“Songshine was a kind of miracle. I was lucky enough to be part of making it happen.” — Gillian Moor
Chemotherapy can help save a cancer patient’s life, but it can also wreak havoc on their appearance. Arima-based make-up artist Nefa Coryat has been helping cancer patients look and feel beautiful by adding her special touch when applying make-up to their faces, airbrushing strands of hair on heads due to hair loss, and defining eyebrows using a brush-on gel. This helps the patients to build self-esteem and confidence while battling with the deadly disease.
In 2013, unknowing to her, Coryat stumbled upon her first client with cancer while pursuing her graphic arts degree at the School of Business and Computer Science in Champs Fleurs. Something drew Coryat, 25, to Sarah, 32, who studied business management. “We just became connected. It was as if fate brought us together,” Coryat recalled. As their friendship grew, Coryat said, so did Sarah’s cancer, which she kept a secret from Coryat.
“Sarah never discussed her personal life and her cancer,” Coryat said. “I too never mentioned to Sarah that I had a passion for beautifying faces, produced an organic line of make-up called Nefy and addressed specific skins needs,” Coryat recalled. Coryat was also importing a chemical-free, mineral-based makeup, approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the past three years from Oakland, which she used to perfect her skills.
That too she kept a secret from Sarah. “We hid things from each other,” said Coryat. The two went separate ways and led separate lives as the years passed. It was while browsing through Facebook, Sarah unearthed Coryat’s artistic talent and made an appointment to have her face professionally done at her studio. “Sarah came to me saying that she wanted to look special because she had a function to attend. It was while applying make-up on Sarah’s face she broke down and told me she had breast cancer and did not have long to live.
The news shattered my heart to pieces,” Coryat said, her voice dropping as she spoke. Realising that Sarah did not have very long to live, Coryat said she put her all into making Sarah look beautiful and help rebuild her confidence. “Whenever she had a function to attend she used to come by to get her face professionally done. I just wanted Sarah to feel special and have confidence in herself,” Coryat explained. When Sarah started losing the hair on her head and eyebrows from frequent chemotherapy treatment, she approached Coryat with an unusual request.
“The chemotherapy changed Sarah’s skin and its colour so I experimented with colours for foundations, powders, blush and eyeshadows to make Sarah look natural, yet make her feel attractive from the inside out. The hair in front of her head had fallen off due to radiation and she wanted me to airbrush a few strands along the hairline using a special type of make-up to blend in with her hair to make it look natural,” Coryat said Coryat also filled in Sarah’s shedding eyebrow with a special gel to define its shape.
“It took a lot of time and patience to do everything but when I was done, it brought her to tears. She could not believe the change...her new look. She looked absolutely radiant and stunning for her function.” After the function, Coryat said Sarah thanked her for making her look and feel special. “I never heard from her again. She stopped answering her phone. Probably that’s when she took a turn for the worse.”
Not long after, Coryat heard that Sarah had died. “I didn’t even know she had gone to meet her Maker. A friend called me and broke the news. I felt as if a tonne of bricks had collapsed on me. Sarah brought out a lot of creativity in me which I didn’t know I had,” Coryat said, trying hard to contain her tears Since then, Coryat, a former kickboxer and “Carib girl’,” has been honing her skills and using that creativity to help other cancer patients.
Two women who suffered with breast cancer also sought Coryat’s skilful hands to enhance their appearances. A fourth cancer patient, who refused to say what type of cancer she was battling, also became Coryat’s client. As Coryat tried to come to terms with Sarah’s death, she was faced with another blow—her younger sister, Nirvana, 16, died. Coryat was shattered by her sister’s death since they shared a very close relationship.
In the last two years, Coryat said she has been faced with many challenges. “In life many unexpected things will come your way. It all depends on how you deal with them. In the last two years, it has not been easy dealing with the loss of two people who were dear to my heart. I have only just started to bounce back from the deaths.” Last year, Coryat introduced a signature make-up palette in memory of Nirvana.