on and holding their hands. I am grateful that many of them are doing well.

How do you make yourself better?

I pray a lot and I work hard.

You are a very busy woman. How do you juggle family and work?

In everything I do, my family comes first and my husband supports me 100 per cent. I have a three-year-old son and a two-month-old daughter and he takes care of them whenever work calls.

Published June 2016

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