As we start our Zoom call I immediately see the person behind the makeup, though Naezrah’s face is beat, brightened under eyes on full display. She explains her sister was graduating and in an effort to show her how to do her makeup, she did her own.
It is already clear that there is a lot more to come from Naezrah but the magnitude of her impact is already felt in the industry she was initially unsure about. The New York Native has captivated everyone with her bold makeup looks including companies like Milk Makeup and singer-songwriter SZA. Since talking to her she has captivated us with her confidence, wit, and love for her community.
In a conversation with GROWN Naezrah shares her love for makeup, how she works through her anxiety and most importantly, promotes confidence for the girlies.
Huge congrats on the Milk campaign. How does it make you feel, seeing your face in Sephora?
Thank you. That was very kismet. Very, very, very kismet. It’s still very unreal. A lot of people have been sending pictures like, “Look, I saw you.” And I’m like, my God, it’s so cool. It’s around the world, it’s fun.
When you hear about influencers you typically think about the companies reaching out to people who have this huge following and you’re influencing their consumer base, not the actual company.
I just wanted them to extend the shade ranges for some things, because I love Milk Makeup down. I’m a big Milk Makeup girly, supported from the start of my makeup journey. And they’ve been very embracing, very open with me. And they’re super chill, you can be yourself. You don’t have to do too much, you know? And I like that they accept you for you. So I was like, “Hey, I love the products, but I can’t use these. And people who are darker than me, deep, deep dark, will definitely not be able to use these.”
What brought you into the world of makeup?
Makeup has always been around me, growing up. I have a whole bunch of aunts, lots of women in my family. My grandma would do her makeup, her eyeliner, and lipstick. I would look at her dabble, but it was never an interest for me. I grew up drawing and doing fashion-based stuff. So I was like, hmm, this is interesting. Towards the end of high school, I started wearing a little bit of makeup. At that time makeup was in the block brow era; it was really ashy. Again, Black women really weren’t consuming makeup like we do now.
But then I get to college and I am in my dorm. I see the girlies doing their makeup, I’m like, “Okay, you guys look cute. How can I get up there with you guys?” So I’m like, “Okay, let’s start a YouTube channel.” I dove headfirst into this not knowing a clue on what to do with anything. And my mom bought me a Sephora Anastasia brow kit, and that was it for me. I was like, “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. I like this. I like playing in makeup.” And then, it didn’t start off as colorful as I am now or as insane as it is now. It literally started off with a Morphe, the neutral color palette. I went to the drug store and the beauty supply to get some foundation, the LA Girl concealer. And this is where we start. After, there was a glitter phase and then a highlighting phase. Through the years it’s just been consistently practicing one step of makeup until now I feel like, personally, I perfected my base, and my creative techniques to do certain things.
Now we’re here.
Do you think that maybe the lack of representation in the beauty industry is one of the reasons that you didn’t fully go into makeup initially?
You know, initially, I don’t think it was a heavy reason to get into anything. It was more so people weren’t doing the makeup that I was interested in. Block brows were fading out and we had the go-to natural glam girls. No one was thinking about doing insane, colorful shadows and color cutouts.
At the time, even still to this day, I get hate comments. It has always been a hate train to hate when dark-skinned women or black women in general, but especially dark-skinned women, step into colors. People hate us in colors for some reason. But I was like, well I’m not going to let it deter me. The first instance of that came when I went live on Facebook for the first time ever and got bullied relentlessly. And I mean, the sickest, vilest things you can think of were being said to me. And I was like, okay, if this is how you feel that’s cute, but it’s not going to stop me, you’re just pushing me to keep going and keep learning.
For me, when I came out of college I was very into Melt, the black lipstick, the space gray. For some reason, and I think especially with Black women, as we get older we try to conform. And I’m guessing a lot of it has to do with not wanting to play into the unfair stereotypes. What stopped you from doing that?
I would say, not to take all the credit here, but a big part is myself. Another huge part is the people around me and my family. They’ve been very encouraging me my whole life to be artistic in any way or form I choose to express myself. So I will say that plays a huge, huge part. I’ve also always been a little bit weird, like the black sheep. So people’s opinions didn’t technically phase me, or that stigma didn’t really phase me. Because if I’m going to be the weird Black girl and the black sheep, I’m going to show you what it’s like to live unapologetically and fully as the black sheep and be comfortable.
Some people still adhere to certain boundaries that are placed. I don’t feel like you should. Do what you wish, go as crazy as you’d like. It washes off at the end of the day, makeup will wash off at the end of the day.
I love that. I think a lot of us struggle to get there. So the fact that you’ve had that instilled in you, I wish that for everybody.
No, truly. I do wish that for everyone. And that’s why I do what I do, especially for Black women and Black people, Black men, Black non-binary, Black femme, anyone, but very much so the dark skin people of the community. Because again, as a Black woman, a dark-skinned Black woman, there is so much pressure on us to look a certain way and act a certain way. Black women in general. And I feel like, no, we’re not a monolith. We’re not all the same. We share certain experiences, yes, but we’re not the same.
The girls who are soft glam girlies, hardcore soft glam, IG baddies, they love us, the weirdos, and vice versa. We love them back. Again, just do what you’re comfortable with. Whatever you feel most beautiful in, whatever boosts your confidence. Whatever it is, do what you wish. Whatever aesthetic you’re going for, go for it. If you want to change your aesthetic, go for it. Do your thing until you find yourself, until you find your aesthetic and what makes you comfortable. And feel free at the same time. Keep on, do your thing.
Walk me through your creative process. How do you create a makeup look?
In terms of makeup, what’s going through my head the whole time is probably literally, “Don’t mess this up, don’t mess this up.” And then if I mess everything up I’m like scrap the original idea, turn it into something else.
The makeup looks I do are fairly intricate. They can get really really time-consuming. But I just say, if you stare at a look long enough you start somewhere where you feel most comfortable and then you build up from there. That’s how I normally do it.
Let’s say I’m doing an eye look with multiple creases and cuts everywhere, but it’s also really colorful, that already sounds intimidating enough. But just pick a spot. You start somewhere with your eye look and then you go from there, and then you clean it up on the way. It is a process because it’s taken years to figure out how to get it to look the way it looks.
Tell me about some of your favorite products for the face, lips, and eyes.
For eyebrows I like BAEBROW brow pomade. It’s really good. My eyebrows are really thick, coarse and curly. They have a tendency to be unruly and curl up instead of stay straight and flat down. So I found Baebrow and it’s like, the best thing.
I love Huda Beauty setting powder, NARS Radiant Longwear Foundation. I love NARS bronzers, they have a cream bronzer. I like Make Up For Ever’s eye pencil. I use it as a lip liner even though it’s an eye pencil. But it’s really good. And about-face mascara is really nice!
It really seems like you’re working to encourage women to live boldly. Is that how you feel when you’re doing your own makeup?
Yeah. I find myself really hot in my bare face, but in soft glam like this and then also in the most insane look, I could be painted red and be like “Oh I look so hot right now.” When I finish doing makeup I’m like, “This looks really nice!” I’m always baffled by myself, in awe if you will. You can have a vision, you can sketch it out as many times as you want, but executing it is completely different. Even for someone like me, people think I know all the secrets to the world of makeup and I’m like no, I’m still struggling to find out. But it would be dishonest if I said, as an artist, you’re not looking to perfect every time you do it.
I really do wish that I could bottle your confidence.
This is something that’s taken lots to build, though. It’s not something that I just woke up with and was like, yeah, fuck everyone, and the whole shebang. It took years, especially with the daily harassment online. I could have been someone so quickly to adhere to those projections onto myself. Once you realize these people live online, their opinions don’t matter to you. They can be going through something in their own life that they don’t have control over and feel like they can tell a random person “Hey, you’re ugly.” They may be feeling ugly today, so I don’t pay no people any mind.
I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about your Haitian culture. How do you think it’s impacted how you express yourself?
I grew up in a Haitian-American household but also a Black-American household, if that makes sense. Because my mom grew up with Black American culture, that got passed down to me. The Haitian American and Black-American combination is insane. The confidence that could be instilled in you, if nurtured, is insane.
Haitian culture though, I will say we’re very prideful in our country. We have a go-go-go mentality. Life doesn’t give you the break to stop. It transfers into my craft where it’s like, you got stuff to do. You want to create more stuff, there’s more ideas coming in. So you need to release the energy and release the ideas before they go and pass on somewhere else.
Tell me about what it was like growing up in New York City. Do you think it informs how you move throughout the world and the makeup industry?
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, born and raised there and sometimes in Queens. Brooklyn, there really is a hustle culture here. But I don’t want to ever view something like this as a hustle because it’s not a hustle. I don’t want to view my career as something to hustle because I genuinely love this. I never want it to feel like a job.
That’s the secret. The secret is for what you do to never feel like a job. You’ll have so much fun doing it and you’ll feel like you have more time. Never let your job feel like it’s a hustle. Even though there’s a myth that you’re not supposed to enjoy your job, enjoy your job. Find something that you enjoy and the universe will always grant you funds when you need it and if you need it.
I do get the question everywhere I go, “You’re from New York?” And I’m like, yeah, how did you know that and they reply “I don’t know, something about you.” There’s something about us that they could tell that we’re from New York. I don’t know what it is. I wouldn’t say I carry myself any differently. I’m probably more stern because I’m in a professional setting and business is business and you don’t want people to just trample over you.
This industry is really good for walking all over you and taking your stuff. I’ve had stuff taken for years, from video editing, to people doing their hair, or their makeup, to a specific kind of look. Black women are just taken from a lot, and given no credit. When we ask for the credit we seem like the angry Black woman or the aggressor.
It’s a process, but I will say I don’t defer or carry myself any differently with the industry. I choose to keep it this way, to be as authentic as possible as I can with the internet.
What is a Y2K song that is still on your playlist?
“Video” by India.Arie. I love that song, live by it, grew up listening to it. My mom blasted it around the house when she was cleaning it. Again, my mom is also a dark-skinned woman. I feel like she’s just ingrained and planted stuff. She was like, “I want my kid to have a certain amount of confidence, or a certain amount of affection and love that you don’t normally hear about.”
Summer’s also coming to an end, what does being outside mean for you?
Being outside is not a thing for me. Me and outside have a love-hate relationship. I would love to go outside all the time, but not really at the same time. It’s tiring, it makes my anxiety so high. I like the comfort of my home. I’m an agoraphobe. Like, quite literally agoraphobic. Outside really is just not the vibes for me.
There is this conditioning that Black women go through where we’re forced into believing there is only room for one of us. If one of us has some kind of success the rest of us can’t have it. How did it make you feel that SZA, another Black woman, DMed you to recreate one of your looks on her?
I was shocked, actually. I mean, me and her have been mutuals for a really long time before. She’s always been really supportive of my craft from years ago. It was just shocking getting an actual message to do her makeup, and her eye makeup. I was like, there’s no way. I woke up with my boyfriend and I was like, look at the phone. What do you see?” He’s like, “It says a message from SZA.” I had to make sure it was real. I stared at it for a little bit and I was like, “Okay, I’m going to click it.” She was so sweet.
The first time I met her I was so nervous. I never want to mess up on other people because then they’ll think that you can’t do what you do on yourself on them and that’s just not the case. I need time and my anxiety to not be high.
How were you able to combat the anxiety?
You can’t tell with me. I try my best to mask it. When I can decompress, I’ll put on my headphones and I’ll listen to music or a book or sketch something out. If it’s not a makeup look it’s a regular sketch.
Who are some of your dream clients?
Kelela, Sudan Archives, Bree Runway would be so fun to do, Flo Milli, Solange, Zendaya, there’s a list of people I’d love to do.
What’s something that you haven’t yet explored in your career that you’d want to work on this year or in the future?
Oh, it’s funny you say that. What’s coming is fashion content. It’s so odd that it’s taken this long to actually share it on Naezrah Looks, and with the bigger audience that I have, because it’s quite literally what I went to school for. I like to collect vintage and archival clothes. I love fashion so much. So that’s going to be an aspect you’re going to see a lot coming this year.
Where are you sourcing from?
Depop, Vinted, eBay. I love to buy secondhand. If I have to go to fast fashion it’s not the first choice. I love, love, love, love thrifting.
Do you have a favorite: fashion or makeup?
Fashion or makeup? That’s difficult. I can’t choose. I can’t choose either. I can’t choose.
They intertwine more than people think. Because you can have a fire outfit, but then if your face or your hair doesn’t match the vibe it throws it off completely. I mean, that goes into photography as well, and creative design and creative directing. It’s all connected, all of it.
Photographer: Jacarrea Garraway
Creative Direction: Amber Lauren
Producer: Chamone Diane
Writer: Ashley Fern
Stylist: Kyanna Renée Styles
Makeup Artist: Naezrah
Hair Stylist: Brittany Taplin
Social Content Manager: Dominique Smack
Cover Design & Editing: Exhibit B Agency
Wardrobe Provided By: