Some things just go together. Bread and butter. Salt and pepper. Teyana Taylor and the '90s. There’s an allusion to the defining era in everything Taylor touches. To start, her 2014 debut album VII captured the ferocity and assuredness of her '90s icons Lauryn Hill, Brandy, and Mary J. Blige, which is again reinforced on her newest studio effort, The Album.
Then, there are her self-directed music videos like “HYWI”, which brim with references to 1990s visuals - including L.L. Cool J’s “Doin It,” Toni Braxton’s “Just Be a Man About It,” and a nod to Hype Williams’ signature fish-eye lens while paying homage to Notorious B.I.G.’s “Mo Money Mo Problems”.
Now, there’s her newest 1990s-themed project —her first-ever make-up collaboration with M.A.C. Cosmetics.
Taylor has more 'pinch-me' moments than the average person. Her debut on MTV’s My Super Sweet 16 is arguably the most memorable episode to date; she was 16 when she choreographed Beyonce’s “Ring the Alarm” routine; and broke the internet as the gyrating star of Kanye West’s “Fade” music video. But it was the sting of her latest pinch-me moment with M.A.C. Cosmetics that kept her up the night following her introductory meeting.
"During the first meeting we had, we were already going through lip kit designs and colours, that's how great the meeting went," Taylor told ELLE.com. "It was a little bit difficult for me to sleep that night because all I could think about were my pictures being hung up in a M.A.C. store, something that I've always wanted, something that I've always walked by and stopped to look at in the M.A.C. store as a girl coming up. This is a big moment for me, especially as this Black girl from Harlem."
It all started with the Hello Kitty x M.A.C. collection in 2008. Taylor, then a doe-eyed make-up novice, remixed the products to suit her taste - though she knew nothing about how much blush you’re supposed to apply or which lip colours complemented her complexion. “One day, I powdered all this blush on my cheeks, and I thought I was so cute. Well, baby, I got on that red carpet, and that flash hit me, and [the media] tore me up the next day,” she recalls. She knows better now. “I don’t do too much these days. Less is more is the rule I follow.”
It also happens to be the running theme for her M.A.C. collection, which highlights the simplicity of make-up in the '90s - like muted deep chocolates and rosy nudes that encourage experimentation and are flash photo-ready, guaranteed. “Back then, less was more and beauty was simple, but yet very powerful. I am not a person that wears make-up 24/7, so something as small as a great lipstick or a great lip gloss or a great liner is what does it for me. When people say, "What's your beauty secret?" This collection is my beauty secret. This is what I enjoy,” she adds.
Similar to the treatments she produces as a director under the name “Spike Tey” of The Aunties—Taylor's female-led production company—the range was built around the foundation of the collection: lips. True to form, the 13-piece collection revolves around four shades: brown, red, nude, and purple, in cheeky names like I Got A Man (chocolate brown lipstick), 10's Across Da Board (candy-apple red Lipglass), and But Ain’t Got No Manners (sheer nude Lipglass).
Taylor, who struggled to embrace her “strong features” growing up, thought of the many Black women whose features have held them back from experimenting with make-up.
“I realised that the power was really within my lips, my big fluffy lips, and that colours look great on it. Sometimes we get discouraged as Black women to feel like we can’t touch specific colours like red or nude, but I wanted to create colours that work for everyone - but most importantly, when that Black girl puts on that lipstick or lip gloss, she feels beautiful. The colours in the collection can be worn with or without a liner. The lipstick can be worn with or without make-up,” she continues.
The collection—packaged in vivid neons inspired by her quirky style and admiration of the LGBTQIA+ community—also includes M.A.C. signature lip liners in Hodgepodge, Chestnut, Nightmoth, and Cyber World. But the star of the show is easily the Mineralize Skinfinish (her all-time favourite product) in the shade House of Petunia, the title of her documentary about the sensual spectacle she housed at the Grand Ballroom at Manhattan Centre in New York in 2019. Where the deep browns and plums of the collection calls to mind the golden era of the 1990s, Taylor wanted an updated piece in the collection to reflect present-day Instagram make-up - like the dewy, glass skin fad on social timelines. “We’re in quarantine, and you don’t need to do a lot with your make-up," she says. "A highlighter and deep lip are all you need, the '90s and 2020 right there—best of both worlds."
The entire Teyana Taylor x M.A.C. Cosmetics collection launches on July 14 online at maccosmetics.com.
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