Beauty is power. And when that beauty is exotic to us, it can be unsettling, or captivating. I’m still obsessing over liner and bold colour, to my defense; it’s a great pairing with the Afro.
With this blog it’s always been my mission to be as inclusive as possible with my beauty subjects. Although getting the faces I shoot and do makeup on from a modelling agency can be contradictory, it’s also the best way to find people who want to genuinely be in front of the camera and who are willing to play with their image. To be a model, is to put yourself into the hands of people who will tweak your identity and who will chose a point of view on your beauty, on your face, on an aspect of you. In these last few sessions, I’ve been becoming more and more aware of this dynamic.
The beauty portraits on my blog are always an exploration of my own ideas and visions of other people’s beauty. You can agree with them, you can find them inspiring, or you can disagree. Sometimes they line-up with the real-life person in front of the lens and sometimes they are just an image, an illustration of an idea. And no one person can be contained by the boundaries of pictures. All of this is about FUN!
When Sasen came over for this shoot, I was really happy and excited. I was looking to work with an African-American model for a while now. As someone who calls herself a makeup artist, I like to challenge myself with types of beauty that are different to my own. To make sure I got the look right, I called on the amazing talents of Cristal Han, Owner of the Fleur Tzigane hair salon, who styled Sasen’s hair for the shoot. She’s been working on African hair for a long time now. Working on weaves, extensions, and wigs. Since African hair is a cultural heritage, it’s much more difficult to improvise it for a white woman, who is more into makeup.
It took Cristal two hours to properly tame Sasen’s natural mane into a sexy halo of nappy curls. Black hair takes a lot of patience!
Even though the Afro has a big visual impact, there is still enormous stigma left when it comes to natural African hair. Probably because it’s quite far from the reality of most white people. And different can be alluring–and it can be frightening. The Hollywood daze of Silver Screen Sirens has set the whole world ablaze for their blond locks and pale skins. Those iconic black and white movies have not only impacted our ideas of beauty in America and Europe, they have also affected the rest of the world. Ironically, when I see an Afro, I can’t help but to want to be more African! Appropriation is something we like to do, because in the end beauty is a fabrication as much as it is “natural”.
To me the Afro, is so African. It’s so fun, and of course, It’s all because of blaxploitation movies of the seventies, and chiefly Pam Grier, who’s mane allure and stardom came in part from her Afro, making her instantly recognizable. Ironically, it became so loved by the public, that the Afro lost it’s rebel edge. But there is another twist… the Afro is not African–it’s a product of American culture. It goes back to the 60s Black Panther movement who sought to liberate black people from the trying to be “white”. Now that is the power of hair!
Top Row: Pam Grier as Foxy Brown. Bottom row, from left, Black Panther rally 1968. Kathleen Cleaver, professor of law, she was an important part of the movement.
After I had bought the Anastasia Beverly Hills Subculture palette, I knew I wanted to put this blue-green shade (Axis) on her eyelids. But she had so much space that I felt this poppin’ shade needed a strong liner to close the gap and ground the eyes! I was experimenting with square liner on my own eyes, which are pretty round, but Sasen has the space on the outer corner to really pull it out and make a statement. So it went into the mix!
As I look back at the images, I’m finding every inspo that I had on my mind; Black Panther, Egyptian liner, R’n’B coolness and some Afro-Punk funk. I’m slowly evolving my makeup ideas and it feels good.
As a white person, I have my own take on black beauty. At first, it was a bit cliché (Grace Jones anyone?). But every time I work with a different woman, I try to go beyond the collection of images I have in my mind. The best thing to do is not to have a moodboard on set. But to have fun and to improvise and go with the flow.
Foundation and highlighting with Le fard crème by le Maquillage professionel, palletes Peaux Africaines et Peaux Métisses.
Eyebrows, Giorgio Armani Brow Maestro in Black.
Contour, Ben Nye Media Pro Cream Shadow in Midnite.
NARS Translucent Crystal loose powder.
First Look (above)
Clothing…Vintage leather vest from Le Beau Marché Vintage. Sleeveless red knit top, White House Black Market. Earrings (in all pictures Forever XXI)
Makeup: On eyes, Anastasia Beverly Hills Subculture Palette, shadows Axis on the lid and Fudge as transition, and on the inner corner, Adorn. M.A.C. Shock Factor shadow to create dimension and add a light shimmer. CHANEL Le Stylo Yeux Waterproof, and Calligraphie matte cream liner (limited edition). DIORSHOW Iconic Overcurl Waterproof Mascara. Lip pencil, Chestnut by M.A.C.
Clothing… T-Shirt Rocky A$ap for Guess. Blazer vintage By Marlene Birger.
Makeup: On Eyes, le Maquillage professionnel fard crème in no 60, Stila Magnificent Metal Eyes in Vintage Black Gold. Inner corner highlight and brow bone, Fenty Beauty Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter in Trophy Wife. On Lips BITE Beauty Amuse Bouche lipstick in Whiskey, and Black Truffle as lip liner.
Lips are different for these last two pictures. DIOR Rouge Lipstick in 136-Delicate Matte topped with Pat McGrath Skin Fetish Highlighter in the Gold Balm (limited edition) or any pale gold highlighter to create the best shimmer lipstick ever. Cristal also changed the hair to the Afro-Puff style, which is a typically African hairstyle.
I also wanted to include some shots Cristal did with her camera. Some are BTS, and others are in natural light, as we went outside to have some fun and see what we could find to complement the look.
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