Julia Cumming, Musician & Model

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'The music world is tough. As a woman, people are just looking to tear you down. If you’re not that attractive, they tear you down for that. If you are attractive, they tear you down for that. And meanwhile, there are certain expectations for how you look, but then if you talk about makeup or fashion, people see you as less of an artist, you know? It’s bad. You have to try to avoid all of those pressures and just try to be who you and not question the things that you like. I like doing my eyeliner. I like my clothes. Do I have to stop to get respect? I like to think of myself as an artist, whether I’m making music or images. I don’t feel like I’m a ‘musician-slash-model.’ I think that people who are passionate about what they’re doing are all pretty similar.

Usually at a venue, the backstage situation isn’t great for getting ready. I’m typically doing my makeup in the bathroom. Sometimes just the regular public bathroom. Sometimes I wonder how long I’m going to be putting my eyeliner on in the world’s dingiest bathrooms.

When I was like 13 or 14, I started doing a straight cat-eye. Once I discovered it I was like, this is it. I found it. I would be late to school doing it. I didn’t feel like myself unless I had it on. And then I had to kind of pull back and be like, what's my face look like under there? The guitarist in my band [Sunflower Bean] likes makeup, so he always asks me for a little eyeliner. I use Maybelline's Master Precise Ink Pen Eyeliner. It’s an old one. I should probably replace it, but it works. I try to put mascara on him, but he doesn’t like that. My mascara look is pretty messy—I'll use four different kinds of mascara on top and bottom. They’re all drugstore ones, like Great Lash or whatever. I have Wet n’ Wild Mega Plump in my bag right now that I got in Jersey at a show. I don’t have really fancy ones. It’s just hard to afford it.

I don’t wear any foundation or anything. I don’t have any blush, because I have a kind of white person-y complexion and I blush pretty easily. I think sometimes when I use too much foundation and concealer, I just don’t look like me. But I do like sparkle. I have a little tube of gold glitter stuff that I got from Lush. I was hanging out with my mom, and you know when moms are feeling kind of generous? She was like ‘You should go for that.’ And I was like ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ So I’ll do the Twiggy-slash-Shelley Duvall eyelashes and use an eyeliner pen and then put the gold on. I can do the whole thing in less than 15 minutes and then I’m ready to play.

I also use an e.l.f. Brow Gel. I think it was probably a gift from one of my friends who was like, ‘You have crazy brows.’ But it’s fun. I brush them up. They’re very large, so they grow back in like a week. I used to do a lot more with them but now I’m kind of curious to see how big they can get. I really want to bleach them, but everyone says I shouldn’t.

My hair color is actually extreme, Kardashian-style brunette. I dyed my hair about three years ago and I go to this amazing salon called Pickthorn. Chelsea [Pickthorn] doesn’t use any heat, so it takes like 10 hours but it’s worth it. We hang out, we drink some wine, we read some books. I think she's bringing a certain level of artistry to the hair she’s doing, so I’m trying to represent her. My hair has become a collaboration. I never thought I would have to spend so much time on my hair. Now I use this Alterna Ten Perfect Blend Shampoo that I got from the salon. It’s not purple. They don’t ever want me to use the ones with toner in them. You have to be careful when you wash it. You need something that protects the tone and doesn’t pull too much out.

The thing is, now I kind of want to shave all my hair off. I saw a picture of a really pretty girl, Ruth Bell, who did it. But I think she’s a lot prettier than me, so if I do it, I’m going to look very different. Maybe in a couple of years.

When we’re performing, I drink a lot of Red Bull. I’ll drink one before we play, one while we play and depending on the set list, even more during the intense songs. By the time the show’s over, I’m getting this post-show depression and anxiety feeling. I kept wondering why and then I was like ‘oh, it’s because I’m literally cracking myself out.’ But I’m 19 and all the venues in New York know that because I’ve been playing for so long, and neither of the boys in my band are 21 either, so obviously we can’t drink. So I go to Red Bull. It’s like the Rock ‘n Roll in-between.

I also don’t ever wash my face. I never touch it. I have this Klorane Floral Water Makeup Remover thing I got at Ricky’s, so I’ll use that. And then I have a Vitamin E Illuminating Moisture Cream from the Body Shop I got with my mom at the same time that we got the gold stuff. I do that when I remember. Like once a week. But usually after a show, I have my Red Bull anxiety attack, I lie down, and I fall asleep. I can fall asleep anywhere. I’m really good at sleeping! I have a really bad habit of sleeping in my makeup. On tour, it’s good because then I don’t have to do it again the next day. You can kind of let it set in for a few days and it gets really gnarly.”

—as told to ITG

Julia Cumming photographed by Tom Newton on August 24, 2015. Video edited by Hannah Hafey.

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