“Makeup is power”, says Agustin Fernandez, in online make-up courses that leverage his meteoric career in Brazil.
Power to transform the androgynous look and life of this 29-year-old Uruguayan.
With eyebrows demarcated by transparent mascara and lips outlined by nude or red lipstick, the makeup artist personifies self-transformation: from a poor boy in Uruguay and an immigrant to a digital influencer and a successful entrepreneur in Brazil.
“I always thought makeup was something sublime. The person sits in the chair and leaves transformed”, he says, when sharing tricks so that no one leaves the house or shows up with a clean face at a live.
Nicknamed “divo”, he has 3 million followers on Instagram and a line of 300 beauty products. Superlative numbers of a trajectory made of resilience, charisma, luck, business acumen and controversies.
“When I tell my story, no one believes it,” says Agustin, about a childhood marked by abandonment and abuse. “At 8, I took care of the house and my younger siblings. I changed diapers, washed clothes, made rice, heated milk. ”
Teachers asked where his mother was when they saw him arriving at school with a pee odor.
“Today I am the most smelling person in the world,” he says. Agustin collects hundreds of perfume bottles in the bathroom of his apartment in Morumbi, São Paulo.
Achievements of those who grew up in a shack within a broken family. “Depressed, my mother was in bed all day and the seven children with nothing to eat.”
Agustin says he was looking for leftovers at the neighborhood bakery at the end of the day. Memory that refers to sexual abuse. “On the way there was an old man who touched me and gave me money to buy milk.”
He must have been about 12 years old, he calculates. “I was effeminate, but I wasn’t aware of being gay. I only had voluntary homosexual relationships much later.”
In her teens, she started working as an assistant at a beauty salon in Montevideo, where she had contact with Brazilian clients. “They gave me tips of R$5, around 50 Uruguayan pesos at the time. It was a lot of money.”
He made up his mind that he was going to earn a lot more in Brazil. He decided to cross the border in search of opportunities. “It took 18 hours by bus. I cried the entire way,” he recalls. He gets emotional again when he talks about the pain of leaving his brothers behind.
He arrived at the age of 17 in Florianópolis, with R$ 800 in his pocket. Memories that will be reported in the autobiography “Sucesso”, scheduled for release in December.
I only had the contact of a Uruguayan woman, who was a guest until she found a place to clean floors and make coffee in a lounge. A client offered the back house for him to live by paying a friendly rent. “Brazilians are welcoming. In Uruguay, the people are colder.”
Without documentation to work legally in the country, the first years were of instability.
“I worked in several salons and didn’t spend more than a year on a job. I started to have many customers, I filled my schedule and went on to earn more.”
He faced periods of unemployment. “I was sent away from a salon and turned to prostitution as a last option.” The experience refers to a painful past. “I had reference to the worst that could happen to me, because my mother was a prostitute.”
A fact that does not hide in good times. “I speak freely about everything, without hiding anything. If they found out, they would use it against me. I’m proud of my story.”
As he was idle during the day, he says he went to do volunteer work. He was going to make up oncological patients in a hospital, where he met Flávia Flores, blogger and author of the book “Chemotherapy and Beauty”.
“Flávia made a video of us teaching how to correct dark circles and how to glue eyelashes during chemotherapy. It went viral and my schedule filled up.” That was seven years ago. “It was mythical. I understood the power of the internet.”
With the paperwork up to date and the makeup tutorials on social networks booming, the Uruguayan started climbing as an entrepreneur.
“From the videos, my growth was very big. Overnight, I started to harvest everything I planted.”
In 2017, he decided to move from Florianópolis to São Paulo as he traveled across the country to give lectures. It charged R$3,000 for a two-hour event.
On Sundays and Mondays, days of closed beauty salons, there was Agustin in Manaus, in the Northeast and wherever else he was required. “I got to know Brazil from end to end.”
It earned R$ 30,000 per month. “It was a lot of money for a 24-year-old who came out of nowhere. In my head, for a long time, I ran this old software.” He was afraid of having to prostitute himself again. “What made me work harder and harder.”
About to turn 30, it is proud of its own home and the business of beauty and jewelry products, with 50 retail and e-commerce points.
The company occupies an office of 600 square meters with 60 employees to serve an average of 4,000 customers per month in the virtual store.
And it was between brushes and foundations that the Uruguayan rose to the status of “the greatest makeup artist in Brazil”, as he calls himself, by the criteria of followers on the internet.
It has four times more fans on Instagram than established names such as Fernando Torquato, “photographer and beauty artist” of big national stars.
Among Agustin’s loyal followers is First Lady Michelle Bolsonaro, whom he considers a friend and with whom he posted a photo making mush in the kitchen.
“She is very special in my life. It’s a big part of my healing, teaching me not to be afraid to relate to people and to forgive my family.”
The two met through Instagram and met for the first time on a visit to the Hospital de Barretos, where he was teaching self-makeup course for cancer patients.
The makeup artist says he found a family in the Bolsonaro, about to spend Christmas and win a surprise birthday party at Palácio da Alvorada.
In August 2020, Michelle provided a commemoration at the official residence of the Presidency of the Republic for the makeup artist, with the right to a video for the honoree and sweets with the Louis Vuitton logo.
Posts no longer appear on the makeup artist’s official page, but a search for the Agustin Fernandez hashtag is enough to find images of the party with the entire presidential family.
Proximity that generated cancellations on social networks and a public outburst from the Uruguayan.
“Only I know what I experienced in 2018, to the point of staying out of Brazil, as I received death threats for supporting Jair Messias Bolsonaro, a good man, who adopted me as a son, even though he was known to be homophobic. Soon me, right? A gay, effeminate, who dresses like a woman.”
In the same post, he also thanked the affection for having been part of the delegation that went to Montevideo for the inauguration of Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou, in 1O March 2020.
“He took me to Uruguay, my native country, where he already prostitutes me for a plate of food, so I can have a ‘triumphal comeback’ like the Agustin I am today.”
Facts he chose not to comment on in the interview with leaf, granted with the policy commitment would not be the focus.
Agustin makes a point of saying that he is not the “makeup artist of Michelle Bolsonaro, nor Suzana Vieira or any other celebrity”.
Pins colleagues who use famous to jumpstart their career. “I’m just a makeup artist. Neither blogger nor celebrity.”
Posts on luxury hotels and glamorous travels around the world don’t get him off the ground, he says. In the picture Cozinha do Divo on Instagram, he teaches how to make “sophisticated noodles”.
It shows the socks torn by the four pet dogs, in a photo stretched out in the first-class seat of an international flight.
“I’m afraid to go to the other extreme, which is that of fascination. My biggest luxury is having a room to myself and a bathroom with hot water. And being able to eat yogurt with cornflakes for breakfast.”
Small and big pleasures that, according to him, help to heal traumas of abandonment, abuse and voluntary exile.
Agustin concludes that the adventure in Brazilian lands was more than rewarding. “I love Brazil, I love the people, I feel at home here. I want to honor this country that gave me everything I have.”
End the conversation with the leaf, asking to be portrayed faithfully. “There are people behind the political choices. I have my troubles, but I’m good.”