Neon beauty is having a moment. Recently, singer Selena Gomez took to Instagram to show off her neon coral make-up, which faded out from the inner corners of her eyes and was masterfully executed by Los Angeles-based make-up artist Jenna Nicole. To complete the look, the pop star wore a set of lime-green nails and a bronze tan.
Cut to Off-White’s AW21 show, and, once again, neon took centre stage. Using specially crafted crayons in neoprene orange and Yves Klein blue, which picked out the main colours of creative director Virgil Abloh’s latest collection, make-up artist Morgane Martini offered a masterclass in how to work a graphic-neon eye in an off-beat, modern way.
“The name of the show was Laboratory of Fun, which instantly led me to colourful make-up ideas, and Virgil wanted a strong eye,” Martini tells Vogue. “Neon is like bringing a flashlight to your face and, in this case, to your eyes. It was important that these looks reflected a kind of self-expression that could suit anyone, no matter the gender or age.”
Here, Martini shares her top tips for creating the perfect neon eye with a cool, modern twist.
1. Less is more
“My number one tip would be to use neon sparingly. There’s no need to go crazy here. I didn’t want anything that would take over from the actual looks. I just wanted it to be a little detail, a little splash of colour — a bit on the inner corner of the eye or a small eyeliner will give a strong impact and I love that.”
2. Go graphic
“The idea for those graphic elements came from the collection. They brought a touch of modern and cool. lt didn’t feel like make-up, it was more an accessory for the eye.
“To create the look, I used tape and went over it with a pencil. It’s not that difficult at all — you just have to place the tape correctly. It has an instant modern and creative feel, and the ability to be both bold and subtle. It’s nice to change things up and explore other ways to enhance features.”
3. Avoid the lash line
“Make sure it doesn’t get into the lash line and lashes. You can use a thin cotton swab dipped in micellar water to clean any mistakes after application.”
4. Keep colours to a minimum
“Neon is such a bold statement in itself that you have to be shy about applying it. You don’t want to look like you’re going to [California festival] Coachella. I used colours that I saw in the collection that felt complementary, without taking over everything.
“For the graphic line, we kept it monochromatic. Other looks have a mix of blue and orange, but, for example, the look I did on Joan Smalls had the blue, but with a warmer orange, not as bright. I kept it minimal — sometimes, things are more powerful when they’re simple. Whereas the more you use, it can become gimmicky and you lose impact.”
5. Leave everything else natural
“We wanted the make-up to be genderless, so that’s why I wanted to keep it clean, simple and paired with fresh skin. I didn’t even put blush, contour or any mascara on the models — it was really as pared back as we could get it.”
Makeup artist Raoúl Alejandre is a strong believer in holistic beauty—that is, going beyond the fantasy and what you see on the surface to unlock something much deeper. “Like most of us, I want beauty to continue to broaden up,” he tells Vogue.“Not just by including visual representation of those often marginalized, people like myself, people that don’t fit the set of beauty norms we were once fed to believe in, but also incorporating values, important ones, like mindfulness.”
Welcome to Artist Spotlight #48 series on my blog.
For Alejandre, a California native who is currently based in Los Angeles, the question of when he got his “start” in makeup doesn’t quite apply. “I’ve practiced painting my whole life and makeup was just one of those other mediums I picked up as a kid because I wanted to express myself,” he says. “I would rummage through my mom’s stuff, and when I got to a certain age, I would sort of steal her old makeup and hide it in my sock drawer so that I could play with it on myself.”
Through his journey, the artist has developed a signature look that is fiercely elegant. His carefully painted eyes—a soft mashup of baby blue and moss green, a glossy, plum lid—and a pronounced lip, often nude or red, are undisputedly glamorous but don’t scream it. From actors like Alexa Demie and Ryan Destiny to musicians including Rosalía, SZA, and Lil Nas X, everyone Alejandre touches is left with a look of assured confidence that easily captures attention.
His inspirations come from legends in their respective fields (Salvador Dalí, Richard Avedon, Federico Fellini, and Siouxsie Sioux), life experiences like moving to New York City for a few years—“It’s where I broke all my rules and really got to know myself,” he says—and interior design.
“I could have a meeting with someone or be at dinner with a friend and I’ll look at the ambiance around us; I’ll look at the colors of the food in front of me, how they touch, the textures of the chair, the window treatments, and the lighting fixtures, because they all play such an important role in the final picture,” he explains.
It’s this attention to detail that has led to creative partnerships with MAC, Dior Beauty, and Revlon, along with a rolling list of celebrity clientele and publications. For Dazed, Alejandre created a series of makeup looks that were applied solely through Photoshop, proving once more that the digital space is the next frontier for beauty. “Growing up, I had one uncle that was super tech-savvy and he just threw me in at such a young age, teaching me how to create digital designs on Photoshop. On top of that, I was really into *The Sims*—I love how surreal they look, the language, the fashion, and all of the weird gestures that they make.”
As Alejandre continues to push the conventional limits of beauty and design, he’s mindful to release himself from the labels and expectations that can develop as an artist establishes themself in this industry.
“We grew up being conditioned to believe you have to be either this or that, you have to do this or that, but, no, I want to pick everything. I want to express myself and I want to use makeup as a medium to tap into every other medium. I don’t want to be limited in my lifetime. I want to feel free forever, honestly.”
“I like to be a free spirit,” Princess Diana once said. “Some don’t like that, but that’s the way I am.” More than two decades since her untimely death, the public’s long-standing fascination with her – as a royal, a humanitarian, a style icon, and an unapologetic rebel — has yet to wane. Season 4 of The Crown is only sparking more intrigue around the ways in which she bucked royal tradition with a self-assured attitude and distinct codes of self-expression.
As a kid of the ’90s, I, like many, have always been taken with Princess Diana’s beauty, grace, and glamour. But of all her signatures, the one that has always stuck out to me was her ’80s-era proclivity for swipes of electric blue eyeliner; most strikingly worn with one of her sparkling diamond tiaras. Oh, the contrast! Yes, I know it was the ’80s and that it was the banner decade for colourful make-up, but for a woman of her stature, to me it always seemed kind of punk, a means of subtly railing against the royal system.
Plus, her pared-back approach to a decidedly bold colour statement brought a real-world sensibility to the look. “In the ’80s, blue eyeliner was about pulling out or brightening up naturally blue eyes,” explains make-up artist and Tatcha’s first-ever global director of artistry Daniel Martin, who famously gave Meghan Markle her natural wedding-day glow. “She kept it close to the lash line, enhancing the iris by creating this monochromatic tonal effect on the eye. She never took it up to her eyelid, which would create an entirely different effect altogether. I think her wearing it in that way made it wearable for so many.”
While I, for one, love an aqua eye and think of Princess Diana every time I smudge a cyan pencil across my waterlines for a quick dose of colour, I know it can be a polarising choice — and surely was for Princess Diana as the more-is-more ’80s gave way to the minimalism of the ’90s. So I wasn’t surprised to learn that upon meeting Princess Diana on her Vogue photo shoot in 1991, make-up artist Mary Greenwell, who worked with her throughout the ’90s, convinced her to add more neutral eyeliner shades to her repertoire. “In the ’80s, a lot of people were wearing blue eyeliner, and she was so young! She could get away with doing whatever she wanted,” says Greenwell. “She was experimental and absolutely loved make-up, but when she went out on the red carpet, we just tried to make her as glamorous and gorgeous as possible for the time.”
That being said, blue eyeliner certainly has its place, especially in the free-for-all that is the year 2020, where self-expression reigns supreme. “Right now, it’s about whatever you want to do, and making it look the best for you,” says Greenwell. “That’s what Diana always did.” Her tips for pulling off bold ticks of eyeliner, no matter how bright or understated the shade, is to keep the rest of the face fresh and vibrant: Clean skin enhanced with sheer foundation and feather-light swirls of blush and bronzer “to bring out the flush” in the face. “It’s about beautiful simplicity!” she says.