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The makeup artist Frankie Boyd is having a love affair with Brazil. And not just because of the warm-hearted people who hail from there — most notably his husband of seven years, the photographer Jefferson Santiago. He values the welcoming culture, and that most of the socializing happens outside of people’s homes, at street fairs, parades, near bodegas or the ocean. “I love when I see the boys bleaching their hair on the beach,” Boyd says of the beauty scene in Rio de Janeiro, where grooming routines are not relegated to behind closed bathroom doors. “It’s terrible for the scalp and the environment, but it’s so beach-y and extreme.”
Here, the Georgia native, who went from “pumping looks” at Atlanta nightclubs with childhood friends to “pumping looks” on the runway and red carpet with top models and celebrity friends such as Scarlett Johansson, sounds off on his latest attraction for the country: Costa Brazil. “I take Kaya Jungle Firming Body Oil and Cream whenever I’m on vacation, so I can have a luxurious, fancy moment away from home,” he says. “It’s not heavy, but it gives you that expensive glow you want.”
How did you get into the beauty industry?
I grew up in a small town outside of Atlanta, Georgia called Snellville. I started raving at 16, which led to clubbing and drag. It’s a bit of a rite of passage for gay men to experiment with drag. So, we were on the scene, just pumping looks and having fun, bugging one another to do our makeup. It was 1998, pre-Ru Paul’s Drag Race, so the aesthetic was a big rougher back then. A friend of mine got me a part-time job working the cashier at a M.A.C store in Atlanta. I was 18 with no [job or beauty] experience. When I got there, the customers were like ‘I don’t care that you’re the cashier, put it on me now.’ It was fun and exciting, and the customers were very lively — they wanted extreme makeup.
Which you could do, it sounds like.
Yes [LAUGHS]. I also did makeup at the strip club to save money to come to New York, which definitely prepared me for [the fashion world]. It’s a hustle. I eventually worked my way through artists’ training at M.A.C and got on the pro-team. There, they put me on all the shows during fashion week, which was fine with me because I wanted to do everything and meet everybody. Afterwards, I decided to just pay my way to go to Milan and Paris and try and get the gigs once I was there. I got a job with Aaron de Mey, and he put a star by my name because I was so fast and consistent, and said he would call me in the future. As the game goes, I didn’t hear from him for about a year, when he called me and asked if I would go to Japan with him for a Lancôme tour. I ended up assisting him for 4 years.
Incredible. And now you’re off on your own, doing your thing for Vogue Brazil, Interview, iD Magazine.… I’ve always believed that the makeup artist really sets the tone for a photo shoot.
One thing I learned from Aaron: Always make sure the subject is comfortable because they’re not only the talent, but they’re also usually the youngest people on set. They have to have a certain level of comfort because it’s this odd thing when you put your face onto someone else and say ‘Okay, go sell it.’ It can be weird, or amazing. Hopefully it’s more amazing than weird.
Like your recent editorial for A Gentlewoman with Scarlett Johansson shot by Inez and Vinoodh?
Yes [LAUGHS]. On the inside [of the magazine], it’s a cleaner, Kirsty Hume-inspired look with big blue eyeshadow. But at the end of the shoot, [Inez and Vinoodh] said, “Okay, now let’s shoot the cover, but we only have three minutes. Make it a really crazy look.” And I was like, “Oh, lord, here we go.” So, I just threw [the look] on her and they’re like, “Add a big brow!” So, I did. I had no idea how I’d feel about it, but it got a great response in that people either loved it or hated it. For me, it’s all about being more creative, more over the top, unexpected and twisted — doing something that gets a reaction.
Clearly you can go extreme, but you’re also known for giving your subjects a very natural look. In fact, for one of your most recent editorial shoots, you used only our Kaya Face and Body Oil, for T: The New York Times Style Magazine.
It’s funny, because when the oil train hit, I didn’t get it. But now, I love it. For that shoot, I started with Kaya Face Oil because we wanted a realistic shine. It’s just such a great oil because it’s not too heavy but it gives you that expensive glow that you want in an oil. Of course, they wanted to build up throughout the day, so I just kept adding different oils to the model’s body and spraying water all over her to get that certain beady finish.
“You can’t do a half ass job when it comes to oil and lotion, you have to get in there, dig and take it to the toes.”
How do you regularly use oils?
At work, my technique is all about the look. I pay a lot of attention to the body — it’s not just the face anymore. So, I apply my oils with my lotions and potions heavy, and then rub it in aggressively. I’m so crazy about it. I take the lotion all the way to the toes, and I have to put it on before the shoes. It’s like I’m giving a body massage on set. You can’t do a half ass job when it comes to the body, you have to get in there and dig.
And what about personally? How do you use them at home?
I’m kind of like a dude, to be honest. I’m so low maintenance when it comes to myself — shaving my head and face can be such a chore. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become much better at moisturizing my body and applying SPF always. I like a hot, steamy shower where I can exfoliate really well. I’ll apply the Kaya Face or Body Oil with the Body Cream using my hands or, depending on how much time I have, a roller treatment. There is a certain chic one by Beauty Bio that I keep in the freezer. I bought it when facial exercises first started becoming trendy, but I have to say: As I’ve gotten older, my face is puffier, and it works great to take the puffiness out. I can tell a difference after just a few days of massage. I take your body oil and lotion when I’m on vacation — Fire Island, Brazil — because I want to have a luxurious fancy moment when I’m away from home. I love the scent because it’s not feminine, but a smell that’s right in between feminine and masculine, and it’s fresh, beachy… I re-apply on my arms and legs — it’s so rich.
Love that you take them to Brazil.
They’re perfect for the beach, which is such a big part of the culture there. I love when I see the boys bleaching their hair on the beach. It’s terrible for the scalp and environment, but it’s so beachy and extreme. I don’t think you’d see that anywhere else in the world except for Brazil. I’m always so completely blown away by how beautiful it is there, and how warm and welcoming the people are. Everybody sits together on the beach, and socializes outside, at street fairs, parades, outside of bodegas. I have infinite love for Brazil. My husband, who is Brazilian, and I already bought our tickets to go home for Christmas.