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Shirley Ibe of ‘Madeup Beauty’: “Be strong, be bold, be confident”

I feel like society is still adapting to women speaking out and pushing for change. Woman can be seen more negatively or aggressive for being advocates for a change that we truly believe in. Men don’t get the same level of pushback. Black women face even more barriers because we can be seen as angry, […]

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I feel like society is still adapting to women speaking out and pushing for change. Woman can be seen more negatively or aggressive for being advocates for a change that we truly believe in. Men don’t get the same level of pushback. Black women face even more barriers because we can be seen as angry, moody and hard to deal with. It can make it very hard to speak up and speak out because you quickly become labelled as difficult or an ‘angry black woman’. People don’t always feel comfortable with us having a seat at the table, let alone contributing to the conversation being had at that table. There is a big fight for racial equity and justice and the battle is still young. ‘Be strong, be bold, be confident’, we’re told but at the same time ‘don’t be too loud, don’t dress this way, don’t do your hair that way, you sound bitter’. It can be tough to disrupt and push boundaries while people are trying to tame you at the same time. But still we rise!


As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shirley Ibe, Founder of Madeup Beauty.

Founder, Shirley Ibe’s love for lipstick began where most beauty obsessions do — in her mother’s makeup bag. Shirley went on to have a successful career in health care before becoming a highly sought-after makeup artist having spent years learning from the best in the industry. She often found herself mixing multiple lip products and blending countless shades to create the perfect colors for her diverse clientele. Tired of using 5 different lipsticks to create the right hue, she launched Madeup Beauty in 2019. Combining trusted, clean ingredients with versatile and universally-flattering pigments, she believes in beautiful shades for all.

Shirley draws inspiration for her collection from her proud Nigerian background, her years of travel and a childhood growing up in Malaysia and Libya. She appreciates the beauty of diversity and the celebration of all cultures.

Shirley now resides in Calgary, Canada with her husband.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Thank you for having me! I have always loved makeup as long as I can remember. I have vivid memories of watching my mom doing her makeup. When I got older, I confiscated her massive Elizabeth Arden makeup palette and that was my first set of makeup. Over the years, I always played around and experimented with makeup. I remember rocking my blue eyeliner to school and thinking it was a whole vibe!

As I got into high school, I started getting a lot of compliments about my makeup. This always took me by surprise because I never felt I was that good, but I loved playing in makeup and I loved color! Over the years, I got a lot of requests from people asking me to do their makeup. I was uncomfortable at the time because I had no training and I can be a perfectionist. That’s when I decided to take some classes and work on my makeup application skills on other people.

The first makeup course that I took that was a game changer for me was with Priscilla Ono is LA. That course really helped me create a foundation for how I do makeup. Priscilla is now the Global Makeup Artist for Fenty and Rihanna’s personal makeup artist. Subsequently, I took courses with makeup artists who I greatly admired and had made a huge mark on the beauty industry. I’ve learned at the hands of Scott Barnes, Renny Vasquez, Mario Dedivanovic, Keita Moore (Kilprity) and Jordan Liberty. I believe in continually improving yourself and learning.

With my makeup clients, I was always creating a custom lip. I felt bad when clients or brides would ask me what shade I used so they can buy it and I had to rattle of 5 or 6 products that I used on them. This is how Madeup Beauty came to be. I wanted to have a makeup line where I knew the colors, the color payoff and exactly how it would translate on a range of skin tones. I love being able to put a liquid lipstick on a bride from my line and know it’s going to last her the day. I also love that I can recommend 1 color for touch ups. Don’t get me wrong, I still mix colors, because there is a beauty in the science of color mixing and matching but it’s way less and so much easier for my clients.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

As a makeup artist, I am so inspired by so many things. So many faces, shades and shapes inspire me. As social media continues to be one of our largest sources of entertainment and information, you can see a generation growing up never seeing a natural face. There is nothing wrong with fillers and injections, but we can’t forget there is nothing wrong with natural faces and wrinkles either. Beauty comes in all forms. I also see so many brands that have expanded their shade range to accommodate for the huge variety of shades all people come in. When you look across the spectrum of their blushes or lipsticks, you notice that specific shades only look good on specific skin tones. All though swatches are shown on a multitude of shades, a lot of shades that look amazing on one skin tone, look drab, clownish or ashy on another skin tone. I chose to create a line of lip products where all colors can be worn on all shades…it truly just comes down to your color preference. Women shouldn’t struggle to see a color look beautiful on one skin tone and think it will never look good on them. I am always trying to show different color swatches and color combos that can make any lipstick, your go to lip color!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

At the time, I didn’t think it was funny, but looking back at where I started, it sure is now. I remember ordering hundreds of dollars’ worth of ingredients. My goal when I started was to make my own lip products in my own house. I wanted control over every detail to make sure the shades turned out exactly how I wanted them. After several days of sanitizing, mixing, melting, moulding and pipetting product into lipstick and lip gloss tubes, I realized at that rate if i was ever going to make a profit (between ingredients and my time), I would be 90. That’s when I had to rethink my plan. I did more research and even spoke with another Makeup Artist who had previously had their own makeup brand on the best way to move forward. I decided to reach out to a lab and manufacturer! A way better process and way better way to standardize quality and safety.

We all need a little help along the journey. I still have my bins of ingredients from when I started and serves as a great reminder.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I can say since I started this makeup business, my two biggest mentors have been my sister, Dr Liza Egbogah and a now good friend of mine, Antonija Klotz.

My sister Dr Liza is a celebrity osteopath, shoe designer and tv personality. I’ve watched her grow from a somewhat shy, reserved individual to a dynamic powerhouse. When I think of boss babe, she always comes to mind. My sister runs a successful clinic where she treats her patients and a ground breaking shoe company where she designs comfortable heels for women. I’ve learned so much from her, just from watching, but whenever I have a business related question, she’s always there to help support me and walk me through it. She also challenges me to push harder, do more and grow my brand, not only with her words, but by seeing her drive in her own businesses.

Antonija is someone who I met through social media. Antonija is the owner of a dynamic model and talent agency and the owner of an online site of handpicked beauty brands that she loves. We connected through a post and started talking all things makeup and models. She later found out I owned my own makeup brand. Luck had it that she was also connected with a famous store here in Calgary and after showing her my products, she set up a meeting with me and the owner of the store to see if my products could retail with them. This was a huge moment for me. I had my lip conditioners and scrubs retailing at a medical spa but this would be the first retailer for my cosmetics. Antonija helped me and guided me through the retail process and has been such a gem. Always guiding me with love and patience. I’m truly grateful for her friendship.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I am a big fan of challenging the status quo and also continuous improvement. I think disruption is good as it draws attention to things that may have been overlooked in the past or challenges a new way of looking at things. We get so stuck in our perspectives sometimes, it’s good for our mindsets to get ‘disrupted’ from time to time. I think when disrupting an industry can be negative is when people come in with a very narrow view of the industry they’re disrupting. Sometimes there is a lack of history, understanding and context which leads to what can appear to be a very ignorant point of view of disruption. I also think in any industry, there are many ways to do things. There’s no one way street, hence all the different brands, products and the brilliant creativity that goes into these brands and products. Undermining other brands and/or their products to push your product or agenda, to me is negative disruption. It takes away from the view that many brands and ideas can exist in the same space. I don’t think you need to challenge another brand to shine. Shine through what you’re presenting to your audience.

I think the best example I can use, without naming any specific brand is the safer beauty movement and brands that claim to eliminate all these ‘harmful’ ingredients and basically guilt people, women, mothers into using their brand with the claim that they are providing ‘safer beauty’. There’s so much science that goes into beauty and creating fear in people to help your brand rise, to me is also not a positive disruption to the beauty industry.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/2317834a394af3f0be28f4acf30ad5c8

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I am always considering and testing new products. I’m super particular so it’s not easy to pass the test. I like user friendly products with great color pay off and results. I’m currently testing blushes. Again, I want to carry a range that speaks to women of every skin tone without them feeling excluded by certain shades that are on the opposite end of the spectrum.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

I feel like society is still adapting to women speaking out and pushing for change. Woman can be seen more negatively or aggressive for being advocates for a change that we truly believe in. Men don’t get the same level of pushback. Black women face even more barriers because we can be seen as angry, moody and hard to deal with. It can make it very hard to speak up and speak out because you quickly become labelled as difficult or an ‘angry black woman’. People don’t always feel comfortable with us having a seat at the table, let alone contributing to the conversation being had at that table. There is a big fight for racial equity and justice and the battle is still young. ‘Be strong, be bold, be confident’, we’re told but at the same time ‘don’t be too loud, don’t dress this way, don’t do your hair that way, you sound bitter’. It can be tough to disrupt and push boundaries while people are trying to tame you at the same time. But still we rise!

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

How can our readers follow you online?

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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