It’s tough to be a modern beauty brand these days. You have to stand out in an increasingly saturated market, be social media-savvy to reach out to young audiences, and still produce quality products worthy of your legacy. And that’s amidst the evolving culture of beauty too — one that, finally, is starting to recognise more diverse faces, body types, styles, and colour (and we don’t just mean eyeshadow shades).
Urban Decay, then, seems to be heading in the right direction. Rather than a ubiquitous fair-skinned model fronting the brand, their choice of ambassadors turn out to be pretty unique. Popular, current, yet unique and unapologetically bold, which gives a buzz of genuine excitement. In other words, #PrettyDifferent.
We’ve got American musician-of-the-moment Lizzo, who’s a joy to behold whenever she’s on video; actress Joey King whom you might know from Netflix’s The Kissing Booth; and Colombian singer Karol G. Then, these two:
You’re looking at Ezra Miller and CL, whom we met in Seoul at the brand’s regional launch event.
CL, or Lee Chae-rin, needs no introduction on this side of the world but here goes: she’s the unequivocally cool singer-rapper from South Korea, and arguably k-pop’s baddest female. She’s also formally the leader of 2NE1, part of YG Entertainment, and one of the biggest girl groups in k-pop.
Of course, there’s Ezra Miller, American actor and one of Hollywood’s most eccentric icons, known as much for his roles in We Need To Talk About Kevin and the Fantastic Beasts franchise, along with his daring gender-neutral style choices on the red carpet. Take his look of the night for instance, silver and gold glitter, different on each eye, and a flowy floral dress with lace-up boots. Enough said.
To a conventional beauty brand, Ezra and CL may be risky moves — one’s an Asian face and still in the midst of building her fame in the Western world, while the other identifies as queer and isn’t afraid to blur the line between traditional ideas of masculinity and femininity. They are, however, excellent choices to represent a brand as irreverent as Urban Decay.
After all, the US-based cruelty-free brand first launched in 1996 with the premise of catering to “the girls and boys who want to rattle the notion of what beauty is and put their own stamp on it”, according to the original press release. Multiple Naked palettes and a beauty empire later, the philosophy of the brand, and of founder Wendy Zomnir, still lives on.
What they’re saying is this: it’s not just okay to be weird, in fact, if that’s who you are, it’s a good thing. How does that tie in to beauty and makeup? Well, the celebration of one’s individuality, combined with a rebellious playfulness, challenges us to create. To experiment with makeup. To wreck notions of makeup being necessary to “cover up”, but instead see it as a genuine way to express who you are.
If that’s you, we’ve helpfully picked the brains of both CL and Ezra to find out their take on beauty, makeup, and what makes them #PrettyDifferent. So reach out for that “Euphoria-makeup” glitter, and let’s get started.
CL — Musician, 28
What was your first reaction when you heard about the collaboration with Urban Decay?
“I’ve always used Urban Decay and their products, so I was excited and I thought it made sense.
The one I used for the longest time was the All Nighter setting spray. When I’d go on tour, I’d always use it before I go on stage, and my makeup will last the whole night. Like from the time I get dressed, the costume changes, all the members would use it. That’s my all-time favourite! And you know, the Naked palette — it comes in so many colours, and there are so many options.”
Be honest, which is your favourite Naked palette?
“Being biased, I love the Naked Cherry palette. I think it’s because my nickname is ‘cherry’. I also love using purple on my face — it goes with my skin tone a lot and my hair colour too, which is usually in silver or purple shades. So I really love the Naked Cherry.”
Describe your relationship with makeup.
“Now, we’re in it deep. I mean, we can’t break up now! [laughs] I started wearing makeup pretty late, after my album came out. I realise that I wanted to learn how to put makeup on, and learn more about it, and play with it after, because I was thinking like, I want to make it more like I’m expressing myself on stage. I want to make makeup and hair and fashion to be expressing my music, CL’s music. That’s when I started really getting into it. But yeah, now it’s a full committed relationship — both ways.”
How do you express yourself with makeup?
“It took me a while to have a signature look. I feel like now, when you think of “CL”, you can think of a look with my eyeliner, or you know, everyone can think of something. But I have a couple of looks that I love to do, and it took a lot of playing around to come up with that. Now I have that, I’m like, oh, I can try changing my eyeshadow colour. Or now that I know my skin tone, should I try a pink, or a purple? It never ends!
Like, today I’m using the Honey Eyeshadow Palette — it’s gold and yellow. Normally, I’d be so scared to use yellow, but I used it, with the help of my makeup artist. That’s the thing. You can’t break up with makeup because you can try new things, take risks, you can look good with it. That’s the fun of it. Little baby steps, but there’s so much you can do.”
What does ‘beauty’ and ‘makeup’ each mean to you?
“Makeup, for me, is a tool to express myself — like an outfit. Beauty, is an attitude, how comfortable and natural you are with yourself.”
What’s your signature look, and do you have any tips on creating it?
“Eyeliner, right? Together with the lashes. For me, my eyeliner’s thick, I wear different types of eyeliner in one eye so it doesn’t erase throughout the day. In the inner and outer corners of the eye, I use the pen type; in the top-middle portion, I use gel; and the lower-middle, the pencil. This makes it last longer, for sure!”
What about when you’re off-stage, do you have a go-to look?
“I don’t go out of the house, so, no makeup!”
Do you have any beauty looks you’ll never repeat?
“Oh wow, there’s so many! I don’t think I’ll ever do an orange cheek… I don’t think it goes with me. Or green makeup, doesn’t really go with me too. And not putting enough!”
How about a favourite beauty look of yours?
“My looks are pretty consistent when it comes to makeup. But in one of my videos — oh I don’t know if it came out — I did a red one. I also remember a photoshoot with my sister where I did a really dark purple look, that’s when I started loving using purple on my face. I also like the one where I used minimal makeup, no eyeliner almost.”
Ezra Miller — Actor, 27
How does it feel to be a Urban Decay ambassador?
“Quite righteous. I mean, it’s about time. I have been a fan, and have been wanting to do a makeup campaign for a long time, and I’m really grateful to Urban Decay for seeing the potential in doing a makeup campaign with me, which obviously steps out of certain zones of convention. But that’s the legacy that Urban Decay has rooted itself in, its whole existence, a legacy of the brand.”
Describe your relationship with makeup.
“I think everything in beauty and fashion, to me, is about jogging our memory as to the innate beauty of the spirit that turns and dwells within us.”
Would you say you take a philosophical stance?
“Well, philosophy is derived from the idea of being in love with the goddess of wisdom, so, definitely. I’m a sophiaphile when it comes to makeup, yes.”
What was your first experience with makeup?
“I put makeup, a ton of it, when I was really young. I grew up with two older sisters, and had my makeup done when I was 3 years old. It was kind of everything all at once — nail polish, lipstick, they did the works, yeah.”
Masculinity and makeup doesn’t often go together — what are your thoughts on it, and how would you challenge that?
“First of all, I’m gender non-conformative. But secondly, I would say that anyone in makeup who’s not this one version of people who’ve been wearing makeup that we’ve been inundated with for so long — or who’s not like a cis-woman — should hopefully draw from things like this campaign and occurrences like this in the world, a great sense of confidence and encouragement to follow their impulses, their deepest desires and instincts.
Because that’s what will guide you in this life. Everything else will put you in danger, a vulnerable position to the turbulent ways of the world. If you’re grounded to your impulses, if you’re connected to the temple of spirit in your own gut, that’s what’s gonna keep you protected in the turbulent tides of the world. So, I really encourage people to gravitate towards that centre before it’s too late.
Instead of it being about becoming something or someone else, you have to think about makeup as an instrument for drawing closer to their innate being and inner truth, what is underneath all surface levels.”
What inspires your experimental red carpet looks?
“I think that the process is one of dwelling in vision. And allowing myself the space and time to be free-flowing in my imaginative space. And then, working with various experts in the field to bring to light the visions that I see in my mind and dreams.”
Would you say, then, that fashion and beauty is inclined to art?
“Of course. There’s no hierarchy in the world of creativity, all these things are valid expressions, just as valid as any other. A lot of people try to put things in a frame of ‘high art’ versus everything else, but that’s really illegitimate. I think we fail to remember that that’s the actual history of high art, that it’s largely created by people who are often from the streets. Art has always come from the bottom of society, not from the top.”
Do you have an everyday or signature look?
“I don’t use anything daily; routine is death. So, it’s always about variety, wandering through a spectral palette.”
What are some of your favourite Urban Decay products?
“I really like the lipstick palettes, use that very regularly. The Vice lipstick palette. I like Heavy Metal eyeshadows, the All Night setting spray. I really think it’s beautiful that Urban Decay offers such a wide range of products that are so essential. The Stay Naked foundation? Fantastic, especially the glow.”
What does ‘Stay Naked’ mean to you?
“For me, Stay Naked is a beautiful idea. Once we strip away the layers of facade, or disguise, or these layers of performance and presentation… We can actually remain in the raw, uninhibited power of who we truly are in a more essential level. That reality, you can nuance and finesse that to make it its most gorgeous, glowy, revelatory essence.”
What’s an item you’d recommend to someone new to makeup?
“Mascara! I feel like it’s a good starting position for people who may be unfamiliar with wearing makeup. When they see the way that their eyes pop, it can be very enticing.”
Urban Decay, available at Urban Decay stores and Sephora. urbandecay.com.sg