Alexandra Nataf, Photographer & Co-Founder, Unconditional Magazine


"I am from Paris. When I was 11, my parents were like, ‘We’re moving to LA!’ And I was like, ‘…OK.’ I didn’t speak a word of English. It was a huge culture shock, because it was so sudden. But I grew up in LA, and when I finished college I moved [to New York]. Everywhere I’ve lived has been a huge influence on me, because if I had never left Paris, for example, I really don’t know if I would be a photographer today. I basically partied a lot in high school, and then after high school I was like, ‘OK, I need to get it together a little bit and figure out what I want to do.’ I wasn’t really getting into colleges, and I was like, ‘I’ll just go to community college and wait a year or two, and take classes, and figure it out.’ I took photography classes, and I totally fell in love. I was just living in the darkroom—I didn’t leave. By 10PM my mom would be like, ‘Are you coming home for dinner?’

When I moved here, I knew no one. New York is scary! It really pushes you to get out of your comfort zone. I had met [Ilona Hamer] four years prior, really randomly at a restaurant opening in LA. I knew she was a stylist here, and I liked her work, and I thought maybe I could reach out. So I messaged her on Instagram one night, and she was like, ‘Hey, yeah, let’s get a drink. How’s tomorrow?’ We met, got really drunk, and basically became best friends. It was the beginning of everything. It felt like we were both kind of starting from scratch, being in New York. We were like, ‘OK, let’s just shoot something in my apartment, let’s get a girl and just see what we can do, here are things from your closet and my closet.’ I mean, it was really like that. We were just testing, even though we both had experience. We did this kind of testing for about a year. I was like, ‘Well, why don’t we just turn it into a print magazine?’ It was very premature, and we were naïve when we started. We took a meeting with Aaron Newbill at IMG, and he was the first person to believe in the project. He was just like, ‘Tell me who you want. You’re not getting Daria, and you’re not getting Lara Stone, but let’s talk. Who are you guys into?’ And we were like, ‘Actually, we love Bella Hadid.’ At the time, Bella was barely starting. Aaron made it happen, and I think from the time we met with him to the time it came to print, she had gained an extra 300,000 followers or something. It happened so quickly—it was crazy. Bella was this really big thing for us, because we were no one, and then all of a sudden, we were no one who had Bella on our cover.

I love RMS—I’ve been wearing RMS since I was like 16. Back then when you’d order something off their website it would take four weeks to arrive, and you’d call them and basically it was being made. My go-to makeup now would be Vitalumière by Chanel in No. 20. I don’t use a brush—I just use my fingers for everything. I put it a little bit everywhere, but a light layer. Otherwise RMS Un Cover-Up No. 22, or Clé de Peau concealer, which is more for slightly heavier things. If you’ve got little spots and things, the Clé de Peau is the best. It’s expensive, but it lasts forever. It’s not something you throw away. My Bobbi Brown bronzer recently fell, so RIP, but I’ve been wearing this bronzer since I was 16. It’s super matte, and it’s super strong, and it’s so funny because I was recently on set with Benjamin Puckey and he was like, ‘What? You use color No. 4? That’s way too strong for you!’ And I was like, ‘Well, this takes me back to my 16-year-old party days where everyone looked like they had just come out of Mystic Tan.' [Laughs] So this is my go-to. It’s just a really nice bronze. And then obviously the revolutionary Boy Brow from Glossier. Can’t go wrong with that. If all I do in the morning is Chanel Vitalumière, a little bit of RMS, little bit of Glossier Boy Brow, I’m good to go. And Glossier Lash Slick—I swear by this now. I don’t think I wore mascara until this came out, seriously. It’s not clumpy, it really separates the eyelashes—you can tell every time that I’m wearing mascara, but it’s not heavy mascara. I curl my lashes for 10 seconds each—my curler is Shiseido—and then just put this on. If I’m going out and I need to look a little more together, I might do this color, Era Satin Shadow, from MAC. Maybe I’ll just put it on with a fluffy brush, and I don’t even look where I’m doing it, because I have no idea. Just to make it look nice, I’ll maybe put on a lip balm or something. I don’t really wear a lot of lipstick, but if I do, I have two. One is kind of a nude—this one’s Uber Beige by Bobbi Brown. You feel polished, but it’s not much. It’s also really moisturizing—I don’t like when it’s so matte that you can’t even move your lips. For red, Rivoli No. 21 by Chanel is good. [Ed note: discontinued] It’s just kind of a burgundy red—it’s not as bright, but I like it. Oh, and then I actually recently discovered this highlighter from Chanel. Le Signe Du Lion, it’s called, in Or Rose. It’s powder, and it just makes your skin a little bit more glow-y.

In terms of cleansers-slash-scrubs, I use these two, Skinstitut Glycolic Scrub 14% and Nia24 Physical Cleansing Scrub. My skin, yes it looks good, but it isn’t always good. I break out and it’s not always smooth. Skinstitut I found in Australia actually, and the girl I bought it from use to have the same kind of problems as me—breakouts all around the chin. She recommended this and was like, ‘Try it once a week, then twice a week—build up to however often you need it.’ And then the Nia is essentially the same thing but less strong. I use them more at night, I would say. Maybe more after a long day, I’ll take a shower and just clean [my skin]. I love to use Gamarde to prep my skin—it’s basically water, but it feels really nice. It’s from France. Isabelle Bellis recommended it to me, and I got it from her place. I just feel like it kind of helps moisturize, and it’s like a base. And then I’ll use the Glossier Solution or P50, depending on how my skin is. P50’s a bit stronger—if my skin's going through things, like stress or travel, then I’ll use that a lot. If it’s more of a day-to-day thing, I’ll use the Glossier Solution. I love these cotton pads from Paris. I don’t know why, but in America I find that cotton pads are more like balls and they rip apart and become really gross. These, you can put P50 or Solution on them, and it’s almost like a pad. It’s just nice. French pharmacy wins again.

I’ve recently discovered Circumference, and they’re getting into New York girls’ bathrooms a lot, actually. I love these two products, the Pure Balancing Botanical Face Oil, and the Vital-C Serum. A lot of the products I use, I kind of base them off of smell and texture. So, if I don’t like the smell, I can’t put it on my skin. But if I love the smell, even if it’s bad for me, I’ll just go crazy. It’s such a ritual, because I only have like 20 minutes in the morning, at most. Whatever I put on, I just want it to feel really nice, because it’s five minutes and you walk out the door and feel good. Darphin I really like. I use this Skin Mat Matifying Lotion, and that was recommended to me from a French pharmacy saleswoman. It’s mattifying but still moisturizing. This one I would recommend if you have combination to oily skin. I probably shouldn’t be using a lot of oils, but I love essential oils, so I use them anyway. This Darphin, Vintner’s Daughter…I use Vintner’s Daughter at night. It’s more like a treatment and it’s heavy, and I put it on if I’ve been traveling or need something a little extra. I also love this Odacité serum. It’s green tea and lemongrass—it smells really strong, but I like it. It’s that thing where you feel a bit tired and you need a little something, it’s nice. I definitely like to feel moisturized before I put on makeup, so maybe I’ll put on a little bit of the Circumference face oil or the F. Miller face oil—especially in the summer. This is my moisturizer actually, Decleor Hydra Floral. You can have it in rich or light—I just recently got the rich, but I think it was by mistake. I love the smell. It’s like French pharmacy goodness. And then I love, love coconut oil. This one’s not a pure coconut oil, it’s just the RMS one, but if I feel like I don’t have time to put on a mask, I just put it on everywhere and go to bed. When I wake up, I feel good. Or maybe I’ll do an overnight mask or something. I’m really just into anything that makes you feel good, and better, and happy. I think again, it’s just a ritual.

Another thing I love is this Darphin Skin Mat mask, which was recommended to me by that same woman in France. She was like Darphin all the way, and I actually quite love it—it's purifying. The Blue Chamomile by Aesop is nice because it’s not very strong or heavy, but it’s a thing you do in the week if you’re a bit tired. It’s easy, and you’re supposed to take it off within 30 minutes, but I just leave it on and sleep with it. I don’t even care. End-Zit is a really good drugstore product. That’s my go-to—don’t fuck around, guys. If you have a zit and you need it covered, this is it. One bottle lasts forever.

Dr. Bronner’s almond is my body wash. For hair, I use Pantene. I just think it’s a good everyday shampoo. I wash every two, three days. When it’s day three, which is right now, I slick it back. A tight, strong center part—you can use any comb. I got mine in Paris, from Buly. And then I’ll just use Elnett [hairspray]—good old Elnett. It’s not that strong, you can put it on with your hand or whatever. For fragrance I like Kandilli from Maison Louis Marie. I love when smells are really floral, like tuberose and vanilla and lily. I don’t know—I’m not crazy about things that are too woodsy. And that’s cheap. It costs like 40 bucks and you’ll have it for years.

For me, nails are just as important as skin. But you don’t have to do much. I think it’s because I’m constantly using my fingers and I think that whenever they’re not looking nice, I feel uncomfortable. Can I tell you? It’s so weird, because I used to bite my nails a lot from stress, and I stopped within the past year. Hopefully it stays that way. I like to do my nails—I have a full-on kit and I find the process very therapeutic. I’ll just put down a towel, sit on the couch and smoke a joint or something, whatever, and just do my nails. I use this thing for cuticles from Deborah Lippmann, or I’ll use Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover. I’ll push the cuticles with this Pushy from Tweezerman. Then I’ll file my nails, and then either I’ll buff them or paint them. I recently discovered this color, Blushing Bride, by Essie. It’s sheer, but has a little bit of a tint, and it’s the perfect color non-color instead of just using clear. I find clear sometimes looks too shiny. It’s funny, because I’ve obviously been getting my nails done for a long time, and I’m pretty good with my hands in general. This is kind of an extension of that. I set [the polish] when I’m done with this stuff. It’s called Solar Speed Spray, and essentially it’s a fast-drying spray. But I just spray it all the time."

—as told to ITG

Alexandra Nataf photographed by Tom Newton in New York on August 1, 2018.