I am old enough to no longer wish I looked like someone else; my asymmetrical eyes and plump cheeks suit me just fine. That doesn't mean I don't worship at the alter of those in possession of otherworldly beauty, intelligence, style and/or personality. And, the supermodels of the 90s were all of that and more: Kristen McMenamy, Naomi Campbell, Bridget Hall, Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista and one of my favorites - Helena Christensen.
During my formative years, beauty was a lesson in opposites. It was either gritty or sleek, maximized or sparse, overtly feminine or androgynous. Helena Christensen embodied all of these contrasting things: a Dane with brown hair and piercing blue eyes, bronzed skin that would become the hallmark of the Brazilian models a decade later and acute angled cheekbones so different from the cherubic-cheeked blonds of 1985. And, who can forget the video for Wicked Game?
Helena's look isn't difficult to recreate - it can take as few as five or six products. It's bronzed and contoured with a smudged eye and a nude lip. Hand to heart here - I don't like to push contour because I am inherently against distorting your face and features but when you're trying to emulate Helena, you can't skip the cheekbones. In fact, the look would be muddy and flat without it.
The products above are suggestions - ones I've used and like but they can be swapped out for products you already own.
1 & 2 - The look begins with a bronze face (also bronze your neck and ears - pale earlobes attached to a bronze face is an interesting look). A liquid or cream formulation applied with a damp sponge is best for a sheer application. A powder bronzer is difficult to build and may be too matte and powdery in texture. Bronzer should be pressed and melded into the skin. Once the bronzer is blended, add a drop or two of highlighter onto the back of your hand, dip the sponge in it and, again, press the highlighter and leftover bronzer mixture onto the highest point of the cheekbone and the center of the forehead.
3 - I could probably write an epic novel about my eyebrow journey that would put The Odyssey to shame. Feel free to veer away from Helena's skinny 90s brow if it doesn't suit your face shape. Read that lase sentence again because it's a mouthful and a lesson I wish I'd learned when I was 15 years old. Instead, I had non-existent brows well into the aughts and it took me much too long to discover chubby cheeks and thin brows are not a proportional match. What's important when filling in your brows with a pencil is short strokes to mimic hairs and accentuating the natural arch / shape of your eyebrows.
4 - Eyeliner can draw focus but don't get heavy-handed with it or you'll look exhausted and ragged. Smudge a gel pencil liner or a very soft eyeliner onto the bottom eyelashes and then take a clean, precise brush and smudge the liner into the lashes. If your eyes are large, add liner to the lower water line (but only if they are HUGE - think Cabbage Patch Kid / doll eyes- sized). Skip the inner lower lid linr in any other circumstance and just smudge a tiny amount of liner into the top lash line. You'll know you're doing it correctly if you cannot see a defined line but rather a hazy wash of color. Helena uses black liner but I prefer brown which isn't as harsh. You decide. If you have light eyes, the contrast of a black eye liner will make them appear even lighter.
5 - Sharpen your cheekbones. Again, use any contour product but a cream formulation is recommended because it's easier to blend. Suck in cheekbones and trace the contour stick or brush along the indent. Take a sponge and blend. A lot. You'll know you're done blending when there are no visible lines and what remains is a faint shadow. When that happens, blend a little more. Now listen (well, read...) - contour color is key. You're trying to create an optical illusion that mimics a shadow created by the slightly sunken space below the cheekbone. Shadows are rarely warm in tone so cool toned/ash tones contour colors are best. In other words, don't take you're bronzer or anything with shimmer (i.e. light) and try and re-purpose. You'll look like more 90s news anchor than supermodel.
6 - My base lip color is a purple red so I opt to warm them up with a tinted balm or cream lipstick. I apply the lipstick and smear it with my finger so it doesn't look perfect. If your lips are a warm color, just use some balm. Please, please, please, for the love of all things Helena, do NOT use a heavy liquid lip and don't even think about over-lining them.
7 - Smell like 1994 (optional). Scent is tightly intertwined with memory. One inhale of ck One or Eternity and you're back in your bedroom writing poetry and watching The Real World: New York (Season 1, of course). Or, in my case, working out with the Cindy Crawford Shape Your Body video.
Sam Chapman, a makeup artist who resembles Helena Christensen filmed a tutorial featuring a magnified, deeply smokey, smudgy eye. At the end, the resemblance is uncanny.
Viva la 90s!
Nars Laguna Liquid Bronzer / Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Moonstone / Fenty Beauty by Rihanna MatchStix Matte Skinstick in Amber / NYX Microbrow Pencil / Hourglass 1.5mm Mechanical Gel Eyeliner in Obsidian or Canyon / Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment SPF 15 in Sugar Honey / NYX In Your Element Lipstick -Wind in Glossy Nude /
Top Row (L to R): Fabrizio Ferri for Marie Claire Italia, April 1992 / Zavi Gordo for Elle France / Peter Lindbergh / Herb Ritts
Bottom Row (L to R): Herb Ritts / Mark Abrahams for Vogue Germany / Versace SS93 Runway Show / Sante D'Orazio