5 Creatives on the Transformative Beauty Signature That Gives Them Confidence

From whimsical hair to embellished nails, one touch is all it takes.

<p>Courtesy/ InStyle</p>

Courtesy/ InStyle

A sharp-winged gaze. A swipe of red lipstick. A thrown-together updo worthy of a modern-day Victorian heroine. A transformative beauty signature has the power to take the everyday from ordinary to extraordinary.

For evidence, look no further than creatives for whom mastering the art of presentation has always come down to one detail. There's Cat Cohen, whose cat eyes are the window to her showgirl soul, while for chefs Sophia Roe and Caroline Schiff, their hair is as distinct and imaginative as their creations in the kitchen. Moving through the world is all the more thrilling for jewelry designer Georgina Trevino, who regularly dazzles with a set of press-ons. Meanwhile, author and political commentator Alencia Johnson's bold lipstick is confidence in bullet form.

The visual signatures of these women are an extension of their style, their personality, their essence — and most of all, a tool of empowerment. Below, they each discuss the intricacies of their expressive beauty calling cards.

Cat Cohen, Comedian, Actress, and Writer

<p>Courtesy of Cat Cohen</p>

Courtesy of Cat Cohen

I remember moving to Brooklyn in 2015, and seeing a cool girl wear eyeliner and being like, “I want to do that.” Just walking around New York, being inspired by people who dress cool and who look fabulous.

It was that thing where you start out slow, and you try a little one, and then by the end of it, you’re drawing it all the way up to your eyebrow, and you’re like, “This is me now.” I’ve been using this Maybelline Precise marker for a million years and like that high-cut Amy Winehouse look. For some reason, I prefer the harsh line as opposed to the sort of curly flip.

What I love about cat eyes is it’s so easy to do, and if you do that one thing, it looks like you have some glamorous edge, even if you have no other makeup on. It’s just sort of vintage and fun. It makes me feel alive. It’s edgy, glamorous, and hyper-feminist at the same time, which is the look I like to go for on stage: super girly, super over-the-top, but still kind of cool.

With my style onstage, I feel like it’s been a journey to get back to the way I would play dress-up when I was little, that kind of sense of fun and play. I’m just wearing whatever I want and not caring about what anyone thinks. Especially in the quiet luxury moment we’ve been in. I’m like, ”Fuck that.”

Sophia Roe, Chef and Writer

<p>Gia McKenna</p>

Gia McKenna

So my hair, I’ve always had it curly, and my greatest hair inspiration is Donna Summer. She’s always been my North Star. She had those tiny little baby bangs and I always wanted them when I was young. My hairstylist, Chuckie Amos, always says, “You’re my Donna Summer, Lisa Bonnet, Diana Ross, head of hair.” He’s always given me a lot of confidence with my hair and how I should wear it: very, very short at the top and then super, super long and flat. That for me is a fucking vibe. The Nexxus Maxximum Finishing Mist is my go-to product.

It’s funny because in the past, a lot of people have had feelings about my hair. They’ve said it’s distracting, or it’s overpowering, or it’s all we’re looking at, particularly when you’re on camera for food. It’s really interesting how Giada De Laurentiis or Rachael Ray can cook on TV with their hair down, but it’s a problem if I do it. Sorry, maybe if you saw more of it and it was normal, then it wouldn’t be so distracting.

I am fully empowered by my hair now, and I think maybe it’s that I’m getting older. I can’t remember who said it, but going into your thirties is an I-don’t-give-a-fuck-pill that you didn’t realize you were going to take a bottle of.

My hair, it’s kind of like disco nerd, which I love. There’s something kind of kooky about it, and it definitely matches my aesthetic, and even my cooking style. I feel like when you see the food, if you just looked at the food, you’d be like, “Oh yeah, a girl with short bangs cooked this.”

Georgina Trevino, Jewelry Designer and Contemporary Artist

<p>Instagram @georginatrevino</p>

Instagram @georginatrevino

I get a lot of attention for my nails the moment I step out of my jewelry studio.

It’s funny, because I’m always this handyman in my studio, and then when I step out, I have crazy press-on nails on. It’s a conversation starter, especially worn with my rings. I’ll be getting out of an Uber or people just stop me on the street or metro. I think it’s really beautiful how many people I’ve gotten to meet. Because I’m like, “Oh, what would have happened if I wasn’t wearing nails today or with my jewelry? Would I not have met this person?” I’m a very outgoing person, I’m very easy to talk to, and I’m very approachable. But I think that it adds another layer to it.

Once, my friend Vanesa Juez made custom press-ons for me for an opening. I wanted it to match my work, so I gave her the inspo. She did this beautiful metallic pink to match the exhibition and my pieces. I always think when I’m putting my nails on, or someone is putting nails on me, we use the same techniques. We use sanding and polishing in jewelry. It’s as intricate and intimate a process as making jewelry. There’s this connection in the sense of making.

I feel like, for many women, when you have nails, it makes you feel empowered. It makes you feel like a baddie. I think wearing a statement just makes you feel like, “Oh, here I am.”

Alencia Johnson, Founder of 1063 West Broad and Author of Flip the Tables: The Everyday Disruptors Guide (Out 2025)

<p>Courtesy of Alencia Johnson</p>

Courtesy of Alencia Johnson

Growing up, my grandmother always said, “Keep some red lipstick in your purse because you never know when you need to be put together.” That always stuck with me.

Fast-forward to my career and starting out in politics, which can be very buttoned up, very rigid, I was always in spaces where I had to be “on,” whether it was speaking in front of people or running meetings. Lipstick was the quickest way for me to be pulled together. I love liquid matte lipsticks and used to only wear wear reds like Fenty Icon Velvet Liquid Lipstick in The MVP and NARS Powermatte Lip Pigment in Starwoman, but now I wear different colors, too, like MAC Retro Matte Liquid in High Drama for something moody and deep.

On days I don’t feel confident or whatever it may be, personally, professionally, there is nothing like putting on some lipstick. Women say to me, “Oh my God, you’re so confident.” I’m like, “Girl, today I don’t feel it at all, but I’m out here faking it, and then it’ll eventually catch up to me.”

Lipstick also allows me to make a bold statement. I’m on television and folks will say, “Oh my gosh, you’ve got all this bright lipstick, but you knew exactly what you were talking about, this complicated policy issue.” And I’m like, “Yes, those two can coexist.” And I love the lipstick being disruptive to what people think a smart, successful young Black woman is supposed to be. It’s funny, I actually never thought that bold lipstick was a political statement until people started saying it to me. That’s probably why I’m writing a book about being a disruptor.

Caroline Schiff, Pastry Chef

<p>Courtesy of Caroline Schiff</p>

Courtesy of Caroline Schiff

When I was younger, I used to wear my hair down most of the time. And then I started working in kitchens, and I was like, “I’ve got to get this out of my way.” So I used big clips and just kind of piled it on top of the head. Then it became my everyday look to have my hair like this.

I love it because it’s a little dramatic; it has a lot of personality with its height and texture and all that. People are always like, “Oh my God, how long does it take to do?” And I’m like, “Literally 10 seconds.” I like R+Co Rebounce; it’s a natural texture and curl-defining cream. It holds that nice sort of gentle waves and curls that I have. And to put my hair up, I use one of those giant claw clips. I start by putting it half-up, and then I take the bottom part and sort of boost it.

There is something vintage about it, which wasn’t what I was looking for. I didn’t set out to have this old-fashioned look, but it totally reads like that and I’m totally into it. It fits my style. If you came to my apartment, you would be like, “Oh, this makes so much sense.” My apartment is all antiques. I’m a maximalist, I do not have a minimalist bone in my body. So it’s kooky, and it’s very over-the-top.

It’s not my safety blanket, but it is this thing… I think of cartoons where there’s a little power amulet that gives you all the powers. For me, it gives me that feeling where even if I’m feeling like absolute crap, it’s like, “Put your hair up and get out there.” With my career, obviously, I make dessert. It’s very special to me because we use to it celebrate things. It’s whimsical and a little over-the-top. I would apply those words to my hair as well.

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