Keilidh Cashell: "Whether we're in a pandemic or not, people still want to look and feel beautiful"
Her's digital cover star for April 2021 is makeup artist, entrepreneur, and TikTok sensation, Keilidh Cashell, also known as Keilidh MUA.
"Makeup gives confidence of course, but it's not about covering up or hiding."
People told Keilidh Cashell she was mad to launch her own makeup brand during a pandemic... "and they would be correct," she says.
The influencer and makeup artist, otherwise known as Keilidh MUA, introduced her brand KASH Beauty last year, and at the mere age of just 24 she may have already achieved her wildest dream.
"The response has been crazy," she tells Her. "The pandemic has affected us all in horrible ways but I don't think there was a better time to do it. There's no better feeling than seeing someone using your product and it making them feel confident and beautiful."
Keilidh arrived onto the makeup scene in 2015. Beginning her career on a makeup counter, the Monaghan native has since amassed a total following of over four million users across YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.
But her reign doesn't finish with creating online content. Keilidh's makeup collection has already sold out three times since its release in September. We may not be able to hit the town, but there's clearly still a demand to look and feel fabulous.
"Even though we're not able to wear makeup out, a lot of people are practising at home," she says. "Regardless of whether we're in a pandemic or not, people still want to look and feel beautiful, and spend their time and money doing their makeup."
Keilidh knew she wanted to be a makeup artist early on. After spending most of her Leaving Cert year working on a portfolio for art college, her plans changed when she didn't manage to get the required number of CAO points.
Instead, she did a one year course in makeup artistry and soon afterwards, started working on the makeup counter. It was then that she decided to start posting her work online.
"It feels like a lifetime ago now, but Instagram was only getting big then," she says. "I was getting up super early before work so I always had a look I could post, whether it was an everyday look or a monster or an alien.
"I was able to step away from the counter eventually and say 'Wow I can really make a job for myself online and do what I love most,' which is teaching people how to do makeup.
"When I first started my parents were thinking, 'How is she going to make money off of this, is it going to be a job for the rest of her life?' That's what I was getting from everybody. But I was so stubborn, I was like 'I'll make it work.'"
Keildh's followers came for the transformations, the tutorials, the everyday glamour - and they came in their droves. Acquiring considerable numbers of followers across multiple platforms requires talent, but it also requires distinction. People come for the content, but they stay when you're doing something new.
One of the first times Keilidh went viral she had transformed herself into Daenerys Targaryen. Painting herself as the Mother of Dragons complete with an incredibly realistic dragon eye prosthetic, she tapped into the demands of fans of the world's most popular TV show, and lovers of impressive makeup artistry.
"I saw that post everywhere," she says. "Game of Thrones was huge at the time, and I just remember it blowing up. I like all of my looks, but that one really stands out for that reason."
Over the years, Keilidh has transformed herself into everyone from Elsa from Frozen to Freddie Mercury to the Grinch. She's also tried new trends, hosted makeup classes, and created entirely new concepts using products she's bought from brands she admires. Makeup isn't a way of covering up - for Keilidh, it's an art form.
"I know a lot of people who still see makeup as a mask and say artists are hiding behind it," she says, "but I come on my Instagram with no makeup on at all. Makeup gives you confidence of course, but for me it's not about covering up or hiding.
"It's an art form, the same way people would paint pictures or do photography. This is my way of expressing myself, it's therapeutic to sit down and play with your makeup and come up with something new. People think it's a mask, but it's not. It's so much more than that."
Most who have anything less than favourable to say about makeup tend to keep it to themselves. And those who don't? Keilidh doesn't let them both her anyway.
"I don't get a lot of negativity which is great, but I focus just on the makeup, so what are they going to say? 'This is crap'? Like, I don't care. I just don't give people like that the time of day.
"That's the type of person I am, I have a thick skin, and you have to have one in this industry. I don't know any happy, sane person commenting nasty things on people's posts. They don't exist, I don't know them. If someone hasn't said it to my face, or my friends and family haven't said to me, I'm not going worry about it."
She's also not going to worry about what other people are doing. Keilidh found it easy not to compare herself to other makeup artists at the beginning of her career. If she did, she says she wouldn't be where she is today.
"What are you gaining from that?" she says. "There's no one I'm jealous of in this industry. If I see someone doing something unreal I think 'fair play,' let me work my ass off to get to that stage. You need to back yourself. Focus on yourself and push it."
Keilidh hit headlines recently amidst the recent widely reaching Urban Bible Palette controversy, in which Dublin blogger Suzanne Jackson, also known as SoSueMe, was criticised for re-releasing a palette created alongside Keilidh, without crediting her.
The controversy was a substantial one for the Irish makeup industry, leading to a public apology, an explanation on behalf of Jackson's brand, and demands that Keilidh receive full credit for her work. The palette has since been removed from sale on SoSueMe's website, but what remains are the thousands of comments supporting Keilidh's work, her followers genuinely outraged at the palette's re-release.
Her fanbase are loyal, and they are plenty. At any given time, Keilidh can have upwards of one million people watching her do her makeup. "I don't really think about it," she says. "If I was to picture about one million people in a room looking at me I'd freak, I'd run for the hills.
"It's hard because you don't want to get fixated on the numbers, you don't want to put your value down to numbers. But then you think, these are real people, these people are supporting you. I try to get the balance between appreciating people's support and not getting freaked out."
Creating KASH Beauty was always Keilidh's end goal. But at just 24-years-old, the MUA has got a lot more to give. "You hope it but you never think it's going to happen this early on," she says. "I still don't feel like it's real, I feel like I'm gonna wake up some day.
"My dream was to sit in my room all day and think of different artistic concepts. I'm literally living my dream. Knowing someone is feeling confident and beautiful because of my brand, that's the best feeling in the world."