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Crystal G. Martin (4 posts)
In this month's "Adventures in Beauty", the O beauty team—director Valerie Monroe, executive editor Jenny Bailly, and associate editor Alessandra Foresto—test-drive nine products and treatments (like skin-plumping fillers, threading, and "comfortable" waxing) to determine whether they make the O grade. It had been two years since the editors' last big beauty road test—Monroe decided the time for a sequel was now. "This is an important story for us," she says. "The only way we can be confident we're making good recommendations is to try things ourselves."
Since the beauty team is constantly on the lookout for groundbreaking techniques, each editor had already picked a few favorites by the time they sat down to plan the story. "I heard about a new spray tan for darker-skinned women and was immediately interested," says Monroe. "Our Latina and African-American readers might not know this product is out there." Foresto, whose skin is a natural bronze, gave it a try. "I thought my clothes would get stained, my skin would be smelly and orange—but nope. I loved it!" Foresto had only one reservation about her new tan: She'd have to pose in a bikini in the magazine to show it off. "I did some extra workouts the week before," she says with a laugh.
So on a freezing February morning, runway legend Pat Cleveland made the two-hour trip from her southern New Jersey home to the 1920s mansion in New York City where we shot "The Bold and the Beautiful." Two of her fellow Versailles models—Alva Chinn and Bethann Hardison—arrived later that morning. They'd be sharing the pages of O with three "young-uns": Kinee Diouf, Shelby Coleman, and Jaunel McKenzie, who have walked the runway for designers like Vivienne Westwood, Tory Burch, and Michael Kors.
Together the six models made magic in dresses, skirts, and jackets in classic cream and white. During a pause in shooting, Hardison livened things up—with an African-inspired dance. "Bethann totally let go of her inhibitions out there," says photographer Lorenzo Agius. "It was hilarious!"
McKenzie's favorite part of the ten-hour day: "In this very caring way, Alva showed me how to turn my face while we were posing together—I loved it."
Chinn embraced that motherly role. "I liked being around the new kids on the block," she says. "That day I had three beautiful daughters, and I was proud of how comfortable they were in their own skin. They didn't compete with each other or vie for attention," she says.
Cleveland, too, saw the shoot as a bridge between fashion's past and future: "It felt like being in a garden with lovely flowers from every season."
To convey creative spirit of this issue on our cover, we invited Brooklyn-based chalk-lettering designer Dana Tanamachi to run wild on a blackboard. The artist, who had previously worked at a high-end graphic design firm, found her calling at a housewarming party two years ago. "My friends had a chalk wall, so I grabbed a piece of chalk and started drawing the word Brooklyn on it. Pretty soon people were saying, 'This is awesome.'" Her first commissioned design was for a small SoHo furniture gallery. "I'd been making chalk designs for friends and around my community, so discovering that I could do this professionally was exciting."
Typically, Tanamachi finds inspiration in typography. "For an Americana-themed piece I looked to stamps, old currency, and documents." The O cover called for something dynamic and fun. So Tanamachi grabbed a box of bright chalk—a departure from her usual white—and got to work in the Chelsea studio where we were shooting. She doodled and sketched before taking her work full-scale. "Chalk is so temporary. I can make big, messy strokes, then erase and add. I just carve away and embellish until I end up with my final design."
Entertainer extraordinaire Jennifer Lopez helps the O team create some major glamour.
When hairstylist Ken Paves (third from left) arrived at the Meatpacking District warehouse turned studio where we shot "Jennifer Lopez Is in the House!", he found our eight makeover candidates relaxing and grazing on fruit and yogurt. But at noon, when Lopez showed up for her stint as surprise stylist, the set suddenly buzzed with excitement.
Lopez's engaging personality helped calm nerves all around. "The ladies never had a chance to be starstruck because Jennifer was warm and laughing," says Paves. "They were like old friends." Her rousing call to the group: "You ready? Come on, baby—let's do this!"