08.01.15 | How To Serve

Andre Leon Talley proclaims, “It’s a Famine of Beauty, Honey!” in the behind-the-scenes Vogue documentary September Issue (2011). It’s a declaration I find myself repeating inside of my head as I flip through fashion magazines or scroll through my Instagram feed. Something peculiar is going on with beauty these days: everyone looks the same.

Maybe we have YouTube to blame. Everyone can become a master of blended foundation, a contouring queen, or highlighting guru in the comfort of their own bedroom after watching a handful of tutorials. Normal girls are becoming make-up artists, and more power to them, but I see little that moves me in terms of beauty inspiration from these vloggers. Where’s the Pat McGrath of YouTube? Diana Vreeland explained it best when she said ‘Too much good taste can be boring’. What’s the point in looking perfectly polished if you look like everyone else?

I’m endlessly inspired by Paris is Burning (1992), I even made a video in homage. Not in the sense that I aspire to beat my face like a drag queen, but in the way these amazingly creative minds approached their self-image and personal aesthetic. Every time I go out, I think about what look I’m serving– is it ’70s Bohemian Realness’ or ‘East coast School girl on winter break’? Then I think about how my hair and make-up can help create the effect. Beauty is only one part of the puzzle when it comes to your entire look and you have to use it to shape how others perceive us.

As a creative, you’re constantly molding your identity to a character (either real or imagined). I take this approach seriously before major events. I think about where I’ll be, how I’ll enter, what the mood will be. I’m usually lying in bed as I think through this the night before, so I close my eyes and imagine how I want the overall effect to be. For example, if I’m going to a gallery opening and want to be perceived as the contemplative intellectual, I know this isn’t the time for a bronzy glow and lacquered lips. I’ll decide on the clothes first: unstructured, swaths of black fabric (probably Yohji or Commes des Garcons) and then the makeup has to help unify the vision. I’ll create an overall matte effect with a translucent powder, define my brows and wear a nude lip for a look that says ‘I spend my time on culture not cosmetics’. Of course this is only one look out of many possibilities. Below see three roles you can slip into:

  1. Femme Fatale 40s Realness

Best for: Evenings that call for intimidation
Body: wide leg pant or pencil skirt, structured blazer, flash of skin
Beauty: A winged eyeliner, super matte blood red lipstick and false lashes at the corners of the eye. Hair should be swept off the face but covering one eye with a bang is equally alluring.

  1. Studio 54 Glamour Girl Realness

Best for: Your own party, late nights where trouble will surely ensure
Body: Low cut/halter neck, bell sleeves, fringe anything
Beauty: Smoldering smoky eye, silver or gold shimmer on the cheek and brow bone, big voluminous, untamed hair.

  1. 90s Minimal Supermodel Realness

Best For: When you want to look perfect and effortless
Body: Jeans, fitted white tee and a classic pump
Beauty: extra smooth skin (exfoliate with a tablespoon of sugar and honey before washing face), peach or rose blush on apples of the cheeks, nude matte lip, 5 coats of mascara, white eyeliner on waterline, beauty mark a la Cindy Crawford, courtesy of any good dark liquid liner

As you decide your next look think of it as a role you’ll cast yourself in: get inspiration photos, use beauty to transform yourself and then play the part.

This essay originally appeared on the super-dope