Ravyn Lenae On Makeup As Ritual & The Importance Of Standing Out On Stage

For some, a lipstick is just a lipstick. But for others, it’s a source of strength, creativity, and expression. In our series Power Faces, we’ll explore the relationship between strong women and the makeup they choose to wear — or not.

For this special edition in partnership with Clear Eyes ®, the #1 selling eye drop brand whose “My Shining Moment” campaign is all about celebrating the memorable moments in life when we truly shine, our subject is R&B singer-songwriter Ravyn Lenae. Ravyn released her third EP, Crush , last year and has new music on the way soon. You can find her performing across the U.S. this summer, or you can stream her latest music on Spotify, where she has more than 1 million monthly listeners. This story was told to Deenie Hartzog-Mislock and edited for length and clarity.

My introduction to makeup wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I was really into beauty when I was 13 and 14, and I also had acne. So instead of being bold and having fun with colors, I used makeup as cover-up. It became this vicious cycle, because every day the makeup was clogging my pores even more.

Eventually, I gave my skin time to breathe — and it cleared right up. That’s when I was able to come back to makeup and be creative with it, which is way more fun. That’s my relationship with makeup today. When I first started playing around with my look, I did straight glam. The playful eyeshadows are a more recent evolution, and they’re essential in helping me become my on-stage, Ravyn Lenae persona.

Testing Ground

My career began at 15 when I released my first song, but I always knew I’d do something in the arts. I studied guitar and piano. I was attending Chicago High School for the Arts when my teacher encouraged me to compose and start singing. I loved it because it was more personal; it was mine.

At first, I didn’t have a distinct style, but as I get older, I develop a better sense of who I am and what I want to project. Only in the last few years have I begun to get more involved in what I want my look to be. My makeup artist, Mollie Gloss, has helped me refine and polish my look, so a lot of my signatures are a result of us brainstorming.

The mismatched eye look is something Mollie came up with on set at a photo shoot. I love it because it adds a more playful aspect to what I do. At first I thought the colors would be too bold for me, but I like that it’s actually very soft. The skin is kept very natural, so the color really pops. If I were to wear it in the real world, I’d definitely wear it with messy brows. That’s the most recent addition to my look: boy brows.

Becoming Ravyn Lenae

I never wear makeup unless I’m on stage, which makes it a very special ritual to me. I only get to do that a few times a month. And if I’m not being rushed, I like to take a full hour to get ready. The eye makeup is a crucial part of going from Ravyn to Ravyn Lenae, because it helps me mentally transition from the everyday me to this character I am on stage. The makeup forces me to step into that glammed-up persona.

My beauty inspirations are a mixture of 1970s glam and late ’90s–early 2000s. So while I might be inspired to do a glittery eye circa ’70s-era disco, I may also wear a glossy lip and a brown liner, a look that is very late ’90s.

I like to be very dramatic for stage. I got obsessed with the glittery eye when I shot the music video for my song “Sticky”; I felt super in touch with that ’70s glam side of me and wanted to have that same feeling on stage. Now Mollie and I try to change it up, so it’s never the same type of glitter or shape, but it’s always some kind of sparkle. Gel glitter is so much easier to deal with, because you can rub it on with your finger. If we use actual glitter, sometimes we have to take it off with tape.

photographed by FIONAYEDUARDO

Center Stage

Mollie and I always like to try things we’ve never done before, and a graphic eye was the result of us experimenting on set. For stage, I’d want this look to pop so you could see it from the crowd. I might add a small rhinestone toward the edge of the outer lashes. I tend to wear a glossy lip on stage, mainly because if I wear color, it travels — on the mic, on my face. Once when I was wearing red lipstick, I came off stage to find it had smudged, and I had this big red dot on my chin. With gloss, it can be all over my chin and no one knows but me.

My relationship to being on stage has evolved over the years. When I started out it was all nerves and fear. But a friend of mine suggested that, instead of saying, “I’m nervous,” I say, “I’m excited,” and now I’m able to channel that excitement into something powerful.

Performing is a kind of high for me. Right when I get off stage, I’m already thinking about how I can do it again. It’s amazing to be able to connect with people in that way; I can’t compare it to anything else. My live shows are the most important aspect of my career, and right now, I’m just taking advantage of all the opportunities I’ve been blessed with.

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