'My whole name is Crystal Gem Noreiga. I never put in the ‘Gem’ because everyone’s like, ‘Oh, that’s so cute,’ so I just kind of leave it out. I’m from Trinidad and Tobago. It’s in the Caribbean, right beneath America—you have, like, Jamaica, Cuba, and then there’s a chain of islands that you call the Archipelago. Trinidad is at the bottom near Venezuela. When I lived there, people would tell me, ‘Oh, you should be Miss Trinidad and Tobago.’ A lot of people in Trinidad, maybe to this day, feel like beauty pageants and modeling are similar, so I didn’t really know the difference until I started watching America’s Next Top Model. It’s not that accurate about modeling, but it gave me the best idea of what it’s like. I liked to watch the show so when I got scouted, I said to myself, ‘OK, I’ll just see where it goes.’ I didn’t expect to do anything major. This man told me to come to a competition and I ended up winning and now he’s my manager.
My focus with my skin is natural, nice, and glow-y. What I do is exfoliate once a week, or anytime I’ve had a shoot where there’s a ton of stuff on my skin and I feel like they didn’t get it off properly. I use my exfoliating scrub from Clean & Clear. Then—I don’t want it to feel like my face is all scrubbed off—there’s a Dr. Jart Sleeping Mask that I got from Birchbox, which I’m trying out. If I’m going to bed, I just leave on the Dr. Jart and then put on my moisturizer.
For makeup, I have my concealer palette from MAC. I keep it in my bag, so if I end up somewhere or decide to go out, I have the palette for dark skin. I just make sure my skin is even because I have a bit of hyperpigmentation at the bottom of my face. There’s an orange block, so sometimes I use that as blush. I like to put things where they are not meant to be. Sometimes I put lipstick as blush or on my eyes—wherever the color works. I really like Rebelfrom MAC—it’s like a really deep plum. Then there's Matte Royal that's a nice, deep blue. I also love mascara—I have this blue one from Maybelline that I bought and didn't realize it was blue, so I’ve been wearing this dark blue mascara to castings and stuff. I really like it.
If it’s not Fashion Week, my hair is always curly. When I work with certain people, they want it straight, or if I do a show or something, they might straighten it. But a lot of people do want it curly. I did a show in London— Thomas Tait—and they were looking at my book and said, ‘What do you do to make your hair curly?” I said that I just wash it. They booked me for the show and actually asked me to wash it for them so it would go from straight to curly. I thought that was really nice because most people prefer the straight hair. It tangles easily though. And it's thick—I snap my hair ties.
I do what’s called an Aphogee treatment once a month—it’s great for really kinky hair. It's not too expensive and it helps get the strength back into your hair, like a protein treatment. It's slimy, gets kind of hard, and then you wash it out. I fall off my routine sometimes, but when it’s Fashion Week, it’s necessary. I also feel like my scalp gets a bit flaky or itchy. So I get essential oils from GNC or Whole Foods and put them in a spray bottle with about a half a cup of water—it’s a few drops of tea tree oil, peppermint, and lavender—then I part my hair in sections and spray it in. After that, I don’t feel like my scalp itches as much. Since I make it myself, it lasts so much longer, too.
A while back, I did a campaign for Nexxus and their products worked so well on my hair. I use their masks, shampoo, and conditioner. I also use a shampoo and conditioner from Carol’s Daughter. If you use the same things, after a while it’s kind of counterproductive. The hair isn’t like, ‘Yay!’ [Laughs]. It's pretty easy for me to have it natural. But if I wasn't a model, my hair would probably be blue or something. And I'd have more piercings. I like stuff like that.”
—as told to ITG
Crystal Noreiga photographed by Tom Newton.