It's common practice for beauty editors to attend hair and makeup tests before a New York Fashion Week runway show or presentation. It's quite rare, however, for it to turn into an opportunity to model for a designer. Let me start from the beginning.
I walked into the Tracy Reese showroom a few days before her show to take notes on the beauty look. There, I met her PR team and the men and women responsible for dreaming up the best way to style each model to complement the clothes and Reese's inspiration for the collection.
First up was Mary Kay's global beauty ambassador, Luis Casco. I watched as he painted on look after look, each a bit different than the last. He discussed the colors and products with Reese, and together, they fine-tuned each idea.
After about two hours, they found themselves in a bind. Nothing they had tried was quite right. That's the moment when the makeup looked at me and asked, "Do you mind if we try something on you?" I paused, blinked, and tried to remember if I had even washed my face that morning. Duh, I thought to myself, but I shyly smiled and responded, "Of course."
Casco motioned for me to sit in the chair in front of him and began applying, brushing, and blending. I was nervous about the outcome—not because Casco wasn't a magician with a makeup brush, but rather because I was certainly not a model. It's not that I don't think I'm attractive—I can look the part when necessary—but more so because it takes me at least 20 tries before I find a photo of myself where I'm not making a bizarre face or holding my body in a strange way.
I knew if they liked the look, they would photograph it like crazy. But it calmed me to find out Reese had decided to present friends, comedians, and other non-model types in her show. The makeup look was meant to reflect that.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized there's been a shift in the people cast in fashion shows as of late—a move toward "real" women over models. While the phrase real women is a bit troublesome (kind of like calling someone "brave" for opting to go makeup-free)—every person showcased, model or otherwise, is in fact real—it's a trend I can get behind just the same.
It's like a breath of fresh air to watch a show and see different complexions, body types, and hair textures walking down the runway. Not to mention that it's pretty important for those in the industry to know the clothes can work on different people. Amelia Diamond of Man Repeller spoke of the choice at J.Crew's presentation: "Anyone could walk into J.Crew, look around, and either see someone who they absolutely love or someone who looks like them."
As soon as Casco was done, I looked in the mirror and fell in love. To my dismay, so did Reese. She immediately took out her camera and started snapping away—lamenting the entire time how beautiful I looked and how grateful she was that I was there. It was like a dream.
The look was whimsical, fresh, and colorful. The presentation was meant to feel like a garden party, so the purple liner, pink eye shadow, and rosy cheeks were absolutely spot-on. Casco finished me off with a few swipes of Mary Kay's Gel Semi-Matte Lipstick in Bashful You ($18) and the brand's cult-favorite Brow Gel ($10) that I've been using every day since.
Then came the hair. Once my makeup was done, lead stylist Bok-Hee asked if she could work out the final hairstyle on me as well. It took all of about five minutes to find the right look, an ethereal half-up messy bun utilizing my natural texture and Cantu's Wave Whip Curling Mousse, $6.
The theme of the entire night (and subsequently the show) was to embrace each woman's personal style and let that dictate the direction of their beauty looks. We took a million pictures after I was done, and I felt truly incredible. Modeling is a hard job, but someone has to do it.
Want more fashion week–related goodness? Read all about the eight things I learned while pretending to be a model at NYFW.