It's not every day you show up to work and are asked to bleach your eyebrows. But when you're a model, it's just a regular day on the clock. It was the scene backstage at Alexander Wang's 2018 Collection II presentation, where all 42 women walking the show got their eyebrows bleached. Behind the curtain, models sat in makeup chairs with their arches covered in developer, and makeup artists carefully watched to make sure their brows were runway-ready.
Diane Kendal, lead makeup artist for NARS backstage, tells Refinery29 that the inspiration for barely-there brows was simple: "We just wanted to make them look a bit cooler," she says. Hair and makeup looks were inspired by Wang's juxtaposition between uptown New Yorker meets downtown New Yorker. "It has a very '90s feel," Kendal says.
Based on skin tone, the brows ranged from platinum to caramel. Makeup artist Jamal Scott, who was in charge of transforming Mayowa Nicholas' brows, points out that the attention to detail is slightly different when dyeing models of color. "The biggest mistake people make when bleaching brows on Black skin is that they dye the hair lighter than the person's complexion," says Scott. "The main objective [in this case] is to make the hairs look invisible, so you need to match it to the model's skin tone."
Scott lifted Nicholas' jet-black hairs to a caramel-brown color and covered them in foundation to achieve a shade closest to her complexion. "It really opens up the eyes and draws major attention to them," he says. "Blending in foundation also helps conceal any dark hairs left behind so we don't have to overprocess."
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The rest of the beauty look was equal parts edgy and elegant. Some models donned white towels wrapped around their heads, a look Dyson hairstylist Duffy meant to represent uptown glamour. Others, had long, downtown-inspired pigtails and ponytails (which required lots of hairspray). Makeup artists kept complexions concealed, but glowing, using the deep, neutral tones in the new NARS Ignited palette to contour on the eyelids. Nothing too dramatic that would overpower the non-existent brows.
While some people (us, included) would give bleaching our eyebrows a hard "pass," models backstage at Wang embraced the beauty look. "I've never bleached anything before, so I was nervous, but it's still really cool," model Carmen Amare tells us. But what happens after the show? Are models bound to bleached brows forever? Scott was waiting with beard dye at the end of the runway to color models back to their original form before they hit the New York City streets. "Unless, that is, they don't want to," he says.