Celebrating Black Excellence: Tshenolo Mmono

Tshenolo (he/him; they/them) is a driven International Relations and Economics student by day and talented make-up artist by night. Hailing from Gaborone Botswana, Tshenolo has grown up an avid learner and creative, navigating mediums like photography, painting, and makeup all while remaining a keen UBC student. 


Yet Tshenolo shared that their self-expression was not always what it is today, stating “being assigned male at birth I was not expected to want to play with makeup.” Despite various social norms and expectations Tshenolo remember a time at age 14 stating “I wanted to wear lipstick, do my eyebrows, and apply eyeshadow, so I just did.” They recalled the baby steps taken on their early makeup journey, first starting out with tinted lip balm and working their way up to the full-blown LOOKS we can see on their instagram today.


Tshenolo shared sincere gratitude for the ability to feel safe during experimentation with makeup at a young age stating that “I know that there are so many people around the world who would feel completely unsafe.” Such a reality inspired Tshenolo even more, to continue to push the rigid boundaries of gender and makeup that have long restricted people from expressing their true selves. 


When I asked Tshenolo thier favorite look they pointed me towards a breathtaking blended electric blue eye look on their Instagram page. However, the look was not only viewable stunning, but an expression of Tshenolo’s state of mind at the time.  They described that they were then experiencing a dark point in their life. Yet with the makeup, Tshenolo described “I could look in the mirror and see some brightness, even though I was at a low.”


Beyond makeup, Tshenolo advocates for unapologetically going for what you want. This was made apparent in making the difficult decision to switch from majoring in Economics to International Relations after being unhappy in their education. Tshenolo, shared difficult experiences navigating expectations of success as a university student, eager to find a balance between individual agency and finding your place in society.


Despite anxieties over what the future may hold, Tshenolo emphasized the importance of “taking inventory on past achievements,” and always remembering to “trust the process.” In giving advice to those pursuing new crafts, they stated “underestimating yourself is one of the biggest barriers to growth” emphasizing the importance of believing in yourself and your individual craft.


In the future, Tshenolo has an aspiration of creating a youtube channel to share their makeup journey with a wider audience. In the meantime, Tshenolo will continue to express their creativity through makeup and photography amongst friends and colleagues while inspiring many others to do the same.

– Lilly Callender