Welcome to Artist Spotlight #39 series on my blog.
There are few makeup bags that haven’t, at some point, been graced by a Bobbi Brown product. A brand that puts making women feel (as well as look) good at its core, 16th of January marked the 30th anniversary of its inception. To celebrate such a lengthy time in the beauty industry, the brand has, excitingly, appointed makeup artist Hannah Murray as global artistic director.
“Bobbi Brown is a brand I’ve loved since I started as a makeup artist,” Murray tells Vogue over the phone. “It’s such a well-loved global brand, and we have very similar philosophies regarding embracing natural beauty and individuality, as well as empowering women. These are things I’ve been championing for a while so it feels like a very natural fit.” Take a peek at Murray’s Instagram page, and you’ll see image after image of luminous skin, playful details around the eyes and bold brows on models and celebrities alike. Her makeup is real, fresh, and a far cry from the heavy contouring and airbrushed skin that have become popular in the last few years.
All of which makes her an excellent fit at a brand known for its feature-enhancing (rather than covering) products, where she will be overseeing everything from the fashion shows Bobbi Brown sponsors and campaigns, to education and product development. She has had experience with the latter before, having worked on the (rather brilliant) Topshop beauty line when it launched in 2011.
“I’m essentially going to be the visual voice of the brand, and I think with everything that’s been happening in the world, it’s a really pivotal moment to see things with fresh eyes and build on Bobbi Brown’s heritage,” she says. “I’ve lived in New York for the last 10 years, and before that in London, and I very much understand both the American aesthetic and the European sensibility and aesthetic too – it will be interesting to see that merge, something I think will give the brand a freshness, too.” When it comes to new products, we can expect some “innovation, excitement and fun”.
Though she isn’t, like many of us, forced to sit on Zoom all day, Murray is keenly aware of the “giving, giving, giving” that is endless, exhausting meetings, and believes in the power of beauty – whether that’s pampering your skin or applying some mascara – to uplift a mood. “There’s something ritualistic about [skincare and makeup]. Just like fresh air and eating well, having five to 10 minutes to yourself to cleanse, put a mask on, massage your skin is so healing. I have a three-year-old boy, so grabbing those moments is grounding. We all need to take care of ourselves and have a bit of me time.”
As for the beauty trends she expects to be big this year? Here she shares three of her key predictions.
“Instead of applying 10 products just to walk out of the door [like we used to], it’s now about feeding your skin and making it feel fresh and juicy and plump and alive. That’s a feeling thing, as well as being about how you look, and it’s using texture rather than product. You can layer on balms – I often dab Bobbi Brown’s gorgeous Lip Balm on cheekbones as it really makes skin look alive, like spa-fresh skin.”
“I’m hoping we’ve moved on from baking and cut creases – I want to see skin, feel it, and let it breathe. Another of my favourite products is the Bobbi Brown Extra Illuminating Moisture Balm, which is a lightweight moisturiser that imparts a subtle pearlescent finish for a “flawless, hyper-real skin effect”.
“I think everyone now wants to look healthy, like they’ve been outdoors and not stuck indoors for three months! I’m thinking the beauty of a real flushed cheek and freckles.” Try the brand’s Pot Rouge, a buttery-soft cream blush which melts into skin seamlessly for a natural finish.
“Take cues from the ’90s and apply eyeliner to your waterline to tight-line around the eye. It gives a bit of definition but it’s not laboured over. Makeup should do the work for you, you want to wear products that are smart, easy to use and that work well for you.”
This squalane-based balm not only nourishes dry under-eyes, but it also is packed with concentrated encapsulated retinol (which is more gentle on the sensitives skin region) to smooth the look of fine lines.
From the brand’s first foray into the curly hair category, this cloud-like cream — designed for type 4A, 4B and 4C coils — gives game-changing definition. It also contains a Healthy Curl Complex, which provides a protective, strengthening barrier around each strand.
Besides looking oh-so gorgeous on your vanity, this pretty pink potion really does pack a punch. The eco-conscious brand (this packaging is 100% recyclable through Terracycle) partnered with Harvard University to develop a patent-pending booster that’s proven to pump up your skin’s natural production of hyaluronic acid and collagen.
What’s left to say about the year 2020 that hasn’t already been said? These past 12 months may have tested humanity and the planet and every institution on it in ways most of us could never have fathomed — but even in the bad, weird, living nightmare times, the beauty industry did not quit.
Despite the odds, the economic downturns, the flailing retail structure, the unstable political climate, the sheer number of times the word “unprecedented” was uttered, beauty charged on. After all, there were game-changing formulas, groundbreaking technology and conversation-shifting campaigns to bring to market.
And so, as we look back at 2020 (and slowly but surely claw our way out of it), industry experts — ranging from dermatologists to Insta-famous makeup artists to beauty editors — identified some of the most noteworthy beauty launches of the year.
It was a big year for celebrity beauty, and a handful of star-backed brands had an impressive showing on this list, with multiple experts highlighting their superiority or buzz-worthiness amidst a sea of so many other celebrity lines. Skin care also reigned supreme, particularly as so many of us spent a record-breaking amount of time at home, staring at our own faces during Zoom calls. And perhaps most promisingly, brands that emphasized inclusivity — by serving marginalized and too-often underserved communities, by bringing all genders into the beauty conversation, by broadening the definition of what “good” skin can look like — were a welcome addition to 2020.
“Biden Beauty is an initiative that was near and dear to my heart because Very Good Light was behind it. It was a small idea that became a reality and was really amazing to see it thrive. We wanted to support the 2020 elections — arguably the most important of our lifetimes — and engage Gen Z and the beauty community to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. To do this, we [sold] a beauty sponge by the name of the Biden Beat from a beauty brand called Biden Beauty. We ended up selling one sponge every 60 seconds and it was probably the most meaningful initiative I’ve been a part of.” —David Yi, Founder and CEO, Very Good Light
“We don’t include men enough in conversations on skin care. Although Humanrace was created for all genders, [it’s] exciting to have a man at the forefront of the push to normalize skin care beyond just facial hair grooming. I love that the brand is guided by the expert input of his dermatologist with carefully selected science backed ingredients and prioritizes exfoliation and hydration as part of its simple three step routine.” —Dr. Adeline Kikam, Board-certified Dermatologist and Founder, @BrownSkinDerm
“[I] particularly [like] the Humidifying Cream. I wasn’t expecting to be floored by this product, but it’s honestly one of the best moisturizers I’ve ever used. I think we’re all a little burnt out when it comes to celebrity beauty launches — especially this year — but it seems like Pharrell actually put a lot of time and care into this one. He was thoughtful with his collection, from adding braille to the packaging to working with the brilliant Dr. Elena Jones to create simple and clean, but effective formulations, and I definitely appreciate it.” —Kayla Greaves, Senior Beauty Editor, InStyle
“Many men are not as passionate about skin care as they should be. And [Pharrell] is Benjamin Button! He’s pushing 50 and looks arguably 20-30 years younger. It’s about time he shares his secret to the fountain of youth.” —Ron Robinson, cosmetic chemist and Founder, BeautyStat
“Humanrace was a late entry this year, but made a lot of noise upon release. Although it’s a small launch it has the potential to attract a whole new audience to the skincare industry. It’s exciting to see.” — Saleam T. Singleton, men’s beauty advocate and contributing writer for Byrdie and AskMen
“I think Pharrell Williams’ Humanrace debut was incredibly successful and highly anticipated. The man is practically a vampire and for years we’ve been dying to know (beyond the fact he has melanin on his side) how he continues to look like he’s in his 20s. Not only is it a simple system of just three products, but it’s also eco-friendly. Wins all around!” —Julee Wilson, Beauty Director, Cosmopolitan
TATCHA THE SERUM STICK
“I’m already a loyal fan of the entire dewy skin collection, but the stick is like Chapstick for the face and perfect for the random seasonal dry spots. I also use it as a highlighter in makeup applications when I’m looking for a shine without any pearl. Being a hands-free application and a multitasking product, it feels like a true hero of the year.” — Shayna Goldberg, makeup artist and consultant at The Wall Group
KOSAS REVEALER CONCEALER
“This concealer-meets-eye-cream has enough coverage to work on the toughest spots, but is flexible enough that the 16 shades work for every one of my clients all wrapped up in a dreamy formula.” —Tony Tulve, freelance makeup artist
“Patrick Starrr’s One/Size truly brought some new, better and different to the market. Yes, it was makeup, but it was gender-neutral makeup and represented a new breed of founder at Sephora. Patrick is unabashedly himself and wants others to be as well, which is so needed in an industry that’s striving to be inclusive but not quite there.” —Priya Rao, Executive Editor, Glossy and host, “Glossy Beauty” and “Unfair” podcasts
“It seemed like the world stopped when Rihanna came out with her skin-care line. Everyone either had already tried it, wanted to try it or was watching YouTube videos of people trying and reviewing it. It’s so revolutionary for the simple fact that it’s Rihanna, a well-known Black woman, showing that you can [create a] business that feels true to you.” —Ali, beauty model, creator and makeup artist at @SweetMutuals
“I haven’t tried any of the products myself, but many of the reviews I’ve seen have been more lukewarm than I would have expected. Much of the trepidation from the online skin-care community came from the use of fragrance in the Fenty Skin products. This product launch ignited a wide-ranging debate about the function of fragrance in skin care and whether the fears surrounding it are warranted. While most consumers probably have no idea about the debate around fragrance, I think there are a few lessons to be learned here: First, skin-care hobbyists can be extremely discerning, and not even someone as universally adored as Rihanna may not be immune to their criticism. Second, for the many celebrity skin-care launches that followed it (we’ve already seen entries from Pharrell and Jennifer Lopez this year), we can expect even more criticism as these people are seen as outsiders with little experience by the industry.” — Dr. Angelo Landriscina, board-certified ermatologist in New York City, @DermAngelo
“Fenty Skin broke barriers when it came to promoting sun protection for darker skin tones. The brand messaging is very inclusive, showing that skin care is for everyone.” —Tiara Willis, esthetician and influencer, @MakeupforWomenofColor
“Fenty Skin was for sure the most talked-about, most debated, most anticipated launch of the year, mainly because of innovation (Fat Water and the idea of the toner essence), effectively speaking to young, Black consumers about the importance of SPF and because of ingredient discussions on witch hazel and fragrance.” —Dr. Ranella Hirsch, Board-certified dermatologist in Boston
“[Selena Gomez] entered the already crowded celebrity-with-a-beauty-brand space, but gave it purpose in 2020. It’s so refreshing to have a brand centered around giving back to the community Gomez herself is part of with the Rare Impact Fund. Everyone at Elle has been obsessed with the products to the point where we won’t shut up about them. To more inclusive and transparent brands with a mental health impact in 2021!” —Chloe Hall, Beauty Director, Elle.com
“Rare Beauty was the most exciting launch for me, mostly because it felt genuine. Celebrity brands will always make headlines, but not all launches are up to snuff. But the team managed to carve out a unique space for themselves while creating a great lineup of staple products. It was a cohesive launch with purpose. I respect the brand for creating the Rare Impact Fund, which promises to donate $100M over the course of 10 years, starting with 1% from Rare’s first year of sales. As someone who’s often pitched new brands and products on a daily basis, it’s important for me to see that this celebrity-faced brand has a long-term vision.” —Kirbie Johnson, content creator and Co-host, “Gloss Angeles” podcast
“When Selena launched Rare Beauty, it was clear that she really took her time to build this brand. The product formulations are innovative (that Lip Soufflé is so good!), the packaging is gorgeous and most impressive was Rare Beauty’s commitment to being a mission-driven brand. While I’m hoping fewer celebrities feel the need to launch their own beauty brands in the future, I do hope that those who do take note from Selena.” —Sara Tan, beauty editor and Co-host, “Gloss Angeles” podcast
SUPREME X PAT MCGRATH LIPSTICK
“This was Supreme’s first foray into makeup in its 26-year history, and the Pat McGrath Labs brand was the perfect co-conspirator. Streetwear is supposed to be about breaking the rules and foraging new paths; McGrath has done both her entire career. I think there are a lot of lessons the beauty world can learn from the streetwear space from both a marketing and storytelling perspective, and visa versa. So much so, I once wrote about it earlier this year. I’m interested to see how else these worlds may dance together.” —Darian Harvin, Beauty Reporter, Beauty IRL
TATCHA THE LIQUID SILK CANVAS PRIMER
“I’m always looking for products that can retain longevity and stretch makeup to new boundaries through intense color payoff or innovative formulas. Tatcha’s launch of Liquid Silk Canvas Primer in the spring of 2020 was the [brand’s] first bridge product integrating innovative skin-care ingredients into makeup. This product became the makeup magnet of the year locking down whatever you put on top of it.” —Daniel Martin, makeup artist and global director of artistry and education at Tatcha
MAKEUP BY MARIO
I had to personally add it to this list, how could I not? One of the most world-renowned and looked-up-to makeup artists came out with his own makeup brand exclusively at Sephora in 2020. The brand’s mission statement is:
“Created by Master Makeup Artist Mario Dedivanovic, MAKEUP BY MARIO features pro formulas and tools in the most universal shades and easy-to-use textures. Infused with Mario’s philosophies and techniques, each product is crafted to provide an effortless makeup experience and inspired artistry.”
Black consumers are calling for a movement, not a moment. Welcome to Artist Spotlight #26 series on my blog.
The year was 2018. Beyonce delivered one of her most historic performances as the first Black woman to headline a set at Coachella. Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians premiered to fanfare proving that, contrary to popular belief, films with a leading cast of color have global appeal. Yet even though 2018 was a landmark year for representation in various industries, the beauty industry missed the memo.
At the top of the year, Tarte unveiled its new 15-shade Shape Tape Foundation range, where only two shades were designed for darker complexions, a negligent move given that Fenty Beauty debuted just months before with a revolutionary 40-shade collection that was ultimately dubbed #TheFentyEffect. It Cosmetics, BeautyBlender, and several other brands missed the mark, too. How, in 2018, were Black women still fighting to reform the beauty standards that continually fail to recognize consumers beyond “medium tan,” “warm honey,” and “almond?”
In August 2018, seven Black influencers—Monica Veloz, Ofunne Amaka, Jessie Woo, Tiara Willis, Armanda Tounghui, Shanygne Maurice, and Cydnee Black—answered the same question POC have been pondering for years: “Why is it still a struggle to find foundation for dark skin?”
“When you walk into these beauty corporations, you’ll most likely see a white-dominated office space so, because there aren’t a lot of black voices at the table, there isn’t anyone to say, ‘Hey, this launch is not okay,’ or ‘You need to do something different because these shades are not diversified,'” Willis, founder of the popular Twitter and Instagram account @MakeupForWOC, said at the time. Transparency in companies’ hiring process and leadership board is just as important as delivering a diverse shade range.
Now, two years later, the beauty industry is in the midst of a reckoning. Following an outcry from consumers and influencers, a slew of brands began broadening their offerings and campaigns to be more inclusive. But sometimes their efforts verge on the performative: In June 2020, as the nation broke out in protests in response to the senseless killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and other acts of violence by police and white supremacists, brands flocked to social media in droves to lend support to the Black community, issuing statements of solidarity and pledges to be more inclusive in the name of being “woke.” There were also many brands who remained mum in the face of social injustice, revealing that if they didn’t care about Black consumers before—both on the shelves and in boardrooms—why would they start now?
UOMA Beauty founder Sharon Chuter launched Pull Up for Change in response to the brands’ silence, an initiative demanding that companies come forward with a demographic breakdown of their employees to demonstrate they’re more than just talk. Once a buzzword brands used to hide behind their shortcomings, will inclusivity move beyond trend to become an ongoing movement?
Would you say the beauty industry is still failing people with darker skin tones?
I would say no, it’s not failing us but I feel brands are getting a little bit too comfortable. With everything going on with Black Lives Matter movement, we’re seeing an uprising happening, and within that uprising demanding for basic human rights, we’re also seeing a lot of calls to action for black creators, creators of color. And in that, you’re seeing so many disparities that still happen behind the scenes that haven’t been addressed.
On the surface, yes, we’re getting more foundation shades and better campaigns, so brands have made a lot of progress. But that’s not to say Black people can relax now. No, we have to keep demanding that if you’re going to launch something that has 60 shades, make sure all the shades are available in-store and that people know how to find their shade—that’s one of the areas of the makeup industry that almost never gets talked about, the in-store experience. Retailers will say, “Oh, we can’t have this many shades because of the space,” or “These units don’t sell.” That relationship between the brand and the retailer, and that relationship between the retailer and the consumer needs to be worked on more.
When you put out products for people, you have to realize that there’s actually people on the other end of the buying process that will be introduced to your product for the first time. Having only select shades in stores or not enough deep shades to begin is frustrating. Is that the first impression you want to give?
This call for diversity in beauty extends beyond shade ranges to opportunities for Black creators, too. As an influencer, what has been your experience trying to obtain opportunities and ensure you’re being paid fairly?
I do all my deals on my own and it’s hard to not get taken advantage of because there isn’t a lot of transparency in terms of what’s the going rate for X, Y, Z type of project. Sometimes, people just don’t want to pay my rates. I have decide to not pursue opportunities from brands that don’t value what I’m doing, or don’t want to pay what I’m worth.
I had a post on Instagram that basically was just alluding to the fact that “diversity” has to go farther than just posting someone on your Instagram page. Are you paying them? Are you making them feel heard behind the scenes? Do they have a voice? That just goes for employees, too. Because there are sometimes the lone black employee on a team, and they might have an opinion, and it might not be heard, or they might not feel comfortable voicing it. So, we’re in a great place with that right now. A lot of people are being offered things that look like opportunities, but they’re often exploitation.
Thankfully, there’s an Instagram page called it’s Influencer Pay Gap, and people send anonymous DMs to the Instagram listing their age, race, sexual orientation, and follower count is, and how much they’ve been offered to do a project. Accounts like these are providing some transparency in terms of what people are getting offered and what people are getting paid.
What changes have you seen in the makeup industry since 2018?
Two years ago, it seemed as if every brand was in a race of who could put out the most foundation shades. And people got lost in the idea that just having a lot of foundation shades means they’ve cracked the code on diversity when, really, if the rest of your brand isn’t consistent then you didn’t do anything meaningful. There are brands that have gotten better since then. But there are some brands who either put out their inclusive shade ranges in the last two years, and didn’tkeep the same energy with concealer, bronzer, contour, etc.
Especially right now in 2020, it seems it’s the year of bronzers and every brand is putting out their own bronzer. I did a video swatching the latest bronzers and a lot of them—between their advertising and what the product actually looks like—there was a disconnect there because the shades didn’t match IRL. It goes to show how genuine some of these brands are, because if you have to Photoshop a color to make it look dark online but ashy or lighter in person, that says a lot about how a brand views us. We’re clearly not important enough for them to put any effort into making products for us.
Is there truly hope for brands to “keep the same energy” or do you feel like the same outdated outlook persists behind these launches?
Well, minimal effort was being put in before this whole “inclusive” wave. Before the Black Lives Matter movement that’s going on right now, it’s always been a thing. But before it became as widely talked about as it is right now, before George Floyd’s death, you could see that the inclusive marketing that some brands were using was already starting to die down. And I’m happy it’s been brought back up again because of the current place that we’re in right now.
You can look on a brand’s Instagram page and scroll back to 2019 and see what maybe one dark-skinned person on there, maybe throw in a couple other people of color. But a brand drops 60 foundation shades and deserves a pat on the back? That energy wasn’t being kept until right now. And right now everyone with Pull Up or Shut Up, putting out their business, brands are reaching out to black creators. Even now some people have already said that that energy has started to die down. It’s a matter of if a brand genuinely wants to do better, they’re going to. It will become clearer to see which brands hop on for the moment and then go back because championing diversity is too much work for them.
What’s your advice to the Black consumers who are finding it hard to trust any brands these days?
Write down the names and take screenshots of how brands are responding to the current climate and Pull Up or Shut Up. In a few months, revisit those brands to see if they stayed true to their words, especially since right now, we need 18 new releases. So it really puts these brands in a competitive place where they’re going to have to put your money where your mouth is, because if brand A and brand B release something, but brand B does better, then brand B is probably going to get that person’s purchase. Spend your money on brands that support you year-round, not just for the moment.
What do you want to see more of from brands moving forward?
Transparency and dialogue. In the past few weeks, there were brands that have called me and said, “Listen, we just want to hear from you and how you’re feeling.” I’m Black and it’s been awful but I’m glad brands are trying to do the work to make Black influencers feel seen and heart. I’m talking huge brands that were like “Listen, whatever it is, whatever concerns you have, whatever you need from us. We’re trying to show our support. How can we show our support?” So I want to see more brands trying to be completely transparent because I only align myself with brands that align with me as a person.
Also, diversity isn’t only a 40-plus shade range. What about the LGBTQ representation? Don’t support the LGBTQ community for just one month and then move on. I’m definitely am seeing a lot more diverse campaigns but it has to be the standard. The current uprising in beauty and the Black Lives Matter movement forced brands to really step up and realize that they need to make a change. I’m sure it scared the hell out of a lot of brands. Good for them.
As a frequent makeup shopper, where else do you see brands missing the mark?
Undertones. I think a brand came out with 100 shades but where are my undertones? To find your perfect foundation shade, you have to understand undertones. Understanding undertones makes it easier to shop online, especially now that we can’t go in stores and play in makeup or swatch. A foundation range is only as good as the undertones it offers. I’ve played with several different foundations and I still reach for my Fenty Beauty foundation because she understands my undertones. It’s lazy to throw out a foundation with limited undertones because not everyone is warm or golden honey or orange. Brands need to get specific with these shade ranges because black women, black people are not just one shade. We’re not as red. We’re made up of a range of beautiful colors and tones that should be reflected in the products we spend our money on.
What has the Pull Up or Shut Up campaign revealed to you about some of the beauty brands you’ve supported?
Basically what we already knew: There’s a real lack of diversity in the boardrooms of our favorite brands. If there’s lack of diversity, there’s going to be a lack of faith, you’re going to see a lack of ideas and a lack of understanding. If there was a black woman at that board meeting, or a black cosmetic chemist who was in there making those formulas, they would obviously be like, “Oh, I have black family members. I’m black. These shades don’t actually work on us.” And they would actually be that voice to say something.
Diversity in boardrooms is one thing, but where else are brands lacking?
It’s easy for brands to create an extensive range, but they’re not doing the necessary work to actually try it on black skin. Chemists are putting strong green undertones or pink undertones that would normally work for others, but that’s not realistic for darker skin tones. When it comes to bronzers and blushes, and the other steps of makeup, there is a lack there with finding colors that suit dark enough. Think of influencers like Nyma Tang. She had a whole video where she spent hundreds of dollars buying all the bronzes before trying them all and none of them worked for her. It’s 2020. It doesn’t make any sense.
What has the Pull Up or Shut Up campaign revealed to you most about some of the beauty brands you’ve supported?
It’s not enough for the black community that these beauty brands want to expand the shades. We want to see us represented in the offices too. We want to see black people represented on the executive board. Who are decision-makers? We want to know that you are being inclusive all the way around, not just with your shades. We want to know that black people actually have opportunities within your company. I think that this is what this movement is all about. Black women spend the most money in the beauty world, so if we’re spending the most money we need to be represented. We need to have a say so in what’s going on in these companies.
How has finding your foundation shade become easier?
Finding my shade has become easier because I’m purchasing from black beauty brands more than before. UOMA Beauty, Juvia’s Place, Fenty Beauty, there are a lot of different black owned beauty brands that are coming out and cater to us. Who can speak to our shades better than us? Shopping for my complexion is easier because I’m supporting products made for us, and by us. Just keeping it real. Pro tip: find brands that represents me and you won’t get disappointed.
What’s your general advice to brands that want to do better?
Look around your office then you’ll know where to start. See who’s not there, you know where to start. It’s that simple, really. When brands or companies try to make it seem like it’s so hard, no it’s not. Just look around. Are there black women here? No. Hire them. Where they at? Be intentional about being “inclusive”. You can’t be inclusive without being intentional. Initiatives like Sharon Chuter’s Pull Up For Change are needed. It’s going to change the hiring process. It’s going to change how these companies look at us. They’re going to have to finally look at us and say, “Okay dang, we really got to listen to these black women. We really have to listen to them because not only do they have these platforms. But then they have these platforms that can influence the buying power.”
Canadian-born London-based makeup artist Michael Brooks, also known as The Brooks Brother, made his YouTube debut in 2017 and has since then been inspiring his followers with his mesmerizing, artistic beauty looks. Having landed his role as Smashbox Cosmetics UK’s pro MUA earlier this year, Brooks has been paving the way for queer creatives by advocating for better representation and diversity within the beauty industry.
At a young age, Brooks already had an eye for glamor and beauty. The moment he saw his favorite alternative, pop punk boy bands wear makeup was when he decided to experiment with his own looks and explore his talent. With additional interests in music, art, digital content creation and fashion, the multi-disciplinary creative is changing the game and is definitely a talent to watch.
Welcome to Artist Spotlight #25 series on my blog.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how your passion for makeup started?
I grew up in Canada, in a suburb just east of Toronto. I’ve always had an interest in the arts and I studied various areas of visual and performing arts throughout my entire childhood, but I’ve always been fixated on glamor and beauty. At around 12 or 13 years old, I began to take notice of men I saw wearing makeup in my favorite alternative/pop punk boy bands and I wanted to try it myself. Around that same time, I was involved in some performing arts extra-curricular activities, so the idea of wearing makeup on stage didn’t seem odd to me. I’m very fortunate to have grown up in a home that prioritized my happiness, self-expression and safety above all. As I got older, I moved farther away from my music, dance and theater studies and grew an attachment to wearing makeup and providing it as a service to others. After high school, I decided to take a certificate course in makeup artistry. I’ve been doing it professionally since.
How did the opportunity to work with Smashbox Cosmetics UK come to be?
I’ve been working on and off in retail makeup for the better part of my career, and a lot of that has been within the Estée Lauder group of beauty brands. Most recently, I started with Smashbox in their studio space in March of 2020. I had worked on a few freelance campaigns in their studio for another cosmetics brand in 2019 and happened to meet the manager of the space. When they had a position become available, I was put forward and was looking for a change, so I went for it. As you can imagine, with all the changes our world has seen this year, it hasn’t been at all what I expected. Starting a new position with a new brand in the midst of a global pandemic certainly has impacted the process.
“The online social community is a real place for inspiration and discovery, which keeps me going through this challenging time.”
You started making YouTube videos before moving to London. What would you say are the biggest differences between Canada and the UK’s creative industry?
The sheer size of the creative industry in the UK is the biggest difference I’ve noticed. In London, there’s always room for someone to break in, as long as you’re willing to work for free, network until you’re blue in the face and never give up. I feel like my attempts to break into the creative industry in Toronto barely scratched the surface because it’s much smaller. Bigger cities tend to have more opportunities, as long as you’re willing to take them on.
What are some challenges you’ve faced working as an MUA amid COVID-19? How have you been able to overcome those obstacles?
Well, I basically surrendered my entire freelance makeup artist career to the virus and I still have not picked it up. Unfortunately, I simply don’t feel safe working that close to anyone’s face. Over the last two and a half years, I hustled to make a name for myself in a new city and country, only to have it completely squashed by COVID-19. That one still hurts.
But in staying home and making more use of my own face, I turned my hobby of posting online into a job. Now, I’m spending my time creating looks, video and photo content and getting paid for it. There are so many people out there using platforms like Instagram for creating content and to express themselves. The online social community is a real place for inspiration and discovery, which keeps me going through this challenging time. The loss, which is hopefully temporary, came with a gain.
In what ways do you think the dynamic of the beauty industry has changed this past year?
Generally, I think the beauty industry is changing entirely. The beauty industry for online creatives and beauty content creators is in the midst of a continuous shift, and over the last year, I have seen more accountability from beauty brands, transparency on the inner workings of the “influencer” sphere, and a lot more people and former working makeup artists using themselves as their own canvas. The beauty industry desperately needs to prioritize more queer voices and faces, especially those of BIPOC folks. I’ve seen it more this year than ever but there is work to be done. The retail makeup space is undergoing a change in terms of the consumer experience, and a lot of brands are primarily e-commerce now. As for the creative world and working on set (not that I can speak from experience anymore), safety precautions are continuously evolving, but the show must go on. I feel like we’re all becoming more independent, and I think brands are starting to see their consumer as the authority, rather than the other way around.
“The beauty industry desperately needs to prioritize more queer voices and faces, especially those of BIPOC folks. I’ve seen it more this year than ever but there is work to be done.”
What does beauty mean to you?
Standing in your truth. Accepting what you love about yourself and also accepting what you might not love about yourself. To me, beauty is not only about how crisp your eyeliner is or how glowy your skin looks. It’s accepting all of yourself in all forms. Most importantly, it’s about doing what feels best, regardless of how the world sees you. If it feels right, do it.
What is your creative process like when coming up with your beauty looks?
It’s usually based on an image, shape or a specific group of colors. Sometimes I sketch it out when I’m really organized, and other times I wing it from an idea floating around in my head. When I can’t get it right, I’ll take a selfie and doodle on my own face until it makes sense to me. Executing it is a whole other venture. I’m a Pisces so my head is always in the clouds thinking of ideas.
What are your do’s and don’ts when it comes to makeup?
I don’t like telling people what they should and shouldn’t do with their makeup. My least favorite part of working as a makeup artist is the expectation that my opinion and experience is superior to someone else’s. It’s important to be able to offer my input when it’s needed, otherwise, I mind my business. What I will say is, don’t be afraid of makeup. Wear as much, as little as you want or nothing at all – however you want. It’s your face and it washes off.
Can you share with us any exciting projects you’re working on for the rest of 2020 and in the new year?
I was recently named one of three winners in a contest with a well-known makeup brand, so over the next few months and into the new year, I’ll be working collaboratively on a collection with one of my favorite musicians that is set to launch next summer. Easily the most exciting project I’ve ever been a part of!
I’m also taking part in Instagram‘s #ReelSelf Sessions this October, which is a virtual three-day event packed with exclusive content and inspirational talks to support creators to learn, grow and express creativity. The sessions themselves will cover everything from creativity online, how to get noticed and insider knowledge to keeping well online and offline, as well as forecasting new trends. The online world has been a great place of support for me, and I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences.
Otherwise, I’m always brainstorming ideas around how I’d like to leave my mark on the beauty industry. Hopefully, 2021 will bring me a return to my freelance makeup career, a new set of goals and more exciting opportunities.
What does it mean to be beautiful on planet Earth in 2020? In search of clear skin, a mellow demeanor, the perfect eyebrows, and a high vibe, what are we reckoning with? From sheet masks to disposable salon sandals to plastic lining in the shipping of even eco-friendly materials, waste permeates the beauty industry in ways that can no longer be overlooked. According to the United Nations, half of all plastic is designed to be used only once, and environmental scientists are suggesting that plastics will serve as a geological indicator of the Anthropocene era, despite becoming ubiquitous only within the past hundred years. It’s not cute that Styrofoam takes up an estimated 30% of space in landfills and lingers for about 500 years, that trash floats in the oceans, and that microplastics exist in our food supply. With packaging accounting for 40% of plastic usage, beauty brands are turning to a natural solution: mushroom mycelium.
“Mycelium is the root structure of mushrooms,” explains Loney Abrams, florist, artist, and co-owner of Wretched Flowers. “Mycelium networks can take on any form and once they colonize a form, it’s incredibly durable, insulating, and flame resistant”—properties which make mushrooms an ideal substitute for Styrofoam and plastic. Abrams and her partner, Johnny Stanish, have considered mycelium in a variety of settings. It was the material that made up their Bondage vases (also designed in special colors for a collaboration with the sustainable clothing brand Eden), which function conjunctly as vessels and shipping containers. Stanish and Abrams dream of a day when mycelium can replace Styrofoam in the shipping of large pieces of art, and make the case that mycelium could benefit myriad industries, from art and flowers to beauty. Wretched Flowers sources from and is inspired by Ecovative Design, the company that has been growing mycelium in the U.S., Europe, and New Zealand to combat single-use plastics since 2007.
“Mushrooms are nature’s recycling system,” explains Gavin McIntyre, cofounder of Ecovative Design. “They’re decomposers. Mycelium grows really quickly, and for the industrial process, [we’re able to grow it] in days.” Many compostable products, such as the compostable cups that you see at coffee shops, are made from polylactic acid (PLA), a corn sugar fermented by bacteria, and are only industrially compostable. Mycelium products biodegrade within a month in a home compost, meaning they don’t need to be sent out to a facility. I asked McIntyre about composting in New York City, where the mayor has recently suspended the composting program, and he pointed out that you could technically cut up the packaging and put it out next to a tree or—though he doesn’t recommend this—a local body of water, as the product is safely marine compostable and used to protect scientific buoys in oceans around the world by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Mycelium acts like a glue and is grown into molds (no pun intended) fitting any shape, from packaging inserts to sculpture to beauty applicators. Ecovative Design grows mycelium beauty and skin-care products, including eye masks, sheet masks, and makeup wedges. They are also partnering with beauty, fashion, art, and technology brands to customize packaging.
One such brand is Hudson Hemp, a farm and CBD company built on land owned by Abby Rockefeller and her family in the Catskill mountains. I spoke with cofounder Melany Dobson about how and why she decided to integrate mycelium packaging into Hudson Hemp’s CBD line, Treaty. Dobson’s team grows hemp as part of a dynamic crop rotation alongside grains that supply flour to local bakeries, livestock feed for dairy farms, and rye and hops for brewers and distillers. Part of the mission of Hudson Hemp is to develop soil that relies on nutrients that come from the farm itself; since mycelium goes hand in hand with soil health, it was already in mind. “I learned about Ecovative through Seed—a probiotic brand that has used Ecovative since 2018 in their original packaging—and decided to go for it,” Dobson says. This ethos of open-source sharing when it comes to sustainability is one that is inevitably moving the industry forward. Since its launch, all Hudson Hemp CBD has been shipped in custom Ecovative packaging.
How does change happen in the beauty industry? I think about my own brand, Masha Tea, and how the transition to more thoughtful packaging finally happened when I saw an Instagram post by Nu Swim (which, incidentally, fills my bathing suit collection with perfect fits made from regenerated ocean waste) about the biodegradable packaging company Ecoenclose. The fact of the matter is, companies are always looking to one another to see how they can improve. On a larger scale, as Dobson notes, “Multinational companies [look to] small brands once they get attention. It helps set trends. If Treaty uses Ecovative, L’Oréal starts thinking about it too.”
This idea was at the heart of my conversation with Rodrigo Garcia Alvarez, founder of Amen, a vegan line of candles produced in the historic fragrance capital of Grasse, France. “The new luxury is when things are done by ethical and sustainability standards and not just by how things look,” he says. Amen candles, which are sold at Dover Street Market, 10 Corso Como, and The Conservatory, are all shipped in mycelium grown in Amsterdam. In fact, Garcia Alvarez sees mycelium as the future of luxury, with the goal of inspiring 10 major brands to incorporate mushroom materials, then 100, and eventually a world in which mycelium can “reach the economics of scale and efficient cost,” making mushrooms more accessible in the way that plastics are today.
Eyes are on mushrooms as the future of our reckoning with waste. “Why is CBD a beauty product?” I asked Dobson toward the end of our conversation about Hudson Hemp. “Because it brings the inner-outer beauty conversation full circle,” she answered. “If you’re feeling how you need to feel in the moment you’re in, that is beautiful.” As beauty brands consider how best to meet the needs of the earth alongside those of their consumers, mycelium reminds us that there are exciting alternatives to a wasteful existence.
Sheet masks originated from Japan and South Korea, known for their dedication to cosmetics and skin care. Today, sheet masks are widely popular in Asia as a whole. Sheet masks have recently began to change the beauty industry and gained popularity in the U.S by various celebrities utilizing sheet masks and posting about it on social media. From the recent study conducted by NPD Group in the USA, the sale of masks increased by about 60%, overwhelming other categories in the skincare business (ORGAID).
HOW DOES A SHEET MASK WORK?
There is a sheet fully soaked with concentrated serum, which consists of many beneficial ingredients to the skin, such as hyaluronic acid and vitamins. These ingredients are in the water phase as dissolved. The sheet prevents quick evaporation of the water phase and extends the time frame the ingredients require to penetrate deep into the skin. This results in the sheet masks outperforming the effects of the traditional serum-type skincare even when applied once.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
They bring fast effects in regards to enhancing the skin. The serum is filled with various vitamins and minerals, and doesn’t dry out the skin compared to the paste-type face mask. The sheet on the face helps the serum to soak into the skin a little longer. Some of the sheets also claim to brighten and make the skin firm. Basically, sheet masks are an inexpensive alternative compared to going to a spa: convenient, easy to apply, and brings a glowing effect to the skin.
WHAT ARE THE DRAWBACKS?
Their purpose is to nourish, not exfoliate or cleanse the skin. Sheet masks are probably not as effective at exfoliating or cleaning the skin compared to the paste-type mask. In addition, serum from low-quality sheet masks evaporates quickly, even before it gets soaked into the deeper layer of the skin. Currently, ORGAID researchers are using sheet masks made with high technology to avoid those problems (ORGAID).
WHAT INGREDIENTS ARE USED IN THE SERUM?
Depending on what function the sheet mask is made to perform, the serum contains various different ingredients and concentrations that are commonly used, such as aloe vera and vitamin C, to more unusual ones such as pearl, snail extract, and seaweed. Also, for prevention against bacteria/fungi contamination, most sheet masks contain chemical preservatives such as parabens, and recently phenoxyethanol, which are not good for the skin.
WHAT MATERIALS ARE THE SHEETS MADE OUT OF?
Diverse types of fabric are used for the sheet masks. Four most used materials from worst to best:
* Non-woven fiber – Inexpensive, difficult mobility, low capacity to deliver serum into the skin * Cotton – Inexpensive, difficult mobility, low capacity to deliver serum into the skin (but better than the non-woven fiber) * Hydrogel – Little pricey, great absorption system, gel-type consistency, two separate parts (top and bottom) to apply on face, difficult mobility, fits the shape of the face well * Bio-cellulose – Expensive, all-natural material, adheres to the skin well, better absorption properties, comfortable mobility.
MATERIALS END UP IN LANDFILLS!
First, you have the plastic or foil packaging. Then more plastic wrapped around the mask itself. In ten years, there’s probably going to be a whole trash island made entirely of sheet masks.
Sure, there are brands out there with compostable options – though most people probably end up throwing them out anyway – and ones made from plant fiber. Be honest, though. If you’re looking at a $3 plastic-laden mask or a $10 plant one, which would you choose? Besides, many of the sheet masks on the market are soaked in things that may make them non-biodegradable (INSIDER).
WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOU WANT TO BE MORE ECO-CONSCIOUS?
The easiest answer, hands down, would be to avoid using non-recyclable, non-compostable, single-use sheet masks altogether. But that’s not so easy for everyone.
If you absolutely love your sheet masks and can’t give them up, just know there are other options out there that will yield similar results. As mentioned above, you can try to find products that use organic, biodegradable and recyclable materials. Korean beauty brand Innisfree has a line of biodegradable sheet masks, for example. Andalou Naturals, another beauty brand, also carries masks that are said to be biodegradable. The outer packaging, however, isn’t necessarily recyclable.
You can also look for masks sold in packs, as opposed to individually wrapped ones. They do exist, and they don’t generate as much plastic waste as the single-use masks. Some people even make their own sheet masks by soaking clean face cloths with their own serums or mixtures of desired ingredients (HUFFPOST).
At the very least, do your research. If you really want to be more responsible, look up your local municipality’s recycling and composting guidelines.
Rihanna was inspired to create Fenty Beauty after years of experimenting with the best-of-the-best in beauty—and still seeing a void in the industry for products that performed across all skin types and tones. She launched a makeup line “so that people everywhere would be included,” focusing on a wide range of traditionally hard-to-match skin tones, creating formulas that work for all skin types, and pinpointing universal shades. Welcome to Artist Spotlight #4 series on my blog.
Before she was @BadGalRiRi: music, fashion and beauty icon, Robyn Rihanna Fenty was a little girl in Barbados transfixed by her mother’s lipstick. The first time she experienced makeup for herself, she never looked back. Makeup became her weapon of choice for self-expression—a way to radiate her ever-changing mood—and it powered a fearless take on beauty that helped her become the boundary-breaking icon she is today.
Fenty Beauty products are designed to feel lightweight and luxurious, as they deliver buildable coverage that effortlessly layers, to ultimately “make skin look like skin.” Most importantly, Rihanna creates makeup to inspire:
“Makeup is there for you to have fun with,” she says. “It should never feel like pressure. It should never feel like a uniform. Feel free to take chances, and take risks, and dare to do something new or different.”
And that’s exactly what customers can expect to see when browsing the Fenty Beauty stands in Sephora or online: unique colours and combinations, innovative formulas, sleek packaging that demonstrates a professional high-end feel, yet holding inside inspiring products to get us out of our comfort zone.
There are currently 87 products listed for the brand on Sephora.com, ranging from base/complexion products, to eyes, lips, and body makeup. The brand is part of the LVMH umbrella, which also oversees Dior, Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton, and more designer brands (which explains the aesthetic of the Fenty Beauty line). But Rihanna didn’t just slap her name on makeup and call it a day, she takes an active role in formulating her products, coming up with ideas, representing and wearing her brand, and encouraging men and women alike to express themselves unlike we’ve ever seen before.