Recreating Aaliyah's Smoldering '90s Makeup Look

It's all about the brows, the (strategic) bronzer, and the brick red lip.
Publish date:
August 20, 2014
YSL, giorgio armani, nars, Hourglass, Urban Decay, 90s Week, dark lipstick, Aaliyah

Not to sound like a BuzzFeed article, but other decades don't hold a candle to the '90s, especially when it comes to music: Shania Twain felt like a woman, Usher wanted to leave the one he was with, and TLC warned us about chasing waterfalls. But the most poignant message of all, "age ain't nothing but a number," came from Aaliyah, who, at age 22, was taken too soon in a 2001 plane crash.

At five years old, I was one of her biggest fans. She was like the older sister I never had, even though I do have an older sister...but whatever. I have always been in awe of baby girl’s effortless style and simple yet classic makeup. When I was thinking about options for a '90s throwback tutorial, my heart knew there was no one I'd rather pay homage to than Aaliyah.


I applied Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer and let it fully absorb for five minutes. Afterward, I dabbed YSL Touché Éclat into the inner corners of my eyes and blended outward. I also used it to cover blemishes and hyper-pigmentation.

Then I blotted cream foundation onto my cheeks, forehead, and nose to even out my complexion and create highlights.

Along my hairline, chin, and just below my cheekbones I applied Giorgio Armani Maestro Liquid Bronzer. I also used a small shadow brush to dust bronzer along the sides of my nose, starting at my brows and finishing at the bridge of my nose to make it appear slimmer (like Aaliyah's).

I swept a little NARS Blush in Dolce Vita on the apples of my cheeks, but was careful not to smother the highlights.

Then I took the glow one step further and used a sponge to pat The Body Shop Radiant Highlighter on my temples, upper cheekbones, along the middle of my nose, and right into the center of my upper lip.


It seemed like everyone over-plucked their eyebrows in the ‘90s, except for Aaliyah, who clearly understood the importance of a nicely shaped brow.

I brushed my own bushy tails upward and filled them in using Tarte Amazonian Clay Brow Mousse. Then I swiped concealer along the bottoms and tops of my brows to cover any loose hairs and create a more defined arch.

**Not Pictured: At the end of the tutorial I decided to go back in and extend my brows at the ends and add more definition closer to my nose.


I wanted to keep the eye shadow simple so the eyeliner and mascara could do all the talking. After priming my lids, I reached for my Urban Decay Naked2 Palette and paired Chopper, a peach-gold, with Snakebite, a smoky brown. Then I tightlined my bottom and upper lid using a black pencil and went over it with a liquid liner. I finished the whole shebang off with mascara.


The most '90s thing about Aaliyah was her love of dark brown and burgundy lipsticks. Lip liner, too, but then again, everyone was riding that wagon. I wanted to meet somewhere in the middle, thus I went for the Marcelle Plumping Lipliner in Cinnamon and Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Toast of New York. The color didn’t feel deep enough so I also added a swipe of Sultry Sable, also from Revlon.

And there you have it: Zoe Badley as Aaliyah. I think we should all tweet this photo to Champagne Papi to let him know what’s up. You know, just in case he’s ever in town and wants to meet up or something. Help a sister out, you guys!

But anyway, enough of this gibberish, tell me what you think. Do you have any suggestions on what I could’ve done better? What's your favorite Aaliyah song? Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when you found out she had died?