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August 30 2014

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EXCLUSIVE: Estée Lauder’s Belles Of The Ball

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When translated into beauty terms, the Costume Institute’s “American Woman” exhibition immediately registers as a single name: Estée Lauder. The company’s Queens-born founder built her eponymous brand from humble New York beginnings into a global empire that has undeniably fashioned our national identity. “It’s really an American company with an international face,” stylist Mary Alice Stephenson offered as she watched Lauder’s Global Makeup Stylist, Rick DiCecca, use Lauder’s Signature Eyeshadow Quad in Black Smoke to build a shimmering smoky eye on Chinese model and brand spokesperson Liu Wen at the Surrey Hotel only a few hours before red-carpet festivities got underway this evening. Lauder’s other new face, French beauty Constance Jablonski, sat alongside Wen, waiting for her turn in Dicecca’s chair. To bring it all back to the U.S. of A., Stephenson made a point to dress the Met Gala newbies in designs from local talents—a hand-stitched, beaded Naeem Khan number for Wen and a feathered sleeveless Jason Wu shift for Jablonski.

And what of Hilary Rhoda—perhaps Lauder’s most recognizable face and the woman designer Prabal Gurung calls “the only true American model working right now?” Tweeting, of course, in the suite’s adjacent room, where makeup artist Kaoru Okubo was crafting a seriously dark eye and nude lip to compliment Gurung’s structural black and red double-faced satin dress. Rhoda is tall and athletically built, with strong brows and tan skin—you immediately understand Gurung’s assessment when in her presence. Having been to a few Met balls in her day, she took liberties with her glam squad. “I know my face,” Rhoda said, reaching for Lauder’s Sumptuous Waterproof Bold Volume Lifting Mascara and its Double Wear Eyeliner in Onyx to apply additional pigment over Okubo’s base of Pure Color Eyeshadow in Black Crystal. She also opted for Lauder’s Bronze Goddess Soft Matte Bronzer. A high-and-tight slicked-back chignon that hairstylist Rudi Lewis created using a glycerin-dipped comb completed Rhoda’s tough, edgy beauty look. “American fashion allows you to see the woman first, before the clothes,” Rhoda said as she headed toward the car that would take her to the museum. We’re guessing there was nary an onlooker who could keep their eyes off the 23-year-old from Maryland as she walked up those 26 steps.

Photo Sherly Rabbani and Josephine Solimene

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