How My Beauty Look Has Evolved

Photos: Courtesy of Maria Del Russo.
I wasn't always a beauty girl. In fact, I was the opposite of a beauty girl. I never raided my mother's makeup bag, and I hated my puffy hair when she'd blow it out for special occasions. But once I got the hang of it all, I couldn't be stopped. I started experimenting like a fiend — constantly changing my hair length and makeup looks. I've been both the gal who walks out the door with nary a swipe of mascara and the one who beats her face for an hour before facing the world.

This is probably why every time my coworker, our beauty director, Cat Quinn sees an old photo of me, she exclaims, "That doesn't even look like you!" And she's kind of right! So I decided to take a trip down beauty memory lane to see the good, bad, and downright brutal moments of my evolution. Travel along with me — won't you?

2006
I was 16 years old, heavy into my Urban Outfitters phase, and obsessed with an indie singer from the Pacific Northwest who had these gorgeous, wispy bangs. So I DIY-snipped mine for the first time, and they were an absolute disaster. I had a huge cowlick in the middle of my hairline that made my bangs split down the middle. And since I didn't realize this, I'd keep cutting more and more to try and cover it, which ultimately resulted in the worst set of heavy bangs known to humankind.
Photos: Courtesy of Maria Del Russo.
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2007
Remember those ladies with the spiky layers and thick bangs who owned your Myspace page? I was here for that look. I would wake up early every single morning to wash my hair, blow it dry, and then straighten it to fulfill my scene-kid dreams. If you look closely, I'm wearing black nail polish that I would try to chip intentionally. Side note: This was the hair I had on my driver's license until I was 21. Cool.

2008
After entering college, I decided to try to reinvent myself. I wanted to be a "hot girl" and leave the scenester of my youth behind. To me, a "hot girl" wore her hair straight and shiny, and then piled on all the makeup. I'd grown out my layers into some Lauren Conrad-style side-bangs. This was also the year I discovered red lipstick and foundation, but I hadn't yet figured out that I needed to counterbalance with blush. So I looked ghostly pale — which, paired with dark eye makeup, wasn't the most flattering thing in the world.

2009
I'd like to point out that this orange tan isn't a spray tan. It was courtesy of the summers I'd spend on the Jersey shore sans SPF, frying myself bronze. Or, in this case, sienna. I started ditching my straightener again in favor of my natural waves. But since I was obsessed with one-length hair, my strands were stretched out on top and curly on the bottom. But I did discover bronzer and blush, so my skin was a touch less vampiric.
Photos: Courtesy of Maria Del Russo.
2010
This was the year I discovered my curling iron. The only problem? I didn't know how to use it. So I was burdened with bologna curls that were all the same size and moved in the exact same direction. By the end of the night, all the curls would mold into one and I'd end up with one big ringlet on either side of my neck. Happily, I also discovered that red lipstick was my look, and started leaning into it pretty heavily.

2011
And then, the wheels fell off. I went back to short, ultra-choppy bangs, but they weren't flattering — I looked like the boy on the box of Le Petit Écolier cookies. And then, since that wasn't enough of a statement, I decided to DIY my own ombré — with the help of my brother, who, at the time, was only a few months into beauty school. (He has since gotten much better and is actually a bomb stylist now, FYI.) Actually, now that I'm looking at this photo, I am regretting putting it on the internet. Can I get a mulligan, please?

2012
Luckily, after the hurricane comes the rainbow. Graduating college ushered in a more mature era of beauty. I embraced layered hair and softer eye makeup. I played around with more lip colors. And my highlights weren't chunky — they were painted naturally into my strands. Progress!
Photos: Courtesy of Maria Del Russo
2013
The year I turned 23 was pretty big for me. I'd been at my first beauty job for a full year, and I was settling into a makeup look I felt comfortable with. It was also the first time I chopped my hair short — a look I liked at the time, but that my mother hated. This was also the start of the eyebrow craze, and I took to it like a fish to water. I started filling in my set every single day, and loved the way fuller brows offset my mascara-and-red-lip lewk.

2014
Things stayed pretty much the same makeup-wise from 2013 to 2014, although I did start experimenting with the cat-eye. I also started embracing my natural hair texture a bit more, although it would be a few more months until I got a cut that really flattered it. The bad part about this period was my hair color — I'd gotten these horrible Kelly Clarkson-style chunky highlights that did nothing for me.

2015
I'm a person who believes in soul mates — people who come into your life whose energy just matches yours. That's how I felt when I met Wes Sharpton of Hairstory Studio in New York City. Wes gave me the best haircut of my entire life — a sexy, choppy shag that made my natural hair texture sing. Aside from the occasional trim from my brother (whom Wes approves of), I haven't let a single other human cut my hair. As my best friend Justin said, "I think this is your haircut." Also of note: This was the year I embraced the cat-eye as my secondary beauty look. I now wear both that and red lips on the regular.
Photo: Courtesy of Hairstory.
2016
While I'd been slightly experimental in previous years, nothing compares to the change I went through just last month. After 26 years as a brunette — which I thought was the only hair color that would make me attractive to men — I dyed my hair platinum blond. It's been a massive transformation, but also incredibly liberating. This photo was taken the day I dyed it. Since then, Wes shaped up my hair, and I started wearing it in my natural texture. I also have some pretty epic root grow-out that I'm loving, and have been big into my cat-eye.

What's next? The world is my oyster. I plan on staying blond for the summer, and am pretty stoked to have some fun with the grow-out. I really want to do something similar to what Shoshanna on Girls had this past season — I think ghostly-pink roots would look pretty killer on me. And even if I do look back and cringe, as I definitely did with some of the above photos, there's one thing I know from peeking into the past. The best part about beauty is how easily you can change it up, and our beauty looks are indicative of our time and place in life. I could wake up tomorrow and decide to start wearing blue lipstick every day. The idea of that is pretty exciting, isn't it?
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