Mariam doing make up on a lady

Mariam’s story

After arriving in the UK from Sudan, Mariam has gained the confidence to pursue her dream of becoming a fantasy makeup artist. Listen to her story and watch her work on a fantasy makeup look.



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In Sudan I had no education or employment. I arrived in the UK in 2019, and I couldn’t speak English. I wanted to learn but it was lockdown – like everyone else, I went to the supermarket and back home, that was it.

It took one and a half years for my asylum application to be granted. In 2021 I also started to learn English, but it took a lot of practice. I remember the first time I took a bus I asked for a ticket for a ‘human’ because I couldn’t remember any other words!

I was homeless for a while. Then I started working as a cleaner for a year, then as housekeeper a year later, but the work environment was so bad that it was affecting my health and my mental health. When my support worker mentioned Breaking Barriers I applied for support straight away.

I am independent. I like to work, I don’t want to just be sitting down. I told Reem, my Employment Advisor, that I wanted another job but I didn’t know what I could do. She asked me, ‘what are you looking for in your future, in education and work?’ I said that I would like to become a make-up artist, specialising in fantasy make-up. I like to be creative, and I see beauty in everyone.

I had been looking at how to do this for two years but every door seemed locked and I didn’t have any connections or friends to help. Reem helped me to find a college course, and I’ve just finished my first year in beauty. I’ve also applied for a Breaking Barriers grant to help fund a make-up course.

Reem helped me to find a functional English skills course. She introduced me to another charity, Host Nation, who helped me to find some friends. She also helped me with my CV and interview skills so that I can work while I study.

It’s not easy to have a dream and to follow it. But Reem guides me every step I take. When I say to you ‘I am doing amazing’, I wasn’t like that before. Reem turned my darkness to a bright light. Now I’m living every day and I’m glad to be alive.

*Not her real name

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