A bright ring light and a dozen lightbulbs framing a rectangular vanity station mirror illuminate the 10-by-11-foot room where Sophia Marie Perez applies makeup on her clients or sits in front of her Canon EOS Rebel T3i camera to film YouTube videos.
“When it comes to makeup, lighting is everything,” said the makeup aficionado. “If you have the wrong lighting, then your client is going to end up looking like a tomato, super orange.”
Perez, who recently turned 19, is a freelance makeup artist, YouTube beauty vlogger, public relations intern and founder of her own makeup line called Beauty Bliss Creations, all while balancing five classes at Miami Dade College.
A sophomore at North Campus, she will graduate with an associate’s in mass communications/journalism this spring semester and transfer to Florida International University to earn her bachelor’s in public relations.
Standing at five feet tall and weighing 100 pounds, the charismatic fashion lover has colored her natural chocolate brown hair around eight times, anywhere from pink and silver to ombre. It is currently blonde.
Perez doesn’t wear makeup every day. “I need my skin to breathe. Don’t get me wrong, when I get dressed up, I go all out. But when I go to school, I don’t have time in the morning,” she said.
At North Campus, she is the president of the Marketing and Communications Association (MCA). Perez aspires to become a publicist at HBO while practicing makeup on the side.
“I’m doing so many things at the same time to figure out what I want to do because I love makeup, [and] it might take me somewhere,” Perez said. “But truly PR is what I want to do. I like to leave every door open so if PR doesn’t work out, which I hope it does, I have makeup…I just plan on doing it always because it’s something I like to do on the side as a hobby. I just love doing it.”
Makeup wasn’t Perez’s first love. As a child, she had an inclination for acting and practiced with monologue books in front of the mirror. Using a microphone, she would act and sing around the house and make a show for her family.
Her parents arrived in Miami from Cuba in 1980. They were supportive of her ambition to become an actress. At age nine, Perez started taking acting classes and had an agent and manager the following year.
When she was 12, she moved to Los Angeles with her mother and sister, chasing more opportunities in her acting career. Her father stayed in Miami working in real estate and visited them at least once a month.
While in California, Perez participated in a few television commercials for companies like Chips Ahoy! and Disney. She was homeschooled in seventh and eighth grade and attended a performing arts school during her first two years of high school.
Perez moved back to Miami as she grew out of acting and her mother wanted her to have more of an educational experience. She completed 11th and 12th grade at Mater Academy Charter High School in Hialeah Gardens.
Back home, she didn’t continue pursuing acting, instead she maintained the YouTube makeup channel she had started in California in 2010.
Her very first videos were makeup tutorials for elementary and middle school students. Among those was a video titled “How To Be Popular in Middle School – Makeup and Hair” that has accumulated more than one million views. With this video, which was intended to be a joke, her channel started garnering subscribers.
Back then, Perez removed the lamp shade from her bedroom lamp to use it as her lighting. A stack of books acted as her tripod, on which she placed a small digital camera to film her videos.
Despite the poor image and audio quality, her channel continued growing at the same rate as her video repertoire. She uploaded videos on makeup product collections, outfits, makeup challenges, among other video ideas from trending beauty topics or what her subscribers suggested.
As of early December, her channel has 29,227 subscribers. The technical quality of her videos is now significantly enhanced—with a Softbox lighting set, a Canon EOS Rebel T3i and a Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II—and her makeup abilities have also expanded.
“I love the way she does makeup,” said Jocelyn Bello-Paez, a friend of Perez who also attends North Campus. “I’ve seen her grow because she’s done my makeup when she first started to how she is now and she’s definitely improved…she is willing to admit when she needs to work on something, when she needs to change something. She would do it, and it looks amazing.”
Perez has received both positive and negative comments on internet sites. Her subscribers are mainly from Miami and Los Angeles, although some are from countries across the world such as France and Australia. She has a strong social media presence, especially on Instagram, where she shares makeup looks and personal photos with her 19,600 followers.
Her growth has also manifested in the way she reacts to derogatory comments from web users. When she was younger, Perez would reply to these comments on YouTube. For the video that received more than one million views, she had to disable the comments because of all the negativity in the comments section.
“I realized that I can’t let people’s comments get to me because they don’t know my life. They don’t know me personally so why am I going to let them and their hate bring me down?” Perez said.
She has class on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Her courses for the fall are journalism, mass communications, nutrition, philosophy and mathematics for liberal arts. As the MCA president, she was key in organizing a Mix and Mingle event for students from all majors to learn how to market themselves and network.
Mostly on weekends, she works as a freelance makeup artist for a wedding makeup company called A Touch of Beauty by Lily. She also does makeup in her studio at her house for $55. Her audience is mainly high school girls for senior portraits, prom, homecoming dances and senior breakfast.
Twice a week, she works at a paid public relations internship in Fort Lauderdale for Allied Integrated Marketing, an agency working with clients like Sony, Paramount, FOX and major film studios to market their movies and target specific audiences in Florida. She also attends events like red carpets and press days throughout the week and brainstorms ideas and strategies for the agency.
“We both have very busy schedules…and we both find time and understand each other, that we are both very busy, so then we just appreciate the time that we have together,” said Hector Bibilonia, her boyfriend of two years and an aspiring dentist. “Every time I see her and how hard she works to get what she wants, it inspires me to do the same with what I want to do.”
This past September, Perez founded her own makeup line, Beauty Bliss Creations, selling handmade, homemade, cruelty-free, vegan highlighters and body oils through the website www.beautyblisscreations.com
Her single highlighters come in a 37-millimeter mirrored black compact in six different shades: Arabian Night, Champagne Mami, Cleopatra, Desert Sage, Golden Honey and White Diamond. A customizable trio and a Madness Limited Edition Trio consisting of the shades Havana Blue, Love Shack and Emerald are also available. Single compacts cost $14 while trios cost $34. The shimmering body oil, a golden hydrating oil packaged in a 4-ounce bottle, costs $18.
“I have to give her 100 percent credit because everything [in her makeup line] was done by her,” said her father, Fernando Perez. “This is a girl that at 18 years old, she doesn’t need to work because I provide everything. And she doesn’t stop, she’s very energetic, she’s doing everything on her own because she really wants to. There’s kids who have the potential and they do not achieve the potential, and she’s doing both, she has the potential and she’s getting everything out of it.”
A few months before initiating her business, Perez conducted extensive research to put together the right ingredients and techniques to make her products. The ingredients include mica, kaolin clay, jojoba oil and iron oxide, and she purchases them online. Her goal is to make high quality makeup products affordable.
Wearing a mask and gloves, she mixes and presses the ingredients to make the highlighters. Mixing only takes a few minutes while pressing takes three hours and drying takes up to a whole day. She works on her products based on requests. The price for shipping in the U.S. is $6, and it varies for international orders, oscillating between $10 to $18 depending on distance.
On some nights, she stays up until 3 a.m. working on her products. Perez said her arms and hands hurt at the end of the day from mixing as well as from blending shades while applying makeup, but she said the pain and sacrifices are worth it because this is what makes her happy.
Perez hopes to expand her brand with more glittering products such as liquid illuminators and different colors of pressed highlighters and creams.
“If you have an idea, the slightest idea, do it,” she said. “You never know what that could lead you to. When it came to my business, I thought it might not go anywhere. So if you think it’s not going to work or if you have any doubts just start it and see where it goes because what’s the worst that can happen, if it doesn’t work out at least you tried, and the fact that you tried is everything.”