Mikayla Nogueira didn’t have much of a social media presence when she downloaded TikTok last year. She was on March break from Bryant University and simply looking for something to occupy herself with. She spent hours flipping through videos on the app and eventually stumbled across the viral “Catfish Challenge,” wherein people film themselves before and after putting on makeup.
“I decided to film one just on a whim and right when I posted it, it instantly blew up,” says Nogueira, 22. “And I was so confused by it, because I had zero followers. I didn’t follow anybody. No one knew who I was.”
Between the video going viral and her studies going virtual because of the pandemic, Nogueira seized the moment and continued posting daily to @mikaylanogueira from her bedroom in East Freetown. She gained a steady flow of followers during her first month on the app, but it wasn’t until she uploaded a video featuring her voice that the account truly took off.
“I remember the exact video,” Nogueira says, recalling the expletive-filled, Boston accent-heavy makeup contouring tutorial she uploaded last April. She was “so nervous” about what people might think about her thick Massachusetts accent, but was met with overall positive feedback.
“That was like the first video where I was just being fully myself, and I was shocked by the response,” she says. “That video blew up as well. And from there, that just sort of inspired me to start doing tutorials and reviews and more videos where I’m just speaking.”
In the last year, Nogeuira amassed over 4.7 million followers and was named the Emerging Makeup Artist of the Year at the 2020 American Influencer Awards. She even caught the attention of Selena Gomez, who quoted Nogueira’s “what’s poppin’?” catchphrase in a personalized video to the makeup artist.
“Y’all I am doin’ a giveaway,” she says in a video where she offers free makeup to fans. In another clip, when she breaks down her lip routine, she says, “smells like watermelon, feels wicked good.” Everything she does is infused with her Boston accent.
Part of the appeal of Nogueira is the sheer volume of her uploads. In a year when maintaining a makeup routine became obsolete for many, she made a habit of uploading 15- to 60-second video clips several times a day. Nogueira says she always does her makeup, regardless of whether or not she’s going out, so the pandemic was no exception.
“I love makeup so much that doing it every single day is the best part of my day,” she explains. “To be honest, it’s just so exciting. I’m always so happy about it. It’s definitely just passion. I think that translates in my videos for sure.”
Nogueira’s fascination with makeup began at age 10, but she didn’t start practicing on other people until high school. Her mother is an artist as well, and she sees similarities in what they do.
“I also love [art], but I do it on my face instead of on a canvas,” she says. “So there is that correlation.”
The game changed when she finally got a job at Ulta Beauty in 2019, after repeatedly applying to both Ulta and Sephora. When she received a call saying that they were interested in interviewing her, Nogueira says she showed up with a full face of makeup and was hired that day. She worked as a Prestige Beauty Advisor, which meant she was trained in every product and had the opportunity to work on people every day. She still credits a substantial amount of her knowledge with her time at the company.
“Ulta was just a great way for me to really build my knowledge as a makeup artist and lover,” she says.
Since graduating from Bryant and leaving Ulta, she’s turned her TikTok account into a full-time career as a beauty content creator. After the makeup samples began to add up in her parents’ home last fall, she found her own apartment, where she films her videos.
Nogueira plans to move again this fall in order to find a space where she can create a YouTube studio and expand her brand. Ideally, she’ll get to stay in Massachusetts and says that she’d only consider going the way of many makeup artists and moving to Los Angeles if it became necessary for her job.
“I love New England so much. I’m such a Masshole. I really am. I just embody the definition of Masshole,” she says. “I really would love so much if I could stay in Massachusetts.”