Real Girl Real Beauty: Shannon Cusello

One thing is certain about Shannon Cusello — she's darling (with the Twitter handle to prove it). The former salon manager and current Girl Friday for Shah & Shah Jewelers has long held our attention with her glossy locks and gamine, retro-yet-modern makeup. Add to that her impeccable, vintage-infused style and the fact that her new gig has her dressing up in diamonds on the reg, and we just had to sit her down to talk shop. Ahead, her secrets for looking fabulous — you can borrow every last one!
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Run us through your workday morning beauty routine. How do you usually do your makeup for work? What about your hair?
"I'm pretty good about washing my face at night, so in the morning I just rinse off the sleep with cold water. The first thing that goes on my face every morning is SPF 70. I am completely diligent about it. My mom works for a dermatologist, so I grew up with serious vigilance about sun protection. I'm not naturally fair-skinned — I'm Italian, so I get tan super easily and don't worry about burning — but it's the easiest way to combat fine lines and wrinkles. I just turned 30 and all of a sudden, everything 'anti-aging' is my priority!

I don't experiment much with makeup in my day-to-day. I'm pretty basic: winged liquid eyeliner and a red lip. I love a tinted moisturizer like Aveeno, or any drugstore-brand BB cream (both of which have added SPF!), and I'll swipe Touche Éclat around my eyes to combat my unfortunate dark circles.

I have long hair for the first time in a few years, and I'm having fun with updos for work — either topknots or milkmaid braids. I wear a lot of earrings at Shah & Shah, and I like to wear my hair back or up so I can show off our designs."

Free People dress, Kate Spade heels, vintage necklaces.
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What about for a night out?
"I am not shy about false eyelashes. Growing up in stage makeup made me a wiz at applying falsies! I love adding a few clusters to the outer corner of my eyes — it takes five minutes and is a mega game-changer. I'll sometimes switch out my classic red lip with a super dark plum for night to amp up the drama."

Cusello wears Wet & Wild lipstick in Sugar Plum Fairy.
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Do you use any special tricks to combat hair issues, like frizz or limp hair?
"I have really weird, half-frizzy/half-curly hair, and I abused my locks by coloring them Florence and the Machine-red for two years before going back to my natural brunette. My colorist Natalia Rojas at Immortal Beloved is absolutely genius and was able to give me the best, most natural color makeover ever. But from all of the changes, my ends are kind of fried and my curls aren't so polished anymore. When I wear my hair in its natural texture, I'll refine a few pieces here and there with a cone-style rod curling iron. I also depend heavily on Oribe Imperméable Hair Spray and Oribe Supershine Light Moisturizing Cream to combat D.C.'s insanely humid summers and keep my frazzled ends in check."

Ciao Nina hair pins.
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We love Cusello's oh-so-ladylike display of pretty nail polishes.
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Do you have any secret hairstyling weapons or techniques?
"My not-so-secret trick is having my hair styled by my BFF Jordan Pringle at Immortal Beloved. Almost every week, I go hang out with her and trade an iced coffee for some serious hair styling and tutoring. She taught me how to curl my hair with a one-inch flat iron and how to manage my unruly cowlicks (by setting with a bobby pin when wet!) — and her blowouts last for daaaaays. I love a big, bouncy, voluminous blowout!

I also cannot live without bobby pins. I think I leave them everywhere I go, like a trail of breadcrumbs! Truly, I can fix any bad hair day with no more than five pins."
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Do you have any weird beauty secrets that you swear by?
"Um, I only wash my hair every five or six days! I swear by dry shampoo. I use wig powder, which is like a light baby powder, and it gets rid of any oily shine my hair takes on."
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What's something you'd never try in the beauty/skincare realm?
"Never say never...although things that involve needles to the face kind of freak me out."

Forever 21 top.
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Cusello has a crazy-good collection of vintage baubles, and artfully displays them around her apartment in vignettes like this one.
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If there was a signature "Shannon" beauty look, what would it be?
"Heavy bangs and red lips! Red lipstick is like my suit of armor — literally nothing in my closet looks right on me unless I'm wearing it. I've had bangs since I was 20. My stylist Jordan and I joke that some people are 'bang faces' and some are not, and I am most definitely a 'bang face.'"

Urban Outfitters shorts, Candela boots, sun hat from HIT Item Wholesale (1406 14th St NW; 202-986-1212).
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"A huge part of my job is trying on jewelry for our gentlemen clients. I wear a lot of engagement rings every day! My job does NOT suck. Since people are staring at my hands all day, I make sure I always have my nails neat, and painted a pretty, neutral color — a pearly white or pale, pale nude. I love painting my own nails...it's like meditation! I have tried shellac and gel, but I always peel it off. I think it feels too heavy and weird on my nails. I envy my friends who are regulars at the nail salon and always have super shiny, smooth gelled nails, but I just can't get into it. I run our Instagram feed with photos of all of our designs, and if my hands ever look dry in those photos, I immediately get a text from my mom saying, 'Moisturize!'"
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Do you switch up your makeup depending on how you wear your hair?
"If I wear my hair in a way that looks very '50s or '60s, I'll ix-nay the liquid liner — it looks too rockabilly and literal with those kinds of styles. Same thing with wearing vintage...I never want to look like I'm in a full-on costume."
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What do you think your beauty look will be when you're 70?
"I pray that I go totally white-haired. It's a dream of mine to be blonde, and I think being a little old lady with long, silvery-white hair is the closest I'll ever come to it. I just started growing in my natural hair color for the first time in a decade, and I'm kind of psyched by the slivers of silver coming in. I hope that my OCD sunblock application will pay off and I'll be free of sunspots! Oh, and I'll be covering the chubby cheeks of future grandbabies with red-lipstick marks. Little white-haired, glam, red-lipped granny — that will be me!"
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What are your favorite makeup and skincare products, and why?
"Sephora makes the best on the entire planet red lipstick. It's a true, true red. It goes on as a cream and dries matte. And stays ALL DAY. It's only like $10 a tube and it lasts for months.

YSL's Touche Éclat is the most miraculous under-eye circle eraser on the planet. It may not make my bags any smaller, but it makes them brighter!

Neutrogena makes an amazing SPF 110 cooling spray, and I carry that in my bag all summer long. It's especially great for all-day outdoor fairs and music fests, because you've got to reapply all day. It seriously cools you off and it's not greasy or oily.

Also I live by Neutrogena makeup-remover wipes. I love scrubbing off the day before I go to bed, and they get every single trace of mascara and liquid liner off without rubbing my skin raw."
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Desert-island scenario: What one beauty product would you take with you if you were stranded, Survivor style?
"Can I bring one hair product and one makeup product? Red lipstick because I sometimes have an identity crisis when I don't wear it, and we can't be stranded and be an anxious mess. And also, bobby pins — so practical! They never run out, and they can double as fishhooks on this imaginary island. A girl's gotta eat!"

Anthropologie jumpsuit.
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Where do you get your makeup and hair inspirations? Do you have any beauty icons?
"Any time I'm working on a show, whether acting or designing, I end up totally vibing off of whatever the concept is. Whether it's a super glam, old musical-theater standard, or a '70s rock musical, or an early American living-room drama, I'll find myself wearing my hair and makeup in the style of the show. I'm lucky that I've literally played dress-up for a living, so I've gotten to do some insanely fun period hair and makeup on myself.

I am obsessed with Pinterest, and half of my boards are hair boards — one for redheads; one for brunettes; one for ultimate fantasy hair; one for big, giant, curly hair; one for stage hair and makeup, etc. It's the best place to get inspired when I need to change things up!

My all-time hair icons are 1970s Cher with her long, thick curtain of glossy dark locks; Brigitte Bardot and Ann-Margret both rocked the ultimate coquettish sex-kitten hair; and Winona Ryder. I copied her iconic '90s pixie cut a few years ago, and while I'll never crop my hair that short again...Winona Forever."

Seychelles wedges, vintage clutch.
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