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The 3 Makeup Artists Ushering In A New Era At Chanel Beauty

Valentina Li, Ammy Drammeh, and Cécile Paravina are shaking things up at the iconic brand.

Courtesy of CHANEL

On a balmy day in St. Tropez, in a villa tucked within lush green hills, makeup artists Valentina Li, Ammy Drammeh, and Cécile Paravina mingle with editors from around the world to share their unique approaches to beauty. On display throughout the property, like museum pieces, are the treasured personal items that have inspired them the most. For Drammeh, there are brown-toned beauty looks from early 2000s music videos playing on loop; for Li, it’s a colorful garment from her hometown in Guangxi, China, hand-dyed by her mother; for Paravina, there are pages from a book on color theory by Japanese artist Sanzo Wada.

Any artist will tell you that creating art can be solitary and isolating, often requiring a delicate (and exhausting) balance of introspection and inspiration. But what if artists didn’t have to create alone, but could collaborate with one another instead? This was the question Chanel asked that led to the creation of the brand’s new Cometes Collective: a beauty think-tank of sorts led by Li, Drammeh, and Paravina. In 2024, the three makeup artists will bring their diverse perspectives to the luxury house and, for the first time ever, collaborate to help “expand Chanel’s palette of colors and shades, re-interpret icons, and re-invent and enrich the house’s creative language.”

Courtesy of CHANEL

In person, they are a striking trio. Drammeh has the soft allure of a ’90s-era star herself, Paravina exudes a quiet intensity that draws you in, and Li, with her shock of electric-blue hair, talks of light and water and magic with a palpable passion. Having worked in the lab alongside each other for a few weeks already, the three creatives now have an easygoing camaraderie, finishing each other’s sentences and lauding accolades for one another amongst peals of laughter. “For some projects, we start individually and then we regroup,” says Paravina of their collaborative process. “And then we compare, we talk, we communicate, we give opinions, and we try to help each other adjust. But it’s also important for us to respect our own individuality and artistic choices.”

Like opposing colors on a color wheel, the three of them reflect and represent the differing parts of their inner selves — a process that seems to complement their unique strengths, rather than compromise. “As makeup artists, we normally work by ourselves in a little world we’ve created, but sometimes it does feel lonely,” says Li. “We need someone to share the same passion, to understand us.”

As the Cometes Collective, Drammeh, Paravina, and Li have been tasked to rethink the role color plays in our makeup routines, and they will be dreaming up all-new Chanel Beauty products launching in 2024. Historically, color has always been a central part of Chanel heritage — the fashion house was the first to turn black, a color traditionally reserved for mourning, into what is now widely regarded as the chicest (and most versatile) shade in one’s wardrobe. The brand’s signature red, reflected in Coco Chanel’s first Rouge Allure lipstick, represents the fiery energy and courage of the founder herself.

Ahead, Bustle sits down exclusively with Chanel’s Cometes Collective to learn more about their unique backgrounds, their inspirations, and a hint of what’s to come.

Ammy Drammeh

Describe where you grew up.

“I grew up in Barcelona where there wasn’t much diversity. I was the only Black person in the whole town — just me and my dad and my two brothers. I think the challenges of growing up in a place where there is a lack of diversity is that I needed to be more imaginative — that fueled this desire to create something with makeup.”

What’s your earliest makeup memory?

“I was 13 years old at school and my classmate Sarah brought this book that was given to her for her birthday — it was by Kevyn Aucoin. I started to practice those techniques on my classmates. After school, they would all come to my house and I would do their makeup using the contents of my mom’s makeup bag. She had probably five, six makeup products tops, so I would mix things and make it work.”

What are you inspired by?

“I found my representation on MTV music videos. I was obsessed with these amazing, beautiful people who I could see myself in. The makeup shades used in these music videos, they were very modern already. The artists were mixing all these different textures, like the the mattest-matte with metallics and metal glosses. What I try to do usually, and what Chanel also does, is take something that already exists and then transform it into something that serves you.”

How would you describe your collaborators’ beauty aesthetic?

“Cécile has amazing attention to detail. She is very particular about her colors and her textures, and is very, very precise — it’s amazing. Valentina, the way she sees beauty is just really different. It goes beyond makeup.”

Valentina Li

Describe where you grew up.

“I’m from a small village in Guangxi, in the south of China. It was really rural, so we didn’t get a lot of information from the outside world. Growing up, I spent quite a lot of time climbing trees and running in nature. That was my freedom, physically. But after a while, I was like, ‘OK, I really need to see the outside world.’ From age 12, I knew that I would eventually live in Shanghai. It’s the most international city, and there’s so much energy there.”

What are you inspired by?

“I spent a lot of my childhood painting in my room. At that time, I would pick up a red flower and paint it purple on the paper, and I would paint the green leaves into blue. Nobody told me that you couldn’t do that. To me, makeup is another form of painting. To be honest, it’s a more interesting form because normally, when we paint, we paint on a blank canvas, right? But when we do makeup, we’re painting on a living figure. We have different complexions, we have different facial expressions, we have different eye shapes, and there’s quite a lot that’s configured — for example, the same color blue on my skin tone would look completely different on Ammy.

I was so fascinated by Japanese manga. I watched a lot of Sailor Moon. In the manga, a lot of magical things happen — you can change your hair color easily. I feel like being a makeup artist gives me the same power to transform. And with transformation, comes empowerment — whether it’s within myself, or someone I’m doing makeup on.”

How would you describe your co-collaborators’ makeup aesthetic?

“For Ammy, it’s fierce elegance and a bold yet classic approach. Cécile is a romantic perfectionist. It’s beyond forward, limitless — her vision of beauty is truly unique.”

Cecile Paravina

Describe where you grew up.

“I grew up in the northeast of France in a super-small village. At the time that I lived there, there were 1,000 inhabitants. It was just me and the cows.”

How did that environment influence your approach to makeup?

“There are actually a lot of cultural, historical relics in my town of a time when this area of France was more wealthy. It’s where Art Nouveau was born. So you have [Jacques] Majorelle, Émile Gallé, and artists who really introduced the world to Art Nouveau. It’s a region that is really famous for glass and crystal making — Baccarat is from there.

But as a kid, I didn’t really know it was there. It was just this soft influence on me.”

What are you inspired by?

“I’m really into how Art Nouveau depicts nature, shapes, and color — color through glass and how glass reflects color. I’ve kind of just gone full nerd-style into it. I was a creative kid. I wanted to draw; I liked to paint; I liked to knit, to sew stuff. So I had this creative thing, but also I had like a real hunger for culture — but it wasn’t really available in my hometown. So I had to fight for it — basically, I had to go and find it myself on Tumblr when I was a teenager.

Then, a bit later, when my career started taking off, I had a bit more budget to afford books, and I started collecting them. The Sanzo Wada book on display is actually from the ’30s — he’s a painter and a history-maker from Tokyo and he created this tool to help other artists and designers create better color combinations.

I really like using books for references because there’s something about the texture, the printing, the aging of these books — because most of them are old, and most of my collection is from the ’70s era in Japan — that’s super inspiring. I take them out, I leave them on the table, and maybe if I’m starting a new project like now with Chanel, a book can really came in handy to start reflecting on color.”

How would you describe your co-collaborators’ makeup aesthetic?

“Ammy really cares about people at more at the core of her practice. It’s about emotion and how she interacts with colors in her work. Valentina is the funny one. She says that all the time — like Ammy and I are two boring human beings. [Laughs]

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.