Meagababy, aka Meagan Leonard Martinez was encouraged by her parents since birth to embrace her creative side. She flexes her creative muscle in various mediums, from stunning full on body makeup to sugar skull art to creating voodoo dolls and special jewelry.
A combination of her art and interest in cemeteries, combined with a personal search led her to Gretna’s historic Hook and Ladder Cemetery that dates back to 1859.
Meagan Martinez had already established herself as a multi-faceted artist, specializing in body makeup art when she discovered a new hobby of hiding her art.
“I started painting rocks in 2016 when I was a stay at home mom with my two-year-old son, Noah. We started out hiding 20 to 30 painted rocks in Lafreniere Park every week. I heard about something called The Nola Treasure Hunt on Instagram, #nolatreasurehunt. It is exactly what it sounds like, a group of people who hide their miniature art around New Orleans and post hints online for Instagram users to find. Noah and I joined the free art movement,” Meagan said.
“The purpose is to spread joy and give back to our community through art. I personally like to hide my art near dilapidated graves in cemeteries throughout the New Orleans area, Hook and Ladder being a favorite spot. I like to find graves that look like they haven’t been visited in a long time, where the inhabitants may have been long forgotten. I leave my art there. That way not only do I visit, but so does the person who retrieves my art.
“Hook and Ladder is very personal for me because my great grandmother on my mother’s side, Eva Vidonne is buried there. I walk the cemetery in hopes of stumbling across her grave. I haven’t found her yet.
“I hide the clay art, painted rocks, mini canvas art and jewelry that I make, and also sell. I hide all of the different types of small pieces that I create, not just in the cemeteries, my favorite spots, but in other places all over, from the Westbank to Kenner, Nola and everywhere in between.
“Honoring the dead and their memory is a wonderful tradition. Nothing is more peaceful than walking in one of our gorgeous cemeteries on a Saturday morning. We hide our art because we want to make people smile, to bring joy to the community and to give back. On Instagram the hashtags are #jeffersonparishhides or #nolatreasurehunt to see clues where we hide our art. There are directions on how to claim the art included with each piece if you are successful on your hunt. We ask that you comment “found” on the post and send the artist a smile, “a selfie.”
Born and raised in Marrero, after graduating from Immaculata High School in 2002, Meagan studied art at Our Lady of Holy Cross College under the very talented artist, Carol Scott. In her glory of creating, Meagan soon switched from painting canvas to painting people.
When she was 19, the World Trade Center purchased one of her earlier paintings for their personal collection. It was a Purchase Award type contest where she was chosen amid all the other artists.
During a summer college break, she was the sign painter at Jelly Stone Campground in Robert, Louisiana where she refurbished old signs and created new ones.
“I started doing makeup out of the drag queen dressing room at the Golden Lantern Bar on Royal Street where they still have my poster up, or so I’ve heard. The dressing room had doors open to the street so it was like a tiny shop. My assistant was my dog, Colby who passed away in 2018 at 16. Colby was French Quarter famous, always dressed to impress and wearing sunglasses. The tour guides would bring people by to see him,” she said.
A self-taught makeup artist, she was in the industry since 2007. By 2011, she founded her first artistic venture, Meagababy Makeup. The name was a natural, a lifelong nickname given to her by her paternal grandfather, Earl “Wimpy” Leonard.
It was exciting for her and she knew she was on the right track when she was interviewed by WGNO TV’s “News with a Twist” in 2013 and did a live Mardi Gras mask makeup application.
“As a New Orleans Sugar Skull Specialist, I create Day of the Dead sugar skull makeup. I believe in honoring the dead and love the traditions of “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead), a tradition started as a Mexican celebration of loved ones that have passed, similar to the Roman Catholic holiday, “All Soul’s Day,” Meagan said.
Sugar skulls represent a departed soul with the name written on the forehead and placed on the gravestone to honor the return of a certain spirit. Sugar skull art reflects the folk art style of big happy smiles, colorful icing and sparkly tin and glittery adornments.
“I love putting smiles on people’s faces, just as I love learning about new cultures and other religions and beliefs. Not only do I do Day of the Dead style art, but I’m becoming popular for my Voodoo dolls as well. My friends and family call me the Halloween Queen.
“Some of my more popular pieces include sugar dolls, night-mares, suga-bats, trolls, grumpy groundlings, torn up teddy bears and quarter rats. These are small clay critters, often depicting its personality.
Before branching out on her own with Meagababy Makeup, she worked for four years as the head of the makeup department for both the Mortuary Haunted House and Santa’s Secret Workshop on Canal Street. She loves all things art and animals. Being a firm believer in giving back to her community she helps the LASPCA raise money by working the Dog Day Afternoon every year and donating 100% of the proceeds to shelter pets.
She face painted for the Krewe of Kuties parade in Gretna and worked at kids’ festivals and raised money for a Freedom Movement charity which encourages children interested in the arts.
Big hearted and generous, Meagan has also devoted her time and talent to other organizations like Monster Truck Jam, City Park Amusements, Nacho Mama’s, Nola Kids Expo, Crime Stoppers, The Moxy Hotel and The Blake Hotel.
Raised in Marrero by her parents Dennis and Katherine Leonard, she resides in Kenner with her husband, Andro Martinez and their two children Noah and Levi.
If you are looking for a well-rounded happy artist, Meagababy is your girl, from low key beauty to full on body paint she’s got you covered. Her colorful personality, including blue hair at the moment makes her wonderful to work with on all projects.
Call 504.875.6709 or email: Meagababymakeup@yahoo.com to meet the artist in person and perhaps choose, among her many talents to be transformed into a walking work of art. As she says, “It’s not just Makeup, its ART!”
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