Priscilla Ono took on her first make-up assignment on a whim to impress a boyfriend who was making a music video. Since then she has married that boyfriend and has gone on to become Fenty Beauty’s global make-up artist. Growing up in a traditional Hispanic household in California, USA, Ono never imagined make-up as a career path. Now she divides her time between educating Fenty’s retail partners, contributing to product development, shooting videos for social media, creating beauty looks for campaigns, and yes she’s often responsible for Rihanna’s press appearances too. Somewhere in between she also finds time to work with celebrities like Bella Hadid and Megan Thee Stallion and run her own make-up academy. If you’re looking for inspiration to up your make-up game, scroll through her Instagram feed (@priscillaono), where Ono is often her own model and creates vibrant, unexpected looks. Here, the celebrity makeup artist talks to us about working with Rihanna and why beauty brands need to talk about diversity.
ELLE: How has your cultural heritage influenced your work?
Priscilla Ono: I am where I am because of my roots. Hard work was always instilled in me growing up, so I always push myself to be my best version. My grandparents would say, “You have to work extra hard because you are Latina, and people won’t always give you the chance. You’ll have to prove yourself more.” So, I’ve always had tunnel vision when it comes to my work—I wouldn’t let any negativity or discrimination hold me back. Believing in myself, working hard, and celebrating diversity is what prepared me best for this position—especially because it’s something that Rihanna and Fenty Beauty also so strongly believe in.
ELLE: What is it like working with Rihanna?
PO: Rihanna is such a fearless leader and it’s incredibly rewarding and inspiring to work for her. She’s so creative, I never have a dull moment with her. Sometimes she knows what she wants, sometimes she’s open to my ideas, and sometimes we work together on it. It’s always different, but it’s always a conversation, and always a fun moment with her. I feel like she’s always pushing me to do the next big thing.
ELLE: What’s the most memorable look you’ve created on Rihanna?
PO: It’s the look I created for the Fenty Beauty US launch party in New York, where she wore all yellow and we bathed her in Fenty Beauty Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter in Trophy Wife. It’s such an iconic look, and it’s the first time we announced my new role with Fenty Beauty, so it’s sentimental and special to me as well.
ELLE: Fenty Beauty is all about multi-tasking products, which one’s your favourite?
PO: Match Stix is the ultimate do-it-all product. I’ve used them to create a full face—including concealer, foundation, eyeshadow, lip, blush, even brows! The formula is great too because they have a unique cream to powder finish that works on all skin types and never dries out.
ELLE: You usually wear beautiful, bold eyes and a bright mouth, what’s your tip to nailing this look?
PO: Rihanna believes that make- up is there for you to have fun with and takes a no-rules approach, which is something that really resonates with me. I love creating fun, bright looks on myself, and experimenting with unexpected combos. You never know what will end up working, and if it doesn’t, you can always wash it off and try again.
ELLE: Besides make-up, what else do you have in your glam kit?
PO: Face wipes, pointed Q-tips, hand sanitiser, and brush cleaner are always in my kit. I also carry a small blow dryer with me, it’s my trick for working with super straight lashes. I use it to heat up my lash curler before curling lashes and it will make the curl last all day!
ELLE: What make-up products are a must-have in your kit?
PO: Fenty Beauty Match Stix Matte and Shimmer because they’re the ultimate multitasking products. I also love Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer because it’s flattering on everyone and is a great finishing touch. The last one is the Full Frontal Volume, Lift and Curl Mascara, it has a unique brush –the fat side distributes product for ultra-thick lashes and the other side provides volume.