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Meet Tyra Banks's Beautytainers

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Take a look at your Facebook feed right now. Go on, we’ll wait. Maybe you see a friend from high school on your feed selling jewelry, or nail wraps, or sketchy weight loss products. Multi-level marketing is everywhere these days, and it can feel super scammy. Well, twist: Tyra Banks is getting in on the action, too.

We sent Claire Carusillo (do you subscribe to her beauty newsletter, dear newsletter reader?) to Las Vegas to meet Tyra and her “Beautytainers,” and really dig into who wins when Tyra’s on top.

Tyra’s Big Fierce Outrageous Goals
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Story by Claire Carusillo. Photos by Isaac Brekken.

When Tyra tells me a story, I listen. When Tyra tells that same story again four days later to a crowd of 300 women at a Las Vegas hotel, almost word for word, I lean in a little closer.

Maybe you've heard the first part of the story yourself. In 2006, while filming scenes for America's Next Top Model on a beach in Australia, a paparazzo with a telephoto lens caught Tyra Banks on the beach in a one-piece swimsuit. The angle of the picture doesn't flatter Tyra, whose killer bod and red, polka-dot bikini made her famous, and tabloids ran with it.

Weeks later, on The Tyra Banks Show — Tyra's daytime chatfest that aired between 2005 and 2010 and regularly featured stunts like going homeless for a day and recording a simulated date rape on a hidden camera — she showed up on stage wearing the same suit. She looks great in the YouTube clip of the episode, a fuzzy, illegal upload that has been viewed 2.6 million times in the past eight years.

Standing in front of a screen displaying the unflattering bathing suit photo, she uses her own body to illustrate to daytime TV watchers how women are picked over and discarded when they hunch, bloat, or grow. Her final statement on the matter, and it's a long one, went like this:

So I have something to say, to all of you that have something nasty to say about me, or other women who are built like me, women that all the time or sometimes look like this, women whose names you know, women whose names you don't, women who've been picked on, women whose husbands put them down, women who work, girls in school, I have one thing to say to you: Kiss my fat ass.

Raised by television and magazines, I grew up perpetually entertained by Tyra's theatrics, in whatever form they took. Of course Tyra is a joy to look at (though later, in front of those 300 other women and me, she claims she's nothing without makeup, just "a girl with an ass" and a "fivehead"), but it's what she's had to say that's always captivated me. There's some hokey Victoria's Secret commercial wherein Tyra goes, "Don't say it, Karen!" to fellow model Karen Mulder. This commercial aired before I even owned a bra, but for almost a decade, "Don't say it, Karen!" has been looping in my head like an incantation.

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I'm not alone. Many women look to Tyra for something, whether it be entertainment, inspiration, or a mix of the two. She's a supermodel, the first black woman to land a Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover, (kind of) a Harvard graduate, and a CEO. (Sorry, that's "super CEO" in Tyra parlance.) She's a woman with a story. She makes great TV. Maybe she makes great makeup, too.

When I scored a 43-minute phone call with Tyra the Thursday before I went to Fierce Up, a three-day conference for her two-year-old direct sales cosmetics company Tyra Beauty, I was honored that she shared a behind-the-scenes look at "Kiss my fat ass" with me. As Tyra explains, the catchphrase was inspired by a woman in front of her at the grocery store who saw some tabloid with the storied Australian swimsuit photo on it. She turned to Tyra and said, "Tyra, if they're calling you fat, then what are they calling me?" Like that, Tyra decided to address the photo on her talk show.

Tyra had her on-set stylist pull the same swimsuit from the America's Next Top Model shoot, and then she marched on stage (with just a little body makeup, she concedes, "because I'm going to be raw, but I ain't gonna be that raw"). Her crew looked at her like she was nuts. Her speech didn't come out like she intended. She broke down in tears on camera.

"I started crying towards the end, and when it was over, I ran to the controls," says Tyra. "I went over to my director and said, ‘We have to do it over! I can't cry! I need to be strong, and I cried.'"

And then, as Tyra tells it, her director dramatically turned off all the monitors in the control room one by one. He said, "Go home." Tyra said, "What?" He said, "That was real. And that will air."

With her signature performance style — a little bit bestie, a little bit unhinged, and lately, a lotta bit CEO — Tyra honestly moved me.

When she told the story again at Fierce Up, I was less moved, though only a little. I'd heard it before, almost word for word, and yet, I gobbled it up. With her charisma, Tyra could sell snake oil. In reality, Tyra is selling cosmetics. I've come to realize that 97 percent of the time, this is the same thing.

"With her signature performance style — a little bit bestie, a little bit unhinged, and lately, a lotta bit CEO — Tyra honestly moved me."

The first time I see Tyra up close is a few days after our phone interview, in a partitioned conference room at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Wearing a green toga and a laurel wreath, Tyra descends upon a generically Mediterranean dinner held on the first night of Fierce Up for her highest ranking Beautytainers. "Beautytainers" is what Tyra Beauty calls its salespeople (and is, of course, a portmanteau of "beauty" and "entertainer"). Just as Tyra tied together each and every episode of America's Next Top Model with a theme, usually via Tyra Mail and a cryptic pun typed in a '90s-era typeface, this dinner tells a story.

In the night's mythos, emphasized several times over through Tyra's getup and a (very good) hummus and tzatziki platter, the Beautytainers live as Greek (or was it Roman?) goddesses. Las Vegas's Venetian hotel and convention center would be under their heavenly purview for the next three days, with all the luxury and manufactured daylight a casino in the desert can offer.

When I walk into the dinner, massage therapists (or maybe just paid performers in pink and white togas?) rub the weary hands of the jet-lagged Beautytainers in the corner of the conference room. As Tyra sits down to chat with my cluster of Beautytainers — all of whom's names and marital statuses she knew — and shows pictures of her son York, she is the queen goddess.

Tyra tells us she is "beat for the cheap seats," a phrase popularized by gay black men and those in the drag community to mean wearing so much makeup you can see it glisten from far away. Tyra has to explain this many times throughout the course of Fierce Up, but especially at this Gold-ranking and above training, where her audience of captive Beautytainers is largely composed of white women in their 40s. The Beautytainers are a fun group. They are fanatical about Tyra Beauty, and many a Beautytainer attempts to recruit me for her sales team.

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The truth is, I probably can't afford to be a Beautytainer. These women spent a lot of money to be here. Besides airfare (Beautytainers flew in from California, Alaska, Minnesota, New Hampshire — wherever in the US you might find women who put stock in one mascara to transform their lives. So, everywhere.) and lodging ($159 a night, plus a $32 resort fee and 12 percent tax), registration was $299 for the three-day event. Everything at the Venetian is expensive, too. I'll never quite be able to justify buying a $14 margarita at 5 p.m. each night of the conference, but I was trying to keep up.

When I walk out of the banquet ballroom, Stacie Cain is sitting on a bench with a friend right outside. I don't know Stacie yet, but she regards me as a friend immediately. Stacie hasn't yet achieved the rank of Beautytainer needed to attend the dinner; she just wanted a glimpse of Tyra in her green toga. She got one moments before I walked out, oblivious Tyra was alone and paces ahead of me, head down while I texted my sister a forbidden photo of the super CEO I had taken earlier in the evening.

Stacie would become my spirit guide over the course of Fierce Up. On the second day of the conference, when Tyra asks audience members to reveal why we're "flawsome" (that is, roughly, flawed but still awesome), we discover we have the same thyroid disorder.

Stacie takes a photo with me the night we meet, even after I tell her I'm a nobody in the landscape of Tyra Beauty, and she tells me that everybody's someone as she presses samples of Tyra Beauty makeup remover wipes into the palm of my hand.

The day after the dinner, in the same room, senior field director Evy deAngelis has everyone embark on a visualization exercise. The room is a safe space, filled with Facebook friends who have become business partners and soul mates thanks to Tyra Beauty. These women have seen each other through cancer, new marriages, empty nesting, and career changes; Tyra has made that possible.

Evy hands out paper and envelopes. Everyone participates in earnest, except for me.

Evy intones warmly. "Write down what you want for yourself. Think really, really big," she says. "Picture yourself. And when I say picture yourself, I mean actually see yourself in your head achieving everything you ever want. Really think about it."

Evy asks questions: "What are you wearing? What does that outfit look like on the day you actually have that happen? What's your career title? What's your income? What is that going to unlock for you and your family? How is that going to feel? Create a picture in your head."

A few Beautytainers are crying. Someone yells, "I need a touch-up!"

Evy responds, "On that paper, say to yourself, ‘Damn girl, you made me mess up my makeup!'"

She tells the Beautytainers to fold up their papers and seal them away. "The way you're going to get to everything you just wrote down, no matter what," she explains, "the basis of that is achieving Bronzer over and over and over."

The "Bronzer" Evy speaks is one of many levels in the Tyra Beauty direct selling hierarchy. It involves selling a bunch of product yourself and recruiting other Beautytainers to do the same. The message is clear: If you can succeed in selling Tyra Beauty, you can achieve your life's goals.

Read the rest of this story here >>
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How to Get Your Hands on Pat McGrath’s New Metallic Pigments
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Story by Cheryl Wischhover

A year ago, Pat McGrath launched the very first product in her eponymous makeup line, a shiny gold pigment called Gold 001. Her latest limited-edition kits take that concept to its next logical level.

This offering, called Metalmorphosis 005, features an encore by Gold 001, plus three new metallics: copper, bronze, and silver. There’s also a brand new dual-sided eyeliner marker, which will likely be an exciting prospect for the cat eye-addicted among us.

The kits go on sale on McGrath’s website on November 10th at 12 p.m. EST and at these seven Sephora stores and online on November 22nd. Like her lip kits, there are a few different ways to buy. A kit for each metal ($60) includes a loose pigment, a cream version, Mehron Mixing Liquid, and the black eyeliner pen. The pen, which has a pointed tip on one end and an angled, thicker tip on the other, will also be sold separately for $24. Finally, if you must have it all, the “Everything” kit, which includes all four pigments, all four creams, one eyeliner marker, and a bottle of the mixing liquid, will set you back $165.

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McGrath sneakily debuted some of the metallic pigments at the spring 2017 Margiela and Versace shows this month. At a press demo this week, she went a bit more heavy-handed, drawing full-winged metallic eyeshadow on her models and topping it off with metal-encrusted lips. The cream can be applied easily with your fingers and has buildable color. McGrath recommends pressing some pigment on top of the cream, or mixing it with the liquid to get more concentrated payoff.

Everything McGrath has offered so far has sold out, often crashing her site in the process. Plan accordingly if you want to indulge your inner magpie with this collection.

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