Welcome to Local Viral, an occasional series on Philadelphians who’ve gained notoriety on social media or YouTube.
Instagram has plenty of rapid-fire makeup tutorials. The company’s recent move to allow minute-long vids lends for fuller, more developed examples, but for showing what it takes to get a full beat, it ain’t much. Draw the eyeliner, get creative with eyeshadows, bat them lashes and pose— flashes of a sequence like this one is all 15 seconds leaves room for, addictive viral fodder nonetheless.
It would make sense for BeatFaceHoney, real name Tatiana Ward, to fill her IG with makeup bites like those. Ward, 33, the Chestnut Hill-born, Hatfield/Lansdale-raised makeup artist to the stars could certainly leave us ogling over quick eye look or contour trick, but her IG, which had 456,000 followers at press time, focuses more on her day-to-day. Among the backstage shots, the before-and-after makeup transformations, there are weight loss journey updates and prayer requests for a loved one in the hospital. It’s not out of character for her to write in paragraphs on IG. Some pics carry the quick turns of phrase we’re used to seeing on the ’gram. Others read more like short blog posts.
Her best friend named her, perhaps without realizing. His career as a singer was taking off at the time.
“He bought a house out in Atlanta. At this point, we had been friends for maybe seven, eight years. He’s like ‘Ta, I know you’re struggling, you’re still trying to do the music thing. Why don’t you move to Atlanta with me? I bought this house, you can house-sit while I’m on tour.’ And I said, ‘That mean I could live there for free?’ He was like, ‘Yeah.’ I was like, ‘Okay, see you tomorrow,’” she recalls.
The music industry was still tough from Atlanta. So she thought, why not a job behind the makeup counter?
“He dropped me off my first day at MAC. And he yelled out the car window, ‘Now, go beat face, honey.’”
She first popped on YouTube as beauty vlogger back in 2010. She says she gathered subscribers progressively. She had always looked up to Brandy (Full Moon was a major inspiration. The album was epic. And how did they make her nose look that thin on the cover?) So, in 2013, she asked her followers to hop in Brandy’s mentions to ask the singer to let BeatFaceHoney do her makeup, and at a concert in Philly, it happened. Later in the year, she became Nicki Minaj’s makeup artist, but also one of those success stories— an example of someone who the internet propelled in a snap. Since working with Nicki, she’s brushed the faces of Sevyn Streeter, Jazmine Sullivan and Keyshia Cole, among others.
On social media, she comes off as an open, frank woman who enjoys her fabulous life. Late last year, her IG was temporarily deactivated for unclear reasons, some guessed due to a post in which she praised her aunt, a muslim activist who was removed from a Trump rally after staging a silent protest. After Ward (and friends) contacted the company repeatedly, her account was restored.
When I meet Ward, she’s still getting used to her new do. It’s her first time with braided extensions and she’s telling me that she doesn’t know how to act. These days she’s giving classes around the country primarily, with celeb gigs in between. Vlogs? Not so much anymore.
“Every day I open up Instagram and I see perfection,” she says. “It’s so exhausting… I think to myself what if I have daughter?”
“You have to have the perfect lighting, and the perfect makeup and the perfect eyebrows every damn day,” she continues. “I grew up seeing Whitney Houston, and Mariah Carey and Brandy. And they were all so beautiful and so perfect. They were on television. It’s not just MTV anymore. It’s Instagram; it’s Facebook. Every freaking thing is perfection. And I’ve kind of played a part of cultivating this perfection.
“I like pretty things. I like to be pretty. But I’m so sick of feeding it. That’s probably part of the reason why I don’t do YouTube anymore, because everything looks like a production. I have a house with a whole studio in it where I could do videos and I just don’t because I can’t stand to feed that machine… And I feel bad for young girls. Everybody has a small waist, a fat ass and a contoured face. It’s a scary world.”
The Abbaye, the gastropub in Northern Liberties, which she selected as the meeting place for our interview, is where she used to come in her early days as YouTuber, hopping onto free WiFi to upload her videos, across the street from where another of her best friends (and the bff’s boyfriend) were letting her crash.
“I would sit in here— no money— and sometimes the WiFi would be super janky, so it would take me all day,” she says.
When you started making videos, what inspired you to put them on YouTube?
I think really it was the other way around. I wanted to be seen. So I started doing makeup. It’s not like I had done makeup prior. I faked it the whole time and was acting like a professional. I was like, ‘I’m such a professional. This is what you do.’ But I really didn’t know what I was doing. All of my first videos are in my parents’ basement, and it’s just me faking like I know what I’m talking about and looking really official when I really wasn’t.
That’s why when I do my classes and I’m in person, I [say] “Thank you for coming, because I know what I’m talking about now.” Basically, the first year of my YouTube career when I gained so much of a following, I didn’t know what I was talking about, I was just talking. I just wanted to be in front of an audience and have something to say and makeup was a platform.
What made you choose makeup then?
Because I failed at being a singer. I grew up my whole life recording, writing, singing, had a record deal. Left high school because I had a record deal, went to LA to record the album, that didn’t work out. Was on “American Idol” [Note: She made it to Hollywood, but was cut after], and finally by like 27-ish, I was like this is not going to happen, so I still wanted to be involved in entertainment. I was like what can I do where I’d still be involved in entertainment? And that I’ll still be happy with how I’m spending my days. On the list of things to do, it was like become a singer, be on “Saturday Night Live” as a regular or be a makeup artist. I didn’t think I was going to get on “Saturday Night Live.”
I was always fascinated with makeup. It comes from a place of insecurity. I think if girls are telling the truth for why they learn makeup, I think, if we’re being honest, it’s because we felt that we were lacking something.
How do you split your time?
For a time, when I was living in Port Richmond, working with Nicki Minaj, it was really crazy. It was maintaining a house in Port Richmond, and then I got a house in LA because I was out there so much with her she was putting me up in a hotel for months at a time. It was one of things where you learn very quickly to be careful what you ask for. I got everything that I asked for and then I realized I don’t necessarily like this, being at someone’s beck and call that way.
It’s not easy. I look at girls who’ve been in the industry for so long and they have children and I’m like how? How could you have kids and do this?
So I’ve slowed down with celebrities. I get them here and there as they come, who I want to work with, and I just do my classes so I’m not traveling that much.
What’s up next for you after teaching if you’re not too fond of traveling?
I want a product line. I feel like, it’s hard thing to say, a hard reality to come to, but I feel like so many people love me for this one thing, and only for this one thing. But they don’t know my history.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to me to be just a makeup artist, because I never even intended to be a makeup artist. So, I think I’m going to do a lot of things, but I’m not going to be tied to makeup forever.
So, I want to come out with a product line. I love teaching, so I will continue to teach makeup. But I’m going to do other things. I don’t know what my first move is going to be.
What advice would give to someone who’s trying to make it?
You got to make a decision to not be comfortable. I struggled for mine. I really, really struggled.
I didn’t give give a damn that my car was a piece of crap and that for longest time I didn’t really have a car. Couldn’t give a damn that my clothes were from the Goodwill. I wasn’t doing anything but devoting 100 percent of my time to my [dream.] I think people want to be comfortable. I see girls all the time who say, “I work a day job, but I do makeup on the side but it’s really my passion.” No, it’s not really your passion. I can understand if you have children. But, there are too many girls who are like “I don’t know how to break into it.” Well then why aren’t you giving 100 percent of your time to it?
Anybody who gets ahead is struggling. I believe in struggle. I really do. It’s a part of greatness. So if you’re not willing to struggle? You want to be comfortable, go head and be comfortable forever.