Yara Shahidi Tests This Season’s Boldest Makeup Looks – Harper’s Bazaar
The new generation of #WomenWhoDare are those who refuse to conform. They dare to do the impossible, encouraging young visionaries to break—not just push—boundaries, inspiring people around the world to fight for what they believe in. Here, black-ish star Yara Shahidi joins our 2017 Women Who Dare series.
Yara Shahidi can hold her own in any conversation. When it comes to topics of fashion and beauty, the 17-year-old’s eyes light up (she’s a fan); and she’s just as comfortable chatting about superhero movies (she’s dying to play X-Men’s Storm, Nightcrawler, or Ms. Marvel) as she is popular music (her father was Prince’s photographer for years and her cousin is the rapper Nas, so she’s practically encyclopedic on the subject). But what sets Shahidi apart from many young women her age is not only her ability to engage in more serious discussions surrounding race, gender, and identity issues, but the fact that she’s actually leading those conversations.
Shahidi is more than an actress—she’s an activist. The college-bound star of black-ish, and the new spin-off series grown-ish, is fearless when it comes to using her voice to effect change and shed light on social injustices. “To be in this industry, as fabulous as it is, it can seem very trivial if there is no grounding meaning behind why you’re doing what you’re doing,” says Shahidi, who will head to Harvard sometime next year when she has a break from filming. “When you’re driven by a certain purpose, for me, it’s helping better anyone’s life. Whether it’s via Twitter or whether it’s choosing my sociology major. I know ultimately I want to help effect change, otherwise I would look at myself in the mirror everyday and think, ‘what in the world am I doing with my life?’”
While most celebrities—regardless of age—tip-toe around divisive topics like intersectional feminism, Shahidi boldly addresses them head-on. It’s her passion for knowledge and hunger for education that hasn’t just landed the actress two hit television shows, but also a letter of recommendation from former First Lady Michelle Obama, and her upcoming spot at Harvard University. “I am just a history nerd. That has motivated a whole lot, for me to just understand my society. I have always loved school, but what made it fascinating was finding the ways I was connected to the world around me,” she explains. “I am constantly listening to podcasts, but I do not know everything that there is to know. But I would like to try to. The more you learn about someone, how could you not want to protect them and their rights? The more you learn about a culture or a certain identity, it’s hard to not feel empathy.”
On Instagram, Shahidi curates a mix of behind-the-scenes video footage from her on-set antics; favorite red carpet fashion and makeup moments; and call-to-action posts for her 1.3 million followers. In the current political climate, how does Shahidi see the role of fashion and beauty? “With everything going on, [fashion and beauty] has actually become more important in my life,” she admits. “I was just going through my closet, and I have so many political T-shirts. It’s ridiculous. It’s all I own right now,” she laughs, listing some of her favorites, like the shirts with senators’ numbers on them, or the shirts about funding Planned Parenthood. Shahidi is of the belief that fashion, makeup, and hair are more than just a visual statement. “It’s really important and there’s a huge conversation around everyone having a safe space. Fashion is one of those places in which when you’re wearing something that feels like a representation of you, it does create, in a matter of speaking, a space for you to exist. Even if it’s just in a two-inch radius of where you are. It’s a walking personalized area in which you can live.”
It can be easy to forget that Shahidi is only 17, given her bubbly confidence, fierce work ethic, and intrinsic wisdom. It’s why she’s keenly aware of making sure she at least looks her age whenever possible, with the help of her go-to makeup artist Emily Cheng. When she’s not on-set as Zoey Johnson, Shahidi is often in jeans and an aforementioned political T-shirt, usually with natural makeup and hair. “My everyday routine is primarily skincare,” says the actress, who works with Clean & Clear. “I start the day with a cleanser, then I use rose hip oil on my face, then I usually raid my cabinet of goodies that Emily has given me: eye patches or a full face mask. I usually go downstairs and freak my brother’s out with a face mask.” Shahidi is also a huge fan of Glossier, noting that the only makeup she’ll use on a day off is the Boy Brow gel and Balm Dot Com lip balm.
Even on the red carpet, Shahidi and Cheng strive to create fun, fresh looks that strike a balance between wearing couture and being college-bound. That typically translates to a nude lip (Shahidi says Cheng has developed a mix of four colors to create “the perfect nude lipstick for my shade of brown”) and a colorful flick of eyeliner or shadow. For this story, we pushed Shahidi out of her comfort zone with the challenge of wearing some of the season’s boldest takes on classic makeup looks. Game to try—and learn—about anything and everything, Shahidi’s excitement at wearing layers of glitter, yellow eyeliner, and a metallic-and-glossy red lip was contagious. “I am not scared to try much,” she says.