Jessica Blackler on the power of expression

Kat Nicholls
By Kat Nicholls,
updated on Jun 9, 2020

Jessica Blackler on the power of expression

Inspiring the LGBTQ+ community and beyond, we talk to founder of makeup brand Jecca Blac about listening to the needs of clients and supporting trans inmates

Despite the beauty industry’s murky morals, we have to admit that makeup is a powerful thing. A swipe of red lipstick can give you a much-needed confidence boost, and well-placed highlighter lets your inner glow show.

The ability to express who we are, and feel like the best versions of ourselves, makes it unsurprising that it’s a £27 billion industry in the UK, but it can be a little… out-dated. Many mainstream brands continue to solely target cis-gender women. It’s therefore incredibly refreshing to see brands disrupting the norm by removing boundaries and catering for all. Jecca Blac is one such brand.

Coming out of school and straight into work as a makeup artist in the film industry, Jessica Blackler found herself with some downtime between jobs. She’d work with clients, mainly doing wedding makeup, but her heart was in prosthetics and character work. This passion came through in her online portfolio, and she started attracting clients who wanted more...

When her first trans client requested her services, she was happy to oblige. “It was an interesting process; I enjoyed almost ‘transforming’ someone. So, I decided to specialise in trans makeup.”

Group of models wearing Jecca Blac make up

A safe space

Many clients coming to Jessica hadn’t yet come out as trans to friends and family, so needed somewhere that was discreet, with someone they could trust. The studio quickly became a safe space for them to learn how to do their own makeup.

“I became quite well-known in the trans community for that service, and I even visited a prison to help people who were transitioning there.”

Jessica started working in Parc Prison, a high-security facility in South Wales, after an inmate found out about her through a local newspaper. Pushing the article under the door of a prison guard’s office, the inmate attached a note asking if Jessica could come in to teach trans prisoners how to do makeup.

Initially volunteering to go in as a one-off, Jessica realised that it was difficult for the trans community in prison to come together. This prison in particular was large, and the layout made it hard for trans inmates to meet and talk, despite knowing of each other.

“I explained to the officer that when you’re transitioning, it’s already really lonely, let alone doing it in a prison,” Jessica says. “So if they could support the community and bring it together as a whole, it would help, and allow them to support each other through a really difficult time.

“And that’s what we decided to do – bring the community together more often.”

The workshops in prison became an opportunity to learn about makeup, connect with fellow inmates in the trans community, “and just have a girly afternoon”, Jessica says.

To build the community around the brand is really important, and to stand for more than just a ‘makeup brand’

Giving clients what they want

Working with clients at the prison and clients in her studio, Jessica said that despite it being a full spectrum of people, they all wanted the same thing – “To have brands not just for trans people, but for everyone, and to accept that there are many different makeup wearers. So that’s what Jecca Blac is all about, it’s a gender-free approach to beauty.”

Responding to the needs of her clients, Jessica explains that it was never her intention to start a makeup brand. But, she saw the desire for it, and how a brand like Jecca could support the community.

Four bright and beautiful lipsticks sit alongside her Soften and Sculpt palette, and award-winning Correct and Conceal palette (which can cover beard shadow). Being able to provide much-needed products alongside education around makeup is what makes this brand truly stand out.

Creating community

In February of this year, Jecca Blac launched the very first Trans Festival. Bringing together the trans part of the LGBTQ+ community, the event filled an existing gap of offline support. Complete with talks from activists such as Juno Dawson, and support from charity Mermaids, the event “couldn’t have gone better” according to Jessica. “Next year we want to do it on a bigger scale.”

Speaking of the future, the plan to grow the community around Jecca Blac is high on the agenda. “To build the community around the brand is really important, and to stand for more than just a ‘makeup brand’.”

Becoming more of an advocate is another goal of Jessica’s; creating an impact, offering more festivals and events, and breaking down the stigma behind beauty. She says emphatically: “This is not just for cis-women.”

To see the impact the brand is already having on the trans community, all you need to do is scroll through Jecca Blac’s Instagram (@jeccablac). Whether it’s Jessica sharing a makeup tutorial, or happy customers showing off how they’re finally able to express themselves authentically, it truly is a sight to be seen.

Speaking in a video recently shared on their Instagram, one of Jessica’s clients, a primary school teacher, explained how makeup has made a difference for her.

“Makeup has had a really big impact on me as I’ve been transitioning over the past 15 months – especially on my first day of transition in my primary school where I wanted to go in and I didn’t want people to stare, and to make me feel insecure. Having Jessica do my makeup before I went to work gave me lots of confidence.”

So there you have it, whether it’s confidence, community, or concealer you’re after, you know where to go.

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