In high fashion, there's almost no such thing as effortless beauty. From facial treatments that leave your complexion dewy and luminous to the perfect winged eyeliner, experts reveal their most-trusted, insider hacks for CR's series, Beauty Secrets.
Yusef Williams met Rihanna back in 2008 at a charity event. At the time, he was working with another artist who was under the same management as the singer. Rihanna had heard of Williams before, but she was finally able to put a face to the name. Two weeks later, her team asked him to come to Paris to do her hair for fashion week. "I was only supposed to be there for three days, and I wound up staying the entire week," he tells CR. "I did her for the rest of the shows and we've been working together ever since."
Williams was the mastermind behind Rihanna's tresses for some of her most memorable red carpet appearances, Fenty Beauty campaigns, and most recently, for her LVMH-helmed brand, Fenty. He grew up in Miami and originally wanted to pursue a career in R&B and reggae music (his father produced Bob Marley's "Buffalo Soldier"). From watching his mother, who was a hairdresser, Williams started cutting hair on the side. He released an album, worked at Disney as a performer, and then moved to New York and started styling hair for models. He went from going to Broadway auditions to cancelling auditions and staying home all day to cut hair for six models from IMG to make money. He eventually moved to Paris and began working with Odile, who became his mentor. "The rest is history," he says. "My career just took off and hero became my hero. Music kind of took a backseat."
Here, CR catches up with Williams about Rihanna's 10-year hair evolution, his favorite haircare products, and his take on hair trends.
Walk me through your skincare routine
"I’m obsessed with witch hazel wipes. I’m not really a fancy skincare person. I do like old school remedies. I like to get the organic witch hazel, and I’ll put it on a cotton swab and clean my face before I go to bed. My skin moisturizers vary. I use the Caudalie Skin Moisturizer and La Mer Concentrate Skin Serum. I also use a Noxzema Ultimate Clear Anti-Blemish Pad because it has toner in it and it really evens out your skin. I don’t really do a lot."
What about haircare products?
"My favorite Oribe product is the Dry Texturizing Spray. The R+Co shampoos and conditioners are really nice. L’Oreal Elnett Hairspray is my hero of all heroes. There is an olive oil product, like a hair moisturizing cream that I use on natural hair. I also love the Biosilk Silk Therapy Serum. I like to apply it when the hair is damp before blow drying, and it gives you a nice silky, smooth finish without weighing the hair down."
Do you have a favorite hair look?
"I love to see well-cut bobs. I feel like that is a timeless style and when I see a bob that has been properly cut and moves, it makes me happy."
What's the creative process like working with Rihanna?
"It’s collaborative. I’ll send her three hair ideas, and not for a specific reason or particular thing that we’re doing, it’s just that I thought they were cool. And she’s like 'Holy shit. I love those looks. We gotta figure out when we can do it.' Just something like that. We go for it."
What about for her Fenty Beauty campaigns?
"Her main focus is with makeup, but she’s someone who wants to be a full picture. It's never a situation where, 'It's makeup. Pull the hair back.' We still make sure the hair stands out as well. When we’re coming up with ideas, everything is included. It all works, because we are never really thinking that because it's a lipstick campaign, we should pull the hair back in a chignon. She wants to go against that. Creativity is wide open."
How have you seen her change throughout her career?
"I think she’s always been adventurous. She’s been limitless from the beginning. She’s not afraid to do anything: cut it off, throw a weave in. Everybody knows that. They wait and anticipate her coming out because they don’t know what could possibly happen. Nowadays, she really knows who she is, and she knows what works and what doesn’t work. She doesn’t have to try everything, because she’s already done it. The experimental phase is over. We know our limits and how we achieve greatness."
Any hair trends you've been liking lately?
"No. I am the trend. [laughs] No, I’m always looking at stuff. I love that everybody’s playing with color, doing all of these vibrant neons and stuff. I'm always excited to see people who just like take chances and be a little bit more creative with their hair. I see a lot of that now. I don’t know if it’s really a trend, it’s just people feel a little bit more free to do whatever they want with their hair without feeling crazy. I think it’s just the world we live in now."