Becoming a supermodel requires great genes. That’s as true for Precious Lee as it was for all the runway stars that came before her. But her mom and dad didn’t just pass down great cheekbones, they gave her attitude—the sort of swagger that separates a pretty face from a superstar. Take her mom: a woman who committed to the glam, full force. Lee was eight when she first saw mom without makeup and she cherishes memories of the blowout Emmy parties that were treated like the actual ceremony. "She'd put a whole, full, extra face, as if she's on the red carpet," she explains over Zoom. "And we'd all watch the Emmys and have hors d'oeuvres." Her father owned hair salons in Atlanta and frequently put Lee in the chair for daring cuts and colors. His guidance helped Precious win Best Hair (or maybe Most Likely to Change Their Hairstyles, Lee can't remember the exact title) in high school.
With beauty in her DNA, Lee approached the industry with a firm set of ideals: representation matters, and we must strive to see every type of Blackness exemplified in our runways, beauty campaigns, and everything in between.
For her latest campaign, Lee serves as the face for Make Up For Ever's new Rouge Artist collection, a 60-piece offering of long-lasting satin lipsticks. The campaign follows her first cover, her Skims campaign, and the laundry list of runways she's walked this fashion week. Lee chatted with us about what she's been doing in quarantine (wearing red lipstick for fun!), the Atlanta beauty scene, and why it's important for little girls to see her image in Sephora as they craft their own.
What have you been up to in quarantine? Has your routine changed at all?
I’m indulging in the solitude of just being able to chill and not necessarily get so done up. I’ve got to the point where I would actually want to do a look and it was so fun. I’ve had fun playing in my makeup and just trying new things.
And with the whole mask situation now, it's even more important to put your lip on at home. I feel like I've always used my lip, a power lip, a red lip or some bold color, to help give me a boost in whatever I was doing. And so that doesn't stop now.
Your red lip is undefeated. What are your tricks for the ultimate red lip?
Liner is so important because it brings the definition. The art of the Make Up For Ever Rouge Artist lip is the way you can hold the actual brush. It gives you the ability to go in and use it as a liner as well, which I love.
A post shared by PRECIOUS LEE (@preciousleexoxo) on Aug 11, 2020 at 11:23am PDT
I start my lip on the outside and then I just fill in from there. My top lip is a little darker than my bottom lip, so sometimes I'll put a little bit of concealer on before, just to even it out. The Rouge Artist lipstick is so high pigmented and I love that, because I do not like reapplying all day, every day. And it's just so much better to be able to get so much pigmentation in a couple of swipes.
You’re from Atlanta, which has one of the best beauty scenes in the world. What tips did you learn from your hometown?
My favorite Atlanta makeup girl is my mom. She is so fabulous and she will not go anywhere without her makeup. And even if she goes out with sunglasses on, she has to have a lip. Lipstick is something that always completed the look, the vibe. She would be like, “You're going outside the door without any lipstick on?” That's how I grew up, with my mom like that.
She likes to do her makeup and then get in the shower, and then let it sit in which gives it more of a natural look. But that's an expert trick, because when I first tried it, I messed up my whole face, because the water made it melt off.
OMG. How does she do it?
She says she puts the water on low pressure. I was like, "Mom, that is the most!" It works because it just looks so much more soulful. But I also love the fact that she also uses lipstick for blush. That's a good trick.
I also feel like when you use lipstick everyday, that it doesn't become like, ‘Oh, it needs to be this moment for me to put on lipstick.’ Why do you have to wait for moments that are so extra special to have a bomb lip? So that is something that I learned from her, if you want to wear a red lip to go to the bodega, girl, wear a red lip to go to the bodega.
Never had any confusion around what it meant to be an unapologetically intelligent fabulous proud black woman because that’s the cloth I’m cut from. You are sublime Mooch + I’m so grateful to be your babygirl. Thank you for every sacrifice you’ve ever made for me, I truly adore you with all my heart. I hope that I make you proud everyday🎀🤍🎀 #HappyMothersDay
A post shared by PRECIOUS LEE (@preciousleexoxo) on May 10, 2020 at 1:57pm PDT
You're a runway star right now, but are you planning on moving more into the beauty space?
I've always been [a beauty person]. I remember my friends and stuff always ask me to do their makeup for things that we would do if we were going out, or just questions about makeup or skin, because I get a lot of compliments on my skin. And to be honest, a lot of it—I'm very fortunate—is hereditary. My parents have really great skin, but I do take care of my skin. I've always been into skincare. My mom, literally, I didn't see her without makeup on until I was like, eight. She's really a glamor girl and I grew up in that household.
My father owns hair salons, so I grew up in a glamorous at-home situation. And it didn't have to be an occasion for us to dress up. That is something that’s always been a part of me.
Did you grow up going to your dad’s hair salon?
Oh my gosh, I love being there. I wanted to work there so bad! When I was little, I would be in the front and just wanting to just be in that energy. I love my dad so much and he's so talented, and it's just fun to be able to get your hair done any time you wanted to.
One of the funniest things was, I convinced one of the stylists that my Dad said that I could get my hair cut. I said, "I wanted my hair like this." And she was like, "What? No, you can't get your hair like that." I was like, "Why?" She was like, "Did you talk to your dad?" And I'm like, "It's totally cool." I was like, "He's going to love it." I told him, "Everybody said they loved it." And technically they did. [Laughs]
Thee absolute coolest man ever☝🏾 Provider, teacher, mentor, laughing partner, singing partner & dancing partner since I could remember. I am blessed to have you. Thank you for all the gems you drop & all the love you give me💎 #HappyFathersDay
A post shared by PRECIOUS LEE (@preciousleexoxo) on Jun 18, 2017 at 5:45am PDT
The stylist cut my hair and it was blonde. I asked for it to be blonde. I bleached it blonde and it was a pixie. My dad was like, "Okay, fine, it's cute but you need to tone that color down." He’s so about cut and color. I changed my hair literally every day. In high school, I got voted best hair or most likely to change hairstyles. I do that as a model as well. It's harder to convince people to do it as a model, but I still have to.
You've made strides in bringing more representation to the fashion world. Why do you think representation is also important in beauty?
It’s so important! That’s why I feel like it’s so great for Make Up For Ever to take the initiative of putting a group of people together that are talented, but from different sectors, and feeling how important it is to stand up in your own power and having the ability to own your own energy and to know that that is why you require self-love. You deserve it. It's not something that is optional. It's not something you learn, necessarily. It's literally just remembering, feeling it, because it's there. Especially in these times, to always have inclusivity at the forefront. And for me, beauty as a little girl, like I said, I grew up in makeup and hair. And my mom, she's fair-skinned, so she's lighter than me. But I would always look at all of it, like makeup that she would use and the colors and knowing how important it is that people know about our skin colors and that there are variations. And that I'm brown, but I have a gold undertone, and there are people that are brown with red undertones. And it's just important to highlight that, for a beauty brand especially.
A post shared by PRECIOUS LEE (@preciousleexoxo) on Jun 19, 2020 at 8:40pm PDT
There are different variations of our beauty. And, as a Black woman, it's important for other Black women and young girls to see that represented in makeup. Fashion and beauty go hand-in-hand, so when you're a girl and you're just getting into your own, and you're figuring out your look or whatever, or you're changing your style, that vision and that image that you see tied to makeup is important as well.
You don't have to be sample size to wear lipstick. You don't have to be sample size to wear blush. You know what I mean? It's not about that. And for me, that is all the more reason why beauty is such a great place to explore and expand inclusivity.
When do you feel your most beautiful?
When I'm laughing. Literally, I love to laugh. If something's funny, I love to laugh. And I think I've picked up, I love seeing other people laugh, because everybody thinks I'm funny. And it's weird because it's very unintentionally funny, but apparently I tell jokes. And just seeing people in pure joy, that vibration of laughter is just so beautiful. Everyone has a beautiful laughing smile. I don't care what they say.
You were just in a Skims campaign. You're in the Make Up For Ever campaign. It feels like you're taking over the world! What's next for you?
Oh my goodness. Well, I did Marc Jacobs. I did Miu Miu. I've been really doing a lot of amazing things. I'm just really grateful to be able to bring more joy and to show people how to love themselves better with whatever it is that I'm doing. That's why it's important for me to do things that are going to touch people, things that are going to give people more space to be themselves.
I’m an actress. I have some amazing things coming up. I’m also a writer. I created my first capsule collection with Fleur du Mal, a size-inclusive lingerie collection. Everything that I'm doing and that I want to do is to set a precedent for women that have been marginalized—being Black, being big, being from a different place than most people. It's just so important for me to continue to do the work and the jobs and the campaigns and the shows that, the next time a little girl goes into Sephora and she looks up, or wherever she goes, into a store, she'll be able to see a different variation of beauty and see somebody that she can identify with.
A post shared by PRECIOUS LEE (@preciousleexoxo) on Aug 23, 2017 at 4:27pm PDT
Because if we start there, honestly, how much better would it be? If a kid at five years old is used to seeing different shades of Black, in different variations of sizes, then it won't be so foreign and it won't be so hard to make them understand that they deserve to love themselves when they get older. And I think that I'm going to continue to focus on projects that help that.
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