Get to know Last Looks Beauty
Meet Pereko Makgothi and Samantha Russell, co-founders of Last Looks Beauty; an Afro hair and makeup agency connecting artists (the majority of whom are women of colour) with jobs on sets. From films to advertisement, catwalks to photoshoots, Last Looks Beauty is all about providing talent and models with artists who are confident to work on various hair textures and skin tones.
Having met while studying acting, Samantha and Pereko founded Last Looks Beauty after experiencing inconsistencies of hairstylists capable of styling their Afro hair on production sets. We talk to them about the fundamental changes they are pushing for within the industry to avoid neglect and harm (emotionally and physically) towards people of colour. As well as the success and challenges they've faced developing their business while living in different continents across the world.
Tune in to the full interview to learn more and head to Last Looks Beauty to book them for their services today
Samantha and Pereko are reinventing the challenges they've faced in their industries into a business model for change. It was thanks to their independent moves to the UK from the US (Sam) and South Africa (Pereko) to study performing arts that their friendship formed. Confiding in each other about the problems they were facing on sets led to them discussing "things that bug us" says Pereko, "one of them was the fact that on sets we've often had experiences where people don't know how to do our hair or our make-up. There's always an issue". From not having the right beauty products for their skin tone to lacking the skills to work confidently with afro hair, the experience Pereko and Samantha faced during Hair and Make-Up led to them having to worry and therefore prepare in ways that white talent (who'd receive full hair and make-up,) never had to. "Speaking more about it, we realised this was a problem that so many people were experiencing, whether they're just starting off or big names who are established in theatre, television, etc, everyone's having the same issue if you're a person of colour" says Pereko.
How can we empower people of colour to hold those spaces because a lot of the time, when looking at the people doing hair and make-up for a multicultural group of artists, we weren't catered for
This led them to create the concept for Last Looks Beauty, to provide talent with artists who were skilled in working with a diverse range of hair types and skin colour. They explain how it also provoked the question of how accessible jobs within the industry are for people from different ethnicities. As Pereko tells us, "do they know about these types of jobs or are they just working in the hair salon in their community. And how can we empower people of colour to hold those spaces because a lot of the time, when looking at the people doing hair and make-up for a multicultural group of artists, we just weren't catered for". When researching how to create solutions, they saw an obvious lack of agencies bringing people of colour onto sets and into the jobs of HMUA. This was what led them to create Last Looks Beauty - providing productions with artists who were multi skilled and highly needed on sets. "We wanted to make sure, in the future, when there's a black or brown artist on set whose seeking a barber, a manicurist, a HMUA all in one, there's a platform where a producer can find all they need for their black talent", explains Samantha.
Watch Last Looks Beauty's short 'Fix My Hair' reflecting the kind of treatment on set for People of Colour
The obvious necessity that Last Looks Beauty is founded in sparks deeper questions about the lack of diversity throughout the entire industry, particularly those in lead roles. Samantha tells us how "They released a documentary recently called Untold Stories; Hair on Set (presented by British actress Fola Evans-Akingbola) in the UK about celebrity actors who are dealing with this on a larger scale... it's not just a small independent artist issue so we're hoping to expand our net and reach wider so producers know that our service is available". With Samantha's growing career as an actor and Pereko's transition into being a producer, the two of them are able to combine their knowledge and continue building Last Looks Beauty shaped by their experiences behind the scenes. As a duo, Pereko points out how "we are artists to begin with, we look at things from a creative aspect but I think our partnership has made it easier because we're able to bring our strengths and weaknesses together as a unit". The combined effort of these two women and their complimentary skill sets is something that is reflected in the success and evolution of Last Looks Beauty
We've had opportunities with smaller, Indi projects but trying to get through those bigger doors had been the greatest challenge because people are afraid to start something new
However, the difficulty they have faced to be recognised, both for their necessity and the specific service they are offering, has been one of the most obvious challenges. Pereko tells us how "for the most parts it's been trying to get people to understand why our service matters and people giving you the chance and then building that kind of relationship. We've had opportunies with smaller, Indi projects but trying to get through those bigger doors had been the greatest challenge because people are afraid to start something new, they're stuck in their ways". Thanks to Last Looks Beauty building a name for themselves amongst smaller communities, they are now branching out and building upon their positive reputation for larger scale productions.
But with this has come additional financial disparities, with Sam pointing out how "when you're a newer, smaller business and you're in environments where there's a large pay gap, we've experienced how, because you're not so well known, people want to charge you way less. But your artists have the qualifications that are higher than those on set!" Sam expands on this exploitative behaviour, sharing how "We have about 16 artists at this point - they're able to work with texture more than just afro hair and [one skin colour], their skill range is across the whole spectrum, however they're sometimes asked to be paid 30% less than other artists on set. So that's still something that's a big challenge because people don't understand that what we're offering is more necessary than a lot of the other artists might be able to offer as well".
In the face of such challenges, it's a moving experience to hear how much Pereko and Samantha have achieved since launching Last Looks Beauty. Having won the UK Black Talent Award 2023 and with a recent trip to work on Milan's Fashion Week under their belt, the growth of Last Looks Beauty is a reflection of the work, time, money, and passion they've put in. Sam tells us how "I'm really proud of what we've done and I know in the future, you'll see Last Looks on larger productions". This is something both of them aim to achieve alongside their own personal journeys as Pereko develops her career as a producer, Sam pursues acting and they continue similar hopes and dreams of having families
Hair is freedom of expression and Last Looks Beauty is really part of that expression
The creativity that threads through their individual lives, as well as the independent artistry they encourage from the women they work with, is a sassy trait we love hearing about. Pereko tells us how "Our roster of talent is very creative and they deserve to have that autonomy" to bring their ideas into the styling projects and proposals. Recognising how liberating it is to use these skills in hair, make-up and styling for channeling creativity, Samantha tell us how she's been doing her hair since she was twelve - "I think I've always had this creative outlet that came with hair, it's a freedom of expression, it's something that, just like your outfit, you can change every day". Being able to express herself in this way "makes me excited to work on the business we've created together because hair is freedom of expression and Last Looks Beauty is really part of that expression".
"Take a chance on yourself and give it a shot" Pereko
"Go with your gut. We make decisions that are right for ourselves and our careers" Samantha
We finish our conversation by asking Pereko and Samantha to share advice for folks who are wanting to pursue their creative ideas and business concepts."Go with your gut" says Sam, "Out of all the things we've done, we made sure it made sense, making decisions that are right for ourselves and our careers. Taking hold of our lives and making a strong decision." Samantha also reminds us to "be proud of the journey - you're at the pace you're meant to be so allow the time to walk to your purpose". With both of them reflecting on what they've achieved and the entrepreneural journey that's evolved alongside their creative careers, Pereko leaves us with the advice to "give it a shot. A lot of people will probably say no but there might be that person who says yes. You might be faced with challenges but you'll also face some greatness if you're willing to take a chance on yourself". This sense of confidence and ambition is something that bounces naturally between Pereko and Sam, driving forward a real intention to reach their goals and support one another in the direction that takes. With such a powerful partnership and creative vigour, we look forward to seeing Last Looks Beauty on many credits to come.
Last Looks Beauty's Quickfire
When do u feel most confident?
S: when I'm wearing white and fresh out the shower
P: when I've got a fine outfit and I feel like no-one can get me down
One dream you want to come true?
S: for my acting career to take off, award shows, its time!
P: Be an executive producer for really great shows, and being on the cover of a magazine.
What key experience has shaped you positively?
P: Coming to the UK on my own - showing myself I could do it, it's made me a bigger bolder person. I don't have so much fear anymore because of that move.
S: I agree with that, moving to the UK! It made me independent, I met Pereko and my long-term partner.
One cause that's close to your heart or a law you'd like to change?
P: Representation of people working on coorperate, who are making executive decisions - if everyone in the room looks the same and they all have the resources and the final say, I don't think I can trust that they'll uplift my community.
S: Visibility for a lot of underrepresented people.
Best thing about being you?
P: My honesty - I've learnt that honesty can be kindness and love, and people appreciate that authenticity
S: I truly care about people and I really love people, I want to see them do well. Maybe I'm too nice....
Name your Sassy tracklist?
Victoria Monét - On My Mama
Asake - Organise
Solange Knowles - Don't Touch My Hair
Priya Ragu - Black Goose / Let Me Breathe (COLOURS show)
Novelist and DJ Lag- Bulldozer
Interview by Bethany Burgoyne @bxsassy2