Artist Rezah Sampson on creativity and speaking up
Rezah Sampson has been an online personality for years. He has used the space to start conversations around social issues, especially within the queer commuity. Music used to be his creative outlet until Sampson discovered make-up artistry. The Daily Vox spoke to Sampson about his journey and what the future holds.
Sampson found a Casio keyboard in his father’s garage when he was around seven or eight years old. He used to sneak it into his room to play. Growing up Muslim, it wasn’t acceptable to be a musician Those things were seen as extravagant in Islam. His mother “caught” him playing an old Carpenter’s song, and realised immediately he had talent.
“I played by ear and I took music lessons throughout school. I’d delved into jazz piano in my final years of high school. I got an audition at the University of Cape Town and studied jazz performance,” said Sampson.
He joined a band with his high school friends. He also played in a band called the Pedestrians with another local artist Jarrad Ricketts. They toured all over Cape Town, performed on cruise ships and the Standard Bank Jazz Festival.
“Eventually all bands break up,” said Sampson. He went solo for a while and slowly left music around 2015/2016. He said not being in a band anymore was bittersweet but that eventually everyone has to move on. His mother got into an accident so he had to prioritise her care.
Sampson said he transitioned into working environments that did not stimulate his creativity. He felt he lost his creativity and stayed under the radar for a while. He found his creativity again the minute he picked up a friend’s makeup brush and make-up palette. Sampson started experimenting with make-up in 2018, but really upped the ante during the lockdown of 2020. He always saw make-up as art.
“When I stopped with music I had no creative outlet. I remembered that anything artistic can be an outlet. Picking up that make-up brush was muscle memory. Even though it’s not music on a page, my face became my canvas,” said Sampson.
The Beauty Industry
Sampson had a lonely road breaking into the industry. He had to find a community to support and be supported by. Often Sampson would email big make-up brands for collaborations. He would get answers back like “grow your followers on Instagram”, or “get more engagement”. Once he hit certain numbers, they started taking note and partnering with him to create content. Sampson does not do freelance make-up artistry, and prefers to create art for himself and by himself.
“There has never really been a community for a Coloured boy that is in between feminine and masculine presenting, to just put on makeup. I don’t fit exclusively into these identities. I am not bound by it,” he said.
Sampson had been creating and sharing memes about his daily life and thoughts for years. The 26-year-old did this when he was much younger. He received lots of criticism and felt he wasn’t mature enough to handle backlash then. He said it mostly came from his community; the queer community.
“Lots of people think I am an influencer but I’m not. I have never had to call myself that to know that I have influence. From a very early start in my online career, I spoke about things that mattered. If it meant something to me, I was gonna speak up on it,” said Sampson.
Sampson has tackled issues in the queer community like desirability politics. He has discussed how he navigated life and its challenges. Sampson has also spoken about topics that seemed uncomfortable for people but were thought-provoking. He speaks from a place of his convictions and morals. He said he never had to speak from a platform as just a Muslim, or a queer man. The more Sampson shared about his lived experiences, so his engagement and followers grew.
“I think this is what an influencer should be. To evoke thought and stimulate conversations around our truths, be it comfortable or not,” he said.
Sampson explained how important it is to have community. He has had many people reach out to him to thank him for expressing himself. People are resonating with his work, and this has been the type of engagement he strives for.
“I have had people reach out to me saying they relate to me so much. That is really rewarding.
People tell me they are proud of me speaking about being gay and not being scared like they are,” he said.
“Facing yourself is important. Stay creative and always be mindful of your mental health. Creativity gives you a purpose too. Find it, working on it and believe in yourself,” Sampson said.