Exclusive: Getting Ready with Taraji P. Henson to Host the 2020 American Music Awards

Her makeup artist credits this product for foundation-ready skin.

Taraji P. Henson on red carpet

Ashunta Sheriff-Kendricks 

Taraji P. Henson is never one to rest on her laurels. She doesn't wear outfits, she wears looks. Her career isn't just prolific, it's legendary. And Henson isn't content to just attend and win at award shows—this year, she's hosting the American Music Awards. Since Henson's hosting gig means not just a red carpet but also hours of near-constant screen time, multiple costume changes, and elaborate dance routines, her glam team had the ultimate creative challenge ahead of them.

We caught up with Henson and Ashunta Sheriff-Kendricks, her longtime makeup artist, as they prepared for tonight's American Music Awards. From exactly what eye shadow shade gave Henson her metallic sheen to the secret weapon skincare product that made the foundation blend so seamlessly, Sheriff-Kendricks walks us through the entire getting-ready process.

Scroll on for a complete look at Taraji P. Henson's American Music Awards look.

Taraji P. Henson backstage
Ashunta Sheriff-Kendricks 

Skincare was a primary focus for Sheriff-Kendricks and the team, who prepped Henson's skin with a trio of Alpyn Beauty products for a smooth and moisturized pre-makeup canvas. Sheriff-Kendricks kicked off the process with the Alpyn Beauty Wild Huckleberry 8-Acid Polishing Peel ($56), a five-minute exfoliating mask she called "a game-changer." Next, she used the Alpyn Beauty PlantGenius Survival Serum ($68) which Sheriff-Kendricks says illuminates skin and can also double as a makeup primer in a pinch. Finally, she applied Alpyn Beauty PlantGenius Line Filling Eye Balm ($62) with her ring finger "to help plump up fine lines and give eyes the deep nourishing hydration they need."

Alpyn Beauty products
Ashunta Sheriff-Kendricks

With an even, moisturized complexion to work with, Sheriff-Kendricks got started on Henson's shimmering, wintry makeup. After applying Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Hydrating Primer ($42), Sheriff-Kendricks applied a layer of Armani Beauty Neo Nude Foundation ($40) in numbers 8 and 10 with a foundation brush. "I used [shade] 8 to lift the under-eye area and 10 to sculpt the face," Sheriff-Kendricks tells us, using the same technique with Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Concealer ($38) in shade 6.5 under Henson's eyes.

Armani and Alpyn Beauty prodcuts
Ashunta Sheriff-Kendricks 

A light dusting of Armani Beauty Neo Nude Fusion Power ($64) in 4 and 8 sealed the foundation and concealer before Sheriff-Kendricks moved on to Armani Beauty A-Line Liquid Blush ($36) in Sangria and A-Line Liquid Highlighter ($36) in Nude. "I used blush only on apples of the cheeks," she says, while highlighter is used on Henson's cheekbones, inner corners, and the bridge of her nose. 

Taraji P. Henson and Ashunta Sheriff-Kendricks
Ashunta Sheriff-Kendricks 

"I wanted to make this look all about the intense glowing eye makeup with strong cat wing liner with subtle shading to create depth," she says, using the Armani Beauty Eye Tint Long-Lasting Liquid Eyeshadow ($30) in Cold Copper on Henson's lids before using the Armani Beauty Eyes To Kill Liquid Liner ($36) in Black for cat-eye winged liner. Then, "I used Armani Eyes To Kill Eye Liner Pencil in a brown shade on the lower lash liner and smudged it to create a soft smoke," Sheriff-Kendricks says, then "finished the eyes with Armani Beauty Maestro Mascara ($32) in Black." 

Taraji P. Henson makeup touchup
Ashunta Sheriff-Kendricks 

"I lined Taraji’s lips with the Armani Smooth Silk Lip Liner ($30) in shade 7 and filled in to create a fullness illusion," Sheriff-Kendricks tells Byrdie. "Then I used two Armani Lip Maestro Liquid Matte Lipstick ($30) shades: first Sospiri applied all over lips, and then Tadzio on the inside of the lips to give it a soft, subtle graduation."

 To lock it all in, she misted Henson's face with Melanie Mills Hollywood Gleam Setting Spray ($40), then mixed a special moisturizing blend of Palmer's Coconut Oil ($5.29) with Melanie Mills Gleam Radiant Dust Shimmering Loose Powder ($48).

Related Stories