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The Makeup Brushes for My Life

Photo by Jerome A. Shaw.

SGI-USA member Janice Kinjo is a celebrity makeup artist and men’s groomer in both New York and Los Angeles. The World Tribune spoke with her about her career and how she applies her Buddhist practice to her work.

Dazzling—Janice Kinjo gets her client ready for the 92nd Academy Awards, February 2020.

World Tribune: Thank you for speaking with us! How did you become a makeup artist?

Janice Kinjo: The rebel middle child in me wanted to say no to a traditional definition of success. But when I moved to New York from Orange County, California, in 2005, I pursued a job in international relations since that’s what I studied in college. I ended up taking a job in real estate development but wasn’t happy there. I chanted about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

One night, I got this thought: I want to be an artist for world peace. I didn’t know what kind of artist I wanted to be, but my determination and prayer to the Gohonzon were strong and gave me clarity.

A makeup artist knew that I loved makeup and asked me to assist her with her work. Being on set, I realized that this is what I wanted to do. I was so lucky that she and another established artist, Rudy, took me under their wings.

When Rudy’s niece got married, he did her makeup and brought me to assist him. But while running errands, he got in a car accident. Luckily, he survived but was forced into early retirement. At the wedding, Rudy’s aunt grasped my hands, saying, “Your hands are Rudy’s hands now.” I had to step up my game to fill his shoes.

WT: What an incredible introduction to makeup. You mentioned that your Buddhist practice connected you to your mission. What spurred you to embrace faith?

Kinjo: My mom’s family in Okinawa, Japan, are longtime SGI members, but my dad was against any of us practicing. My mom stopped doing Buddhist activities when I was young, but I remember her doing gongyo and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in the car while driving me to school.

When I was 16, I had a fender bender on the freeway. I was so shocked; the only thing I could say was “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.” I drove to a nearby parking lot and called my mom. When I got home, she said we were going to reconnect with the SGI.

The next day, we went to the local SGI-USA Santa Ana Buddhist Center, and I realized it was the same parking lot I pulled into after the accident. A youth meeting was being held when we arrived, so I joined. I continued participating in youth activities and even interned at the SGI-USA Headquarters for a year before moving to New York.

When I was an intern, my father joined a luncheon at the headquarters. He was still opposed to our Buddhist practice, but after a men’s leader spoke earnestly with him about faith, my father began supporting us. Through this and other experiences, my Buddhist practice became my complete and absolute spine.

WT: You must have faced many challenges along the way.

Kinjo: My parents wanted me to be successful as a doctor or lawyer, not an artist. So when I quit my job, they were anxious and upset. I wanted to prove myself to them—this was my mission. I would chant to be in rhythm and find a client who needed me. I’d then search Craigslist for any small job that would give me more experience and build my portfolio. It was like that for around eight years until my career took off, and I began working with A-list clients. Today, my challenge is the amount of competition out there. It’s easy to compare myself to others when I see other artists working with the same clients.

WT: How do you combat self-doubt?

Kinjo: My Buddhist practice is the tool that makes me feel victorious and appreciative even when I don’t have a victorious day. I do not leave my home without chanting, even if it’s at 2 a.m. for a job. That would be like going to set without my brushes. Nichiren Buddhism has been the makeup brushes for my life.

Every day, I chant to be the Buddha on set. This is redefined every day, every moment, so I have to be present and prepared for whatever may happen. Yes, I’m a makeup artist, but sometimes there aren’t enough people, and I have to jump in and be my client’s assistant too. Being flexible to support others and having appreciation for the present—this is what I’ve learned from Ikeda Sensei’s example.

Any time I feel down, I read Sensei’s writings, even if it’s just a sentence or two from the World Tribune. Every day, Sensei encourages me.

WT: Any closing thoughts?

Kinjo: Success isn’t the money you make or clients you get. In my career, I don’t know if I can say I’m “successful,” but I’ve come a long way. My parents are proud of me. I showed them there are many ways to “make it.” Changing my relationship and karma with them is my actual proof.

With social media trends, brands changing and so many other factors, everything today is constantly in flux. I think true success is to be in rhythm with the Mystic Law, no matter what changes. And I know that because I have my Buddhist practice, I will always be in rhythm and move forward.

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