Made In My Shade: Giorgio Armani Maestro Fusion Makeup

Yes, I found a color that matches my skin tone, but before we get to that, I need a moment to geek out about the texture of this product. It is fantastic.

Giorgio Armani Maestro Fusion Makeup ($62), a foundation and skin perfector with SPF 15 and a mix of oils and pigments, is amazing because it completely disappears into the skin. Seriously, it’s like it becomes one with your face—you can’t feel it or see it once you blend it in.

The formula doesn’t contain any water, but it’s incredibly thin. In fact, it’s so lightweight that the bottle is topped off with a dropper instead of a regular cap or a pump. It seems strange at first, but the texture is so liquid-y that it makes sense.

The other ingredient that’s missing from Maestro Makeup is powder. And yet it gives a flawless matte finish. Hmmm…it’s all very mysterious and magical. Also, it took the company eight years to make it, so that might have something to do with how good it is.

OK, now let’s talk color. There are only three shades that are categorized as “dark,” but one of them, #11.5, works really well for me. Most women with a complexion similar to Naomi Campbell’s could wear it. But, I suspect that when my face gets lighter as we get deeper into winter, the makeup might start to look a teensy, tiny bit too red on me. But for now, I’m loving it.

I also tested the next lightest shade, #10, and I think it’s a good option for those with a Kerry Washington-colored complexion. I didn’t try out the deepest hue, #12, but I’m guessing it would be gorgeous on skin tones like Viola Davis’s. I wish the dark range were a little bigger so that more brown-skinned women could experience the makeup–it’s such a beautiful product. I like it even better than Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation ($59), which I mentioned as one of my favorites in a story I wrote for Glamour last year.

Have you tried Giorgio Armani Maestro Fusion Makeup yet? Thoughts? 

P.S. For more Made In My Shade posts, click here.

Three Ways To Rock Shaved Sides (Yes, It’s Doable In Real Life)

If you feel so inclined to give the shaved-on-one-side hair trend a whirl, here are a few ideas for the bold and the bashful.

1. Go All-Out. That’s exactly what 24-year-old Tiffany Mendez, who I spotted on the street, is doing with this hairstyle here. She’s so committed to her daring look, that she shaves her head every day. And can we talk about her awesome teal streak? She’s showing it off brilliantly with a side-swept braid. I like the mix of toughness and femininity she’s got going on.

2. Try One Close-Cropped Section. Rihanna’s version is still very rock n’ roll, but in a tamer way because her hair is only buzzed-off above her ear. I love this style on her, but I know I can’t get too attached–the woman is known for her constant hair switcheroos.

3. Fake It! Channel your inner bad girl (for a day) by copying the faux undercut style seen at the Tracy Reese Spring 2013 runway show. Hair pro Jeanie Syfu gave the models a shaved effect by creating a hidden, low cornrow braid on one side. So sneaky, yet so chic.

Are you into the shaved sides thing? Yay or nay? Personally, I love it.

BTW, I think Lil’ Kim-inspired hair and colorful Afros are pretty cool too!

What’s The Last Magazine You Bought Because Of The Cover?

When you’re facing a sea of glossies with the same old celebrities on the cover, pictured next to lines you’ve seen a gazillion times before (like “37 Ways To Get Amazing Abs!”), it’s hard to get inspired to plunk down $4 bucks for a mag. But there’s one new cover that did motivate me to reach into my wallet. Its…

…the December issue of Essence featuring Olympic gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas. I was obsessed, I mean OBSESSED, with her during the London games. How adorable does she look here? That smile! It’s like I can feel her happiness beaming at me through the cover. You got, me Gabby, you got me.

I have a shelf in my apartment where I display mags that I think are really special. You know, historical stuff like Michelle Obama on the cover of Vogue. Guess I better make a little room for Miss All-Around Champion and her million-dollar grin.

Have you been moved to buy any magazines lately? Don’t leave me in suspense!

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Raising The Cost Of Confidence, One Bar At A Time

An article in The Wall Street Journal last week reported that makeup bars—boutiques where women pay about $40 to get their faces dolled up by a professional makeup artist—are becoming a trend in big cities like Los Angeles and Atlanta. But it’s not just bridesmaids and homecoming dance attendees that are booking appointments at the shops. Women who want to look good for lower-profile events like business meetings, dates and parties are also getting in on the action. As the WSJ explained, “Women, more than ever, feel the need to be camera-ready at all times, thanks mainly to cellphone cameras.” So I wonder: Has the pressure to look perfect become so intense that an at-home makeup job doesn’t cut it anymore?

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the power of makeup. Knowing you look your best can ease some of the anxiety that comes along with giving an important presentation or working the room at an intimidating industry event. But I’ve always thought primping for something other than a wedding or major night out could be accomplished simply by applying something extra—black eyeliner or a bright new lipstick, for example, rather than trekking to a beauty studio and paying someone to do it for you. What happened to flipping through a magazine for a new look to try and calling it a day?

What the growing makeup bar trend seems to suggest is that now it takes more—more time, more money and more help—to reach that damn-I-look-good, happy place. Social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr have convinced women that they too are brands—pseudo-celebrities who want to make sure that every photo that hits the internet is in line with their message. Even if it means shelling out a little extra dough for a flawless face.

Like the blow-dry bar junkies the New York Post wrote about recently, I worry that these next-generation makeup counters will create a new group of “addicts;” women who rely a little too much on pros to feel good about themselves in order to function in daily life.

True confidence doesn’t waver from D.I.Y. makeup or a bad hair day. And the best part? It doesn’t cost a dime.

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Spotted: Three Cropped and Colorful Afros

Who says you need dip-dyed ends, a wig or bright extensions to get in on the crazy hair color trend?  I met three awesome women on the street who are doing it their way. Check out their chic, natural ‘dos.

This haircut on Souki, 27, is more like a fauxhawk ‘fro, which is edgy enough on it’s own, but the violet color takes it to a whole other, insanely cool level. I like the contrast with the dark hair on the sides.

If you were to take the sexy wine-colored lipstick shade of the moment and turn it into a hair color, you would get this look, seen on Aisha, 22. It’s bold, warm and looks great with the classic shape of her cut.

To get this shade, Tiffany, 30, used Adore Semi-Permanent Hair Color in Purple Rage. But who knows what color she’ll go with next! “Before this, my hair was platinum blonde,” she said.

Would you ever dare to dye your hair purple? Or some other wild color? 

P.S. You should hear some of the annoying sh%t people say to women with short hair. It’s ridic.

 

Q&A: Supermodel Iman On How The Beauty Business Gets It Wrong

When legendary model Iman launched her eponymous cosmetics line in 1994, she never dreamed that eighteen years later, dark-skinned women would still be struggling to find makeup shades to match their skin tones (hello, where are all of the brown BB Creams?). But that’s just one of the things that’s bugging her about the state of the beauty industry today.

Why did you create Iman Cosmetics?
For years I could not find products for myself for photo shoots or for the runway. So I was always mixing and matching at home. I knew what I was looking for and that there was a need—whenever I traveled, the first question women asked me was ‘Where do you buy your foundation?,’ so I started Iman Cosmetics.

You went off on a bunch of beauty execs at the WWD Summit—what was that about?
I was the last guest speaker that evening and I was asked to talk about my business and my wishes and dreams. There were a few things that were very important for me to impart to the CEOs and the mass retailers who were there because many of them carry my products. I wanted to make it clear that I am frustrated. Mass market has this weird mentality about separating what is called ‘general market’ and makeup for women of color. The ‘women of color’ products are grouped together toward the end of the aisle. And then if [the mass retailer] has, let’s say, 1000 beauty doors, only 200 are allocated for women of color. How do you determine a store to be where a woman of color shops? If she’s coming to shop at your pharmacy and you put makeup for her in those stores, she will also buy it. When we buy fashion, no one says, ‘That’s the section for women of color.’ Who came up with this idea? When I wanted to do a liquid foundation, the retailers told me that black women don’t buy liquid foundation—they said they had problems with every brand that tried. I told them I’m not every brand. Within two months of launching my liquid foundation, it became the number one product in my line. But still, women can’t find it.

So, you have products that women are clamoring for, but the powers that be are holding you back from delivering them?
Exactly. There’s a rush to go to Asia for growth, but for us, growth exists right here at home. I consistently have women saying they can’t find my products in stores where they live. And I’ve been told by retailers that black women don’t shop online. They said, ‘We can’t put your whole line on the website.’ I said, ‘Just test it.’ It became the #2 brand on Walgreens.com—they were clueless. So while all these companies rush to Asia, we’re trying to grow right here at home. But there’s a glass ceiling. That mindset is belittling the customer and not servicing her. That’s a major frustration.

How would you like to see products displayed in drugstores?
Stop putting products for women with skin of color at the end of the aisle. Mix it all together. And understand what the customer is looking for. What are the products she’s talking about? Get those products in your store. I hear all these women on Twitter, Facebook, and our website talking about how they love Dr. Miracles hair care. So why isn’t it in more doors?

How do you stay connected to your own customers?
We have Twitter, Facebook and we give samples on our website. There is not a question that is not answered online. We answer everything that comes through.

When you started your line, did you think you would have more competition in 2012 than there actually is?
I thought there would be more lines out there, definitely. I thought at least a makeup artist line. You remember a couple of years ago—I call everything a couple of years ago—there was a resurgence of makeup artists lines. But the days when you can have a small company are gone. Nowadays if you ask for money, they don’t ask how many doors you are in but they ask how many Twitter followers you have. If you don’t have 300,000 followers…That’s the new world. I don’t know why people think that would translate into money. Because that means everyone who has a Twitter following can start a business. Suppose half of your Twitter followers are men who just want to look how you look. They’re not buying anything. They’re not the shoppers. I don’t need a fan. What I need is a customer. I need somebody I can service. I don’t need a man to look at my pictures. The collecting of friends and fans—what is that gonna do? There’s a difference between somebody who wants to play the fame game and somebody who wants to be a business person. I’m a business person. I don’t play the fame game. I’ve been playing myself for so long that it doesn’t matter to me. In whatever I do now, ultimately, I will not be remembered as a model. My legacy will be that I created Iman Cosmetics. I want that to be as strong as it could ever be.

Are women of color, particularly those with dark skin tones, less ignored by the beauty industry today, or is it the same as it was ten years ago?
I think fashion magazines have made strides. They feature more [models with] dark skin in magazines than they have ever before, but when it comes to the beauty industry, it’s definitely less. The darkest foundation shades on the general market don’t cut it. My mother, my two sisters, my daughter, and me, we’re all different shades. That’s the difference between what I do and what big companies do. My line has 16 to 18 shades created specifically for these women. 75% of my business is in foundation. No other company, including Estée Lauder, MAC and Bobbi Brown, can tell you that. That means that I have a loyal customer. When a woman likes a foundation color, she will buy it again. Those trendy makeup colors—you can find them for 99-cents. But foundation is a totally different ball game. Yes, I’m very surprised that there aren’t more companies catering to women of color, but I think smaller companies who would like to, feel like they can’t play with the big boys. They’re not invited to the sandbox. But entrepreneurs should not be discouraged. You’re not gonna be MAC overnight—longevity takes resilience and it takes keeping your eye on the ball.

What do you hope the beauty industry will be like in 10 years?
I hope a new generation of young girls do not see this invisible color line that exists now. I hope they will be able to get something that is suitable for them from any store they walk into. My line isn’t just for black women, it’s for women with skin of color. When we say black, it doesn’t just mean African-Americans, it means Africans, Asians, Maylaysians, Puerto Ricans, Latinas …I’m interested in a new language for beauty about a skin tone, rather than ethnic background. I still struggle with that, but I have to pick my battles. But the battle I’m concentrating on now is getting cosmetics to women of color. If there’s a store with makeup, it should be in there. Nobody says there are too many products for Cauasian women. But with us, they say, ‘Don’t you think there are enough products out there for women of color?’

 And that, my friends, is exactly why I never get tired of talking to Iman. You gotta love a supermodel who speaks her mind. What are your gripes about the beauty biz? Do tell!

Photo: Courtesy of Iman
Sleeping Beauty: The Overnight Skin Treatment I’m Completely Hooked On (Solange Knowles Is A Fan, Too!)

Here’s the awful truth: Most anti-aging skincare products leave me feeling underwhelmed. There are a few exceptions, but usually I find that they’re more like overpriced moisturizers than the skin-transforming, miracle workers that many of them claim to be. So, I’ve been making a slow transition back to the basics. You know, stuff from indie brands that are heavy on natural ingredients and light on hype. Like the new facial oil that made my skin look way, way more radiant after just a few days.

This magical product is MUN No. 1 Aknari Nighttime Dream Youth Serum, ($95), an organic facial oil made with prickly pear seed oil, argan oil and rose oil. It’s meant to be used at night while your skin is naturally rebooting itself, turning over cells and whatnot. I know what you’re thinking: organic oil = greasy and earthy-smelling. But, no, this one actually smells good (the rose helps with that) and it sinks into the skin pretty quickly.

The bottle is tiny, but I stuck with the “one-pump-is-enough” guideline that the makeup artist who created it, Munemi Imai, gave me and she was right—a little bit gets the job done. I swear, in less than a week I saw a difference. And now that I’ve used up every last drop (sometimes I put it on in the morning as well as before bed), I don’t want to try anything else. I’m done. This is it. Mun is all I need. Seriously, my face looks really even, smooth and healthy. Bet it would do the same for yours. Give it a go, if you’re thinking of dabbling in the wonderful world of face oils.

Which overnight beauty products do you use?

Pretty In Print: Lil’ Kim-Inspired Hair

The original queen of rainbow hair colors.

Here’s a fact that’ll make some of you feel old: It’s been 15 years since Lil’ Kim busted onto the music scene sporting Skittles-colored wigs in her video for “Crush On You.” 15 years! Little did Kim know her not-found-in-nature hair hues, which were considered edgy and daring in 1997, would become mainstream in 2012.  Whether it’s a full-on wig or the toned-down version, bright streaks, Queen Bee’s signature look is everywhere now. And by everywhere I mean even in an Urban Outfitters catalog. Here are two examples from the fall look book, plus a few more bright hair interpretations I’ve spotted in print recently.

From Urban Oufitters: cornrows laced with hot pink.

 A long, side-braid with bubble-gum colored pieces woven in.

 A trio of bold bobs from the October 8th issue of New York magazine. The story is about sweatshirts, but I think the hair stole the show.

More out-there hair from the September issue of Vogue. I love this shoot featuring Karlie Kloss in high-fashion work clothes and vivid wigs.

What do you think of this Lil’ Kim-influenced hair trend? Are you into it or so over it?

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Made In My Shade: Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Ultra Definition Liquid Makeup

When I think of Urban Decay, in-your-face, edgy color immediately comes to mind. You know, the kind of makeup shades that are typically NSFW? So I was very intrigued when I heard the brand launched a foundation that’s supposed to look and feel “like wearing nothing at all.” I wondered: “Did they really get the texture right? Are the brown shades dark enough?” I requested a couple of samples so I could find out. I was a little nervous when I tried the makeup because I love Urban Decay—I did not want them to fail. So my verdict on the foundation is…

… I find Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Ultra Definition Liquid Makeup ($38) guilty of being fantastic. Shade 10.0 is a perfect match for my skin tone, and the oil-free formula is as sheer as promised. I wore the makeup in broad daylight and it didn’t look like I was all made up for a photo shoot or paparazzi ambush or something, which is one of my biggest fears about foundation. That, and the color being too red.  Neither are the case with this stuff. It’s pricey, but I think products that make your complexion look flawless are worth the extra dough. Agree or disagree?

P.S. Check out two other great foundations here and here.

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I Keep WHAT In My Medicine Cabinet? (The Answer Might Surprise You)

I often joke that my bathroom looks like a beauty aisle at Duane Reade because of the ridiculous number of blushes, lip glosses, and random moisturizers hanging out on my Ikea over-the-toilet storage shelf. But there’s something else I’m accumulating besides makeup. My little collection is hidden inside my medicine cabinet. Wanna see?

This is my stash of beauty products…

I have a bunch of quotes that I love taped to the door so that every time I open it, I get inspired. It’s a great way to begin and end each day, and I’ve decided to keep going until the whole space is covered.

….but I value these inspiring quotes more.

Here’s what I have so far:

1. “You’re never done paying your dues.” –Sam Fine, makeup artist

My friend Andrew shared this quote with me. We were talking about the vicious cycle of ambition we Type A people often create for ourselves–as soon as we achieve one goal, we immediately replace it with an even loftier one (or five). It’s like no matter what, there’s always something bigger, better or something-er to strive for. Hence this quote.

2. “Proximity is power. If you put yourself in positions for good things to happen to you, if you’re willing to make the necessary sacrifices, if you’re patient and persistent, you dream big and focus small, there is nothing you can’t accomplish.” –Robin Roberts, Good Morning America Anchor

Hmm, let’s see: Living by this motto has helped Robin Roberts score a co-hosting gig on GMA, a game-changing interview with President Obama and a spot on the Forbes “Power Women to Watch In 2013″ list. Not too shabby. I love it when super-successful people acknowledge the importance of working hard and not giving up. Those are two values that I think are very underrated these days (I blame sex tapes and reality television).

3. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, OK? Getting happy.” –Stephen King, author

A few months ago, I read On Writing by Stephen King which is part memoir, part how-to-be-a-writer handbook. It is genius. The nugget of wisdom above reminds me to block out all the noise and self-doubt in my head and just write what feels natural to me. Yeah, it’s a bit corny and idealistic, but it helps me get unstuck when I feel stuck.

4. “Write your own part. It’s harder work, but sometimes you have to take destiny into your own hands. It forces you to think about what your strengths really are, and once you find them, you can showcase them and no one can stop you.” –Mindy Kaling, writer and actress

These words jumped out at me from Mindy’s hilarious book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me. She was referring to her breakout play, Matt & Ben, which she wrote with her best friend, but the statement also applies to her new series on Fox, The Mindy Project. I learned from New York that she’s one of the few women of color in the TV biz that is a creator, writer, producer and star of a show. So she’s onto something with the whole “write your own part” idea. Forget trying to fit a mold and make a completely different, way better mold!

5. “It’s important not to fit perfectly anywhere.” –Pete Holmes, comedian 

The guy that hosts the You Made it Weird podcasts said this during one of his shows and I thought it was great. The point he was trying to make is that it’s better to be able to play to a bunch of different types of crowds versus just one. I think that’s true in life, not just in stand-up comedy.

6. “Workout today and you will reach your goal and feel good.” –Me

I wrote this note to myself to give me that extra nudge I sometimes need to take my butt to the gym. Does it always work? No. But I like seeing it anyway.

So that’s it. Just thought I would share the uplifting words that run through my brain while I put on my eye cream.

Would you ever stick quotes inside your medicine cabinet, or am I total weirdo?

Update 9/25 4:52 p.m.: The original post didn’t include an attribution for quote #1. Andrew informed me that it was the legendary makeup artist Sam Fine who said it!
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