Tariro Makoni, Strategy at Amazon Web Services + Content Creator


“When I first moved to the U.S. from Zimbabwe, I had a British accent and people made fun of me. I was like, ‘I need to drop the accent by watching Arthur,’ but what I really wanted to watch was BBC and CNN with my grandfather. [Laughs] I genuinely loved all of that as a five-year-old—and continue to.

It never occurred to me that I could do something creative. When I went to college I was originally on a pre-med track, and I quickly realized that Grey’s Anatomy lied to me. [Laughs] I ended up majoring in sociology and international studies, with a dual focus on political economies and business in emerging markets. Now, I work for Amazon Web Services, which is Amazon’s cloud, and my role is focused on startup strategy.

My work as a content creator didn’t come into play until last summer, when I had a full on existential crisis. It was my mom who said that it was clear I’m passionate about fashion and culture and how things intersect. So last September I started posting on TikTok. I had no idea what to post, so I started with an unboxing video. The next day I saw Bella Hadid wearing the Classic Ultra Mini Platform UGGs, and I made a video about that and it went viral. It was the craziest experience. I just wanted to have a conversation in the same way that I would’ve in a group chat, and it made me realize that maybe my ‘Close Friends Story' is not the only outlet for conversation about things that I love.

There are two videos that I’m particularly proud of. In the first, I talk about the democratization of fashion and how the status that you’d find from wearing luxury clothing is slowly shifting to interior design. With social media and options like ‘pay now and buy later,’ you can’t look at someone on the street anymore and say, ‘Oh, they’re dripped down in Rick Owens, they’re rich.’ Interior design has been less democratized, so there are more wealth indicators in someone’s house than their style.

In the second video, I talk about the ‘we are the world-ification’ that’s happening right now. When there are periods of economic or political destabilization, brands, but also consumers, tend to gravitate towards more globalized or multicultural fashion or interior design. In fashion for example, the tribal print coincided with 2008. In the interior design world, the popularity of the Mah Jong sofa coincided with the 2001 terrorist attack—and we also saw the Mah Jong sofa coming back and becoming more of a staple within design circles in 2020. The sofa was designed by someone who is not from Asia—the designer is German—so there’s that multicultural perspective.

230624 ITG TariroMakoni 864

I’ve been getting facials three to four times a year since I was 12. I go to Kariné Kazarian or Paul Labrecque for Biologique Recherche facials when I need skin rehabilitation, and I really appreciate the energy of the La Prairie Spa at the Ritz. I’ll go there when I’m looking for a meditative facial experience—and also the products are great.

At night, if I’m wearing makeup, I wet a Shiseido skin facial cotton with Bioderma Sensibio H20 Micellar Water. Then I’ll go in with a cleanser. During the summer, I use the Biologique Recherche Lait E.V. because it’s lighter and more watery. If I feel like my skin really needs hydration, usually during the winter, I use the Biologique Recherche Lait U [note: discontinued], which is creamier. On days when I want to feel like I’m transported to another land and someone’s fanning me and feeding me grapes, I use the Sangre de Fruta Neroli and Myrrh Botanical Face Wash. It really smells like Cleopatra is bathing you. [Laughs]

Typically, I go in with the Biologique Recherche P50 PIGM 400 to help treat hyperpigmentation after I cleanse. In between professional facials, I give myself a mini at-home facial every two to three weeks with the La Prairie Cellular 3-Minute Peel, so on the weeks that I do use the peel, I don’t use the P50. If my skin is feeling extra dry, I’ll also spray Evian on my skin in between steps. Then I lightly pat the Dieux Auracle Eye Gel on my eyes.

The SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic and the Vinosource-Hydra SOS Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum are my go-to serums for the daytime. I used to use them at night, too, but a facialist said I don’t need them right now. Instead, I’m using the Biologique Recherche Serum PIGM 400, which goes well with the P50 PIGM 400. Biologique Recherche serums are typically very watery, but I really love the PIGM 400 serum because it’s thicker and glowy. I feel like I’m getting a lot out of it.

230624 ITG TariroMakoni 862

During the day, I tend to grab the Dieux Skin Instant Angel moisturizer. It’s thick and amazing. Sometimes I’ll dabble with the Sangre de Fruta Morning Light Botanical Face Cream. At night, I like the Biologique Recherche Crème ISO-Placenta. It’s meant to help cellular regeneration and renewal, and I do find that my skin looks more youthful and plump and happy when I use it.

If I could only use one product, it would be the Youth to the People Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Oil. It’s my ride-or-die. When you have dry skin, the most important thing you can do is to moisturize and seal it in. If you don’t, by noon, girl, you’re gonna look dry. I’ve been dabbling with face oils for eight or nine years, and I love this one. It stays on all day, and it’s not just sitting there; it’s actively working on your skin with ingredients like maqui, an antioxidant.

My favorite sunscreen is Shiseido’s Ultimate Sun Protector Lotion SPF 50+. It doesn’t have a white cast, and it’s super watery, which I like because it seeps in well. And I typically end my routine with the Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask. I know it’s highly contentious—you either love it or you hate it—but it actually works for me. And then I’ll throw a tube of the Summer Fridays Lip Butter Balm in my purse.

I’m a huge fan of eye masks. I like using Dieux’s Forever Eye Masks with their Auracle Eye Gel every once in a while, but KNC Beauty’s Retinol Infused Eye Masks are my favorite. I like to keep them in the fridge. During the pandemic, I stopped seeing real life people every day and I watched a lot of reality TV. I was constantly seeing people with fillers, and I was like, ‘Maybe a little nip-nip on my eyes would be good.’ My mom said she’d support me if I did something preventative first. I used KNC’s eye masks, and I actually saw a difference to the point where I realized that I didn’t need a needle coming near my eyes.

I know people think about brows as makeup, but I like to think of them as skincare-adjacent. I go to Sania Vucetaj at Sania’s Brow Bar, and she’s changed the way that I feel about brows. She made me realize that if I simply brush them up and fill them in a little bit—her eyebrow pencil is amazing—I feel so much more together and more myself. I also love Sania’s Brow Shampoo—it’s a nice reset.

Growing up, makeup was a way for me to understand what my face could look like with something else—but it was never something where I felt like, ‘Now I’m pretty because I have makeup on.’ I lived in predominantly white communities, and believing that I’m beautiful couldn't come from products, but from therapy and through exposure to a diverse group of people. Now, unless I’m making videos, I just fill in my brows and wear under eye concealer, and maybe swipe on blush or highlighter. I’m not a heavy-makeup person, but I do know what I like.

For under eye concealer, I go between Chanel’s Le Correcteur (in shade BD121) or Valentino’s Very Valentino Hydrating Concealer (in shade DN2). Those are my two favorites. But I also have a bit of hyperpigmentation around my mouth, so I use NARS concealer (in shade Cacao D2) there. It’s a little bit thicker and I find that it works more similarly to a foundation.

I burned my face with an ice roller at the beginning of the year. I’d just gone outside—it was winter—and so maybe my skin was a little colder. I put the roller on the left side of my face, and it stuck to my cheek. I had to race to the sink to try and unstick it, but by that point, it had already fully burned my skin. It was black—like actually black. The skin then peeled off and turned white. The pigmentation came back, and it matched my skin tone for a while, but now it’s getting dark again. I’ve talked about this in therapy so many times because I can’t even begin to express how much money I’ve poured into my skincare routine throughout my life. To look in the mirror and see this big blob, I’m like, ‘And for what? What was I getting out of that?’ I ended up buying Westman Atelier’s Vital Skin Foundation Stick (in shade Atelier XIV) because my NARS concealer wasn’t thick enough to cover the mark.

Fundamentally, contouring is very challenging for me. [Laughs] I get scared I won’t blend it in enough. I do have the Westman Atelier Face Trace Cream Contour Stick in shade Ganache, and I love it, but if I’m using it, it means there’s an attempt at a full beat going on. Bronzer is my contour-proxy. It will do a little face snatching, but it won’t be as severe as a contour. I love Bobbi Brown’s bronzer—I use shade Dark. I’ve used it for six years. It’s incredible because regardless of the season, it still illuminates my face and makes me look sun-kissed but never ashy—sometimes, I even use it as eyeshadow.

230624 ITG TariroMakoni 1021

I embrace having full cheeks. I think they’re so cute and fun, so when I put on blush, I smile and put it on the apples of my cheeks to enhance them. There was a period where people tried to gaslight Black women into purple blush, and I was like, ‘What the fuck?’ I mean, if that’s your thing, go for it, but for me, I’ve always loved pink. Westman Atelier’s Baby Cheeks Blush Stick in the shade Poppet is gorgeous. Makeup by Mario’s Soft Pop Blush Stick in Poppy Pink is also unreal. I learned from a Patrick Ta video that you should do powder blush first and then the cream blush on top, so I like to layer Poppet and Poppy Pink. It’s the most stunning and vibrant combination. And as for highlight, I could genuinely get away with not blending in the Lit Up Highlight Stick—I use the shade Brûlée—because it’s so perfect and subtle.

For eyes, I have the NARS Dolce Vita Unwrapped Mini Eyeshadow Palette, and it has a shade called Everlasting Love that I use in the corners of my eyes, lids, and lower lashes as a proxy for eyeliner. Then I really love the Danessa Myricks Colorfix Clear Glaze. A shiny lid is revolutionary. It’s so subtle, but it looks like your eyes are sparkling. I’m very into that lately.

My daytime mascara vibe is very minimal and demure. To achieve that look, I use the black Gucci L’Obscur Lengthening Mascara. At night, I like a much heavier lash, but I have big issues with smudging. I discovered tubing mascara, specifically the black one from Blinc, to be my winner overall. It’s more subtle than if I were to use a mascara à la Too Faced Better Than Sex, which I also love, but it stays on the whole night and doesn’t make me look crazy. And all my mascaras are going on after my Dior Lash Primer.

If I’m going crazy, I’ll line my lips with the Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat Lip Liner in Pillow Talk Intense and smudge it out a little bit. On top of it, I add whatever gloss I see first. The Ami Colé Lip Treatment Oil in Excellence gives me a very natural but sexy finish. I find that it draws people in when I wear it. I really like the Dior Lip Glow Oil in 20 Mahogany because it’s very beautiful and subtle, but still has that pink-red tone that makes my lips look very luscious. The Buxom Full-On Plumping Lip Cream Gloss in the Hot Toddy shade is my holy grail. It has nothing to do with the plumping capabilities. Until this gloss, I had never met a pink lip gloss that truly looked good on me. I’ve recommended it to at least 10 women of different skin tones, and everyone says it looks so good.

I have 4C hair, and it’s very, very dry. I also hate the smell of most hair products. The Mielle Rosemary Mint Scalp & Hair Oil is the only one that doesn’t agitate me—it went viral because Alix Earle used it. I am also tender-headed, so I tend to keep my hair in protective styles—typically braids, crochet locs, faux locs; that’s my realm. I change it every six to eight weeks. In New York, my person is Oumy at Jolieden Beauty Bar in Harlem. She is the best ever. When I’m doing crochet or faux locs, my mom has a stylist, Cassandra Milliness, who comes to our house in Florida, so whenever I’m home I’ll get that done.

Because my hair is so fucking dry, Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair Shampoo and Conditioner are my favorites. Even when I have braids, I wash my hair maybe every two to three weeks. In between washes, I use the Sunday II Sunday Root Refresh. It smells so good, and it actually works. If you work out and don’t want your braids to start crusting, this is the one. The Adwoa Beauty Melonberry Hair Milk Leave-In Conditioner is super hydrating but very thick, so I don’t use it when I have protective styles. It smells like Starbursts, which is always a pro. And I’m a huge fan of Pattern Beauty by Tracee Ellis Ross. I’m skeptical of celebrity beauty brands, but I had to use the Pattern Hydrating Mist because it’s all that my cousin had in her apartment. I immediately added it to my cart; a couple of spritzes, and your hair feels very moisturized. I also love their Leave-In Conditioner in between protective styles, or honestly sometimes after a wash and condition if I feel like my scalp is feeling very SOS.

230624 ITG TariroMakoni 971

I really enjoy a scent that’s both musky and fresh. For example, I typically wear Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Baccarat Rouge 540 when I’m going out and feeling fun and flirty, but I’ll ground it with something more serious like Byredo’s Mojave Ghost. I also love a scent that smells like I’ve been transported to another world. The Aesop Marrakech Intense Parfum makes me feel like I’m in the depths of a multi-layered spice symphony in Turkey after getting a massage. [Laughs] And Bond No.9’s Chelsea Nights is the newest addition to my collection. It’s the perfect blend between the intensity and sweetness of the Baccarat Rouge, but it also has the grounding notes of Mojave Ghost. It’s a go-to at night for me.

I believe that the scent in your home is just as important as the scent on your body, if not more important because it’s stabilizing, and I want to feel like my bed is a scented oasis of peace. [Laughs] The two scents that will get me there are Sangre de Fruta’s Lavender by the Sea Botanical Tonic and ElizabethW’s Té Linen Water. I discovered the Linen Water at the Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel in Montecito; they spray it on all of their linens. It smells like black tea and lemons, and I find it very peaceful but luxurious. You can spray the Botanical Tonic on your face, but on my pillow it sets the tone to go to bed.

My favorite home spray is Esteban Teck & Tonka. It has longevity, but it doesn’t stick to things in a way that’s suffocating. It’s really unique in that it has a musky profile, but then it also has a spicy energy to it. I’m also obsessed with the Cire Trudon Abd El Kader candle. The base note is vanilla, but it has Moroccan mint, which keeps it very clean and lively for both day and night—and it layers gorgeously with the Teck & Tonka. Cire Trudon candles are pricey, but you can burn them as much as you want, and they’re not going to disappear in two days. I’m a big economy of purchase type of person. Don’t fuck around with me and make something that’s going to disappear in a few days when I spend a hundred dollars.

My mom bought me Bond No.9’s Nomad candle, and it’s really lovely for a short burst. It has a very grounding base, but it’s also very sweet and floral. I typically light it in the afternoons to brighten my space, then I quickly blow it out because it does not need to be lit for more than 30 minutes.”

— As told to Daise Bedolla

Photographed by Alexandra Genova in New York on June 24, 2023