"When I was younger and was just starting to model, I was actually obsessed with other models. Part of it is because I am a perfectionist, so I was always 'studying.' But also, I was really fascinated by their lives and found comfort in seeing other girls doing what I was doing. Like Natalia Vodianova—I loved her because she had big eyebrows like me and we were with the same agency. And Sasha [Pivovarova]. At my first fitting with Lanvin when I was 16, I saw Daria walking out while I was going in and she winked at me. I mean, maybe she didn't—she probably just had something in her eye...but that was a very cool moment for me.
My first shoot ever in New York was for Teen Vogue with Arthur Elgort. The story was actually about Gucci Westman—and she was pregnant! They were so awesome to work with...I think modeling, in a way, gave me more self-confidence because I wasn’t seen as a beautiful girl at my school or anything like that, but then I was in an environment where people were complimenting these things that I had been really insecure about.
I was teased all the time at school for my eyebrows. For a 12-year-old, they were very intense, so I would beg my mom to let me get them waxed. She told me I'd end up regretting it and wouldn't let me tweeze them or anything. I stole her tweezers once out of her drawer and I got grounded because I did it without her permission. Actually, looking back on it, I'm so thankful that she didn’t let me because I grew into them. When I started modeling, if anyone would try to pluck them, my agency wouldn't let them. I would not let anyone touch them—ever.
I did Balenciaga one season, which was really cool, and they bleached my eyebrows for it. At the time, I thought it looked weird, but now I love having my eyebrows bleached. We bleached them for a Nick Knight thing that I did a year ago, too. It makes my face look so different because my eyebrows are the defining feature on my face. Change that and it’s weird and I like it. Any time that somebody bleaches them, I always leave it for as long as I can.
I've learned more about products doing shows than I have anywhere else. I still use Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream sometimes, which smells like backstage to me, so that’s kind of nostalgic. The minute you get to a show, they sit you down in a chair, cleanse your face with Bioderma, and massage it in Embryolisse. The whole process makes the makeup look so different and so much better.
In the morning, I wash my face with Ren Evercalm Cleansing Milk and at night I use Mario Badescu Seaweed Cleansing Lotion. I'll just put it on a cotton pad and wipe my face with it—it's so frightening what comes off of your skin at the end of the day when you live in New York. I'll also use some Dr. Alkaitis products, which I found at Great Jones Spa. I've been using their Organic Nourishing Treatment Oil for a long time, but I don't really know how it works. Then I use the Glossier Priming Moisturizer, which I really like especially for summer because it's light. No eye cream or anything else. Maybe that'll change, but for now I feel like I don't need to overthink the routine or have it be decadent. But I do use SkinCeuticals SPF 50 Physical Fusion UV Defense Sunscreen every day. Over the past few years, I've noticed I've gotten really sensitive in the sun. I'm very fair so I always wear sunscreen and long sleeves even in August, which is horrible. I use Shiseido Sunscreen on my body.
I have a couple of masks that I use occasionally. The Glossier Mega Greens Galaxy Pack, I love—and I also have the Moisturizing Moon Mask in my fridge because Annie [Kreighbaum] told me to do that. Then I have the Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Masque. I never use it, but it’s here. It’s intense. I mean it’s not that intense but my skin is just so sensitive. My Witch Stick is quicker for spots. I got it in England.
The most makeup I've ever worn was when I was in 7th grade, before I started modeling. Back then, I was listening to a lot of Bright Eyes and Radiohead. Super deep. I didn’t know anything about makeup obviously, so my look involved outlining my whole eye in black eyeliner and then doing the inner part of my eye in black eyeliner, too. I would wear a black The Used hoodie with American Eagle jeans and socks with Adidas slides. That was my look every day for school. When I had my eyebrows bleached, for some reason, I always wanted to have liner on the inner rim of my eye, I don’t know why. I love eyeliner but I don't wear it much anymore. I think because I’ve been working as a model for so long and you can’t really wear eyeliner or anything to castings, I'm just not used to it anymore.
Now I don't wear much makeup. I have an eyelash curler, but if I wore mascara, it'd end up all over my face. I do have a concealer. I’m super, super fair, as I said, so if I have something that I want to cover up, my friend Rie Omoto has this skincare and makeup line that’s only sold in Asia, and her concealer is the perfect color for my skin. Her brand is called Three, and everything else is in Japanese, so I don’t know exactly what it's called, but it’s a concealer pen. And then I also have the two lightest shades of Bobbi Brown Face Touch Up Stick in Porcelain and Alabaster.
I also have one of the tinted Fresh Sugar Lip Treatments. It’s the plum one, so it’s kind of deep in color, and I’ll put that on my lips or on my cheeks. But I also have a Clinique Superbalm Moisturizing Gloss. It’s new, and I really like it, so I’ll put that on my lips sometimes, too. It doesn’t feel sticky or lip gloss-y, which I can’t stand. I used to be so obsessed with lip balm—and I still am, but I used to have a bag full of every single lip balm that had ever existed and it got really out of control, so I try to just stick to a couple of things. But I definitely like them to feel moisturizing. And then—Oh, I love Maybelline Baby Lips. Grape Vine is the goth Baby Lips, but still completely see-through when you put it on.
When I started doing shows, my hair was down to my hips—so it used to be a lot longer. It gets oily at the roots, plus I work out, so I wash it every day. People say that to fix that you have to not wash it every day, but I work and go to castings and if I don’t wash it people will say I have oily hair. So I can’t. But I just read about Emily's shampoo in her Top Shelf and I bought it— Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub With Sea Salt. It's intense, so I don't use it every day, but I really like it. And then I also have a Fekkai Apple Cider Shampoo that I use on in-between days.
This summer I was visiting my boyfriend in London and his sister had a Tangle Teaser. I'd never used it before, but they're so good! And I also have like a little Mason Pearson one that I carry around with me, and if I feel like my hair’s getting flat, which it does, I just do that and then brush through it.
I have a membership at Equinox. And I used to go to SoulCycle all the time—I was one of those people. But lately I’ve just been going to the Equinox spin room when no one’s there and I do my own spin class for myself. My music is usually hip-hop. If it’s not inappropriate, I won’t be motivated by it. Basically that's my philosophy—dirty hip-hop. I’m recently obsessed with Justin Bieber. I was never into him ever, but I love his new songs! And I’ve choreographed a couple of different spin routines to them and they’re really great. I'm not a very good Belieber, but I'm a convert now. So I do that and then I sometimes will walk on an incline on the treadmill or do the Stairmaster, and then I do stuff on the mat. I have a subscription to Ballet Beautiful online, so I do that occasionally. I also do Pilates at Karen Lord sometimes. It’s hard, but I like working out a lot. And I also have a trainer whose name is Mike Maloney, and he is awesome. He’s like a great guy and he’s definitely my favorite trainer I've worked with in my career. I’m cursing a lot every single session, in horrible discomfort and wanting to go home. But it’s great. Like not discomfort in a bad way, discomfort in a ‘this is working’ way.
As far as who I’m inspired by, that would be my mom. That’s kind of a tangent, but she is my best friend and the most beautiful person in the world to me for sure. I actually just sent her an eyelash curler in the mail like last week because she said that hers didn’t work. So I went to Sephora and I bought her one.”
—as told to ITG
Ali Michael photographed by Tom Newton in New York City on October 6, 2015.