“I'm from Chicago, born and raised. No suburbs—none of that. Real Chicago. My family is from Panama, and they came here in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s. My grandfather was in a Doo Wop group in Panama, so he has the gift of music. I always knew I wanted to be an artist, but didn't really take it seriously until high school. I went to Chicago High School for the Arts, and my focus was vocals. I studied classical music the entire time I was there—opera, classical music. It really opened my mind to different kinds of music and how the voice works. When I was a sophomore, I started to record myself and put music out.
I didn’t really care about my makeup, or the feelings it evoked, until now. I didn't know what I wanted—I just knew I needed my shit done. As a woman growing into myself, I was just figuring out what looked good on me, and what made me feel beautiful on a daily basis. I started working with my makeup artist, Mollie Gloss and she helped me navigate that. We got together before Crush, my latest album, and she said, ‘What do you want to feel like? What do you want your makeup to do?’ I wanted to exude ‘70s black diva—sparkle, color, glam. That was probably the first time I actually stapled a makeup look to a project.
Day to day I don't wear makeup—I can't do my own makeup for shit. If I could, I’d be playing with my face all day. I’ve struggled with my skin in the past, and right now I’ve been trying to keep it super simple. I'm using a Cetaphil cleanser and moisturizer, which I got at Walgreens. Or I use an Aveeno moisturizer with SPF 30. My face doesn't do well with oil—it will break out—but I’ve been using Weleda Skin Food. It smells so good and it’s thick. I pat it on my face, elbows, and feet. To get my nails done, I go to Pampered Soles. She’s done my mom's nails forever, and I’ve been going there for the past couple years.
When I do my own makeup I use the MAC Studio Fix. I think it’s their most popular foundation. Sometimes I do my eyebrows red and sometimes I leave them like this. If I do them red, I use a burgundy powder from Nars. I don't wear eyeliner day to day, and I usually don’t wear mascara. I used to use the cheap pink and green one from Target—every girl went through that stage. I don’t know why I stopped wearing it, honestly. I used to be a lipstick girl in high school, but gloss is just so much easier. Especially for stage, color doesn't do well. I've worn pink or red lipstick, and it always ends up moving around by the end of the show. You can't see if gloss is moving, you know? Fenty is all I use. It’s just so good. I have the pink one, but I use the nude one every day. I like to use it with a heavy liner.
My hair has also evolved for me. I would dip and dab between wearing my hair curly and wearing it straight in high school, but it was natural all the time. I’ve never had my hair relaxed. When I put out my first project, I was wearing my hair straight a lot. With Crush, it was more Afros and big hair, and as of late I’ve been wearing my hair in braids. I’m lazy, and it’s way easier—you don’t have to touch your hair for weeks at a time. But I’ve also just been feeling braids and beads. I have extensions, but I wanted them to be a natural length. I like to use Jamaican oil on my braids so they stay moist and shiny, and then put my scarf on at night. When I have braids, that’s really all I use.
I've had it red since eighth grade. I just decided that I wanted red hair one day, and I’ve kept it. Stylists have told me that I have red undertones in my face, and that’s why the red hair compliments me. I think that makes sense—a scientific reason for why I like it. I don’t have to bleach it to make it red, so it’s less harsh than going blonde. I use a tinted leave-in conditioner that’s burgundy red to keep it up, and I also use Shea Moisture Moisture Retention shampoo and Restorative conditioner. It smells so good. That’s very black girl. Wearing my hair in braids really dries it out. Once I take these out, I’m going to get it deep conditioned—I really need one.
I like wearing fragrance because it adds that extra oomph. I like when I hug someone and I smell them—I want people to think that when they hug me. I wear Flowerbomb perfume all the time. All the time. For years. It smells sweet and light without trying too hard. It’s rosy without smelling… chemical, if that makes sense. Some rose smells are too forced. In my house I have a Cactus Blossom candle. It’s the best kind.
I do embrace beauty—I don't feel forced to do it. It allows me to kind of dip out of music for a second. It can be a lot of pressure, because people start to expect that of me every time they see me. You know? I don’t know how Beyonce and Rihanna pull that off every single day—it’s so stressful to have an outfit together, to have hair together. But beauty is so infused with what I do, and it allows me to merge two avenues that I love. It’s a huge part of me.”
—as told to ITG
For Ravyn’s Afropunk look makeup artist Mollie Gloss used Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer and Temptu Airbrush Foundation for a long-wearing, sweat-proof base. Mollie brushed up Ravyn’s eyebrows with glycerine soap, and finished with a tiny bit of powder to make them more wispy. On her eyes, she used pure neon green pigment from Lit Cosmetics, with Pat McGrath silver shadow [Ed note: discontinued] in the corners. Then, she combined Ardell Remy 778 lashes with individual bottom lashes from Red Cherry. She lined Ravyn’s lips with Urban Decay eyeliner in Demolition—a flat, cool black-brown. Then, she finished the look with Lottie London Holo Duo Chrome lip gloss in Shade and Glossier Haloscope in Topaz as a highlight.
Ravyn Lenae photographed by Tom Newton at Afropunk in New York on August 24, 2019.