English singer Ella Mai has never been one to shy away from a look. That said, she hasn't missed the mark on a red carpet—not once. The secret to her beauty success, we think, is the way she tailors of the moment styles and products to her own personal style. Everything she does looks very much like her—cool, confident, and unapologetic. It's all very inspiring.
Last night she walked the red carpet at the Billboard Music Awards wearing a tall, structured, slicked top knot with a glossy berry lip. It was just the sort of stand-out we'd expect from someone nominated for six separate awards (and then went on to win three—namely, top R&B song, top R&B female artist, and top R&B artist, period).
The look was created by hairstylist Kahh Spence and makeup artist Emily Cheng. "We love being creative and experimenting with color for special events as Ella keeps her tour look au naturale," Cheng said. "The outfit, being all black, allowed us to really go for any color. I had a few options in mind but wanted to create a jewel-like pops of color with fresh radiant skin. The focal was definitely the lips but the eyes also had many layers so that it wasn’t your regular neutral eye."
Keep scrolling to see which products were used to create Mai's look, as well as see an exclusive behind-the-scenes photo diary.
This was the set-up for the look. As you can see, Cheng brought various drugstore products to the glam session, which we're excited to unpack (it's no secret that we love a good bargain product). First, though, we have to talk about how Cheng prepped Mai's skin.
"Start with a hot towel to steam the face," Cheng says. Then it's on to products from the luxury skincare brand AVYA. First up was the brand's Night Moisturizer With Vitamin A ($95), which is a rich and hydrating cream to encourage natural-looking radiance. "I then soaked an organic cotton dry facial sheet mask with AVYA Night Moisturizer and applied as mask. I like AVYA products because they target the melanin pathway with a unique blend of turmeric, neem and peony for an overall radiant finish to the complexion and perfect for prepping pre-makeup... Let that sit for about 10 minutes then follow with another hot towel steam. I then towel off completely, she explains."
Once Mai's skin was toweled off a second time, Cheng applied the brand's Anti-Aging Power Serum ($110). It has vitamin C in it, which brightens the skin and provides a little bit of a natural glow. After adding the Day Moisturizer ($85) over that, Cheng applied a little bit of AVYA's Eye Bright Cream with Caffeine ($75) around Mai's eyes to disguise any dark circles that might be lurking. "The whole team has pretty much been living on planes so this is a must," Cheng says.
Can you sense a theme? Her skincare prep was all about inducing natural radiance and illumination. "The key is to make sure everything is fully absorbed and the skin feels moisturized with a satin finish."
Only after Mai's skin was properly prepped did Cheng begin applying makeup. She started with Revlon's PhotoReady Rose Glow Primer ($14), because a little extra radiance never hurt anyone. She applied it all over the face except for the T-zone, since her goal was a glowing and polished complexion—not a shiny and oily one.
Next came time for foundation. Cheng used Revlon's Photoready Candid Foundation, which—get this—is only $6 a tube. That's only a fraction of the price of other red carpet-worthy foundations. "Ella’s got incredible skin so using Revlon’s PhotoReady Candid foundation sheered out is great and for areas that need a bit of extra coverage, the product builds really nicely without ever looking heavy."
"For a flush of color, I tap on a minimal amount of Revlon Cheek Flushing Tint in Starstruck ($9) on the apples of the cheek and buff out with a blush brush." (Side note: this cheek tint is a super pretty coral pink shade that we can't wait to get our hands on for summer). "Lastly I use my fingers and dab/blend Revlon ColorStay Endless Glow Highlighter in Gold ($11) onto the cheek bones," Cheng explains.
After perfecting Mai's eye makeup and fluffy brows, Cheng moved on to her lips. Aside from Mai's structural top knot, her bold berry lip was surely the stand-out element of her whole look. The exact lip color Cheng used was (no surprise) also from Revlon.
"I started with Revlon Colorstay Lip Liner in Sienna ($9) all over to get a deep brown base and then I applied Revlon Ultra HD Hyper Matte Lip Mousse in Red Hot ($10). Here's the key to achieving Mai's diffused 'just-bitten' lip color: you have to blend the edges. "Buff in and around the edges with the wand fully wiped off os that there is not excess product that could smudge the sculpted lip line," Cheng explains. "I wanted soft buffed edges vs, a sharp line. So even though it's a brighter shade it still looks stained."
Here's a photo of Cheng in action, applying the lip color directly from the tube, before blending the edges out for a stain-like appearance. We love the vivd berry red shade. We love the fact that it will only put us out $10 even more.
Here's the final look seen on Ella Mai as she hits the Billboard Music Awards red carpet. We only have one word to describe this: stunning. It's further proof that you don't need to spend a lot of money on makeup products to achieve a professional-looking result. Now please excuse us as we go makeup shopping down the aisles of the drugstore.
Next, check out the 16 best beauty looks from the Billboard Music Awards, from Taylor Swift's monochromatic lilac makeup to Priyanka Chopra's sultry smokey eyes.