Makeup has always been one of the ways we shape the narrative of who we are. Whether you keep it simple or are all about glam, how we decide to show up in the world sets the tone for so much of our lives. With the rise of social media came an even closer focus on the stories our faces tell. We now have access to an endless array of tutorials and trends, and there has perhaps never been another time in history when the beauty industry has had this much of an impact on our everyday existence. However, in the world of the rich and famous, turning heads has always been on the menu — and celebrities like Rihanna, Normani, Kelly Rowland and Megan Thee Stallion don’t trust their coveted mugs to just anyone. When the women who run the industry want to make a statement, they call Los Angeles native Priscilla Ono. Though many came to know Ono through her work on, arguably, one of the most iconic canvases of all time, Rihanna, the certified beauty legend began her journey in music videos at the sweet age of 19. Since then, she’s cemented herself as a true artist creating looks that are studied and praised by both makeup professionals and everyday women. What she is able to do with a makeup brush turns all of her clients into walking Sistine chapels. 

Now a celebrity in her own right, Priscilla Ono’s brand is stronger than ever. As the global makeup artist for the fastest growing and most popular beauty brand in the world, Fenty Beauty, she’s proven that her success is more than just skin-deep. 

We caught up with her to talk inspiration, her upbringing and working with Secret on a collaboration that speaks to her roots. 

Iman N. Milner: I’m sure you’ve been asked about your journey to being one of the most respected makeup artists in the industry, so I want to know what’s been the most important lesson you’ve learned along the way. 

Priscilla Ono: It kinda stems from my upbringing, and even some of my clients who I’ve met along my journey, but being true to yourself. Not ever trying to conform to society and do what everyone else is doing. Step out of the box. The most attractive thing is when you’re unique and different and exude that. That attracts clients and people, in general. People want to be inspired and want to see something new. That’s definitely been the biggest lesson. When you stay true to yourself and do you, you attract everything you want. 

INM: How does being a woman of color influence your work, not only as a makeup artist but in terms of the brands you’re willing to collaborate with?

PO: As I mentioned, it’s all about that uniqueness. It’s interesting to me that now people are more aware that you want to have a variety of people on your team. All races, all ages. I am really fortunate to work with brands like Fenty Beauty and Secret, brands that are very aware that there are a mass amount of people out there who do not feel like they’re heard. For me to be part of the bell-ringing, for me, that is just so gratifying. I only know what I grew up in, which is women of color. I grew up amongst so many different races, so it’s only natural to be a makeup artist who caters to all skin tones. Working with brands that are actually aware and pride themselves on making everyone feel included is what I’m all about. 

INM: What influenced this collaboration with Secret?

PO: Growing up with my grandmother who raised me, I was always encouraged to be myself. That’s actually how I first came to use Secret. I am not just putting myself alongside a brand, it’s a company that has roots in my life. My grandmother used to put a stick of deodorant in my backpack and send me off to school — just in case I needed to freshen up. And that’s still a big part of what I carry in my set bag and makeup kit. I have it ready to go, especially now the new spray that can be shared amongst other people. It was always part of my beauty secrets. What I love about Secret now is that they keep finding new ways to innovate. They actually have these scent bubbles that are in the formula of their new products that burst out when you need a little extra protection. In the middle of the day, I’ll be working with a client and catch a whiff of myself and think, ‘I smell so good!’ And that’s so important to me because it’s part of a lasting impression. 

INM: You are responsible for some of our favorite looks for some of the industry’s most popular faces. What I love about your work is that you can always tell you’ve done the face, but everyone still looks like themselves. It’s such beautiful artistry — how do you manage to strike that balance between a distinct creative voice and letting the client shine?

PO: I love that you notice that because that’s something that’s always been at the forefront of my artistry. I always want my client to feel like themselves. I never want to mask them. I don’t want someone to compliment their makeup instead of them. I want people to say to them “you look beautiful,” not that their makeup looks beautiful. That’s a nice compliment, but I want the person to shine through. I look at my client and see what features they have that make them unique and help them shine, and instead of covering that up, I make that pop even more. For Normani, she has these beautiful thick brows and I just go with it. I brush them up, I fluff them out. Rihanna has beautiful skin so I don’t cover it up too much. She has this beautiful Cupid’s bow, so I make sure her lips are always at the forefront. Megan Thee Stallion has these gorgeous big eyes so I make sure we define them. Depending on who it is and their features, I just make those areas pop. I never want to take them away. That’s something I really pay attention to. 

INM: What are five must-haves for a woman’s makeup bag, no matter how skilled she is at applying a face?

PO: Oh, that’s a good one. Definitely a good mascara. A lip gloss. Lip gloss is easy and it makes everyone’s lip look good. A good deodorant to keep it fresh. The wild rose scent of Secret dry spray is my current favorite. So light and easy. We’re moving from virtual settings into an in-person setting now, so when it comes to scents, for example, you want something fresh and inviting. Long days on set or at work, you don’t want to lose that fresh out of the shower smell. A moisturizer is always important too. It doesn’t matter if you have oily skin or dry skin, you need one for you. If you have beautiful hydrated skin, you’re going to feel your best. Lastly, I’d have to say one of those round powder puffs. That may seem simple but I keep those in my bag. Sometimes I use only that to absorb any oil on the face or press around any makeup that I have on. If I feel like my client needs a little touchup, I’ll use a little round puff to smooth things out. 

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