The Jakarta Post
Celebrity makeup artist Bennu Sorumba’s new biography, titled Sleeping Beauty: The Story of Bennu Sorumba, is hard evidence that the profession proves to be a promising one — though not without sacrifice. (Shutterstock/File)
Celebrity makeup artist Bennu Sorumba’s new biography, titled Sleeping Beauty: The Story of Bennu Sorumba, is hard evidence that the profession proves to be a promising one — though not without sacrifice.
The book, published by Elex Media Komputindo, is authored by Surat Kecil Untuk Tuhan (A Small Letter for God) writer Agnes Devonar. It documents Sorumba’s humble beginnings and struggles on his journey to success. It’s simply entertaining, packed and hopeful.
“He’s told me many of his stories plenty of times, but I keep on asking him to repeat them,” says pop singer Rossa’s manager, Gema Sakti. “So I suggested they be written down in a book.”
Sorumba, who originally hails from Kendari in Southeast Sulawesi, came to Jakarta in 1999, at just 17 years of age.
“I had no money,” Sorumba said.
“At one point I was living next to the railway line. When a train passed by, the ground would shake me out of my sleep. Those were restless times.”
Becoming a makeup artist wasn’t the first thing on his mind — Sorumba is self-taught.
“I observed the transgender community in Sulawesi. Makeup is part of their daily lives. When I arrived in Jakarta, I picked it up and realised it wasn’t such a taboo,” Sorumba recounted.
“He actually wanted to be a performer,” reveals Key Mangunsong, a sinetron director (Indonesian soap opera) who Sorumba credits as his guardian angel.
“He persistently called Indosiar [television station], where I was working, so I finally took his call. It’s that determination that got him booked as an extra, and later he became an in-house makeup artist.”
The gig opened doors — now his list of celebrity clients includes pop stars Krisdayanti, Titi DJ and Rossa.
Customer testimonial: President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s daughter Kahiyang Ayu (left) and makeup artist Bennu Sorumba launch Bennu’s book, Sleeping Beauty: The Story of Bennu Sorumba, at the Gramedia Pondok Indah Mall, South Jakarta, on March 5. (Bennu Sorumba Team/File)
With tales of working all day, a fairy godmother figure and the magic of makeover, Sorumba’s story sounds like Cinderella’s, then why is the book titled Sleeping Beauty?
“He actually suggested ‘Cinderella without Glass Slippers’ initially, but ‘Sleeping Beauty’ made more sense with his belief and story that makeup can awaken the beauty in everyone,” adds Devonar.
Sorumba occasionally posts his signature bold looks on various stars, and occasional before-and-after pieces of non-celebrities, on his Instagram account. It currently has 491,000 followers, making him one of the top artists on the platform. Recently, he went viral after glamming up President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s daughter Kahiyang Ayu as a Javanese bride for his book.
Ayu attended a launch event held at the Gramedia Pondok Indah Mall to support the 35-year-old artist.
“He refuses to give up — it’s truly inspiring. Bennu reached out to me via Instagram’s direct message, but I didn’t immediately answer,” Ayu said.
With social media, makeup artists today have garnered incredible reach, recognition and credibility. While that seems to be expected today, it wasn’t always the case.
“Before all this technology existed, we had to work harder to promote ourselves. We did magazines for free just to get our names printed in the credits,” explained Bennu.
“But in this digital era, it has become easier. Some of my students who took private lessons can immediately break into the industry with a competitive fee, just by attending five classes three months earlier.”
However, when it comes to the generation of ideas, Sorumba explains the impact of the internet.
“To have a signature is hard nowadays. I could do something today and someone else can capture it the next day and claim to own it. We can’t refute that, because the laws don’t exist. I can’t say anyone is original because of that, but you can tell who is inventive.”
Despite his success, it’s clear that Sorumba’s motivation remains the same since the beginning of his career: to support his beloved mother, to whom this book is dedicated.
The proceeds of the book’s sales will go to charities in his hometown and toward makeup training programs at women’s prisons nationwide.