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Exclusive: The Story Behind Michelle Obama's Essence Fest Makeup


How good is Essence Fest, the annual arts, music, and entertainment festival? So good that every year, over 500,000 people decide that spending a few days in New Orleans July-heat isn’t that bad, really. This year just as many went down south to get a chance to take a walk around the expos, and to see Missy Elliott, Mary J. Blige, and another-M, Michelle Obama. The former First Lady was there, fresh off of her book tour, to speak with Gayle King on the Superdome’s main stage. All signs point to her having a good time—the signs being her Instagram, where, if it wasn’t her blue Sergio Hudson sequin jumpsuit that caught your eye, it was her glamorous curls or softly lined eye. Fortunately, ITG was able to track down one person who could speak to Michelle Obama’s Essence Fest look—her longtime makeup artist, Carl Ray. We’ll let Carl take it from here:

“I wanted Michelle Obama to look fresh, polished and glowing. Given Essence Fest is in New Orleans in July, I wanted to keep in mind the summer heat and humidity, so I made sure to keep her makeup sheer and radiant. Coming off the Becoming book tour, her looks have been glamorous and unique—the Essence festival was yet another opportunity to really showcase everything about women empowerment.

For her makeup, I always start with the eyes and build from there in case there is any fallout—you don’t want to be wiping off any of the foundation [if you start with foundation first], so it’s a time-saver for me. For this look, I did a base of the Too Faced eye shadow in Just Peachy Velvet Matte and then added Glossier Lidstar shimmer in Cub on top and in the inner corners of the eyes for an extra pop. I added waterproof liquid liner, Stila All Day Liquid Liner, on top of black pencil to lock in the liner from the summer heat and to keep it from budging and smudging. Then I topped off her eyes with Lilly lashes—Miami, and Better Than Sex mascara applied from root to tip, back and forth, to lift and seperate her lashes. It just made her shine. And her brows were filled in with Anastasia’s defining brow pencil.

Her cheekbones popped with MAC’s Extra Dimension highlighter. I applied it in a C-shape around the cheeks and brows for a really beautiful glow, and then it was blend, blend, blend. And finally, for her lips, I applied Make Up For Ever’s Artist Nude Creme Liquid Lipstick under Glossier’s new Lip Gloss in Red. I like to apply cream liquid lipstick for longevity, and then add gloss on top for that shine and moisture.”

—as told to ITG

Photo via Getty.