For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a makeup artist — and because of that, traditional school never interested me. All I wanted to do was go to cosmetic school, but for my parents, a makeup artist wasn't a "real job" so they wouldn't support me financially to pursue that dream. I grew frustrated and became a rebellious student. I had to repeat the 4th grade. I was kicked out of the first high school I attended. Everywhere I went, my teachers told me that I was a lost cause with no future. My guidance counselor suggested I attend a catering school because she said she had nothing else for me. So that's what I did.
Deep down, I always believed I was destined for a brighter future, so I decided to take control of my own life.
I studied to become a gastronomic chef. Despite being quite good at it, I ended up quitting in my final year due to the number of sexual jokes and bullying I experienced in the restaurant I was interning at. At the time, being a female chef was very difficult as it was a predominantly male profession. Refusing to allow being treated like this, I left before I could graduate. However, if I was honest with myself, I wasn't taking it seriously. I spent much of those three years drinking, doing drugs, and becoming violent with other students and even a professor.
I slipped into a depressive state before having the revelation that I was ruining my own life. The reality check was hard to accept: I was 19 years old with no degree, no job, and no direction. I felt shameful and guilty seeing that my mom's decision to move from Cameroon to Switzerland in search of a better life for us was all for nothing.
Deep down, I always believed I was destined for a brighter future, so I decided to take control of my own life. I stopped drinking and using drugs and searched for a free public aesthetician's school where I could learn the basic techniques of makeup and beauty. Unfortunately, my search was unsuccessful, so I made the decision to get a job and make myself financially independent so I could pay for schooling. My goal was to enroll in the Makeup For Ever master program, which would cost me 17,000 Euro a year.
Since I had an interest in fashion, I sent my resume to several fashion brands. But with no degree and no experience in sales, my search ended up unsuccessful once more. After continually being rejected, I finally found a full-time position at McDonald's in Geneva. I didn't have my driver's license, so I had to take the bus to and from work. Sometimes my shifts would go overtime when there were no buses, so I would lie to my mother, telling her that a female colleague was driving me home, but really I was hitchhiking.
Impulsively, I left that job when a customer threw his plate at me complaining about cold fries. I was once again, unemployed. About a week later, my luck changed when I was hired as a saleswoman at a children's fashion store. I loved children, so I was happy in this position for about a year before my ambition started to push me to follow my dream. I couldn't shake the feeling that I was meant for something else — something bigger.
Being a female chef was very difficult as it was a predominantly male profession.
I started to spend my nights looking for jobs in the cosmetics industry. I sent more than 300 emails to companies in Paris, the mecca for beauty. Like before, I was met with a lot of rejections, seeing as they all asked for experience in beauty or degrees in Make-up/Aesthetic, and I had neither. But my determination was unbreakable, and I knew one day it would pay off.
And one day it did.
A well-known perfumery was searching for workers to join their new luxury store in the famous Carrousel de Louvres in the 1st Arrondissement in Paris. I was asked to come interview for a beauty consultant position. It was the opportunity I was waiting for, the ultimate chance to change my life.The interview process was exhausting. In one day, I was interviewed three times, along with fifty other candidates. But in the end, it was worth it as they offered me the job. It was the happiest day of my life. I cried tears of joy because I knew that after getting this position, I had my feet in the door. Things could only get better.
I moved to Paris in summer 2011 to begin my new job. The perfumery was sponsored by Dior, so they put me through a two-month training program at the Dior House. While there, I also received training on sales techniques and makeup with several other brands, such as Sisley, Lancome, Chanel, Hermes, and YSL.
Photo credit: @audychoo_
Within three months of the store opening, I was appointed as Head of Beauty. After a year in that role, I was offered a position as a Beauty Specialist at the Lancome Institute at rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, then moved on to become an Hermes Perfumes Animator at Galeries Lafayette Haussmann. All the companies that wouldn't even return my emails now wanted me to work for them.
But my determination was unbreakable, and I knew one day it would pay off.
I had an excellent salary working for Hermes, but I was presented with an opportunity to attend the Make Up For Ever (MUFE) School as part of a collaboration with Sephora. I would attend school part-time while working for the MUFE stand at Sephora, but with a much smaller salary. While for the first time in my life I was making decent money, I figured that I had come so far, it would be a shame to stop now — so I took the opportunity and dedicated myself to making the most out of the program. In addition to attending the course, I managed five MUFE stands in Sephoras all over Paris while also working as a hostess in a nightclub to pay my bills. I was working seven days a week, often from 7 a.m. until 4 a.m., with only three hours to rest in between work and school.
It was the most grueling period of my life, but at the end of the course, I was hired by Chanel as an International eCommerce Account Manager. I was proud of myself — the journey from McDonald's to where I am now was not easy but paid itself off.
While working for Chanel, I realized the lack of choices for black women in the French beauty industry. In 2015, I took another leap of faith and left Chanel to create my online store, Audychoo, an eCommerce platform that offers a wide selection of cosmetics, body care, and hair products for black, mixed-race, and Asian consumers. The online store has been successful, having been featured in French magazines as well as earning a following of 16,000 followers on social media.
My goal with sharing my story is to continue encouraging women to follow their own dreams no matter what people think.
While launching my store, I worked as a Makeup expert for brands such as Burberry and Givenchy as well as being a Beauty Stylist for the luxury group Galeries Lafayette. I also began to focus on building my personal brand and growing my own audience on social media by becoming a Fashion/Lifestyle influencer and digital content creator, and working with several brands on content.
This past January, I decided to expand my career even further by pursuing modeling. I was told that I was crazy to begin a modeling career at 28 years old and with a large tattoo on my chest. For the second time in my life, people were telling me that my goals were too big. Fortunately, this time, it didn't take as long to prove them wrong. After just one month, I secured contracts with two international modeling agencies in London and Milan. And immediately after, I debuted on the runway for a Haute couture designer at New York Fashion Week in September.
I'm currently working on revamping my eCommerce platform and have some projects that I'm excited to share with the world. Between that and my career as an influencer and entrepreneur, I can proudly say that I am finally living my dream.
My goal with sharing my story is to continue encouraging women to follow their own dreams no matter what people think. Throughout my journey, I've learned that you always have to remember that nobody can limit you but yourself. Little girls with dreams become women with visions.
This article was originally published October 28, 2019.
WRITTEN BYAudrey Martinez