Makeup artists shaping how Black Beauty is presented on the Red Carpet

As representation for Black women in Hollywood has expanded over the past decade, their glam teams have followed suit, continuously dreaming up new, authentic ways for them to present themselves on the red carpet.

They paint their clients’ faces with bold pigments that showcase the richness of their deep complexions. They style hair in braids informed by African traditions. And all help explore definitions of self-expression and glamour.

If you’re still thinking about Lupita Nyong’o’s campy ensemble at the 2019 Met Gala or drooling over Beyoncé’s golden goddess look at the 2017 Grammys, you’re not the only one. These ladies, among a long list of others (Zendaya, Normani, Lizzo, Rihanna – and that’s just a few), are bringing some of the most exciting beauty moments to the red carpet right now.

Hairstylists like Vernon François and Lacy Redway show the world unapologetic ways to wear kinks, coils, curls, and locs in a society where racist stereotypes still dictate what “good hair” means. “One of my favourite things is having the platform to showcase how versatile Afro hair is,” François tells Allure.

Notable clients: Zendaya, Kelly Rowland, Normani

Aesthetic: “Beautiful, clean, buttery, flawless, glowy skin,” Daley explains. “I love a sculpted brow, I love a sculpted beautiful face and lovely lashes. You know I do have a lash line, Elora Lane. Lashes have been something I’ve just adored from the very beginning as well.”

Favourite looks of all time: “All of the Met Gala looks that I’ve done with Zendaya are my absolute favourite,” Daley says. “My favourite, favourite, was from 2016. She was in the gold Michael Kors dress and had her hair in that very coiffed bowl cut. We did this super, super smoky, bronzy-brown eye. Ugh, that is still one of my favourite makeup looks ever.”

But that’s not all. “Another one from the Met Gala that I loved was the Joan of Arc look in 2018,” Daley continues. “It wasn’t really a makeup look, but it was so clean, fresh, and airy. And I loved the hair and the wardrobe – everything just melted together seamlessly.”

More recently, Daley points to Zendaya’s 2019 Emmy look. “She was kind of Poison Ivy,” Daley says. “She had a green dress on; the eye makeup was burgundy; her hair was an orange-ish red shade.”

Lacy Redway

Years in the industry: “I’ve been in the industry for over a decade, but I really, really started doing more red carpet work in the last seven years,” she says.

Notable clients: Tessa Thompson, FKA Twigs, Tiffany Hadish

Aesthetic: “If anyone looks at my body of work, they could definitely tell that it is heavily influenced by braids and African techniques,” Redway says. “I like playing with texture and length and pushing the boundaries on what traditionally is seen as beauty. I enjoy doing hairstyles that were traditionally not seen on specific hair textures, showing that it can be done.”

Favourite look: “That’s so hard because I feel like I’m so blessed that I get to work with so many different women and we create so many beautiful hairstyles together. But I mean, I know some crowd favourites,” Redway says. “I know a lot of people really love Tessa Thompson’s 2019 Met Gala rope hairstyle and Zazie Beetz’s Afro at Venice Film Festival.”

Porshe Cooper

Years in the industry: “Over a decade,” she says.

Notable clients: Niecy Nash, Andra Day, Mary J. Blige, Iman

Aesthetic: “High glamour – the more glamour, the better – as that is the essence of who I am,” Cooper explains. “My objective with any client in my chair, most notably for the red carpet, is to ensure their skin looks youthful, beautifully lit, and rich. I love an eye focus when the look calls for it, so I’ve mastered the art of creating smoldering eyes that look luxurious.”

Favourite look of all time: “Hands down, my favourite red carpet look to date is singer Andra Day at the 2018 Oscars,” Cooper says. “She wore a French jacquard Zac Posen gown, and I took inspiration from the Rococo era for her makeup. She looked divine and caused an internet frenzy by laying down on the red carpet for photos. It was beyond!”

Lupita Nyong’o SAG Awards 2020

About a decade ago, the same couldn’t be said about the styles going down the red carpet. Redway recalls seeing waves over and over again. “Beautiful, soft waves, romantic waves, any kind of wave,” she says. “Waves were the thing.”

“One of my favourite things is having the platform to showcase how versatile afro hair is.”

Over the past five years, though, more and more celebrities have been embracing and showing off their natural, beautifully kinky textures on the red carpet, redefining what “Hollywood hair” is, Redway notes.

Collaboration with and willingness from the talent are key here. “We can’t do these things on our own,” Redway says. “Our clients are also ready to see more diverse hairstyles on the red carpet, and they’ve been willing to be the champion for that.”

Together, hairstylists and celebrities showcase an “exciting variety of height, texture, sculpting, and volume,” François says. Color and length are other ways to play with hair on the red carpet, too, Redway adds.

Favourite look: “There are many looks that set my heart racing. It’s hard to pick just one as a favourite, but the first that comes to mind is the beaded style with Lupita Nyong’o for Allure’s March 2018 cover,” he says. “It was one of several looks that we collaborated on for the shoot, but this one, for me, was a stand-out: braids embellished with beads and jewels. This was a key look for Lupita and is still often referenced and referred to as one of her signature moments.”

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