'When I was a teenager, I actually ended up in beauty school. It was sort of a mistake—I was going through a bit of a difficult time and my grandmother thought she was putting me in etiquette school...she obviously didn't read the fine print. Horrific, but the best thing that came out of it was that a scout came one day and told me about modeling. He said, ‘You’re going to be a supermodel.’ I was like, ‘I’m sorry, but what’s a supermodel?’ I wasn’t into fashion. I was into music and Goth girls at the mall. He showed me Vogue, and I had never seen women like that. I had no idea of that level of beauty. That was the beginning. I dedicated my whole life to understanding fashion from then on. I looked it all very specifically—What is the light? How are they creating that light in their eye when it sparkles? How do they get those cheekbones? I don’t have prominent cheekbones—how do I make it look like I have them? What do I even look like? I’m not the type of model that’s like, ‘Just throw me in front of the camera.’ I have to work. It’ a job.
Tonight I’m going to the Save Venice Masked Ball. I’m very glamorous when I go out at night because that’s when you get photographed in New York. So I like to create a character at night—it’s like I’m born again. I become this vampy, glamorous thing. That’s not how I am in the rest of my life at all. If I have any inspiration tonight, it's Dita Von Teese. I’m wearing all Giorgio Armani tonight—I'm a big fan of his. When I tried this dress on, I was in a comfortable-yet-romantic mood. It’s not my usual—I usually wear a major gown and crazy things. At the same time, I like to feel comfortable. If I could wear sweatpants, I’d wear a sweatpants dress. [Laughs]
Because I have to wear a mask, I’m thinking an extraordinarily strong cat eye would be good. With that, it’s nice to do a burgundy—what I like to call ‘fuck off’—lip. It’s Tom Ford Lip Color in Bruised Plum. You know the Givenchy looks where the models have no mascara on, no eyebrows, and an amazing lip? In a perfect life, I would look like that every day. I like to accentuate my Cupid’s bow—sharp and clean but not severe. I want it to blend well.
I have this lip trick—I have these exfoliating witch hazel pads, and I do like a real scrub with them on my lips. I go inside the mouth, which brings blood forth to the lips, and if you’re doing a natural lip, you don’t even need any color with this. You look like you just had Botox, which I won’t do. But if I need bigger lips immediately, for a shoot or something, I can do this, and it really works. I also like using Neosporin instead of lip balm on my lips. I like my lips to glide.
I have Emi Kaneko doing my makeup tonight. From working in fashion, I feel like I can fake a good lip and a good eye myself, but I have not perfected unbelievable skin like she can do for me. It's very hard to get the shine in the right spot and the contouring right, especially when your dress will change the texture of your skin. Shiny skin on a shiny dress is a big, sweaty mess. Whether you’re sweaty or not, you will look like a sweaty mess. So tonight we're using Lancôme Visionnaire Advanced Skin Corrector that makes everything smooth and erases the look of pores when you put foundation on. It makes your skin look great. Then, over that, she used Tom Ford Traceless Perfecting Foundation. Mostly it’s the shade 05 Natural, but I like to mix a little bit of 04 Beige in because it’s not like my face is one dimensional. My makeup artist says it builds depth that way. Around my nose, it’s a little red, so she uses a slightly different color for more olive skin to cancel it out. When I don’t have a makeup artist doing my makeup, I love using Giorgio Armani’s Luminous Silk Foundation, Chanel Vitalumière Aqua, and Laura Mercier Silk Crème Foundation. Those are my go-tos for night, usually.
On my brows, I love using Lancôme Hypnôse Mascara. I darken them with it—you can imagine how intense that it, and it keeps them in place like a gel. Funnily enough, I don’t like mascara on lashes so much. I like the eyelash-less look in a weird way…I don’t even know what reference that is, but I feel so effing beautiful. I just do. Maybe people on the street look at me like they’re scared, but I’m not scared. I look in the mirror and I’m like ‘That’s exactly how I want to be.’
I like the idea of experimental hair. One of my favorite looks I’ve ever done was for the Met Gala 2011. I went with Zac Posen and was wearing one of his dresses—I called it the spider web dress, and I asked for a spider web out of my hair. It was like a sci-fi ‘40s thing. I can scare people with my reference points—I sort of have to bring it back and be realistic. Like, OK we can sit here for 20 hours and do my hair, or we can be human beings about it.
Tonight I’m going for a nice, soft wave in the front that will come down over my eyebrow and roll in on the back to create this faux-bob. All the products are Oribe, but I also have a lot of Redken in my own collection. First my hairstylist, Leonardo Manetti, used the Maximista Thickening Spray, then the Grandiose Hair Plumping Mousse before blowing it out for a super-shiny texture. And then he finished it off with the Soft Lacquer Heat Styling Hair Spray since this is a really sculptural look. I use Oribe all the time, but I just jump from product to product. I like to use it very thoroughly, and once I’m done with that, I’ll jump to another company.
Sometimes when I come home, I'll do midnight yoga just to deal with my emotional self before going to bed. The day is confusing, it’s intense, it’s whatever, and I really believe in a sound mind before I go to bed—if that means doing yoga until 1am, so be it. Then, I take a shower. I’m lucky to have a shower that goes from floor to ceiling, so I just sit there with the hottest water and steam for 30 minutes and then do a body scrub. After that, I take pure organic olive oil and make myself a salad on my face. [Laughs] Skin immediately receives olive oil, where it’s harder for lotions to absorb as fast. I rub it all over my body then wash it off so I’m not a grease thing. I’m a big believer in olive oil because not everyone can do La Prairie, and I understand. If you really, really want to invest in a cream versus getting surgery or getting expensive peels La Prairie’s Skin Caviar Luxe Eye Lift Cream is the best cream. I use this every day. I keep it in my makeup kit when I go to castings or shoots because sometimes I’ll have 20 trips in a week and my eyes look so tired.
Then, right before bed, I like to watch Vice and eat my Oreos and almond milk—almond milk because I think I’m being healthy—and I’m happy.”
—as told to ITG
Crystal Renn photographed by Tom Newton on April 10, 2015. Go out with models Gigi Hadid, Soo Joo Park, and more in our Top Shelf After Dark series.