In 2005, when Alexa Rodulfo was still in her 20s, she moved to the United States to make her dreams come true. She had grown up in Juárez, Mexico, opened a successful salon in her hometown (which she still owns), but had a longtime goal of working with the biggest magazines, photographers, and brands in New York City.
Rodulfo tells Refinery29 that she started doing Trump's hair and makeup in late 2005 after being introduced through a friend. "Ivanka and her friends were hosting the New York Botanical Garden gala that year and one of her friends was already a client of mine," Rodulfo says. "She booked me to do the hair and the makeup for them, and that’s how we met. Since then, we have been working together."
Ivanka Trump #beautybyAlexaRodulfo It's been more than 10 years sharing unforgettable moments with you, and you have such a beautiful spirit and soul! Love you @ivankatrump / Son más de 10 años compartiendo momentos inolvidables. Eres un ser maravilloso #hair #makeup #cabello #maquillaje #beauty by me #alexarodulfo #makeupartist #ivankatrump #dowhatyoulove #rnc #dowhatmakesyouhappy
Normally, of course, working with a makeup artist who immigrated from Mexico wouldn't be that significant. But Trump is the daughter of and adviser to a president who has definite feelings about Rodulfo's country and its people; he has spread lies about Mexican immigrants, supported the policy to forcibly separate migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border, and is still hellbent on building a literal wall to keep Mexicans out of America. Though Ivanka has personally come out against separating those migrant families just recently, it still makes her beauty connection to Mexico... interesting.
On Rodulfo's Instagram, you can see that people think it's also interesting that she, a Mexican immigrant, is the one who's routinely doing Trump's hair and makeup, including on her 2009 wedding day to Jared Kushner and for the Inauguration. Find the rare picture of Trump on Rodulfo's account and you'll see that while there are many comments supporting her, there are also comments like, "How do you stand next to this woman who has defended her father?"
In March 2017, when Rodulfo posted a blurry picture of Ivanka with the caption, "Work with people that inspire you," one commenter fired back: "She inspires you? To what? To leave the States? To build a wall between you and your country?" Trump has yet to comment on her father's plans for the border wall, which follows her typical pattern of staying silent about issues linked to her father, including the family separation crisis and his sexual misconduct accusations, until it's politically beneficial (or neutral) for her to speak out.
But Rodulfo is adamant that she's never had any negative interaction with Trump or her family because of her heritage. "Ivanka and Jared both love Mexico and have deep respect for my heritage," Rodulfo says. "I have never felt anything from her or her family besides warmth and respect. Not only with Ivanka but also with my other clients, they are very proud of where I come from and what I have accomplished. Everyone knows Ivanka is not only my client, but she has been a wonderful and supportive friend."
She insists that Trump going from red carpet socialite to fashion designer to policy lobbying first daughter hasn't changed how the two operate on a day-to-day basis either, other than the fact that she now has to commute to Washington, D.C. from her home in New York City to see her. Rodulfo hasn't altered her technique or the products she uses on her, including a particular $6 mascara that she routinely picks up from a "naturista" or natural store in her hometown of Juárez. It's not brand name, and is made with avocado seed oil to encourage lash growth. Rodulfo uses it on every client, all of whom love it. She buys it for around 100 pesos.
"Nothing has changed," Rodulfo says of her past year and a half. "While I set up [in her home], she is waking up her kids and spending time with them. Then they all come to the kitchen table where I’m ready for her. It’s really nice to spend family time with them. She plays with her children and they play with my makeup while I work. Then when Ivanka leaves, I stay with [Trump's daughter] Arabella. She loves when I put lipgloss on her or do braids." Rodulfo could not disclose how much she is paid for her services.
"If there is a message to her makeup, it is one of warmth and confidence."
Even if Rodulfo hasn't felt a difference, there is absolutely a heightened level of scrutiny on the appearance of a female political figure, versus a female celebrity. The way they style their hair or wear their makeup can impact how people perceive them. As Melania Trump's hairstylist Mordechai Alvow told Women's Wear Daily back in 2016, he stuck to a signature look to build trust after the election. "We didn’t want to be changing things up," he said. "It was very important psychologically to let people know who she is and show some stability with the look."
Like Melania, Ivanka Trump does have a consistent hair and makeup look — smooth buttery blonde hair, smoky eyes, pink lips — but Rodulfo herself hasn't been privy to any sort of hidden message. "I don’t think she is sending any message with her makeup," Rodulfo says. "She prefers natural, warm, clean makeup. If there is a message to her makeup, it is one of warmth and confidence. She does not use her makeup as a mask to hide from the world or help her assume a character."