This Is the Most Romantic Scent a Person Can Wear, According to Anok Yai

Model Anok Yai's fashion resumé speaks for itself: The 26-year-old opened Prada's Fall 2018 show (making her the first Black model to open for the label since Naomi Campbell did so in 1997); has walked for Fendi, Bottega Veneta and Saint Laurent; was nominated for Model of the Year at the 2023 Fashion Awards; and has posed in campaigns for Acne Studios, Alaïa and Ferragamo.

In February, Yai added Mugler to that list when she was tapped as the muse for its latest fragrance, Alien Hypersense. It's a sensual potion featuring a mix of juicy, woody and floral notes that perfectly encapsulates Mugler's signature weirdness in fragrance form. In case you didn't get the memo: Weird is the new cool.

<p>Photo: Daniel Sannwald/Courtesy of Mugler</p>

Photo: Daniel Sannwald/Courtesy of Mugler

In a way, you could call Yai's partnership with Mugler fate. First, there's the coincidental fact that Yai grew up in the same New Hampshire neighborhood as Mugler Creative Director Casey Cadwallader, and even attended the same high school. But the model also cites the brand as one her "whole family's been obsessed with" since she was young. "I grew up watching the shows and watching all the ads and dreaming of being a part of the team," she tells Fashionista. "So just being a part of this is unbelievable."

Below, Yai gives Fashionista the inside scoop on the Mugler campaign shoot, her biggest beauty icons, what she considers to be the most romantic scents and more.

What's your earliest scent memory?

My earliest scent memory would be the scent of vanilla and bakhoor. That's my earliest memory because my mom had vanilla candles all over our house and incense burning everywhere. So every time I smell it, it just reminds me of home.

<p>Photo: Micha Akchoti/Courtesy of Mugler</p>

Photo: Micha Akchoti/Courtesy of Mugler

Would you consider that scent the most nostalgic to you?

That would be the most nostalgic because when it comes to wearing a scent on my body, I actually don't like the smell of vanilla — but I like it in the sense of remembering my mother. And also rose oil: I started wearing rose oil on my skin around 10 years ago. It's amazing, I haven't stopped since.

What do you consider the most romantic scent or note?

The most romantic scents, I think, are roses and jasmine. I also like the scent of when a candle melts and it just has that leftover, lingering scent. That always reminds me of lovers.

<p>Photo: Micha Akchoti/Courtesy of Mugler</p>

Photo: Micha Akchoti/Courtesy of Mugler

How does your scent preference differ when it comes to personal, wearable fragrances versus home fragrances?

For perfume, I like to mix florals with really dark, sexy, edgy scents. And then for my house, I still haven't found the perfect one, but I use a lot of incense sticks. I use [a palo santo incense stick] the most — but I'm still experimenting. I also use lavender spray on my bed.

I travel so often, it's hard for me to feel at home. So when I sleep, I like to spray my bed, my airplane seats [and] my hotel [rooms], just so I feel some sense of familiarity when I'm traveling. It honestly helps me sleep so much.

What does it mean to you to be the face of a Mugler fragrance?

It's a dream come true. When it got announced, I felt like I was reliving the moment of shooting [the campaign] all over again because it's just so exciting. And I remember when we made the connection with the Mugler team, I told my sister and my mom and we all started freaking out because Mugler has been one of the first fashion brands that my whole family's been obsessed with. I grew up really watching the shows and watching all the ads and dreaming of being a part of the team.

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What was your favorite part of the photo shoot?

My favorite part of the shoot was doing the stunts. I do knife fighting and I've always wanted to do stunts in action, so I asked them if I could do the stunt. I did a stunt of jumping up high in the air and then landing down in this pose with the heels, and then I did another stunt of literally running on the wall. It was insane.

What's your go-to perfume application method?

I always spray twice on my neck and then three times on my back. I always like when I walk by someone and then the smell lingers, so I started spraying on my back a lot and behind my knees. Then, of course, the wrists.

<p>Photo: Daniel Sannwald/Courtesy of Mugler</p>

Photo: Daniel Sannwald/Courtesy of Mugler

Who are your biggest beauty icons?

Grace Jones, Nina Simone and Betty Davis. They're all really strong, powerful women that have this mystique to them. And I also am attracted to the way they carry themselves. For me, beauty is not really something that you put on yourself, it's something that exudes out of you — it's the essence of who you are as a spirit and a woman.

How has your relationship with beauty evolved over the years?

As I've grown into myself, I've become really self-confident. I started really just figuring out what my look is as Anok Yai, because growing up, of course, you always want to fit in with the crowd. And now I'm at a point in my life where I just want to stand out completely and just be my own self as a woman and as an artist.

Which makeup products do you never leave the house without?

I never leave the house without perfume, lip gloss and mascara.

<p>Photo: Micha Akchoti/Courtesy of Mugler</p>

Photo: Micha Akchoti/Courtesy of Mugler

What's one beauty trend that you look forward to this spring?

I actually did this in a photo shoot [recently]: No one's done it yet — I think I might start the trend — but [the makeup artist] applied these boldly colored highlights [around my eyes], but it came up onto the middle of my forehead. It sounds insane, but when the photos come out, you'll see. It looked so cool. So maybe I'll try to make that a trend. And I love doing microcurrent facials — I do those every month.

Is there a favorite beauty hack that you've learned backstage on set?

A beauty hack that I've learned is using a heated eyelash curler and brightening eye drops — it literally brings out the color in your eyes. I don't know how it works, but it always works. And actually, more oftentimes than not, I've been taping myself into my shoes.

When we're doing shows, for some reason we're walking so hard and aggressive that the heel might slide or something. And that's my biggest fear. So we literally tape ourselves into our shoes, so it's impossible for anything to go wrong. But I just became used to it, so now it's like an everyday thing.

<p>Photo: Micha Akchoti/Courtesy of Mugler</p>

Photo: Micha Akchoti/Courtesy of Mugler

Is there a runway show that remains a particular standout or was a favorite of yours?

My last standout moment was when I closed the Mugler Spring 2024 show. It was such an amazing moment for me that literally felt like an 'I made it' moment. And I remember as I was walking, I could hear people's reactions to the show and it was unbelievable. I can't even put it into words.

And I couldn't see: When we were doing the show, the whole room was dark and we just had the one spotlight. So everything was black and you just saw the spotlight, but when I was walking [the spotlight] started blinking. So you just have a second of sight and then two seconds of blackness, a second of sight, and it just goes back and forth. And then the music's blaring and the wind is blowing. It feels like you're in a movie.

What's your beauty philosophy?

My beauty philosophy is: Beauty is not something that you put on you — it's something that is in you.

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