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On a recent evening in Sydney, makeup artist extraordinaire Uzo was in her element. The LA-based global artistry director for NARS was surrounded by a constellation of beauty influencers and makeup artists. They were in attendance for the launch of NARS Full Vinyl Lip Lacquer, a new collection of glossy lip shades with mirror-like intensity, and also to schmooze with Uzo. With her high-shine lips and her laser-focused air, Uzo surveyed the room, an inner-city warehouse that had been NARSified with electric red, large visuals and product displays. Asked about her NARS role, Uzo said, “I travel the world working with A-list celebrities and supermodels.”
No matter whether she’s gilding Kim Kardashian, Elle Fanning or Naomi Campbell, lip service is a major part of her job. “François (Nars) says nothing is sexier than a great lipstick because it adds instant impact and transforms your face,” she says. “You have to agree with him because the man is a creative genius.” The brand is already revered for its kaleidoscopic lip colour assortment. Revellers at the event cooed over the tempting displays of Powermatte Lip Pigment and Velvet Lip Glide, of which there are riveting new shades.
The latest capsule, Full Vinyl, is as creamy, concentrated and reflective as its name suggests. “I’m so happy that gloss is back,” Uzo said, sipping her champagne. Nearby, a deejay was spinning heady tunes and waiters whizzed by with canapes and cocktails. “We’ve done matte for a few years, so it’s just the natural progression to swing back. Shiny lips are flattering on all age groups because they make the lips look smoother and more attractive, and there are different levels of gloss, so you can experiment with everything from super shiny to satiny.”
When Uzo was a teenager growing up in New York, her parents wouldn’t let her wear makeup. “I had to be very covert about it,” she said. “I ended up doing such a good job of applying concealer and lip gloss that my parents never knew I was even wearing it.” Ironically, her need to develop “invisible” makeup skills eventually led her to her current role as lead international artist for NARS, one of the most colourful and audacious beauty brands in the world.
If Uzo radiates with the exacting intensity of a doctor, it’s because she went to medical school. As a respite from the demands of the job, she took a job at a department store makeup counter before working as a freelance makeup artist. “I was working at a Tommy Hilfiger fashion show in the ’90s and Naomi Campbell walked in backstage,” she recalled. “A Bobbi Brown makeup artist tried to touch her up but Naomi said, ‘NARS did my makeup and only NARS can touch it up.’ She looked so amazing and modern and that’s when I knew I wanted to go to NARS.”
After a few years of working for the brand at Barneys Beverly Hills, Uzo was offered her current position lead global artist at NARS. Back then, Allure magazine described her as “One of the best makeup lessons from Beverly Hills to Broadway.” At the event, she happily shared the tips and techniques she’s gleaned over almost 20 years in the job, in particular the secrets to an A-list lip. When creating the perfect pout, she always begins by prepping the lips to ensure they’re super smooth. Then she uses a lip liner or a matte pencil to create definition and shape.
“After that it’s the NARS Powermatte Lip Pigment, which is great on its own and also works as a base for a lip gloss or Velvet Lip Glide,” she said. “It really stays on for the course of the day or evening and it offers the ultimate colour choices. You can then have fun with a little lip gloss for a touch of sensuality.” Uzo’s favourite lip products are hybrids—“I like a two-in-one like Velvet Lip Glide, which is like a lipstick and a lip gloss combined”—and she urged women to embrace the latter with gusto.
Uzo suggested mixing a cool toned gloss with a warm toned liner, and playing with texture by layering a shimmery gloss over a matte lipstick. “I always believe the best looks come when you mix unexpected elements, and our big motto at NARS is ‘There are no rules, just experiment and have fun’.” All around her, the party guests were doing exactly that.
NARS Full Vinyl Lip Lacquer launches in-store and on-line July 31.
Story by Georgina SafePhotography by Esteban La TessaJune 2018
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