Anais Mali, Model


"I started modeling in the South of France, where I grew up, and I would go to Paris to do jobs. But none of the modeling agencies in Paris wanted to take me. I just kept hearing, ‘This is Paris; black girls don’t work here.’ France is very racist, you don’t see a lot of powerful black people in France—it’s starting but it’s slow-moving. So I went to New York when I turned 18 on the advice of my modeling scout. When I got here, I got signed and told my agency, ‘I want Vogue’—I wanted the fashion jobs. I knew what I wanted and I asked for it! A lot of models don’t say anything; they just let people take care of them. I’m not like that. My agency kept saying, ‘Yeah, but you’re black and you’re short,’ since I’m 5’ 9 ½”, which, in fashion, is small. But my mom always told me that when you want something, you have to go get it. So I did! I’m 23 now, and I feel like the industry is trying to focus more on diversity, but there’s still a long way to go. In Milan, you don’t really see black girls on the runway; it’s sad. You hear things like, ‘We already have Jourdan [Dunn], one black girl is enough.’ I’m getting good work, I’m happy, but I want to see more black girls.

I’ve always loved makeup. When I was 16, I got a job at one of the French versions of Sephora, and I was so into it—beauty, nails, everything. I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup at home, but I was counseling all of these people on what to do! And now I really enjoy getting ready. I put the music on, the whole thing. Don’t even talk to me until I’m finished getting ready, because I won’t respond. [Laughs] I know so much about makeup now because I asked a lot of questions on jobs. I love Tom Pecheux and Pat McGrath, she does my makeup so well.

For everyday, I usually just do my eyes and eyebrows. Mascara is my basic need. I wasn’t allowed to wear any makeup when I was growing up, so I would put on mascara as soon as I got to school, then take it off before I got home. My favorites are Le 2 de Guerlain and Maybelline Colossal Volume. I want my eyelashes to be really long, and it’s hard to find the right brush-formula combination. Like, sometimes the brush is great, but it gets too much product on it. I have so many mascaras because I’m always mixing and matching, trying to find what works. Since I have a scar on my eyebrows, I fill them in with Clarins Pro Palette Eyebrow Kit. If I’m going to wear eyeshadow, I always apply CK One Eye Shadow Base first, then I wear golden brown shades like Nars Kalahari. To contour, I use this golden bronze—Nars Skorpios Soft Touch Shadow Pencil. It's amazing. Then I have Revlon PhotoReady Kajal Intense Eye Liner + Brightener. One side is black and one is white, but I use the black more.

But I’m actually more of a lips person. I have so many red lipsticks. Nars Red Square is perfect. Or I’ll use CK One Soft Defining Lip Pencil in Lovely as a lip liner and fill it in with Nars Belle de Jour. For winter, I like the darker Nars Mascate Pure Matte Lipstick, and for summer it’s Nars Casablanca. For a nude lip, I use Giorgio Armani 103. And when I’m going out for a very long night, I put on this really pretty pink, Dolce & Gabbana Petal 145, topped with Make Up For Ever Aqua Rouge Iconic Red, and it lasts forever. And it’s OK if a guy kisses me when I have lipstick on. I look good, that’s what it’s for! [Laughs]

On my skin, I use a variety of foundation. I like Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer, because it’s so smooth. And then I use Make Up For Ever Camouflage Cream Palette in #2 and #4. I take them with me everywhere, because makeup artists don’t always have my color when I work. For an all-in-one, Armani Face Fabric Second Skin Nude Makeup is a foundation and primer with sunscreen in it, too. That one is really good.

In the winter, I get so light that my skin looks grey. Mixed people look amazing during the summer, but when the winter comes, we all look faded. So, I love being tan. [Laughs] It’s so much better, because I don’t need makeup at all. But even in the summer I like to put a little color on my face—I’m obsessed with blush, contouring, and highlights. I have Stila Convertible Color in three colors because you can use it on your lips and cheeks. And Giorgio Armani Blushing Fabric Second Skin Blush is so easy to use. To contour, I put Guerlain Terracotta in Ebony under my cheeks, and then I go over it with MAC Bronzing Powder in Bronze. For highlighting, I use Nars Luster or Nars G-Spot. In the summer, though, Guerlain Terracotta Blush Sun Shimmer Highlighter is great as an illuminator.

I never go to bed without taking my makeup off; I don’t really understand people who come home and don’t remove anything. I have very good skin, and I’m very happy about that, but I take care of it—it’s an investment. So I use Bioderma Créaline to remove it, and then cleanse with Clean Energy Gentle Cleansing Oil from Origins. It feels amazing for dry skin—all you have to do is massage it in and rinse. I tone with Aesop Parsley Seed Toner followed by Crème de La Mer The Mist or Aveda Botanicals Kinetics Skin Firming Agent. Then, I exfoliate twice a week with Kiehl’s Skin Brightening Exfoliator. I also do masks twice a week: either a a mud mask from Israel—Sea of Spa Essential Dead Sea Treatment Rich Facial Mud Mask, which is purifying and really good, or one of the Fresh ones, either the Rose Face Mask or the Black Tea Perfecting Mask, which gives you this amazing feeling when it’s on. You can tell something's happening.

To moisturize, I have a 100%-natural almond cream that I use at night. I’m trying to use more and more natural products, especially after I went to Israel this summer. They have the best beauty products in the world, and everything is full of sea salt. When my skin is especially dry in the winter, I put on Aesop Fabulous Face Oil before bed and my skin’s perfect again in the morning. I also have creams from Senteurs de fée. If you make it to Paris, you absolutely need to go to Senteurs de fée! The woman who owns it has all of these organic oils and creams. And, if you want to know the secret to not looking old: wear sunscreen, a lot. You should always have a little on your face to protect it from wrinkle-causing UV rays. Avene Eau Thermale is great.

I’m always trying to switch products for my skin and hair, because when you use the same products over and over again, they don’t work as well anymore. Right now, for my hair, if I wear it natural, I use the entire Oleo Curl line. Otherwise, I use John Frieda Frizz-Ease 3-Days Straight after washing and conditioning, and then brush my hair. It makes my hair stay straight longer. I prefer to wear my hair straight—it’s naturally so big and curly that I would get made fun of as a kid. When I started using flat irons at 14, my whole life changed. When my hair gets dry, I sleep in a mask of Argan oil, and wash it out in the morning. I also started having extensions added to my hair a few months ago. I have this amazing woman who comes to my place.

And then I work out like crazy. I get trained by Oscar Smith at O-Diesel three times a week. It’s so intense—I almost broke my knee in kickboxing the other day! We work out for an hour without stopping. It’s great, because I have so much energy that I need to expend. I’m just like ba-ba-ba-ba-ba, punching the bag. [Laughs] After the bag I do maybe 20 minutes of a walk—I hate to run—and then all of the weights, and I work on my butt. I want a big butt. It’s bigger than it used to be, but I want a Doutzen Kroes butt."

—as told to ITG

Anais Mali photographed by Emily Weiss in New York on November 26, 2013.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Nikki

    Best one yet!! I love Anais <3

  • eastvillagesiren

    Gorgeous, interesting woman. I admire her attitude of making it happen rather than waiting for others. And I love that she loves makeup!

  • Mademoiselle nature

    Well done on trying to use more natural beauty products! Really stunning madame!
    If you want some guidance or advices, you are welcome to check my blog :-)

  • Eleanor Rigby

    La plus belle de l'industrie. Great post!

  • mermaidsdream

    "I got a job at the French version of Sephora" so... she got a job at Sephora.

    • beeswaxnoneofyour

      No, Sephora is there now, but she is probably talking about the French chains like Marrionaud or ICI XL, which are effectively the same thing (skincare/makeup/fragrance brands etc as a chain store) which are much more prevalent outside Paris (and even in Paris).

      • mermaidsdream

        No, Sephora has always been in France as it was founded in Paris in the 70s. It didn't come stateside until the late 90s. It is still headquartered in Paris.

        Saying "I got a job at the French version of Sephora" is like saying "I got a job at the American version of Starbucks."

        • beeswaxnoneofyour

          Definitely doesn't mean they were geographically dominant though. From what I have seen in France, outside of your bigger towns/cities (and even then, I don't believe I remember seeing one in places like Menton or Antibes, which are certainly big enough), most places are more likely to have a Marrionnaud/ICI XL. If she grew up with one of the latter before Sephora was built near her, that might be what she knew. Of course, Coming to NYC, she'd be running into one everywhere, so it may be more of a point of reference for Americans rather than say a brand she things no one would be familiar with.

          • mermaidsdream

            my comment was only referring to the fact that saying "working at the French Sephora" is redundant as Sephora is French.

  • Lindsay Sue

    Love her attitude. And her name :)

  • beeswaxnoneofyour

    Awesome that she's proactive. And it's so sad that the industry as a whole still thinks one or a couple non-white girls is too much. Pretty girls are pretty girls - celebrate the variety!

  • ekmc

    She can only speak from experience. And racism isn't always explicit. I live in the UK and I'm always surprised by the attitude to race when I visit France, and Britain is hardly a multi-cultural utopia!

  • Mortmain

    Gorgeous, with a thoughtful look at beauty and the fashion industry! Really love her sharing her experiences with racism in the industry. We ignore it way too often in favour of a pretty, chic image

  • Clever Girl Reviews

    Love this Top Shelf! She's so pretty and fired up about her profession! I like that!

  • Shawna

    Her cheekbones!!!

    One of the best Top Shelves ever; a good mix of product love and personal background. Good for her for standing for herself and making a place in the modeling world. I have heard some people in my life argue that fighting for diversity in fashion is a trivial matter, but in so many ways, it's not. Plenty of people look to fashion as a guideline for what looks beautiful, and it'd be nice to have more representations of beauty to consider.

  • denisa7

    We all want a Doutzen Kroes butt. :)

  • Bella

    Beautiful woman, and I love that she's a product junkie :D!

  • s

    pretty sure this is my favorite top shelf ever. love love love

  • Nicole B.

    Wow, she is absolutely stunning! Really enjoyed this Top Shelf.

  • hyacinthgirl

    France can be exceedingly racist. A lot of their racism is cloaked in nationalism, so what many construe as racist a lot of other people justify as patriotism. My mother is French and I'm from the U.S. and noticed it immediately, and like a poster below said, it's not like where I'm from is a bastion of racial progress. Anais pointing out that, through her own personal experience, she views France as racist isn't really open to debate, and pretending that you come from a nation with no racism at all is pretty obtuse.

  • Teresa

    Sorry but I must say you are very wrong. I have lived in Paris since the 1980's. I was a model back then and was told exactly the same things: "You are black and you can only do the shows". I would not take no for an answer and made my career in London, Tokyo and Milan and did plenty of editorial in those other places. I am now in my mid fifties and clearly nothing has changed. I still Iive in Paris and see injustice everyday.

    • chicnoir

      What an interesting life you have lived Teresa. I admire women like you. You should write a book.

  • Adama Sesay

    Enjoyed this one! She definitely kept it real.

  • softy

    it's not just the fashion industry. and it's not just black girls, either. my experience in paris, while wonderful on so many levels, was tainted by racist taunts/jeers/comments from strangers as i walked down the street, minding my own business. i had never experienced anything like that before.

  • Guest

    She is SO beautiful! Since we have similar skin tones, I'm going to try a lot of the makeup she mentions here. It's so nice to see someone whose look I can relate to, for a change.

    I'm so glad to see that she mentions sunscreen.So many women of color think that we don't need it and this couldn't be farther from the truth!

    • Yassira

      Could not agree more on the Sunscreen. Women of Colour SPF is the way forward if you want your skin to stay gorgeous

  • tomax

    Love her! It's sooo refreshing to hear a model talking about working out. What a sad reflection on the fashion industry that this woman carries her own concealer everywhere because makeup artists don't always have one that suits her.

  • Jessica

    This is a great interview.

    I especially love seeing where she keeps all of her makeup and skincare, etc: how she stores it. That always fascinates me. I'm sure she travels a lot for work, so things stay in travel bags, etc. Seeing how people who stay put and don't travel much store their makeup etc is fascinating to me, too. Just love it.

  • Lauren

    Best top shelf I've ever read. I love that she told us she is actually interested in make up, I love the products she uses (such a variety!), I love how determined and honest she is, I love that she talked about her workout and I love all the photos.

  • kneelbeforetigers

    She's FANTASTIC. Gorgeous beyond gorgeous, smart, and funny. Thanks ITG!

  • Elaine

    My FAVORITE interview so far. Love it! And as a bi-racial girl who visits family in France regularly, what she said is spot on. Unfortunate, but true, glad to read that didn't get her down though. And now I'm off to buy myself a jar of almond cream...

  • Kelly Boyer

    She is absolutely gorgeous! I'm glad to hear that she's confident and empowered, regardless of how cruel the fashion industry can be to girls....


  • camille

    beautiful. I would love to see one of Anna Selezneva she's such a muse.

    • Lucy

      I agree Anna S. is incredible would love to see one from her

  • Leetoki

    What a beautiful, interesting and energized woman. So glad she is outspoken about the racial gap in modelling, but still shows an attitude so non-plussed. Love the inclusion of exercise in this Top Shelf too - So relevant to beauty!

  • Sophie B

    d*mn, shes too pretty to be real! Beautiful and smart woman! thx for interview ITG! (I love Face Fabric too! it's awesome!)

  • sunshine

    girl i'm a black parisian and Yes France is racist

  • Julie

    I am French, and even though I find it very sad, I would be lying to say that France is not racist. However, as a member of the youngest generation, I see - and I hope to see - things changing. I am not losing hope, and I know it is an unbelievably slow process but I think someday France will be tolerant. I am really happy to see Anaïs's example though, and how she was stronger than these difficulties.

  • Mynameispeaches

    You can not invalidate her experience by saying it's not true. This is here experience and besides Iman and Naomi have spoken about racism within the industry. I remember watching a youtube video with ajak Deng and she touched upon the racism in the Australian fashion industry .She would go to castings and they would tell her that they don't use black girls. If you are not a model of colour how are you going to know it does not happen? Just because you do not see or /experience discrimination does not mean discrimination does not exist.

  • mick

    Love her! I love how honest and candid she is in this Top Shelf! I applaud her for being so outspoken against the racism in the fashion industry. It is rare that a model will speak so in depth about the issue and her personal struggles.

  • Rose

    She completely nailed it talking about looking faded in winter! I am of mixed heritage (dad: hong kong/mum: england) and have never been able to put a finger on what was so different about my tone in winter. It so true!

  • Pauline Mendes

    I liked how she addressed the race issue and moved on. She is not bitter and won't allow that one thing to keep her down. Back in the day Naomi Campbell had problems booking shows due to being black and her awesome supermodel friends like Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista and Cindy Crawford would flat out refuse to walk unless Naomi walked as well. Maybe that's what the industry needs again; the revival of girls standing up for each other like the bonafides did back then. #All Hail To The Original Supermodels.

    • Naana

      Aghh I love anais! She's gorgeous and some of her editorials remind me of the great Sade Adu. Anyway you know what, the 90's supermodels had so much power that is non existent these days. If cara delevingne or karlie kloss (sp) said they're not goshooting walk because her friend jourdan wasn't getting booked like what christy and Linda did for Naomi I can promise you they will be kissing their careers goodbye because the industry is so not what it used to be back then. It's funny how anais is saying 'we already have jourdan', even Jordan the token black girl gets the same treatment. Love them, hope they continue to break boundaries.


    I love this TS, great article! It's nice to see a model, who uses products and admits that lot of work and care is needed to maintain her looks. The Fashion industry is racist and closes the door to Black models. Pictures of White models still dominate Fashion Magazines, which is very annoying especially when the magazine is discussing make up. Hence, I read very widely a mix of Magazines, Blogs,Youtube to get info on Beauty and Make up. I look at what girls are really wearing-Street fashion, to get inspiration.

    France does have race issue and it is hidden under "French Nationalism and French Identity", which is dangerous because the issue is never discussed properly. I've been in Paris and had waiters ignore me until they realise I'm British or my husband who is white, comes to join me at the table. I sat on the Paris Tube and listened to two old french ladies discussed how good I looked and how surprised they are to see nicely dressed Black person and then assume I was American. I responded by telling the ladies that I'm English in very disproving tone of voice, prompting the ladies to apologise for their behaviour. Not all French people are like this and still love Paris, I'm just very prepared for Race issues-when I go.

    This lady is an inspiration to young black and mixed-heritage girls.

  • 1Alouette

    Amazing! All the glorious Nars...give me all the Nars....

  • rosanegra

    The same thing happened to my family in France. We were followed by a group of teens making monkey noises. It must be a particular thing over there. I appreciate that this dynamic young woman is so candid about the fashion industry. Real social change comes from demystifying society on every level, from fashion to government. The beauty industry is often said to be frivolous but if we can have honest conversations about social issues while we compare lipsticks, we can move forward. Beautifully.

  • Michelle

    Love it when you guys feature models. They make up my favorite top shelfs

  • ?

    Um really? You are saying she didn't experience what she experienced? I have many non-white friends in France who experience blatant racism there everyday.

  • Cat Woods

    Love Kerastase too! Thanks Anais

  • Naomi

    I love Anais! i'd love to ses Iman Hammam and other models of colour top shelf. pleasee


    I recently visited Paris and the Parisians all seemed really nice to me, but I have heard models make the same claims that Anais does. This is sad, especially considering that I've heard that of all the cities in Europe, Paris has the most ppl of African descent. Angie, you seem to be in a position where you can make a change. Do what you can to make things better for models of African descent who are looking for work in Paris. Let it start with you :)


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Maybelline The Colossal
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Clarins 'Pro Palette' Eyebrow Kit
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