Padma Lakshmi is the definition of a multi-hyphenate star. The Top Chef host, actress, supermodel, cookbook author, and ACLU ambassador of women’s and immigration rights has added another job to her resume as co-creator of a MAC capsule collection.
The self-described makeup enthusiast has been in front of the camera for over 20 years, but she’s struggled to find makeup shades that truly compliment her skin. When the opportunity came to create a collection with MAC, she jumped at the chance to create the products she’s always dreamed of wearing, but could never find from other brands.
Lakshmi’s hands-on approach is palpable in the collaboration’s 17 products and the gold-embossed packaging that they come in. Each one—from the dual-ended eye pencils to the palettes—was designed to make makeup easy and time-friendly. But, most importantly, the collection’s shades offer major color payoff that’s universally flattering for all skin tones.
We spoke with Lakshmi ahead of the collection's March 15 launch to get a taste of what inspired the products, as well as her recipe for the perfect day-to-night makeup look.
Why did you want to collaborate with MAC to create this collection?
I always loved MAC products and very early on in my modeling career the brand was great for women with darker skin and complexions like mine. Their pigmentation is so saturated and just looked amazing. It was really a makeup artist company and it felt more professional than the other beauty brands. When I was just starting, if a makeup artist had products for your skin tone, they were usually from MAC. So I’ve been a fan of the brand forever and this is a cumulation of a 20-year relationship.
How important was it to include shades that would cater to a diverse range of skin tones when you were developing the collection?
It was very important to me. I wanted something that would work on a variety of skin tones. Not necessarily just for darker-skin people, because I'm not including foundation in the collection. It’s more about having saturated colors so that the return on the skin is the same as it is in the palette or the pan. You can wear all of the eyeshadow colors very sheer, like a watercolor wash, but then you can layer it and it’s really true to what you see in the pan. If you take a wet brush and use the eyeshadows, you’ll have an eyeliner effect that will still be powdery, so it blends flawlessly. It was a two-and-a-half-year-long process to get the colors right from the labs and to figure out how we wanted the packaging to look.
For a lot of people, MAC is the first brand they use when they start wearing makeup. What was the first MAC product you wore?
Another model turned me on to—it must have been another dark-skinned model like Tyra [Banks]—“Symmetry,” which was a taupe eyeshadow that I used to do shading. I also bought the Studio Fix Powder Foundation after another model told me about it. The powder was great because I have oily skin. I still remember my shade even though they changed it a few times.
I noticed some of the products in your collection are named after food. How is cooking similar to applying or creating a makeup look?
It is very similar and it’s always very creative. You mix colors the way you mix flavors: Not everything always goes together and you always blend things to get the perfect finish. It’s a palette and a matter of taste in a philosophical view. I love makeup and always loved using makeup in that way.
The collection has products that help you create easy day-to-night looks. What’s your go-to recipe for one of these looks?
For day, it looks beautiful if you just have a light wash over the eyelids that’s shimmery with a golden or rosy undertone. We have a highlighter in the “Desert Dusk” Palette ($33; maccosmetics.com); sweeping that across your whole eyelid and including a tiny bit of a peach or baby blue is really nice.
Purple is a great color for nighttime—especially if you have brown eyes like many darker-skinned women do. It makes your eyes stand out so much, and you can also use it to do a smoky eye. It works like a brown or gray shade on darker skin. Sometimes these shades can look ashy on these complexions.
You sometimes do your own makeup for the red carpet. Do you have a makeup tip that you’ve picked up from your modeling and TV career that you always rely on?
I always do makeup an hour before I need to be on the carpet. The makeup looks better when it mixes with the oils of your skin because it doesn’t look like you’ve just put on a ton of makeup. The other thing I always do is carry a lip balm and a pencil. If you line your lips, put on the balm and blot it, your lips will have a stain instead of looking too made up.
You always post cute photos of your daughter experimenting with makeup on Instagram. How do you approach talking about beauty with her, and why do you think having this conversation is important?
I don’t want her to focus on it too much. It’s more of a fun activity more than a necessary thing. I always remind her and underline the fact that it’s important to have a brain more than anything else, because physical beauty fades. On the other hand, we both love the ritual of applying makeup and she’s a pretty good makeup artist for someone her age. I was like that too, so I always try to have fun with her.
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You’re heavily involved with women’s issues as one of the co-founders of the Endometriosis Foundation of America. Do you have advice that you would give to your younger self to feel more comfortable in your own skin?
Just to listen to your body. If you’re not feeling well, don’t let anyone else tell you there’s nothing wrong. You truly have to be an advocate because most people can't tell how you’re really feeling and you need to get to the bottom of things as soon as possible.