Photo Cesar Ochoa- makeup Ewa Bilinska
Posted in The Journey, The Look

Beautiful Ebony

As makeup artists we are confronted with different faces, our job is to find what is beautiful and to bring it out with skill and vision. It can be challenging to work with someone who is quite different from you, be it eye shape, facial structure, or skin tone. Thanks to Fatima, I got work with African beauty.

Photos by Cesar Ochoa

Born in Senegal, this resident of Ottawa traveled all the way to Montreal to test shoot with Cesar and I on a beautiful Saturday. So the pressure was on to make it worth for everyone–yes it’s not all makeup fun: you got to werk it, make it fabulous!

Beauty is more than just putting on cosmetics, and it became highlighted when it was time to do the research. The only black friend I have, barely wears any makeup besides a red pout for occasions, so I had to create my own visual and cultural references.

Growing up in the 80’s, I watched the Cosby show and later, the Fresh Prince of Belair. Then you have your music videos and movies.  They are all very stylized views of African-American beauty. In fashion there is Naomi, pretty much dominating the black model category. Then you have models from the 70’s and 80’s like Iman, and Beverly Johnson. From the 90’s: Veronica Webb, Tyra Banks. Our contemporary black beauties: Jourdan Dunn and Joan Smalls, and of course the lovely Lupita Nyong’o.

So imagine lil’ ol me pouring over all the images I could find of these women. Googling away like an obsessed stalker, spending evenings on search engines. And searched I did, high and low for American black beauty, African beauty and found all sorts of interpretations, from divine to umm… how do you say… Ghetto?  I watched some Youtubers with deep complexions putting on their makeup to get a feel of how to work with ebony skin, gurrl, I worked it!

I was left feeling a bit lost in all the pictures and products, wondering how I would approach it, as an outsider. When I work with Caucasian women, the references to actresses and models come very easily. So I went back to my favorite videos of Janet Jackson, Jody Watley, Sade, and En Vogue for starters, and I paused and studied the makeup intently. I noted the colours, and for the first time, I can say I really diligently studied all the details of a makeup. It was on ongoing project, for a whole month, I would research and create a library of references when I had some free time, while I waited for Fatima to become available.

So what is the essence of black beauty–you ask, my friend? Is there something beyond the ubiquitous Ben Nye Banana powder (which I didn’t use at all–Fatima’s skintone is much to deep for it). The first cue was black liner, it’s a different story on ebony skin. It really grounds the eye, either smudged or precise, it becomes very feline or very sexy. Which is something I could work with. And then there is colour. The last thing was shine, and I love myself some glowy skin. So when you’re not sure about what cultural references to make: you work with what you know, and you keep it simple and visually interesting.

So on the day of the shoot I brought all my most pigmented shadows and blushes and crossed my fingers that I would find products that would look great on her!

Photo Cesar Ochoa- makeup Ewa Bilinska

For the first look I wanted to do a no-makeup look, I knew pink would look great, I had to swatch a lot of products and the winner was this Shiseido Shimmering Cream eye shadow in BR306. I lined the lips with Night Moth by M.A.C. and used Liya’s Nude by L’Oréal Paris. Top, vintage UNTTLD, the hat is my own and the necklace is Fatima’s.

Photo Cesar Ochoa- makeup Ewa Bilinska

For the second and third looks, I borrowed a dress from the new Denis Gagnon Fall Winter Collection, it’s very modern, with it’s sporty mesh fabric. I wanted a makeup that was cool and simple to go with the dress. I had brought an Ombre Essentielle in Swing by Chanel, a deep blue which was pigmented enough to show up in one swipe! Go Chanel!  I lined with a black liner and smudged it into the eye shadow to frame Fatima’s big eyes. I kept the lips the same. These metal Créoles can be found at any African-American beauty/hair-extension shop.

Photo Cesar Ochoa- makeup Ewa Bilinska

Photo Cesar Ochoa- makeup Ewa Bilinska

And from there I started building towards something more daring. For the picture above I started to darken the lips with a black lipstick, then I used a silver lip gloss called Lab Shine in M2, all by Make Up For Ever. For the picture at the top of the post, I added black gloss into the crease. It turned out to be one of my favorite looks of the shoot.


Photo Cesar Ochoa- makeup Ewa Bilinska

Fourth look, I curled her hair and we went for a diva look. I swatched a few colourful shades and a cream shadow by Estee Lauder won (no longer available). I applied it all over the lid with a more precise liner and added gold in the inner corner. For the lips, I used a Joe Fresh Long Wear Liquid Lipstick in a wine color. Vintage coat by Denis Gagnon. Rings from H&M, Pendant from Joe Fresh.

Photo Cesar Ochoa- makeup Ewa Bilinska

Last look, I went all out. I had a plan: one liner below, one above, but instead of a reference to Verushka, it turned out very manga-like with a nod to the 60s and Diva Supreme, Diana Ross. But, I looooove it!!! It’s my love child 😉 On eyes: Cream Pigment in Bedaub by Ilamasqua. Eyeliner in Feline and on lips: liner in Chestnut, both by M.A.C.

For base makeup I used the M.A.C. Studio Conceal and Correct palette in Dark. CoverGirl Full Bloom mascara in Black. F.Y.I : Fatima’s favorite foundations are L’Oréal Paris True Match Lumi, or Make Up For Ever HD, in the deepest shades.