A PURA Muse is a woman who inspires us with their content, business, work ethic, values or beliefs. This woman is aligned with the goals and motivations that we strive for each day here at PURA Botanicals (if they are already a PURA lover, it makes it all the better!). Our monthly muse is working to elevate their community through their business, volunteerism, or their commitment to wellness, and they consistently advocate for well-being & intentional living.
The PURA Muse July 2021: Make-Up Artist Nickol Walkemeyer
Can you tell us a bit about your personal journey that led you to a career as a make-up artist?
When I was a year old my mother immigrated to Canada from El Salvador in hopes of escaping a tumultuous Civil War that was ravaging her home country. She arrived with dreams of creating a better life for the both of us. Initially, she thought it would take mere months to bring me with her, but unfortunately, it took three years. With immense sacrifice and hard work on her part, I was finally able to join her in Edmonton when I was four years old. Coming of age in Canada, I realized that my mother was my entire touchstone to my El Salvadorian roots and as such, we share both a very strong biological and cultural bond. The knowledge that my mother came to a new country, alone, without connections, and not knowing the language, is something I reflect on often. In many ways, we both lament having to leave a culture and family we love, but are so grateful for the opportunities we have been afforded. Over the years my mother was able to do exactly what she set out to do; create a beautiful life for us which included a loving family, a nurturing home and a level of security that once seemed unattainable. Through it all, my mother ensured that I stayed connected with my culture. Spanish is my first language and I remain fiercely in touch with my roots and family in El Salvador. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to travel to see family, or meet them in other locations. It has allowed me to reflect on the luxuries of my life here in Canada, as well as enrich my understanding of my own culture and that of others. Both my immigrant experience as well as my travels have deeply impacted who I am as a person and I believe that exposure to a myriad of ethnicities, cultures, and ideologies can truly shape us to be more compassionate and kind with others as well as with ourselves.
My mother was a make-up artist and I can fully credit her for curating my love for beauty. Growing up, I distinctly remember my mother as a very glamorous woman who never left the house without coiffed hair, red lipstick, and a spritz of perfume. Latina culture was ingrained in my mother and even now, she nurtures my love for all things beautiful.
As an immigrant, a career in the arts was highly discouraged since it was not viewed as stable compared to a conventional job. Accordingly, I initially studied political science at university. However, the creative voices of my heart could not be silenced and alongside my university learning, I opened a make-up and skincare boutique in West Edmonton Mall called ‘Beauty Junkie’ with two business partners. After several years, and when rumours of Sephora in the mall began swirling, I sold my shares in the business and started working at Holt Renfrew. Working at the beauty counters at Holt Renfrew proved to be one of my greatest training grounds as a make-up artist. It was at Holt’s that I was initially introduced to high-end, luxury brands and the importance of skincare. This job also exposed me to an entire range of faces and tastes in beauty and I acutely discovered (sometimes through trial and error), that a homogeneous idea of beauty does not exist. At Holt Renfrew, I migrated to working at the Bobbi Brown beauty counter which was exclusive to them at the time and one of the most sought after make-up lines in Edmonton. As one of the first companies to embrace natural beauty, Bobbi Brown changed my creative focus as her emphasis was on enhancing beautiful features rather than simply adding more make-up.
One day, a Bobbi Brown client explained the career of a freelance make-up artist and I was intrigued. I started working on a portfolio and booked an appointment with Mode Models in Edmonton to explore their freelance opportunities for make-up artists. I was invited to assist with make-up for an annual charity event that Mode produces every year called, ‘Fashion With Compassion’. Backstage at this show was my ‘aha’ moment and I finally had a taste of a career that I didn't know existed, but was exactly what I always dreamed of. Over the next few years, I worked with Kelly Streit (founder of Mode Models), Malorie Urbanovich (designer), Tina Chang (photographer), Kirsten Klontz (hair stylist) to create a world class, distinct beauty aesthetic right here in Alberta. When Tina called me with an opportunity to go live and work in Dubai, I decided to take the risk. Dubai is a market intensely saturated with luxury brands and I was able to bring a North American sensibility to a glamorous place which proved to be very successful. Glamorous and chic can be a difficult balance to achieve, but through practice and dedication, I was able to refine my skills as a make-up artist and gain confidence in a highly competitive industry. When I came back to Canada, I struggled to find my place as my skills had substantially grown during my time abroad. I found that travel satiated my creative side and I became somewhat of a nomad going back and forth between Edmonton, Toronto, and New York City. I love living in other cities as each one has a different aesthetic and if you stay immersed long enough, you have the chance to fully experience a new context for inspiration and ideas.
What are your summer skincare must-haves and make-up tips?
After the shutdowns end and mandatory mask mandates are lifted, I think that a little bit of glam will come back this summer. We are at a very interesting intersection in beauty whereby some will embrace a more natural aesthetic and others will clamour for all the glamour.
Personally, I love bronzy, glowy skin in the summer. I would encourage you to ditch the foundation if you can, use really great skincare, and stick with an SPF, concealer and bronzers. I adore a great cream bronzer such as Tower 28’s Bronzino Illuminating Bronzer or Chanel’s Les Beiges Healthy Glow Bronzer. Ultimately, I want my make-up to be minimal, fresh and glowy for the summer.
How have you incorporated PURA into your AM and PM skincare routines? Do you have some stand out favourites?
In terms of facial skincare, I often use PURA’s Hyaluronic Ruby Serum in my AM skincare routine because it is so light and fresh. I find that it gives a boost of moisture and literally plumps my skin. I also apply PURA’s Overnight Watermelon Mask frequently and sometimes mix it with a face oil. This potion is amazing at creating a moisture barrier which protects the skin and gives the time for other nutrient dense products to fully sink in and work their restorative magic. I often find that women in Alberta underestimate the dry climate here, regardless of the season, and have the tendency to not moisturize enough.
PURA’s Cocoa & Rose Body Oil is my stand-out favourite body moisturizer. I have noticed a massive difference in the softness of my skin when I apply this body oil. I love that I can also experience it’s moisturizing effects long after application. It smells like heaven and offers a luxurious moisturizing experience. Whether I'm going out on the town, or snuggling under the covers, PURA's Cocoa & Rose Body Oil is my ultimate, must-have moisturizer.
As your career has evolved over time, how do you think your definition of 'self-care' has changed? How are you practicing self-care today?
The pandemic has been a huge catalyst for me in terms of learning the importance of taking care of myself. Pre-pandemic, I valued working to the point of exhaustion. When the pandemic shut my industry down, I discovered that working until burnout actually isn’t that attractive or productive in the long run. Lately, I have been intentionally focused on taking care of myself mentally and I’m more open about my own mental health journey and the importance of a therapist. Over the past year, I have also been focusing on my physical health and have discovered that working out has contributed immensely to my mental state of being. Through the pandemic, I have learned that mental health is such a multifaceted journey which encompasses body, mind, and soul.
I have definitely put more of a focus on skincare through the pandemic since I have not been wearing as much make-up. Collagen supplementation has been a huge game changer for me since I've found that it both heals and prevents mask-ne. Being sun-safe has always been important for me since I have witnessed the long term damage of sun worshipping without an SPF. I’m not a bath person, but I do relish in a long, hot shower and a dry brush for exfoliation.
You have worked on so many beautiful faces over your career. In your mind, what defines beauty for you?
I definitely prefer clean glamour - beautiful, glowing, bronzy skin - which to me are all signs of health which radiates from the inside. I would love to always look as though I just came back from vacation: rested, fulfilled, and nourished. Over the course of my career working with beautiful women of all ages, I have discovered that kindness and graciousness inevitably wear on the outside. True beauty is not defined by what is put on the outside of the skin, but what resides in the heart. I find that beautiful women are good to themselves and have the capacity to also be gracious with others on an emotional, spiritual, and physical level. Within myself, I have been working to change my inner dialogue to be increasingly kind and more gracious to myself. In turn, this positive self-talk has changed how I see the world and allowed me to be more accepting of myself and others; less consumed by negativity and my incessant inner critic. Overall, I think the goal of a beautiful woman is skin health and radiance, not necessarily youth. Becoming beautiful from the inside out is definitely a journey of self-discovery, not solely based on an adorned, outward appearance.
When it is safe to jump on a plane again, where is the first place you will be going?
I am so looking forward to going back to El Salvador one day. The desire to see family, experience my culture, and swim in a warm ocean can’t be beat.