Beauty & Fashion

How A Stylist Builds A Beauty Uniform

“I grew up in a very small town in Texas called Magnolia—it’s as charming as it sounds. I had no family in fashion whatsoever, but I remember sitting in front of my family’s desktop during my freshman year of high school and searching for editorials. I didn’t even know that word; I was typing phrases like ‘photography with dresses’ or ‘makeup on models.’ My style slowly started to change as I did more research. I got into thrifting during my senior year, and it was through hunting for vintage pieces—and learning how to authenticate them—that I knew fashion was going to be a part of my life somehow. Even so, I ended up going to college to become a teacher. Education is so important to me, and I thought maybe I could have the best of both worlds by teaching fashion or even just by being a teacher with great style. [Laughs]

When I graduated college, a few doors in my personal life closed, which gave me an opportunity to completely change the trajectory of my life. I loved New York so much and knew that if I didn’t move then, I would never get the chance again. I was terrified because I didn’t have a job, but through a friend of a friend of a friend, I found someone that was looking for a roommate in the East Village.

When I first got to the city, I met with an employment agency—it was very ‘Sex and The City.’ All of the agents were wearing hot pink stilettos. I walked in with my resume and met with someone for maybe 10 minutes. As soon as she looked at it—I will never forget this—she said, ‘It says that you want to be a freelance stylist, that you want to work in editorial, that you want to have personal clients. It seems like your goal is to be the next Rachel Zoe. Well, unfortunately, the best job that we can give you would be at a chain retail store. I see hundreds of girls that want the exact same thing. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but it’s not going to happen for you.’ I don’t know what came over me, but I said, ‘Well, I’m going to prove you wrong.’ I was shaking and grabbed my resume and left. Then I cried all of the way home.

I used a few connections and got a job working retail at Intermix and later Helmut Lang. Those two years were so hard because I thought I was regressing. I was like, ‘I did this in Dallas. There’s no way I left my entire family to do the exact same thing.’ But I had no idea how to be a freelancer.

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I later met Carly Cardellino, who was Cosmopolitan’s beauty director, through mutual friends at church, and I explained what I wanted to do. I said, ‘I don’t know what that means for you and how you could help me, but I’ll do anything and I’ll do it for free.’ Around that time, I was interning for stylist Sabina Schreder, so I got to help style people like Blake Lively and Scarlett Johansson for magazine covers. Carly told me to send her my profile, and I did. But I didn’t hear from anybody for a month. I was convinced they hated it, and I was so embarrassed. But what was happening was that someone bumped up my profile to the central Hearst team. One day, I got a call saying, ‘Sorry for the delay. Everyone loved your portfolio. We have a shoot coming up with Revlon in collaboration with Elle and Cosmopolitan. You would need to style 10 models. Is that something you’re comfortable with?’ I was like, ‘Of course. I shoot 10 models often.’ Complete lie. [Laughs] I had three weeks to put it together. I didn’t have access to publicists to pull clothing, so I called my ex-bosses at Intermix and Helmut Lang and they pretty much let me ransack their stores. It was a huge success, and from that moment on, I was contracted by Hearst for about five years, which later led to lookbooks and campaigns with brands like Kate Spade, CoverGirl, Neutrogena, J. Crew, and Coach. My work has appeared in other magazines like Vogue, Glamour, and L’Officiel, too. On the non-editorial end, I work with 10 people, including CEOs, founders, and authors, on a personal styling basis.

I later picked up film and digital photography because I needed to show my own personal work. It was a hobby at first, but it’s now a part of my work, too. I shoot a lot with Babba Canales, one of my styling clients and the founder of hair care brand Ceremonia.

I have a very personal relationship with beauty through my mom, who is the beauty icon in my life. She always had big, curly hair—and now I love blowouts. She loves long red nails, and those are now my signature. She started dancing Mexican traditional ballet folklórico when she was five years old, so she grew up wearing makeup from a very young age. She still beats her face every single day, like cannot leave the house without her makeup. But when she had me, she wanted me to resist the pressure that she was under, so I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup until my senior year of high school. That’s a tough thing when you’re in it. [Laughs] I would put on mascara when I got to school in the morning, and then on the bus ride home, I would use wipes to take it off. At this point, I’ve learned what works for me and what I like, and so I’ve created a sort of uniform for myself. I keep it classic and then a little something—like a darker lip—if I’m going out.

When I started building a routine, I felt like I had just been dropped off on Earth. There’s so much information out there, and it can be really contradictory, so I went to a Kiehl’s store for a skin consultation because I wanted someone to explain every product, step by step.

I don’t wash my face in the mornings. Maybe I’ll splash some water on it, but after that, I just put Aquaphor on my face when I wake up. It makes my face feel and look like silk. Well, every once in a while, I’ll add in the Kiehl’s Avocado Eye Cream—which is really good under makeup—and the Daily Reviving Concentrate Oil, but usually, it’s just Aquaphor. If I’m going outside, I’ll put on sunscreen of course. I use the Super Fluid UV Defense Facial SPF. It’s super light and a little tinted—but not as pigmented as a tinted moisturizer—so it doesn’t leave behind a white film. I love that it doesn’t have a scent, too.

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At night, I use the Ultra Facial Cleanser. It’s a no-frills classic and gets the job done. If I have heavy makeup on, I’ll get it off first with the Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil. It really breaks everything down. Then I do a layer of the Cucumber Herbal Toner. The way they described toners to me is that cleansers are the equivalent of sweeping a floor but toners are the equivalent of mopping. I love this one because it’s alcohol-free. Then I pat on the Midnight Recovery Concentrate Face Oil. It’s supposed to make you look more radiant.

If my skin is feeling really dry, I’ll use the Ultra Facial Overnight Face Mask. I love it because it’s clear—it looks like I’m just putting Aquaphor on—and I can easily rinse it off in the morning. My skin always feels so good after. I also love Sonsie’s Multi Moisture Mask. It’s so easy to travel with.

Since we’re in New York and I don’t know what’s hitting my face when I’m walking down the street, I always have Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay at home. But I probably only use it once a month because it’s very powerful and I don’t want to dry out my skin even more. It really makes me feel like I’m bringing out all of the pollution and yuckiness that’s trapped in my pores.

My Mount Lai Jade Gua Sha broke so I need to get a new one, but we all want to highlight the things that we like about our face right? I like my cheekbones, but I’m 36 years old, so I don’t know how much longer I have with them. [Laughs] The gua sha helps me draw them out. Normally—when it’s not broken—I use it every other day for the length of three songs with one of my Kiehl’s face oils. I’ve tried it with Aquaphor and that was fine, but the face oils give me more of a slip to work with.

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When it comes to makeup, a big priority for me is to make sure that it’s as natural as possible. I have pretty dark eye circles, so I like to use both Revlon’s ColorStay 5-in-1 Concealer in shade 002 Universal Brightener and Make Up For Ever’s HD Skin Smooth & Blur Undetectable Under Eye Concealer in shade 2.5(N) Desert under my eyes. I apply a very thin layer. My mom has pretty dark eye circles—and her mom did, too—and I’m trying to embrace those similarities in our family. Overall, I’m in an era of embracing all parts of myself. I like that I can look in the mirror and see my grandmother and my mom.

I’ve really been loving Saie’s Dew Blush in Spicy and Rosy. These blushes feel like more of a tint to me, although they’re very buildable if you want more pigment. Tower 28 has a great shade of their BeachPlease Cream Blush called Rush Hour, too. For a seamless look, sometimes I brush on a bit of the blush on my eyelids. But recently, I’ve been using Merit’s Solo Shadows, especially the Midcentury shade. They have a cream-to-powder formula that makes it easy for girls like me who don’t necessarily know what they’re doing when it comes to blending eyeshadow. [Laughs] I don’t find Chanel’s Les 4 Ombres Multi-Effect Quadra Eyeshadow palettes intimidating either. I love the 266 Tissé Essentiel and 334 Modern Glamour versions. Tom Ford’s Eye Color Quad Eyeshadow Palette in De La Créme is great, too. I especially love that the palettes have four colors, so it takes the guesswork out of picking colors to combine.

I have thinner, lighter lashes, and I’m trying to embrace that, but I do love Merit’s Clean Lash Mascara. I also don’t pluck or wax my brows because they’re already kind of thin. I recently found the e.l.f. Wow Brow Gel in Deep Brown at Target. It’s easy and to the point—and it doesn’t add too much product.

On an average day, I stick to my Lucas Papaw Ointment for my lips, or Gucci’s Hydrating Lip Balm in Joslyn Clair is great if I want an elevated lip balm. For color, I really like Merit’s Tinted Lip Oil in Falcon and SangriaSangria especially stains the lips for hours. My absolute go-to is Makeup by Mario’s MoistureGlow Plumping Lip Serum in Honey Glow. I have one in my errands bag and in my makeup bag; you’ll never catch me without one. Every once in a while, I love a red lipstick like Armani’s Lip Magnet Liquid Lipstick in Hollywood. Chanel has really good reds too. I feel like when I wear a Chanel red—I love the Rouge Allure Laque in Invincible—I’m always like, ‘Take a photo of this please. I need everyone to see.’

In college, I shaved the sides of my head. My hair was bleached red and black, too. I’m so grateful that I was able to survive that era of my life. [Laughs] At this point, I think I have virgin hair again. I let it air dry as much as possible, but I do get a blowout every two weeks. I like big hair—I’ll always have that little bit of Texas in me. I go to this little hole-in-the-wall in Chinatown that charges me like $24. The girls spend 10 minutes massaging you. It’s amazing, but I’m sorry, I’m gatekeeping the name because it’s that incredible. I’ve been going there for five years now. And twice a year, I make a trip up to the Upper East Side to get my hair trimmed by Diana Barbaros at Kolor Bar. Since I’m short, I have to make sure that my hair doesn’t also pull me down, so I try to make sure that the layers are higher up to kind of elongate my body.

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I have a great relationship with the brand Ceremonia because it’s founded by Babba Canales. I remember when this was just an idea, so to see it fully in Sephora is so special. I really like the Champú de Yucca because it’s good for dry hair—and my hair is very dry. It smells incredible, too. Sometimes I’ll use the Guava Leave-In-Conditioner as a sort of mask. I’ll put it in for a few minutes and then rinse it out. I’ll use the Aceite de Moska before washing my hair every once in a while, too. It’s a scalp oil that’s meant to help with flakiness and frizz.

As far as post-washing and styling go, my absolute favorite Ceremonia products are the Pequi Curl Activator and the Style Refresher. I like to use the Pequi Curl Activator on the last four days before I wash it. It’s great because it does activate your curls, but the serum doesn’t harden or grease up your hair. It’s not like a gel, where your hair automatically sets or starts to flake. After I’ve slept on my hair like this, I just spray the Refresher to reset my curls. Similarly, OUAI’s Wave Spray is really great. I use this a lot at the beach or after I get out of a pool if I want to keep my waves. OUAI’s Hair Oil is so good, too. You only need a tiny amount and it gets rid of your fly-aways.

Every two weeks, I go to Cobble Hill Nails & Spa for dip powder, which I love because I deal with hangers a lot and dip makes my nails so strong. I don’t do anything to them in between appointments. If anything, I might use Aquaphor on my cuticles. I always go with red nails because the color goes with everything. Red stands the test of time between seasons and allows me to focus my creativity around styling my personal clients or curating looks for editorials.

When it comes to fragrances, I’m drawn towards woodsy, masculine, darker scents. I’ve always been that way. Similar to my style, I think of scent as a uniform—once I find something that I like, I will not leave it.

I would drink Byredo’s Super Cedar in a cocktail glass if I could. It makes me feel really confident. In New York, we’re in such close quarters on the streets and in the restaurants, so we always smell the same scents, but I don’t smell Super Cedar often—and I want to stand out. When I first moved to New York, I was wearing a different scent—you can probably guess the one—but then everyone got it, and it was too much. When I found Super Cedar, it was a game-changer.

Growing up, the little southern girl in me always wanted to own a Chanel scent, and now I have Paris-Venise. I don’t necessarily wear it often, but it’s here as a reminder that I can do the things that I always wanted. Ceremonia’s Perfume de la Tierra is really nice, too. It feels musky and reminds me of how it smells after it rains. I love the bottle; it’s so beautiful to style on your vanity.

In college, I wore Burberry’s classic eau de parfum. I don’t wear it now, but I like to smell it so I keep a bottle around. [Laughs] It brings back so many good memories of the time before I came to New York.”

—As told to Daise Bedolla

Photographed by Alexandra Genova in Brooklyn on October 8, 2023

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