In a business that’s all about standing out, Halsey stands out. After her featured vocals on the Chainsmokers’ 2016 single “Closer” made her a hit with every pool-party household in America, this radically transparent pop star spent last fall touring for her chart-topping album Hopeless Fountain Kingdom.
Earlier this year, she delivered a powerful spoken-word performance at the New York City Women’s March, detailing her own experiences with sexual assault. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch “A Story Like Mine” on YouTube.
Go now; we’ll wait.
OK, so there you go: Halsey has no use for falsehoods or obfuscations.
In honor of a newly minted collaboration with Yves Saint Laurent Beauty, we asked her to speak her beauty truth and track her evolution from that first major performance to today — with all the victories, blunders, and self-discoveries along the way. Her unfiltered (of course) reflections:
“Performance and beauty have a long-standing history.
Going back to the Greeks and then early theater and Shakespeare, the whole point of using makeup onstage is to amplify your features and make everything more expressive. When I’m performing, I’m mostly wearing a lot of dark makeup — dark lips, dark eyes.
A model’s job is to play a character, but as a musician, I’m just myself every day. I can’t have someone who doesn’t know me coming on board and changing my face.
I’m singing songs that are personal, from the bottom of my heart. My fans need to recognize the person singing to them, you know? That’s just how it is for me.
For me personally, I like to find ways to play up my existing beauty rather than trying to change what my face looks like.
I also drew realism, so I painted faces all the time.
My mom was really tomboyish, and I had two brothers, so I didn’t have anybody in my life who was teaching me about makeup.
I became obsessed with it on my own. As soon as YouTube became a popular platform for people to post videos about makeup, I was absorbing as much as I could, and I was ripping out pages of magazines and building collages and mood boards and learning as much as I could.
I didn’t get super good at figuring out what kind of makeup was best for stage until I played my first headlining show ever. I was at Troubadour in Los Angeles, and I definitely fucked it up bad.
I just wanted to do something different, and I was still finding myself then. I had bright, bright, bright blue hair, and I cut up a bunch of Flash Tattoos and layered them across my cheekbones and the bridge of my nose so that from far away, they’d look like a really, really intense highlight.
Reflecting gold. Up close, I looked like a mermaid with scales.
And everybody’s like, ‘You’ve been gone for 30 minutes..
What happened?’ I’m known to be kind of reckless with my beauty decisions. I have to force myself to not be so impulsive.
I can’t go onstage late because my makeup is done poorly. And I need to build confidence when I get out there.
YSL’s Touche Éclat All-in-One Glow is similar to a BB cream, and on days when I want to have a light look, that works out for me really well. Brow gel is a must-have for big, dark eyebrows.
I guess among my fans I’m known for my highlight, and getting it requires a bunch of different products: a priming highlighter, a wet highlighter, a powder highlighter, and a different glitter highlighter over the top. If I ever made any kind of product, it would have to be a highlighter.
That’s the thing most people ask me about. And my eyelashes — I wear fake lashes almost every single day.
I like the drugstore ones, the Ardell Wispies. Old faithful.
I probably have a box the size of a bathtub at my house.
I never have any reasoning for why I do anything with my hair.
I usually wake up one day and decide I want a change, and then I do whatever is easiest and the most fun and different. I decided on the short blonde style when I was shooting looks for my album cycle — I needed something I could commit to because I would have to keep it when I shot the videos.
It’s been the easiest style and the best one for me. There’s something cool about short blonde hair because you can do anything with it.
You can color it; you can add a wig over the top. I like that kind of blank slate.
Other days I wake up and I’m like, Nah. I put on some Chapstick and leave the house.
If you met one of those versions of me and you made some assumptions about me, you wouldn’t know about the other version of me. If you met me with no makeup, in my sweatpants, with my short haircut, you might be like, ‘Aw, this girl is very clearly a caricature and archetype of the modern feminist.
‘ If you met me in a dress with my push-up bra and full face of makeup, you’d have another mockery to make of me. To me, the root of feminism, which often gets misinterpreted and miscommunicated, is about letting women do whatever the fuck they want to do.
If that means buying makeup, it means buying makeup. If that means getting plastic surgery, it means getting plastic surgery.
The point is to let me make those decisions. Let me decide if I want to be one or the other.
Fashion editor, Rajni Jacques. Hair: Lacy Redway.
Makeup: Nina Park. Manicure: Rica Romain.
A version of this article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Allure. For fashion credits, see Shopping Guide.
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For more on Halsey:
Halsey Says the Hotel Industry Doesn’t Offer Shampoo and Conditioner for People of ColorHalsey Gave a Powerful Speech About Living With Endometriosis at the 9th Annual Blossom BallHalsey Shut Down a Commenter Who Shamed Her for Showing Her Breasts