'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.