In case you haven’t noticed, Refinery29 Beauty got a little bit of a makeover today. Our sleek, polished new design only seems appropriate for our thoroughly modern approach to content. Plus, we believe that beauty is most fun when it’s about reinvention — sometimes presentation can dictate exactly where we are in life, or even how we’re feeling at any given moment.
Nobody knows that better than the makeup artists whose work you’re about to see. We selected four vastly different personalities from different schools of makeup, presented them with one very patient (and quite beautiful!) model, and then gave them one instruction: Go nuts.
For some, that meant executing the kind of drama that they only dream of — be it sorrowful Welsh fairies, a gothic interpretation of the arrival of spring, or a glamorous contour with a reflective, marine cat-eye. Makeup is an ephemeral medium, for sure, but therein lies the power: There’s nothing like seeing exactly what a little bit of paint and powder can do…and there’s nothing more fun than watching it all come off.
In order to bring this process to life, Refinery29 recruited a dynamic team: the brilliant digital artist Elle Muliarchyk and art director Vita Raykhman, who worked together on special, animated GIFs with vibrant, energetic lighting that captured each and every detail of our artists' work. Read on below to find the story behind each look, and exactly how they achieved it. (And, enjoy the most badass beauty GIFs you’ve ever seen.) We hope it will get you inspired for some spring-appropriate transformation.
Sir John’s claim to fame is his allegiance to one Ms. Beyoncé Knowles — the icon recruited him to help her create looks for everything from her world-stopping visual album to countless tour performances and red-carpet events. (That beguiling blue eyeshadow look in “Mine”? Yep, him. That time she showed up looking like there was no makeup at all on her face? Also him.) Sir John’s versatility with makeup is what makes him such an indispensable part of Beyoncé’s evolution — she’s no longer just a musical juggernaut, but also a fashion icon.
A lot of that talent comes from Sir John’s background as a visual artist, who understands the nuances of color and shading. But, he also cut his teeth working on Charlotte Tilbury’s team backstage at Fashion Week. Perhaps, that’s where he learned that the laws of attraction are key. “I just want all women to be desirable,” he says. “I want them to feel elevated, pulled up, and exalted to the highest being that they can be.” Indeed, he's the kind of guy who will give a piggyback ride to his clients if there are puddles, and he always holds the door. “I’m a gentleman,” he adds shyly.
Much of Sir John’s most notable work is on women who know the power of a good look — his electric-purple lipstick on Joan Smalls at the Met Gala, for example, or the impossibly beautiful photos in W of Iman, Rihanna, and Naomi Campbell. “Beauty doesn’t just start and stop in the face or on the décolletage,” he says. “It increases your vibration.”
For this feature, the good vibrations being delivered were all about a marine-inspired sort of glamour. “The girls I grew up watching, like Linda, Naomi, and Claudia…they’re like glamour on steroids,” he says, laughing. “I saw the model’s eyes and they spoke to me immediately. I wanted to give her some kind of modern-mermaid, aquatic look, saturated in color and texture.”
To begin, Sir John started with his specialty: luminous skin. “I use tons of moisturizer. It’s the key to everything else,” he says. Using a mix of La Prairie Cellular Radiance Cream and Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentrè to soften and hydrate — this, he explains, almost eliminates the need for foundation or concealer. (He used just a tiny bit of foundation, and a touch of NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer where necessary.) “I then applied a bit of the legendary Madina Chic & Shine Stick, except I went old-school, [mixing] it with a little Vaseline, and pressed it into the skin for a high-wattage glow.” (And, of course, there was plenty of contour, thanks to a healthy amount of MAC Taupe blush “on skin that’s still wet from moisturizer and foundation, for more fluidity.”
After that, came the eyes: “We applied the MAC Technakohl Liner, saturating the lashline and creating a graphic shape. Once that was filled in, I took a clean cotton bud to sharpen the lines.” He then applied individual lashes on top and bottom, followed by multiple coats of L’Oréal Voluminous Butterfly Mascara — “I bend the lashes with my fingers while the mascara is still wet, and then I blow them dry. That gives them a slight bend instead of an aggressive curl,” he explains.
He filled in the brows using L’Oréal’s Silkissime eyeliner in black, and brushed them up with hairspray so they would stay in place. “For the finish, we added the gloss. I mixed Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream with a little bit of turquoise eyeshadow on my hand and then pressed it into the center. This created another layer of color, giving it a prismatic, multidimensional, multifaceted look.”
Occupying the opposite end of the makeup spectrum is Ralph Siciliano, who could best be described as a face artist. “Makeup satisfies a creative side of me that I’ve had since I was a child,” he explains. “What’s amazing about makeup is the power of transformation, and the confidence one gets from it.”
This is a fitting summary of Ralph’s body of work as a makeup guru. As a kid, he briefly earned money painting faces at carnivals, only to lose his job because he was too meticulous. His Instagram is thrilling beyond words because it pushes the boundaries of what most people think makeup can even do: One day, he’s a tiger, the other he’s creating faux tattoos or using forceps to painstakingly apply jewels to a face. Ralph’s innovations have earned him pages in V, Teen Vogue, and international editions of Vogue, W, and Numèro — publications in which he’s (mostly) allowed to flex his creative muscle and defy expectations.
For our shoot, his frame of reference was the season. “I’m inspired by spring,” he says. There was a vague allusion to flower petals, but then he led the model to a sofa, had her lay down and put her headphones in, and got to work. It was a little bit like watching a mad scientist at work — he was quiet, intensely focused, and precious about every pigment that touched the model’s face.
He started out on bleached brows, which he tamed with a little clear mascara. Then, he applied custom-made eye appliqués with a flower-petal design, which he had drawn using Kat Von D Tattoo Liner in Ink Black. Then, he peeled them off and perfected the black with detailed strokes of Chanel’s #13 Eyeliner Brush. He then filled in the petals with MAC Acrylic Paint in Pure White.
The center of the eyes were supposed to “bleed black,” so he sketched in Estée Lauder’s Double Wear Gel Eyeliner in Onyx, smudging it slightly, and then adding multiple coats of mascara. The lips — the glossy, red pout that added a shock of springtime color to the whole look — were a mélange of Chanel Rouge Coco Lip Colour in Dimitri and Kat Von D’s Everlasting Liquid Lipstick in — you guessed it — Underage Red.
If you’re thinking all this isn’t exactly wearable, well, that’s not the point: “There are no rules when it comes to makeup,” he says. “It’s all subjective — there’s no right or wrong. All that matters is how the final result makes you feel.”
Benjamin can sum up his approach to beauty in one concise, resonant statement: “I like people who make an effort. You only live once, so why not make the best of it?” Growing up in the art world and having studied fashion design, he considers himself to be more of a “conceptual, fashion makeup artist,” though he occasionally dabbles in celebrities (and, when he does, they’re incredibly chic, like Solange).
Having studied under the legendary Peter Philips, who is now the creative and image director of Christian Dior Makeup, Benjamin has learned that even the brightest and most vibrant beauty look must appear considered. “I want every makeup look I create to accentuate the wearer’s natural beauty,” he explains. “I dislike makeup that overtakes the wearer’s features.” This often translates to minimal product on the skin and creative plays of shape and color on the eyes.
It’s unsurprising, then, that he’s established himself as a darling of Teen Vogue and multiple editions ofVogue, has keyed multiple shows at New York Fashion Week, and has lent his talented hands to campaigns for brands like Y-3, Iro, and Barneys New York. Believe us when we say that this London-born, Amsterdam-bred artist is only just getting started.
For Refinery29, Benjamin wanted to create a “minimal look with a '60s reference, playing with the crease of the eye in a different way.” Bored with the typical wing, he wanted a retro-modern shape, divined from his obsession with the work of the iconic fashion house Courrèges. “I always found it inspiring the way he used to use really interestingly shaped glasses on the girls — it was all about distorting the lines. My makeup is a play on that.”
Instead of transforming her via loads of lashes, heavy brows, and contour, he went in the opposite direction — starting with totally bleached eyebrows. After a little bit of his signature skin prep (Mun No. 1 Aknari Brightening Youth Serum and Chanel Hydra Lip Balm), he concealed discolorations with light touches of Make Up For Ever’s Full Cover Concealer and a veil of Clè de Peau Beautè Radiant Fluid Foundation. “I follow that with Maybelline Instant Age Rewind, which is a really good highlighter,” he explains. He tapped it into the skin under the eyes, high on the cheekbones, the bridge of the nose, above the lip, and on the chin, before dusting NARS Soft Velvet Loose Powder in Beach in the center of the face and along the jawline to counteract redness.
“To further open up the face, I did a slight contour on the sides of the cheekbones, the hairline, and under the chin using NARS Casino Bronzer,” he adds.
Then, he used Maybelline Eye Studio Gel Eyeliner in Blackest Black, applying it to the base of the lashes and winging it out straight to the side, creating a curve upwards of the crease. “I finished the liner in the middle of the crease, and then applied Surratt Artistique Eyeshadow in Grey Gardens to complete the arc. This gave it a softer look and added dimension — it’s not just one hard line all the way down.”
For the lid, he applied Maybelline Color Tattoo Eyeshadow in Silver Strike all over, using a lip brush so as not to disturb the shape he had already created. “I applied MAC Pigment in Silver on top, just placing it gently with an eyeliner brush.” To finish, a light dusting of Make Up For Ever Star Powder popped the inner corners of the eye, widening her gaze and completing the subtle gradation of color.
For the skin, he layered Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Moonstone “on the usual places” and Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream. “This gets the cheekbones and temples to shine a little bit,” he says. A gentle kiss of Chanel Rouge Coco Lipstick finished the modern, minimal story.
Alice Lane believes in magic. And, when she proclaims that on set, everybody instantly believes in the magic she sees. There’s something about Alice, you see, that instantly puts you into a childlike state — it could be the shock of curly, red hair, the polka-dotted and striped top she pairs with Converse, the impossibly charming British accent, or that beautiful, wide smile that somehow indicates both a purity of spirit and a propensity for being up to no good.
Her spirit comes through in every face she touches. “Fashion and design is very emotional — it’s just one of those careers where it’s hard to stay unemotional about it,” she says, referencing greats like Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. “They put the heart and soul into the collections, and I do the same with my work, so it gels together.”
And, even though she’s had many ideas for careers and short-lived jobs (musician, actress, and meat-factory technician being among them), she eventually found her match in makeup. “What’s amazing about it is nothing is set in stone. You can do a million different things. I’m a very excitable person, so I like that I can switch it up!”
That’s why legendary beauty photographers like Ben Hassett, and just about every fashion title, call upon her to help create images that will resonate on the page in our fast-paced, digitally minded world. “I’m an old-fashioned person,” she says. “I’m always looking to the past.”
For this story, she looked to the long-gone past, being inspired by good ol’ Welsh magic — like fairies. “I love fairies and folklore. I lived on the border of Wales, so I spent a lot of time as a kid in the woods, going into streams and getting wild garlic. I always thought there were fairies there…sort of that magic and sparkle.”
She decided to marry that magic with a relatable human emotion: sorrow. “I like the way women look when they cry,” she says. “Sometimes, sorrow is so beautiful.” A phone conversation with a friend who was going through a particularly difficult time led Alice to apply her children’s star stickers underneath her eyes, instructing her friend to cry sparkly, colorful tears. “I thought, 'Oh, wait! This works!''”
The result was a colorful, magical, crying fairy — a mix of Welsh magic and a bit of Westwood, for good measure. “I first applied Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation three shades lighter than the model’s skin. Then, I used the Madina Chic & Shine Stick on the highlights and corners of the eyes, adding a simple contour with taupe underneath the bones and around the insides of the hoods of the eyes.”
The model’s complexion was perfected everywhere except around her eyes — she naturally had a slightly darker color on her lids and around her bottom lashline. “Sometimes, you look at someone’s face, and it tells you what to do with it,” Alice says with a smile. So, instead of canceling out that color, she enhanced it: “I added an amber-bronze pigment by Make Up For Ever right on top of the contour, and then used Star Powder for the inner corners of the eyes,” she explains. A single coat of Marc Jacobs Mascara finished the look, “adding that extra layer.”
“For the pink blush, I used a Make Up For Ever eyeshadow in Fuchsia, brushing it right on top of the orbital bone for a slightly cartoony feel,” she says. Then, she painted on the center of the lips using her fingertips and a touch of Troi Ollivierre Lipstick in George. “After that, I mixed up some craft stars with a little bit of Murad Hydro-Dynamic Ultimate Moisture cream, which was nice. You can just stick them on with your fingers, and it feels nice and light! That way, if they fall off, and they get stuck in your hair or your clothes, it all looks kind of pretty.”
It's not conventionally pretty — and that's what made us (and Alice) smile. “Beauty comes from grace and love,” she says. “I always like to look at a person and bring out her features. Enhancing a large nose, for example, can be beautiful. What makes people individual is always what you should bring out.” Once you do, hopefully you’ll discover what Alice already has: That’s when all the magic happens.
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