Behind the Scenes: Motown the Musical + IMAN Cosmetics

I recently had the opportunity to partner with IMAN Cosmetics in an exclusive behind the scenes video project with Motown the Musical.

Let me give you some back story. Last year I had a wonderful opportunity to work with IMAN cosmetics on producing an in-house training video for the launch of their BB Cream. (That opportunity came about because of my promotional NIA video with Bernadette Pleasant. That NIA project came about because of a personal project I created on a whim and published on the web. I gave some history of the two of us in this client feature.)

So recently, I received an email from both the Marketing Manager and the Global Cosmetics Product Development & Creative Director. To be honest, I only could decipher part of the email. I knew they wanted me to film a video for social media and that it would feature a makeup artist and a model. It wasn’t until I agreed to the project, sent a contract and requested images of the make up artist and model that I realized the project was to film the acclaimed J. Jared Janas doing makeup on broadway and equally acclaimed actress Saycon Sengblog. Girlfriend has to her credit, Fela and Wicked. Regarding Wicked…she made history by being the first woman of African descent to play Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West on Broadway.

I was flabbergasted and overjoyed.

"Photographer: Glen Graham"

In addition to the excitement of working with IMAN Cosmetics again… (They are a major beauty brand and a cultural trendsetter), I was now filming a behind the scenes at the Motown the Musical.

There were some challenges though. While the preplanning of this project had been in the works for months, the actual executive had to happen QUICKLY.  My normal client prep time, to do lists, charts, pinterest boards and more were thrown out the window and I pretty much went into the video shoot blind. Being that the theater is a union theater, I was informed I couldn’t bring any external light equipment, I wasn’t allowed to plug anything into the walls and I had an extremely limited time to film considering the stage manager was at one point calling 30 minutes to places. They had a show that night. The behind the scenes makeup that J. Jared was doing…was the makeup Saycon would be wearing for her character Martha Reeves on stage that night. PEOPLE, I FELT the PRESSURE.

Let’s also add into the fact that I wasn’t privy to the location of the room, the size of the room or anything else. Broadway keeps its cards close to the chest. I wondered, what if the wall were dark purple and the ceiling was black and there was construction going on outside and the other actors were vocally warming up outside of the room? How was I to get the best footage with the best lighting, composition and such? Oh yes, I felt the pressure. I knew I could do it. I thrive on challenges. I’m extremely flexible and adaptable but I knew I had no room for error. Luckily I’m a freestyle artist with some areas of expertise and I know some amazing people.

Thus I called my friend and photography mentor, Glen Graham. (He’s a household name around these parts when it comes to photography and videography.) Glen and I first partnered on the U-Need and Dark Side of the Pole video shoot. Next thing I know I was working as Glen’s assistant at huge events like the annual Barber Battle, music video shoots and even weddings. We also shot a dragon together. I’ve learned a great deal. I knew the ONLY person I could ask, especially with all the restraints and rules, was Glen. He kindly agreed to be not only my assistant but also my second shooter!

"Photographer: Glen Graham"

There are a few things I enjoyed about this project and the IMAN line all together. As mentioned during my first project with IMAN, I personally didn’t know a lot about make up. I usually have to have friends do my make up or I have a professional do it for important events. When it comes to my video shoots, I work with one of my creative directors to style the shoot. Therefore, its great that with IMAN cosmetics, I learn so much.

One of the things I enjoyed was that this was not a commercial. There were no lines to remember. It wasn’t about product placement and making sure the tagline was stated or that we showcased a certain product. This was literally a real life behind the scenes video. The fact that Motown the Musical uses IMAN cosmetics and how the actors feel about it, is not staged. The Marketing Manager would ask Jared a question about the brand and he would give his honest feedback. What I didn’t know and had to adapt my camera settings for, was the Saycon was such a believer too that she would chim in with her lively opinions too. They were the perfect “sound bites” and we had no idea she felt that way. Seriously, half way through shooting Saycon and Jared, we didn’t need them to answer anymore questions. We just needed to film them putting the makeup on. I like REAL situations. There’s a place for commercials and product placement and scripts but it says something to me when a client wants me to go film an honest reaction to their products.  I like that.

See below…when my client smiles, I’m very happy! That’s Tamica, the Marketing Manager of IMAN Cosmetics on set with me.

"Photographer: Glen Graham"

 Another thing I enjoyed and what I actually learned was that IMAN cosmetics can be used for stage make up. WHAT! No one EVER told me that. Why didn’t anyone tell me that when I was a theater student having to use a brand that really only catered to fair skin tones. (Look at me playing Louka here.)  Students like me had to use a brand where our color choices were “negro” and other unflattering names with colors that really weren’t that great for our skin tone.

Before I was a videographer and photographer, I have always been a stage manager for theater and an actress as well! I had no idea IMAN cosmetics could be used for regular daily use, high fashion use and for stage and film!!!! They seriously need to be broadcasting that every chance they get. I remember spending over $100 for my specialized theater make up kit and only being able to use about 7% of the actual products. I had the “black people” kit and ONLY 7% of the products were usable for me.

 "Photographer: Glen Graham"

Saycon literally said that she does her make up for the show using IMAN cosmetics and after the show is done she takes off her false eyelashes and leaves the theater with her same makeup and goes about her regular everyday life. <– That’s my paraphrase. Her exact quote is so cute and I want to save it for the video.

The last thing I want share is a cute image I captured at the end of our shoot. All the images above are by Glen Graham. As mentioned he was so helpful as my second shooter and I’m glad he was able to get some behind the scenes shoots. But the image below, I captured. There are two reasons I’m sharing. One, the two boys featured are the actors that play the young Michael Jackson in Motown the Musical. Their pictures may be in the dictionary next to “ADORABLE.” Also, I just want to show how great IMAN’s cosmetics is when blended with Saycon’s natural beauty. The photo below is unedited RIGHT OUT THE CAMERA. The ONLY thing I did was resize it to make it smaller. There’s a bit of noise in the photo and that’s my fault. But the point is that you can see just how great IMAN Cosmetics really is.

 "Sheena LaShay"

Thanks IMAN Cosmetics for yet another fun project. Thank you Glen for being there for me. Thanks J. Jared and Saycon for letting us film right before you had to go on stage. I am VERY grateful!

To keep up with all of us check out the links below. 

IMAN Cosmetics on Twitter | Tumblr |  Facebook | Instagram | Youtube <– you will most definitely want to subscribe since that’s where my video will be.

Glen Graham Website | Instagram | Facebook | Vimeo
Saycon Sengbloh ‘s Website | Facebook | Twitter

Sheena LaShay on Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Youtube



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