"My name is pronounced almost like 'Giada,' like the chef. I grew up in Harlem, right on 116th Street. In Harlem, everything is 20 minutes away from the heart of the city, so I grew up with very busy surroundings. After elementary school, I went to a new Charter School that was coming up at the time. It was super intensive-we wore uniforms, we had to recite a scholar's creed in English and Latin every morning, we would line up in the hallways and listen to Whitney Houston sing the Star Spangled Banner. [Laughs] I think because of my high school upbringing, I always wanted to be creative-through painting, writing, spoken word. We learned so much about the Harlem Renaissance and Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou, and what that meant for culture in Harlem. I ended up studying Victorian Literature in college, and my first job was at The Daily Front Row. And then I worked at Cece Feinberg PR, which was a boutique PR agency. Then, I left there for the next season of internships, and I was at Rebecca Minkoff and Teen Vogue at the same time. My mom gave me literally $20 a week and a metro card, and I lived at home. I saved a bit of money from working at school-I was working at Sephora then. I saved a little bit of money, and I was just like, 'I'm gonna do it, even if I'm broke and hungry.' Luckily it worked out. I worked four internships before getting a job. Every single internship taught me a little more.
I am absolutely a beauty junkie. My mom has a hair salon—that was her bread-and-butter for as long as I can remember. I remember beauty being a very important part of our family. Culturally as well, beauty is very big in Senegal, where my parents are from. But working at Sephora really changed my life. In Syracuse, it was a brand new Sephora, so for an entire month we had to go through intensive training and do all these certifications. We had to understand the notes in fragrance, and what hyaluronic acid was compared to hydroquinone, when to use them... I just fell in love. I worked there until graduation, but then I wanted to go back to New York. It never left me-I'm super grateful for my relationship with beauty because it just makes me happy.
Skincare is my jam. I'm pretty intensive at nighttime, so in the morning it's just about refreshing my skin and waking it up, especially if I have sleep lines. In the morning I use La Roche Posay Gel Foaming Cleanser which is really gentle, but still wakes your skin up. In the winter time I lean into more cleansing oils, so this Tatcha Oil is the best. If I do cleansing oil I'll swipe on some toner afterwards, but if I use a foaming cleanser I'll pat on an essence. It's basically a balancing act I'm trying to do-especially if my skin has been through it, and I'm having a bit of a breakout, I'll use a Murad cleanser which has salicylic acid. I want to make sure that I'm putting moisture back into my skin when I'm stripping it like that, so an essence balances that out. And then, after a toner or an essence, I do a serum. Vinoperfect from Caudalie is my go-to-I had a stint when I was using Truth Serum, which is brightening. La Mer has a Regenerating Serum which is really good, especially after travel. And then, anything with hyaluronic acid, like Glossier Super Bounce, I pat on before my moisturizer. I've definitely been enjoying the moisture packs from K-beauty-L'Oréal makes one as well, the Hydra Genius, which is really good for nighttime. Today I used the new La Mer serum in the gold box-it's so expensive! But it feels amazing! Your skin immediately feels supple. I test the suppleness of my skin from when I wake up. So if I wake up and my sleep lines from my pillow take more than like, three minutes to bounce back, I know I need more water. This serum absorbs really quickly and doesn't affect your next step-sometimes serums are too oily, or there's some ingredient in there that doesn't play well with others. This one-there's got to be some magic broth in there. If I want to do more hydration in the day, I can also do the Ceramidin by Dr. Jart. I just pat that on top, but that's mostly if I'm struggling, like in the winter.
Right now I'm using this La Mer lotion that's amazing. It just softens your skin and prepares it. I also have this weird Moroccan lotion that I found in Senegal. I've been using it for three or four years, and I've been obsessed. It's very thick. I warm it up in my hands, and sometimes I will put a few drops of a serum, like the Farsali Gold Elixir, in it. I rub it between my hands until it's warm, and then I just press it into my skin. It's so good! Now I can restock it on Amazon. Then I seal it with SPF—usually I use La Roche Posay or Shiseido, or the Glossier Invisible Shield.
As soon as I come in the house at night, I try to get rid of my makeup. I use a makeup wipe—Neutrogena is my favorite wipe, but L'Oréal makes some great ones as well-and then relax a bit. Later, I'll use a cleansing oil. The Tatcha is like the ace of spades of oils-it gets rid of everything but is still very forgiving on the skin. It's a double cleanse-really a triple cleanse, with the makeup wipe! While my skin is still warm and steamy from the shower I try to grab an active potion or lotion, like Glossier Solution or Biologique Recherche P50. Something very active and strong, especially if my skin's freaking out. After an active, I go back with a lighter, gentle serum. Sometimes I might skip the serum and go straight to oils. When I need the extra hydration I use the Dr. Jart Water Pack on top.
I'm a big fan of Peach and Lily's masks. When I'm on an airplane, I definitely take a Glamglow Hydration Mask-it helps me land and still look like a human being. Before I apply it, I'll wipe down my face with a makeup wipe. Then I'll either spritz my face with the Tatcha Dewy Mist or the Caudalie Vino Spritz Elixir, which smells amazing, or a Vichy Thermal Water, or Avène Thermal Water. Then I have a Watermelon Lip Mask from Laneige as well. When I land, I'm good to go. I'll just throw on some Glossier Skin Tint, Boy Brow and Stretch Concealer, and I can go straight to a meeting, or lunch to meet someone.
Right now I'm wearing Nars Sheer Glow on my face in Khartoum. Then I use Glossier Stretch Concealer in Deep. For my eyebrows, I use a very classic L'Oréal Paris Brow Stylist in Deep Brunette. I'm horrible at eyeshadow, and I'm very grateful for that! I would have tons of eyeshadow palettes, and they're expensive. [Laughs] I usually just try to brighten the inner corners [of my eyes], so I'd do a bright gold for that. Occasionally I'll do a nude or a white liner in the waterline. Today I'm using the L'Oréal Infallible Paints Metallic Eye Shadow—it's very pigmented and super great for parties. My favorite mascara right now is Superhero from It Cosmetics. It's both volumizing and lengthening, so sometimes if I'm trying to be dramatic, I'll coat them first with a L'Oréal eyelash primer and layer it on. Literally you need one swipe, and you're good to go. Or I do the Lash Paradise L'Oreal Paris mascara. The brush is a bit thicker, so if you have time to clean up the extra clump that goes on your eyes, it's definitely worth it. I enjoy clumpy. For eyeliner, I use the one from Eyeko. I'm terrible with pencil liners, so I've always done liquid liner, I set my skin with Glossier Wowder, and then I use my Cloud Paint-I'm literally on my third tube of Haze. For highlighter, I'm using the Fenty in Chili Mango, or Kilawatt in Moscow Mule, which has a more reddish undertone. Nars has one called Taj Mahal that's really good. I put that on the apples of my cheeks. My eyebrows I will set with a clear gel or Boy Brow. For blush, I think it depends what look you're going for. I'm wearing Haze now, and it looks very soft. If I want a bolder look, I go with Exhibit A by Nars. That's a bright red, but it looks amazing on dark skin. For lips, any color that's close to the chestnut family in terms of liner is really good for me.
My go-tos for hair are the products from Phyto. They're very rich in protein, and restorative, and balance your hair. Kerastase too, which is a L'Oréal brand. When I go to sleep, I'll wrap my hair, or I'll pincurl it. I have a silk pillowcase because my hair will fall out from the friction on the texture of my hair. And then I will sleep with a scarf on. Braids are the ultimate low maintenance—just shake and go. Especially when I'm traveling and the weather might be wonky. But braiding tends to pull at the hair follicles, so I take breaks in between and do hair treatments at my mom's salon.
Black castor oil saves lives! It's super thick, and it coats your hair, which you need especially to make sure your edges are in place. There's this crazy Japanese wax stick that I kind of found on set-it's basically this wax stick and it lays down your edges, or if you have any flyaways you can kind of mold them to your hair. There's this Jane Carter Solution—it's basically a spritz, but it's a leave-in conditioner that kind of spritz in your hair and revitalize it during that blowout session. I'll spritz that if I need to give it some super love. Sometimes I use the Shu Uemura Dry Oil. You kind of rub it through your hair before you blow out. Davines has a spray as well—I'll just use whatever the stylist says is poppin' that day. I'm still looking for my signature look, but for the most part, the more body the better. I have pincurls in right now, and I'm gonna take them down later! Anything that gives my hair body and liveliness, I'm down for it.
Fragrance is a big thing in my culture as well. Actually, they equate fragrance with the art of seduction. They have this huge cultural thing where we have Churai, which is basically this festival of incense, and all these things. It's been always a part of my life. My dad would literally be a Creed guy, I would be with him purchasing these things that he would give as gifts because it's a sign of respect. I like a little bit of floral, so I have Lipstick Rose by Frederic Malle. And of course Santal 33. L'Artisan Parfumeur has a Mirabilis, which I got in Paris. I go by season-I equate memories to fragrance so much. The Hermes Twilly fragrance is really nice. It's very light. It's so funny, because every time my friends are here they'll go in my room and spray all my fragrances. I'll be like, 'I know you sprayed my Santal! Cut it out!' [Laughs]"
—as told to ITG