At just 29 years old, Teyana Taylor has been putting in work for more than half of her life. And despite often juggling multiple projects at once — from singing and songwriting, to acting, dancing, choreographing, directing, and modeling — rarely has she put something out into the world that she doesn't believe in wholeheartedly. Such is the case with her new beauty collaboration, MAC x Teyana Taylor, a partnership capitalizes on the artist's long-standing love and relationship with the cosmetics brand, which goes back nearly 15 years.
Before stepping into the spotlight, the brand was Taylor's introduction to the beauty world. She would use MAC products to develop her own finishes, colors, and textures that felt personal to her expression. According to the brand, that same love for experimentation exists at the core of the collaboration, equipping fans with products that allow for that same kind of exploration and mixing, rather than just copying Taylor's looks.
The collection itself, available July 14 online at both MAC Cosmetics and Macy's, is inspired by the '90s, a decade that has served as a continuous source of inspiration for Taylor through all mediums of her work. The collection is filled with soft browns and nudes, deep purples, rose, and bronze shades across lipsticks ($20), lip pencils ($19), the brand's iconic Lipglass formula ($19), and for the face, a Mineralize Skinfinish, Taylor's self-confessed favorite product. Each product is named after songs, moments, and people that have made the artist who she is today, from a lipstick named Junie Bee after her 5-year-old daughter with husband Iman Shumpert, to a pink lip gloss called Gonna Love Me, after her song by the same name on her 2018 album, K.T.S.E.
"This collaboration with MAC really showed me that there are people out there that are really not trying to just blend in with the standard of beauty," Taylor tells NYLON by phone. "Them trusting me to create the colors that I created and them knowing my reasoning for why I created these different colors and looks, I'm just very appreciative. They've been very, very supportive — and besides my husband and my family constantly making me feel beautiful, MAC really just came along and added to that. They said, 'here's a platform. Do what you want to do, embrace yourself.' I love that."
Ahead of the collection's release, NYLON caught up with Taylor in early June about her collection with MAC, her obsession with the '90s, and how she's handling the promotion of multiple projects — including the release of her third album, The Album — in the midst of her second pregnancy, a global pandemic, and a pivotal moment in the Black Lives Matter movement. Read highlights from the conversation, below.
You grew up in New York with a family ingrained in the entertainment industry — how did those factors affect your relationship to beauty growing up?
I mean, one thing I've always considered about New York, especially Harlem, I've always looked at New York like a big runway and it's so crazy because if you go back to a lot of my old interviews, I've always said that. So as far as wondering about fashions, makeup, just looks in general has really inspired my taste and makeup a lot. That's just New York, you know, flashy. We like to get dressed. We like to look good.
Growing up, it was exciting to see another Black girl so visibly following her own path in terms of how you expressed yourself through clothes, hair, makeup. Did you ever feel self conscious or nervous pushing those boundaries?
I was homeschooled, so I didn't get to go to the high school any of my high school years, but just growing up as a teenager, my mom inspired me a lot. The '90s inspired me a lot. So it was like, my mom always had all these great bows but nude lips. These brown lips and these dark lip liners and all types of stuff. It always kind of made me feel powerful because my mom was my biggest inspiration. So I always felt powerful. She always had all these dope jackets, all these dope outfits. And then her makeup was always on point, but she also showed me that less is more and she always put all her power into her lips and her lip liner. And that was big for me.
I think that's why I love lipstick and lip gloss so much. I used to literally steal her matte Lipglass out of her purse. And instead of her trying to figure out where it was, she would just keep getting a new one and I would just keep taking them because they were so good. She's always been big on like... It was the point where she was all lip liner and lip gloss. She didn't even need lipstick. It was just lip liner, lip gloss, it was just lip liner, lipstick. It depends on what she felt, but she always kept her power in her lips. And that's what I admire the most, especially as a Black woman and my mom having full lips and me having full lips and strong feature, she taught me to embrace that.
People always ask, "Why's she so obsessed with the '90s? Why is Teyana so obsessed with the '90s?" And it was like, because that's kind of where I belong. That was the era of a lot of things, with the power thing, and then embracing the features and embracing their skin tones and really just having fun and not having to really do too much or have to blend in to reach a certain standard of beauty.
You've said for years that MAC is one of your favorite brands, so this collaboration in particular feels really authentic. What first drew you to the brand?
Originally it was that Lipglass. The one I took from my mother's bag. You had the Beauty Supply lip gloss, then you had MAC. And I just loved the Beauty Supply. As a young girl, you go to the Beauty Supply store, you get your lip gloss. But, you know, [laughs], they don't last long, but they feel good and they taste good. But when I discovered MAC [Lipglass], it had a perfect amount of stick to it. It almost felt like a lighter version of honey and the way it looks on lips, the way it felt, it was just everything. And then I would go to the MAC store with my mom, and just look at everything. Look at the different colors and seeing that MAC was more than just a lip gloss.
Then as I got older and got into the industry was when I received like my first big box of just all these MAC products, I will never forget. I want to say had to be like Christmas. I forgot what year, but I had to be about, 17 maybe. And I had just got this big box of MAC and you couldn't tell me nothing since I was playing in everything. I knew my foundation colors, I knew my lip liners, I knew everything. That was the first time that I really got it. I really felt like, "Oh, this is what makeup do, OK. This is cute."
Along with this collaboration, you're promoting your new, third album — The Album — recently announced you're pregnant with your second child, and we're in quarantine. As if that's not enough, we're also witnessing in real time this uprising against all of this state-sanctioned violence and institutionalized racism against Black folks; issues you've always been and continue to be vocal about. How are you finding balance and you're prioritizing self care right now?
Honestly, this has been very tough with everything that's been going on, especially now what happened, all on social media. It was like, every time you scroll, you see it, and it literally makes me sick to my stomach. And it makes me sick to my stomach that there's no change. And it just keeps happening. How much more do we have to beg? How much more do we have to sing? How much more? It's really time for us to find the answer, handle it and take care of it, and come together and do we need to do, because this is getting out of control. I literally cry every single time and it's like, you see it and you think you can get over it. No, you see it and you literally cry every single time. Every single time you scroll through each page. It's just so traumatizing. It''s really heartbreaking, very, very heartbreaking and very, very traumatizing.
It's one of them things that just leaves you speechless, because it's making you ball your f*cking fists up. Oh, it's just like a rage, and it's just getting out of control. But having your kids around and like you said, finding that balance is definitely tough. Sometime I kind of just have to take out a few minutes in a day from everybody and just really like go in a room and if that's cry or scream, or whatever, I have to do that. I still have to be a positive representation of my daughter. I have to do that.
This interview has been edited and condensed.