Yesterday, while in the middle of an academics-induced nervous breakdown, I received a Twitter message from one of my all-time favorite designers, Ms. Pazzy Navarro (check out some of her stuff here), inviting me to a Rustans Philippines event with NARS Cosmetics: a special, RSVP-required workshop with international makeup artist Magda Ogbe.
While I’m all for natural beauty (most of the time I run about with a bare face, no problem), I’m a huge fan of playing with makeup–something I’m sure my habit of rouge-lipped Instagram #selfies has already given away. It’s a hobby I’ve had since I was very young, when I wrecked my mum’s cosmetics painting all over my three-year-old face. Years of theatre work, Youtube beauty tutorials (especially Michelle Phan), and trial-and-error later, I’d like to believe I’ve improved from my toddler smearings…but it always helps to get a leg up, right?
My pre-event makeunder.
The workshop was slated for 6PM, in a small alcove on the cosmetics floor of Rustan’s, EDSA Shangri-LA Mall. Thankfully, I was pretty near the area, having been stuck working in Tully’s Coffee (free WiFi, anyone?) along Exchange Road the whole day. I actually showed up a bit early so I could get a good seat–since I’d forgotten to charge Ed, my trusty Canon G12, I would have to rely on my iPhone to take pictures–and settle in. When I got there, the place was pretty empty, but within minutes of my arrival the seats were packed all the way until the back!
The huge turnout was totally understandable, considering Magda Ogbe‘s credentials. She’s worked backstage at Fashion Week for Marc Jacobs, Philip Lim,
and Rodarte, to name a few, and she’s also been the makeup artist for Mandy Moore. For a woman with such boldface name clients, she was refreshingly down-to-earth and friendly; one of those people you like on sight.
Apparently, Magda wasn’t a new face for some of the audience–the girl behind me, Anne, had gotten a NARS makeover from her in one of her London sessions, and had brought her mother with her this time around. This was reason enough for Magda to choose Jet, Anne’s mother, as her volunteer for the night. Jet explained her problem was a bit of dark pigmentation across her cheeks: an issue that Magda dispatched quickly with a few expert swipes of NARS’ new Radiant Cream Compact Foundation, a super-light, Vitamin C-enriched formula that, according to her, can go on wet (light coverage) or dry (full cover), depending on the need. From what I could see, it also went on very smooth–unlike the usual powdery, chalky look I get with my BB Creams, mineral powders, and liquid foundations, the NARS foundation looked like a second skin. Magda finished off the look with a touch of concealer (not a lot; it was barely needed), bit of bronzer–to add depth, because foundations tend to “flatten” the face–and NARS Crystal Powder to set.
Magda explains the importance of a natural eyebrow.
My favorite part, though, was when Magda started filling in the pigments of Jet’s face, particularly the eyes. Market studies show that Asians spend more on eye makeup than any other region in the world, probably because it takes so much to make our naturally smaller eyes look a bit brighter and bolder. Being ethnically Chinese, I can relate to that struggle, especially when it comes to wanting to wear trends like the smoky eye or dramatic liner (things that, if badly applied, can shrink rather than emphasize the eyes). Both I and another girl in the audience ended up asking questions regarding the challenge of Asian eyes–she asked how to mimic the “creased” lid; I asked how to emphasize eye depth without resorting to too much smoky shadow. The trick, Magda explained, while demonstrating on Jet’s face, was to contour the hollow just below the brow-bone–technically the upper edge of the eye socket–in a shade between the darker, “liner” shade and the lightest, “highlight” shade. She whipped out her trusty NARS Limited Edition Fairy’s Kiss Eyeshadow Palette to demonstrate how the right gradation of shades could “open” an eye, and take a look from subtle day to smoky night.
Look at all the pretty colors!
As Jet received the final touches on her makeover (Magda jokingly wanted to leave one of her eyebrows undone as a “lesson” to always emphasize the natural brow), the rest of us were ushered to the NARS counter, where we were invited to “play” around with the new shades. Honestly, I didn’t need that much encouraging–my three-year-old self took over and I immediately began smudging and swiping swatches of luscious lip colors on, and playing with their latest blush-ons.
Bottom: NARS Semi-Matte Lipstick in “Funny Face”; Top: NARS Satin Lip Pencil in “Yu.”
As I was playing around with painting my face, Magda rejoined us and was immediately mobbed by the other workshop-goers, whom she all encouraged to try her “signature” shade: NARS Semi-Matte Lipstick in Schiap, a bold, nearly-Nicki Minaj pink that, just as she’d promised, fit everyone.
…and after! Wearing NARS The Multiple in “Orgasm,” NARS High Voltage Blush in “Boys Don’t Cry,” and a touch of Magda’s favorite lip-shade, Schiap
NARS’ signature Orgasm blush hue, still the brand’s top seller after eighteen years.
The NARS staff encouraged all of us to consult with Magda, since it was her last day in the Philippines, so I managed to gather the courage to approach her with my own beauty dilemma. I’m absolutely in love with the classic, retro-red lip, but unfortunately, due to my skin color and my relative face shape, all the shades I’ve tried so far (erring on the side of blood and burgundy) have made me look too old. Currently, I compromise with bright fuschia-pinks, which have all the depth of rouge without its “harsher” light, but I wondered if there was a shade that could managed to give me the drama of a bold, red lip, without prematurely aging me.
Before I was even done explaining my issue, Magda was already reaching towards the Velvet Lip Pencil selection. “The moment you mentioned retro, I knew exactly what to get you,” she said, rubbing this gorgeously cherry-blood pencil into my skin. “It’s called Dragon Girl,” she explained, “And I think it’s perfect for you.”
I was a bit reluctant at first–it was such a bold, bright color–and when she mentioned stars like Scarlett Johannson sporting a similar shade, I was even more nervous. ScarJo has these perfect, pouty lips, and I’ve always found mine rather…strange-shaped. “You’re too critical of yourself!” Magda told me when I voiced my concerns, before proceeding to shape my lips with the pencil, assuring me all the while that my lips were, in fact, quite nicely shaped, and even bringing in moral support, in the form of NARS consultants, to back her up. Suffice it to say, by the end of my makeover, all trace of previous lip-insecurity were gone.
Me with Magda!
Just as Magda promised, the kiss of the Dragon Girl proved addictive. I absolutely adore the shade! I’m ranking it as my best beauty find of the year, so far. It goes on smooth, is long-wearing (it’s been nearly four hours, and my lips are still as red as the pictures), and unlike other brands I’ve tried, it isn’t drying out and chapping my lips. The price tag is a little steep (it retails for $25 on the website), but considering the quality and the pigment, I think it’s worth it.
Freebies from Rustan’s and NARS: a sample of their foundation and a bit of primer.
After napping in the car and eating dinner, my makeup is still picture-perfect. Thanks, NARS!
I had so much fun at the event, and getting to meet and learn from Magda was one of the highlights of my week. I’m also pretty sure she’s managed to make a convert out of me: NARS’ classic shades, high-quality pigments, and versatility of wear make them the sort of products I want keep playing with. Even if they are less budget-friendly than the make-up I usually look at, they make up for it with the quality and the fact that they feel so good on my skin. I wasn’t able to buy any of my new favorites yet, but I’m definitely going back to Rustan’s to buy them as soon as I can save up.
…and I’m definitely buying Dragon Girl in bulk.