I'm writing you from the NAACP Awards, where I just got Tessa Thompson out the door for the red carpet. She's always so much fun to work with—I've been doing her makeup since she was in For Colored Girls back in 2010.She's an actress, as well as a musician, so how she puts herself together is really unlike any other girl I've seen. She's always down to do something a bit unexpected with makeup. Tonight, she's wearing this amazing, light pink Kenzo dress, and we saw the simplicity of it as an opportunity to really play with both an eye and a lip. I'd never done a bright pink lip with such a demure dress, so we were both very excited about that. We were short on time, so she had her hair done as I was doing her makeup, and it all come together with this 1920s vibe that we all just ran with.
I always start with a good canvas on the skin. The Giorgio Armani Fluid Sheer is just the best for that, along with the Armani Maestro Fusion Makeup Compact and their Light Master Primer, applied with a Beauty Blender. Tessa is such a cool girl that we didn't want the makeup to get too complicated, so when we were doing her smoky eye, instead of using a lot of shadows we just smudged the liner along the top and bottom lash lines and went back over the lid with the Armani Eye Tint in Shadow. It's dramatic but ends up being softer and easier to wear with a dark lip. Application is really important to keep it looking spontaneous and not too precious.
False lashes are non-negotiable on the red carpet, but I like them to look as natural as possible—dramatic but real. Tessa wore the Eylure Pro-Lash Individuals with Giorgio Armani Maestro Liquid Eye Liner on top to help conceal the glue. After that, the Armani Black Ecstasy Mascara works perfectly on top to bring it all together.
When it comes to lips, I like to come prepared with three or four different options to play around with. We went with one coat of the Armani Lip Maestro in 504 Ecstasy, which looks like a nice stain. Her lips are fantastic already—they're dark and full on their own—so just a pop of color was all she needed. Blush on the apples of the cheeks and a little but of highlighter finished it all off.
We got lucky with how much natural light was coming in the window as Tessa got ready—natural light don't lie! I always tell people, if the makeup looks good in the sunlight coming in the window, it'll look good on the red carpet and on TV and in photos. And we knew it was going to be a good night because both her lipstick and her compact both fit in her clutch. Usually we have to pick one and a phone!
Nick Barose is a New York-based makeup artist. Photos via Getty and Nick Barose.