My Essence Fest: Why Andra Day Rocks Big Hair, Crazy Eyeliner, and Red Lips

My <em>Essence</em> Fest: Why Andra Day Rocks Big Hair, Crazy Eyeliner, and Red Lips
Josh Brasted
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What better place than New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, to inspire vintage glamour. Songstress Andra Day, a New Orleans novice, took a break from her sound check at the annual Essence Festival this weekend to talk about her eclectic and retro style. Day, who combines jazz, doo-wop, soul and hip hop music, holds forth on dramatic beauty, bouffants, beehives, Billie Holiday and Lucile Ball.

Some Like It Hot: I like the heat. As a singer, if I'm in a room that is too cold, I kind of freak out, so I actually like the humidity and I love the heat. I was raised in Southern California so anything with heat, I’m like, “Yeah!”

Retro Remix: I gleaned different style ideas over the years. In Southern California, there is a big rockabilly sub-culture. So when I would go to car shows, I would see women dressed like this. I had a teacher in high school that always had her Bette Paige bangs. And then the music that I studied was jazz—I love Billy Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald. The way they dressed, everything that was mid-century ‘40s and ‘50s, I was always drawn to. Eventually, I just started putting things together and adding my own flair to it and it just exploded into all of this.

Crazy Eyes: I like very, very dramatic eyeliner, I take it all the way out to my eyebrows. I like things that are over the top and subtle at the same time. But it was a matter of trial and error. There were moments when I came out and my eyeliner was slipping down the side of my face. I didn’t realize early on that you had to find the right type of eyeliner otherwise it would be just a runny disaster.

Red Hot: I’ve always loved red lips. One of my favorite style icons is Lucille Ball. She’d have her red lip and then have her bright copper red hair. I started doing that on myself. I just like the way it looks and the way it fit my face. It makes my lips look fuller.

Bigger Is Better: There was also a lot of trial and error with my hair. I would see different styles like the bouffant, the beehive, the victory rolls, and the side waves. I started playing with a lot of the looks. Some didn’t frame my face right. I would see girls doing these [hairstyles] at the car shows and I was wondering, "How could I do it with my hair?" And then I realized that I have very curly, thick, tightly curled hair, so I didn't even need to do that much to achieve this. I just roll-up my natural hair on the inside and then straighten the outside.

Armor All: I used to just put on a couple of bracelets and a ring. But then I began to add a few more. Now I like solid-colored long nails and then packing on the jewelry—it kind of makes everything look cool. It’s almost become my armor. 

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