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Meet Kaydee Kyle-Taylor

Video interview with Kaydee Kyle-Taylor, graphic is of Kaydee in front of the OUR MAKEUP logo
10:25

Hello, I'm Nina Fitzgerald. I'm from Going North, and am the Creative Director behind YouTube’s OUR MAKEUP series!

I'm a proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman, born and raised on Larrakia Country in the Northern Territory. And I'm so excited to flip the script today on our series and chat to my good friend, and the host of the new video series, makeup artist Kaydee Kyle-Taylor!

Can you tell us about your makeup?

So my name is Kaydee Kyle-Taylor. I'm a proud Waka Waka Birrigaba, Lama Lama, Ngati Porou, Ngati Kahungunu woman - I’m Aboriginal and Maori. I live and create here in Narm, Melbourne. I originally grew up in Meanjin, Brisbane, and that's where all my mob is from, back in Brisbane and far north Queensland.

I'm the artist and small business owner behind I Think She A Freak, which I started back in 2016.

I [now] work across the whole industry. I don't like to put myself into one specific category or box because I'm all around creativity… so that can range from fashion shows to working on set for campaigns and shoots.

I just want to go back to where your family's from.

I didn't come from an extremely wealthy family. I came from parents that broke intergenerational trauma and turned that into intergenerational wealth. So I had a very comfortable lifestyle in that sense, and a better upbringing than what a lot of my family did back home in, whether it be New Zealand or Queensland.

Did that breaking of trauma start with your grandmother when she left the mission?

She's the head of, you know, she's a strong matriarch. It wasn't so much the wording of ‘left’ the mission; it was more like ‘moved’ away from that purely because of the missions themselves and still to this very day, they hold a lot of trauma…

My grandfather unfortunately passed when my mother was nine, due to a work accident. So it was kind of just like she was a single mother. With nine kids, she did the best that she could.

I think one thing I always remember about my grandmother and my mother's upbringing [is] how poor they were, yet my grandmother's door was always open, and open for community, and she would always make sure that even others that had less than her, that they were still provided for from her.

Can you share a bit about discovering who you were and your interests?

It was in high school, I [knew I] wanted to do something within the creative arts or the creative field – but it was kind of frowned upon… [the school] want you to be a doctor or a lawyer walking out of there. They were like, ‘that's a nice hobby, what are you actually going to do?’ Which is really sad.

I mean, I was always a bit frowned upon. I [was] bullied at times, whether it be in primary or high school, but I'm so oblivious to it because I'm just like, in my own bubble.

I was like a squiggle. And I really owned it. I always think of young Kaydee as someone who is extremely confident, very carefree. And I still thrive off individuality. I was always very expressive with fashion and makeup...

And I'd rather be me than try and be something I'm not. You know?

Yeah, that's so important. And so then you, did you take up makeup artistry post high school?

Yeah, because it was when mum saw me kind of pick up a brush and I've been wearing like press ons playing with my hair colour… And she was like, ‘if you ever dropped out of high school, if you went to uni one day and you dropped out of uni, I really think you should do a beauty diploma or go into beauty school.’

I was about 15 or 16 when she told me that. And it always stuck with me, but I obviously graduated high school and I ended up going to Monash.

But uni, it's just like, you're out partying every day. I was living on site. Like, I've stuffed up a little bit, but I was kind of…

Living your best life.

Living my best life. I was finally out of this institutional high school. I was finally just able to be me and exist.

Then I started the transfer process to RMIT. I was in [sitting] there with one of the Aboriginal coordinators who, funnily enough, is a good friend of mine now, and with the head of legal studies – and I cut the meeting short. I was like, I'm just not feeling it. I could feel myself zoning out and [wondering] who am I doing this for? As much as I still to this day have a passion for law and human rights, I wasn’t living for me, being truthful. I was still living for the school's expectations so that they later on could be like, ‘Oh my God, yeah, that black kid went to our school, we did that.’. But, no, it's time to reclaim [myself] and that day I cut the meeting short.

So, out on the corner of like RMIT and close to Melbourne Central, in the heart of the CBD, I looked up the nearest beauty academy. It was two tram stops down at Flinders Street, and I just hopped on a tram, walked in, enrolled. I enrolled that day! I got home to my parents expecting to be like, ‘how was the meeting for transferring to RMIT, for law and whatnot.’

How did you feel at that moment?

I was kind of like, yeah, did that. I think it also felt really like, like I really just took a risk.

And that was it. I studied for a year at the National Academy of Beauty in Melbourne.

But, it was challenging in my personal life with my family still being like, ‘what the hell,’ and then challenging because it was confronting entering into the fashion and beauty industry, and seeing how much of a white dominated space it is, and then everything was thrown at me since.

Getting your diploma, being in that space even as you were learning, did you notice there wasn’t a lot of First Nations representation? And how did that inspire you and how you built up your career?

I guess I knew early that the industry wasn't very inclusive. Even from buying makeup for myself – that was really hard. And I look back at the photos, I think I'm, I'm just blessed and lucky that I'm confident because I really sold it.

In the Beauty Academy days… the cosmetic range that we had available to us was, you know, lacking in shade diversity. We would also have only two hours of the whole year that were allocated to darker complexions and hair textures for people of colour. Two hours only out of a whole year worth of studies! It was a bit of a shock, but I just also wasn't surprised. What do you do? It's shocking, it's frustrating, and so backward.

Over the years I've definitely challenged the industry on that and breaking that to be like we shouldn't even have to be asking for the bare minimum.

Once I graduated, that was probably the next turning point. I was just like, ‘oh no, what have I done?’ Because, at the time, I probably knew three models, three black models. But there were no black makeup artists. For me, entering the industry… I'm a plus size black woman, and I'm loud. So of course there were going to be issues and there were going to be hurdles. But I guess I've navigated it the best way I could. I think you've done it unapologetically.

That's the other thing. I'm not trying to hide, but I'm also trying to bring awareness. And how I deliver that, is how you present yourself. And I have a strong sense of self and culture that really helped me to stay strong in who I am.

On that note of representation in the beauty industry and creative industries more broadly, and fast forward to now, it's so exciting that we're making this series with yourself, Becca Hatch, Cindy Rostron, and Sherry-Lee Watson. How does it feel for you being a part of this series?

It makes me feel, I guess it makes me feel very overwhelmed. It's really nice as someone who's been in the industry for a long time, and at the start was very alone versus now, and there's mob in every aspect – whether it's in front of the camera or behind the camera, creating businesses and starting things – like just seeing that kind of empowerment.

That creative expression in all those industries is just really heartwarming. And I like to think, I hope I've done my job in my industry and also made them feel safe and secure, as well as represented in those spaces. It's a huge honour, and I'm really thankful.

I know all these three sisters... so it's just nice to put a spotlight on them and talk about it through a makeup lens.

What are some other career highlights to date?

The Vogue covers. I did the May 2022 issue with First Nation Fashion deadline – and that was so surreal.

It was a fully First Nations cast and crew… [and we could share] knowledge on how mob work together. We work together so differently to how non-Indigenous mob work within the industry. We're very laid back. We get the job done. We like to have a bit of a laugh and a yarn on the way. The strength in that was bringing in a full team of First Nations, and ways of working.

Seeing us, all of us mob, I guess they thought that we were all like besties, but I was like no, that's just the pure connection… and that's how we just bounce off each other's energy and we're all connected on such a special and spiritual level.

I did Harper's Bazaar Australia straight after that. It was just bang, bang, bang. I'd worked so hard for this moment to be recognized.

In the early stages of any kind of creative or artistry field, you're working for maybe, exposure, for the first two, three years. It's really hard even for the next generation that I have tried to pave the way for, for it to be a lot more inclusive and a lot more safe.

You've got to be really strong in yourself and you've got to have a massive work ethic to actually want to exist and be successful in this industry. It's a lot of hard yards…. But it's all for my personal goals and my growth as well as that ripple effect for mob seeing it and witnessing it. So it's like I'm not only just doing it for myself, I'm doing it for the wider audience and it doesn't even all the time have to mean it's just for mob only. It can be for whitefellas as well.

What are those personal goals and what is that growth that you're looking for?

I did want to do a YouTube series. I just didn't have the time to try and squeeze something in. So it’s obviously been an honour and privilege hosting OUR MAKEUP.

I wanted to do workshops as well, whether that be with mob or with other artists. And they’ll be happening over the next coming weeks.

And that's been the first [couple of] things this year that I've been wanting to tick off.

And then obviously the big move to New York City.

Where are you going?

Yeah, I'm leaving to go live my next chapter.

There's just this vision, from the first and last time I was in New York for New York Fashion Week in 2022. I just felt like, ‘I would move here. I could live here.’ New York felt like I could actually exist. It was a massive breath of fresh air. The cultural load, as well, was off of me, and I could, I blended in and fit in.

So, holding onto that... I told myself at the time I needed another year and a half to smash out a few things and tick a few more boxes – before I take on this new New York challenge.

I definitely want to stay connected [to Australia and the local industry]. There is a three month film production I'll be going on in remote WA next year. So I'll still be, I'll still be in and out.

Any final words?

I've just always tried to be a very genuine, authentic person. I hope that inspires others to do the same.

And don’t forget to watch OUR MAKEUP, only on YouTube!

This video and interview took place on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of these lands and their continuing connections to land, sea, culture and community; and pay our respect to Elders past and present.