When a job was advertised on the AS Coopers cosmetics floor, Christoper Vee knew he had to apply.
It was 2005. He had met his Bermudian husband Joe Gibbons in Toronto and this was their chance to live in the same country.
But work permits come with limitations. When his came up for renewal in 2014, it wasn’t enough that they had wed in November.
As it turned out, the timing was perfect. Action was then brought by the Bermuda Bred Company against the Minister of Home Affairs and the Attorney-General. It resulted in the landmark ruling that same-sex partners of Bermudians should have the same rights to reside and seek employment as spouses of heterosexual Bermudians.
“I was really glad that it did come along when it came along,” Mr Vee said.
“They helped open the door by winning the case.”
Because of the freedom the ruling brought, he’s been able to build his 20 years as a professional make-up artist into a business here. “Joe and I had been together for ten years at that point. It was unfair that there were heterosexual couples, regardless of when they met and got married, that they could enter and leave no problem.
“I wasn’t angry, I was just frustrated that we didn’t have the same rights.
“Same-sex couples or couples in a long-term relationship do not need work permits and I think that’s a huge step for Bermuda and a very positive one, and I’m really grateful for that and grateful to them for doing that.”
A loyal roster of clients supported his business, Christopher Vee Make-Up.
Last year, he was named the island’s best make-up artist by The Bermudian magazine.
“To be appreciated for it was cool because I don’t go seeking that. I do my work for me. I don’t like being in the limelight — I actually hate it,” he laughed.
“Winning that was really nice and that actually led to a lot more people and clients coming to me.”
Fortune came knocking when he got a call “out of the blue” from Babymoon producer Brooke Burfitt, inviting him to work on the film.
“She saw my website; she loved my work and asked me if I wanted to be the key make-up artist for this production.”
He described the four weeks of shooting as “very intense”.
“[We worked] 12 to 13 hour days, but it was so much fun — an incredible Bermuda crew. I was nervous, I can’t lie. I’d never done a film before.
“You kind of take it in your stride and say, well, I know how to do make-up, I understand what they need and want. Everything’s got to be matte, nothing glossy, nothing shiny. Okay. I’ve got this.”
His early career took off quickly with the support of British fashion designer Patricia McDonagh, an early advocate of supermodel Twiggy and costume designer for The Beatles.
It was soon marred by “catty” behaviour, which he found counterproductive.
“There were a lot of other gay make-up artists who were all so competitive and mean and that’s just not me.
“I started to get insecure because of the way they were and so I got out of the industry for a couple of years.”
Three years of merchandising with the Toronto production of Disney’s The Lion King followed.
“That helped shape me and change me again. It gave me more confidence.”
He said that the collaborative support is why he loves the young industry here. “I’m very Bermuda positive. My website is full of Bermuda models and local designers.
“That is to keep my hand in things, but also to help support younger talent on this island. It’s really important.”
“It’s all freebie, but there’s that thrill of knowing that you’re contributing to a greater picture.”
• Learn more on christopherveemakeup.com
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