Anna Formela’s talent as a professional make-up artist, face and body painter has seen her work on everything from children’s parties to music videos.
Her artistic flair has seen her create many spectacular colourful and vibrant designs on themes of animals, sci-fi, beauty and horror to more avant-garde and abstract imagery.
Anna, 38, who is from Poland, successfully completed a Hair and Media Make-up Level 2 Diploma at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) in July.
Prior to studying at the college, she had already established her own face-painting and make-up business but admitted it was not a career that she had considered while at school.
She gained a BA (Hons) Public Healthcare and later learnt English in Liverpool before taking part in exchange programmes to New York and Belgium either side of an MA Pedagogy in Poland
“I saw a face-painter at an children’s party in Brussels. She was working with all the colours and making everyone happy. I thought this is such an amazing job, I want to do this job,” said Anna.
Anna returned to the UK and took a one-day course with a face-painting and body art business based in Hackney to increase her product and health and safety knowledge.
“I volunteered to do some face-painting for school fairs. I began to get more and more bookings for kids’ parties, office parties – it just started rolling from there. I always had a job on the side, but there came a point when I thought this is what I want to do full time.”
Anna took a business class and began networking and promoting her work on social media. Through this and word of mouth she went on to gain work for corporate events, festivals, theatres, short films and music videos. She also began teaching her skills.
“When I paint something on someone’s face or body and they look in the mirror and they smile, it’s priceless. I’m getting paid for being creative and making people happy. I’m literally painting a smile on people faces. Even if you’ve turn them into a zombie, they still smile,” she said.
Anna explained it was her love of working with people that turned her attention to make-up rather than working as a lone artist in a studio.
“I think I’ve always liked to paint on something different to paper. I remember my mum being upset when I was a child because I liked to draw on walls and different surfaces,” she said.
“When you paint in a in an art studio, usually it’s just you. It’s the human aspect of what I do and having a living, breathing canvas that gives me the biggest satisfaction.
“I cannot teach creativity, but I can teach techniques. Like everything in life, if you practice enough you’re going to do much better,” said Anna.
Work dried up during the COVID pandemic, but Anna continued teaching online while gaining financial help from a government scheme to provide income support for the self-employed.
She decided to enrol at CONEL to further develop her own skills, particularly in classical make-up and hair, which she had no experience or a recognised qualification in.
“I found there was the potential for more bookings if I was able to do 60s and 20s hair and make-up, and I wanted to add that to my services. The class was very diverse, so we were able to learn from each other and practise on different ages and skin colours,” said Anna.
“My teacher had worked in the industry and was always giving us tips. For example, if you want to work in theatre, then you also need to know about wigs; or during demonstrations she might say, ‘That’s good eyeliner but the foundation is a little off.’”
Anna, who is neurodiverse, also praised her teachers and staff at CONEL for the extra help they gave her with written assignments during her studies.
While at college, Anna came first in the Student Character category of Warpaint Paintopia Makeup Competition 2022 at the United Makeup Artists Expo in Liverpool for her version of the Marvel comic character She-Hulk.
She said: “I went into the competition just wanting to add another piece to my portfolio, and was very surprised to win because I’m the kind of person who is never satisfied with my art.”
Anna’s achievements earned her an Excellence Award from Capital City College Group, which includes CONEL along with City and Islington College, Westminster Kingsway College and Capital City College Training.
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A former hairdressing student at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) has recalled how cutting the new Doctor Whos’ hair led him to work in TV.
Rwandan-born Ncuti Gatwa, 29, was unveiled as the new Time Lord on 8 May and is also set to appear in a Barbie film out next year starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.
Silas Baiden, 36, cut Ncuti’s hair for the Netflix hit series Sex Education, six years after the pair had become friends when Silas was working for a BT call centre in Scotland.
Silas runs Ama Hair Salon in south Tottenham, which specialises in Afro-Caribbean hair, with his mum Ama who also trained at CONEL and started the business in 2001.
He said: “Ncuti is one of my best friends. We met at a party in Glasgow and I cut his hair when he moved to London and lived with me and my mum for a couple of years.
“When he got a part in Sex Education, he told me that they were looking for a barber. I was fresh out of college at the time and didn’t feel ready to work on a production, but I nervously went to the set, made some connections and they gave me the job.
“I remember having a bit of imposter syndrome, like I’m not supposed to, or don’t deserve to be here, but now I feel I’ve reached another level. In addition to barbering, I can do braids, cornrows and locks, which are still quite niche things in the TV industry.”
Silas also cut and styled hair on set and at the salon for other cast members including Asa Butterfield, Kedar Williams-Stirling, George Robinson, Chinenye Ezeudu, Jonny Amies and Olive Gray.
Silas has gone on to work on Halo, a TV series based on the video game of the same name, for Paramount+ as well as The Mosquito Coast for Apple TV+.
His other famous clients include actors Yasmin Finney, Clifford Samuels, Morgan Rees, Ariyon Bakare and Karla Chrome and singer Henry Dell.
Ama, 57, came to the UK from Ghana in 1990 with Silas when he was just four years old and initially struggled to find work.
She said: “I used to have my own boutique business in Ghana, so being unemployed was foreign to me. The only job I could get was in catering, but that wasn’t my passion.
“I did my own hair and my grandma’s and some friends back home. I always enjoyed the social aspect of the job and making people feel and look good.”
Ama enrolled on a hairdressing course at CONEL, then the College of North East London, in 1992, and worked in a couple of salons in Tottenham before opening her own.
“The teachers showed us how to become fully fledged hairdressers and made us believe in ourselves. They were very experienced and pushed us to be the best we could be,” she said.
“I did placements at Afro and European salons to gain experience with both textures. They didn’t train in Afro hair at the college at the time, but that has changed now, which is good to see.”
Ama has long been an advocate of natural hair, particularly among the Afro-Caribbean community, and has encouraged her clients not to use relaxers or other chemical treatments.
“The death of George Floyd in America and Black Lives Matter has given black people more confidence to be themselves because it is out there that we’re treated differently,” she said.
“We’ve woken up to accept who we are. I see it in young people and I tell them how lucky they are to be free to wear their hair the way they want to.”
When Silas was younger, he would often help his mum out washing clients’ hair at weekend to earn extra pocket money during which time he learnt to plait and blow dry.
“I’ve always unofficially been an employee of my mum. I used to watch the way she and the rest of her staff would transform people in a few hours and create some magic,” he said.
“Working with my mum is awesome. I’m proud that I’ve been able to continue the business and raise the salon’s profile with new ideas and clientele and put it on the map.”
Ama added: “Silas has made so many wonderful changes to the business and we have been able to grow and increase our turnover. We’re now busier than ever.”
You might not end up cutting Doctor Who’s hair or working for Netflix but now is the right time for you to start your career in hairdressing or barbering with CONEL.
With top-quality training salons in our Tottenham and Enfield sites and excellent tuition to help you gain a recognised qualification, a career in this rewarding industry is within your reach.
Apply now for our Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy courses.