By Rhea Cartwright
f you have ever questioned whether being an influencer is a real job then Mikai McDermott is here to set the record straight. The Jamaican-born digital creator who grew a loyal following with her bespoke wig-making business is now a designer for her own womenswear brand Misaiei, is studying a masters degree in Empires Colonialism and Globalisation and regularly partners with the likes of Flannels and Beauty Bay.
Never content with being confined to a label, Mikai is a woman who knows what she wants and sets out to do it. She talks to The Stack about why hair was her first love, the importance of therapy and the beauty professionals she keeps on speed dial.
When my aunt first came to the UK, she rented a hair salon in East London
My mum used to work on Saturdays and early in the mornings during the week, so my aunt would take me to school and would babysit on the weekends. I would sit in the hair salon all day watching women get the most extravagant hairstyles. Over the years, I started to learn by watching and practising on a mannequin in the salon. Beauty for me was seeing my aunt doing something she loved despite being a new immigrant in a strange country.
I grew up in that hair salon so it will always mean a lot to me.
But the more my influencer career grew, the less time I had to dedicate to hairstyling. It really relied on my presence and skill so it became hard to delegate as larger clients like Teen Vogue or Glamour would request me over my assistants.
Hiring people to help me run my businesses has been a massive help
I divide my days between influencer work, whether that is paid ads or just general content, looking after the concept studio, managing clients who book for shoots, and the day to day admin of owning a clothing business. I am a pretty busy person and delegating tasks to a logistics assistant for Misaiei and the studio has been essential.
"Beauty for me was seeing my aunt doing something she loved despite being a new immigrant in a strange country."
Going to therapy is one of my go-to self-care practices
I touch base with my therapist once a week (I found them on Black, African and Asian Therapy Network) because mental exhaustion is real and a big symptom of capitalism. I won’t say I take long baths and have massages because I just don’t have the time. Self-care for me is taking time out to spend with loved ones, buying yourself a great pair of shoes and having a lie in every now and then.
I don’t really have a beauty icon per se but one person I respect hugely is Rihanna.
She is so versatile, had informed a lot of hair trends and is always willing to try something new. That’s probably my favourite thing about her.
My go-to beauty professionals are:
Makeup artist Paintedbyesther; her hands have touched supermodels, actors and musicians alike. Esther has created such a distinctive look that there is a new genre of makeup which is particularly influenced by her style. A true icon. Bookable via paintedbyesther.com
Nailsbyems is a mobile nail technician with almost 10 years experience in the game. She is kind and really takes her time on your hands and feet. She is bookable via Instagram @nailsby_ems
Trishaslashbar; I always have lash extensions as it makes my makeup process quicker when I film looks. Trisha’s lashes have a high retention rate and she is versatile enough to create a natural lash style or a very dramatic one. She is also bookable through Instagram where she has her calendar schedule linked.
My first ever beauty purchase was probably a clear gel lipgloss or those awful shiny roller ball fruit lipglosses from the widely known “hair shop”
Pretty bad for your lips but super shiny and made you feel like you were popping! That combined with kajal eyeliner for £2 was honestly my go-to look for a good year.
I love a soft glam and I’ll stack strip lashes on top of my extensions if I need more drama for the evening
I don’t like heavy dramatic makeup but I love long lashes. Even on my Instagram, my makeup style is pretty soft, I know how to do glam but it won’t be too heavy. When going from day to night makeup, I may touch up my blush and lip combo but I tend to keep my looks quite similar. I use more powder and baking techniques at night if I’m going to be in a warm space, just to ensure my face lasts the night.
My most repurchased beauty item is the Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair serum.
I may be on my 4th bottle which is saying something because I receive a lot of PR which means I’m constantly trying new products. It leaves my skin feeling refreshed and rejuvenated and has helped the overall tone and texture of my skin. A little pricey but worth every penny.
Although Mikai McDermott is a soft-glam makeup lover, beauty started as a family affair.
By Rhea Cartwright