Donsy Kunene & Indlovukazi Mapule
Amiable and funny, unpretentious Beauty Magician, Samukele Shelembe is a very warm person to be around; from his smile to his facial expressions and voice. The Hammarsdale born 33 year old is a bold make-up artist who is not shy of being a gay man, has become a threat to most other beauticians in the beauty industry. He is known as one of the best makeup artist and hair stylist with his magic hands transforming the ordinary face to an unconceivable gorgeousness.
The yearning to ‘create’ has always been of great influence in Shelembe’s career decisions after completing his studies in Cosmotology at Durban Tech College. He honed his skills and talent within his own space and pace which took him to another level of life as a young person. He decided to establish Embelesh House of Beauty (EHB.) Embelesh, born out of the passion he has for beauty artistry, is now a famed household name in the beauty corridors.
The art of transformation is one truly encapsulated in the work of a make-up artist and a hairstylist. His passion for his craft has been acknowledged by many celebrities from the film, media and entertainment industry which includes socialite and actor Khanyi Mbau, recording artist Amanda Black, Chef Lucia Mthiyane and the actor and singer Khaya Dladla to name a few. Recently, on his list of popular people as his clients, he added a newly-wed lesbian couple, Thandeka Ngobese and Indlovukazi Mapule where he was praised for his artistry more than ever.
Samke has been with Embelesh since he completed his tertiary level and his portfolio clearly portrays his style to be versatile, creative and polished. His outstanding attention to detail and friendly, caring attitude is always respected by his colleagues and clients. He recreates and reshapes; using the human face as if it is his only canvas on earth.
“Beauty artistry is my passion and I have ultimate drive to fully train and teach basic and advanced skills to individuals who coherently don’t exhibit such professionalism and the know-how. By giving young people such a rare opportunity, I am giving back to my Kasie people in Umlazi, where all it started.” says Samke.
What makes Embelesh stand out amidst the obscurity of dozens of makeup artists in KZN, is his keen ability to customize makeup style according to facial features and not the other way around. He finds inspiration in the natural beauty of his clients and gently enhances their features, bringing out his or her true beauty instead of masking it. As is the standard for many makeup artists, he is busy most weekends working on big bridal parties and many other gigs, however, he stays creative during the week by following his passion and collaborating with talented artists that he groomed.
Umlazi Four-room chronicles
When people say, we need to go back to our roots, that doesn’t apply to our glamorous Samke, who has been holding on to his roots since his early age. Born in Hammarsdale before his family moved to Inanda (Etafuleni) and growing up at the notorious Umlazi Township, he has been stuck there out of his own choice and will. He grew up there, stayed there even after his tertiary years to the effect that while other businesses move to the city and surburbs, his business remained a national brand that is found in the heart of a township.
The way Samke narrates how it all started you would swear he is “high on ecstasy”, it brings back his exciting memories that are a mixture of sad and happy days. He told UniQ Magazine SA in an exclusive interview that growing up at Inanda being the poorest rural area, helped him a lot as a gay man and the only boy child in the family.
“My experience while I was at Inanda taught me all the basics, I learnt to do all the chores done by girls and boys which prepared me to be a person I am today regardless of being a gay man. Regardless of the fact that my Mother sent me to a boarding school for the reasons known to her, boarding school life had an impact in realising who I really am and boosted my ego as I was thee Queer of the school. I met gay friends who are still my friends even today.” Says Samke
His beauty business started off at his home garage with his main clients being gay men, who turned out to be his colleagues soon after he saw the need to develop them. Samke and his gay friends were lucky enough to find the four-room owned by a friend’s family which became their “haven of safety” from the cruelty of the world towards gay people. The “four-room” was where all the entertainment and mischief was found and learnt, where all lessons of life in the gay community were taught, hence it was dubbed the “Gay Institution”. They were eventually chased away by the community of Umlazi from their shelter accusing them of spreading an obnoxious lifestyle.
Coming from a family of creative-minded people, he was surrounded with support when pursuing a career in beauty. He believes that the best accomplishments in life are those that one struggles to achieve. Success is much sweeter when one understands the sometimes bitter taste of a challenge. Samke proudly lives in the moment and forever strives to push himself further within his craft, refusing to settle for mediocrity.
“I constantly remind myself that the mind is a very powerful tool. In this industry you have to always be inspired and must never stop learning as it’s the only way to become good at what you do… I want to be the best version of myself that I can be.”