It finally happened! MAC x Aaliyah collection launches online on June 20th and in stores on June 21st.
There’s much to gather while watching an Aaliyah music video. Watching is actually an understatement; there’s a state of hypnosis you submit to as she envelops you through sight and sound, tugging at your heartstrings. Between a sequence of sensual, strong movements, infectious instrumentals, and intuitive lyrics that spark emotions of desire, sex, and empowerment, you are enraptured in Aaliyah’s physical presence. Alluring, deep eyes hooded by sparkly or smoky shadow, feather-soft lashes, and arched brows that emote with every high and low note are the elements of sensuality that made Aaliyah’s music and style unforgettable.
The singer, dancer, actress, and style icon left earth almost two decades ago, but her influence in beauty, style, and music echoes vibrantly in today’s pop culture. You can hear her in the sounds of Kelela, FKA twigs and H.E.R, and see her style through in ’90s crop tops and jewelry accents. But her beauty proved to be one of the monumental contributions she shared and thus a capsule for us to honor her memory.
There’s a state of hypnosis one submits to as she envelops you in sight and sound, tugging at your heartstrings.
When I learned that M.A.C., the mega beauty brand behind some of my favorite staples (the Whirl matte lipstick and Spice lip gloss live in my bag rent-free), was planning a collection inspired by the star, I was filled with excitement, despite how overwhelmed I usually feel about today’s never-ending stream of launches. Scrolling through Instagram, I’m showered with countless limited-edition releases or brands creating their version of essentially the same product. Yet Aaliyah for M.A.C. (launching June 21) feels both necessary and overdue. Encapsulating her essence in a collection of eye shadow, lipsticks, and bronzer is the least that can happen, and it’s even more meaningful that this collaboration was birthed by devoted fans.
“Baby Girl” Bronzing Powder — Aaliyah for MAC
When Jennifer Risinger started a petition asking M.A.C. to create an Aaliyah-inspired beauty line, it racked up over 26,000 supporters, including Aaliyah’s glam squad, best friend Missy Elliott, and brother Rashad Haughton. Naturally, this creation wouldn’t have made sense without Rashad spearheading the operation. A living embodiment of a piece of Aaliyah’s soul, Rashad has the same slender swag and noble nonchalance and is just as creative: He’s a writer, screenwriter, director, and actor. He has contributed to some of Aaliyah’s work; he directed the earthy and ethereal “4 Page Letter” video, cowrote and rapped on the eerie yet enthralling song “Death of a Playa,” and added vocals to Aaliyah’s Akasha in Queen of the Damned. Rashad also strolls alongside Aaliyah in the “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number” video, smacking gum and stepping in beat to the drowsy ballad.
Aaliyah embodied the best of dueling identities. She showed more than one definition of being a woman, and found harmony between masc and femme auras. “Her initial style was that of a tomboy ingenue — street but sweet,” Rashad says, the sentence rolling off his tongue. Rashad explains that Aaliyah enjoyed expressing her femininity through her face, a way of playing with shades and textures against her baggy jeans and Tims. Yet, alongside her boyish glam, there was also an enticing mystery and futurism to her essence, elements that made her stand out. A steamy jade eye with silver-peacock lipstick offsets her loose metallic threads and boxers in “Are You That Somebody?,” like a hood Storm. A pearl-indigo-sapphire smoky eye stretches to her temple in “Try Again,” paired with glossy nude lips like a heavenly body.
Rashad and the M.A.C. team were determined to embody hues and pigments that felt nostalgic, timeless, and futuristic all at once. “We wanted to create a line where the minimalism is there. You can re-create those archive looks from videos and film, but at the same time, mix, match, experiment, and imagine what Aaliyah’s style would look and feel like in 2018 and the future,” Rashad says. There are heavy reds and purples that anchor us to the earth and glistening metals and crystals that enhance our inner deities. At the nucleus of the collection is the eye shadow palette, Age Ain’t Nothin, where we can truly observe Rashad’s colorful visions taking form: Three neutral browns appear with sparkling rose, gold, amethyst, silver, beige, and onyx. This selection is both classic and idealistic, a playground for makeup lovers and Aaliyah fans to relive their favorite moments and imagine new ones. The earth-tone browns and golds recall Aaliyah’s signature looks, while the onyx and amethyst remind us of “We Need a Resolution” and “Queen of the Damned,” moments when Aaliyah’s makeup crossed the lines between fantasy and reality.
Aaliyah embodied the best of dueling identities. She showed more than one definition of being a woman, and found harmony between masc and femme auras.
I was charmed to learn that Aaliyah also had an affinity for lip gloss. “Lip gloss was one of the things she carried with her every day,” Rashad said. “A fresh, wet look was very important to her.” M.A.C. honored this with four luscious lip glasses: a rich plum (1 in a Million), a sheer, pearlized nude (Brooklyn Born), a shimmery, ecstatic coral (Lili’s Motor City), and a deep, shiny berry (At Your Best You Are…). There’s also a steamy series of lipstick in neutral beige (Try Again), classic red (Hot Like…), smooth black with kaleidoscope shimmer (Street Thing), and deep red (More Than a Woman). M.A.C. is also launching two lip pencils, one pitch-black (Nevermore), the other violet (Follow Your Heart), and a golden bronzing powder to put finishing touches on your face (Baby Girl, the affectionate nickname used by Aaliyah’s friends and family).
Beyond honoring her memory and immortalizing her style and sound, M.A.C.’s Aaliyah line opens the door to a transformative time in self-expression and identity. Rashad and I discussed the resurgence of the Afrofuturism movement in media and culture, the greater and more welcoming spaces for queer identities to flourish, and the widespread importance of intersectional feminism. “There are new visions of African-Americans and Africans, we have gender lines and sexual orientations being opened — people are really coming out and standing up for themselves,” Rashad says. “Women have been speaking up even more. It’s serendipitous that [this beauty line] is coming out during this time. My sister took risks throughout her career, in music and in film. She [said that] you can be whoever you want to be as long as you’re confident and comfortable in your skin.” Being bold with beauty can be an expressive way of breaking down social and cultural barriers, shattering norms, or signifying that you are a part of the resistance.
This makeup line is relevant for all those who grew up with Aaliyah and those who want to know her now. Artistically speaking, this collaboration is even more significant, as Aaliyah’s albums are quite difficult to find online. Her digital discography is essentially unavailable, due to rights and ownership by her uncle and industry rep, Barry Hankerson. Thus, using makeup as a memorial for the star is both clever and strategic, as new fans will be curious to dig up her songs and videos to learn the messages behind the titles of the products, or to revive her style. My hope is that an enthusiasm builds and breaks down the door to her vault of music and that a conversation is reopened on how we can have access to her songs again.
There are new visions of African-Americans and Africans, we have gender lines and sexual orientations being opened — people are really coming out and standing up for themselves.
“When you want to do something that includes everyone, it will be embraced,” Rashad says. “When younger people and people who may not have heard of her go back and listen to her music, they may feel inspired. If people are inspired, they come together. It’s about togetherness and creativity, and I think those things touch everyone on the planet.”