Celebrity Beauty

Priscilla Ono On Glamming Rihanna, Her Dream Met Gala Theme, & More

Rihanna’s longtime makeup artist chats with Bustle.

Makeup artist Priscilla Ono chats with Bustle about working with stars like Rihanna, her dream Met G...
Secret/Priscilla Ono

When you see an iconic look on Rihanna, the makeup artist behind the glam is most likely Priscilla Ono, who has been in the industry for over 19 years.

And while the sought-after makeup maven is no doubt the Barbadian artist’s right hand (she even pulled off her iconic red lip beauty moment for the Super Bowl halftime, which she describes simply as “chef’s kiss”), she has also worked with icons like Bella Hadid, Megan Thee Stallion, and countless other A-list faces in recent past. Her signature? A flawless, full-beat complexion with gorgeous dimension and radiance in all the right places. Crisp, precise lips that are painted to absolute perfection. And versatile artistry that is truly unafraid of colorful, out-there pigments.

Ahead of the 2023 Met Gala — which is essentially the fashion equivalent of the Super Bowl, ICYWW — I chatted with Ono over Zoom to talk all things Met Gala, what it’s like getting ready in the glam room ahead of major events, and the unexpected essential she keeps in her kit.

This year more than others, I'm really not sure what the Met Gala carpet is going to look like. Do you have any predictions on 2023 glam trends?

“It’s Karl Lagerfeld, so I’m thinking that a lot of people are going to celebrate his work — not only with Chanel, but with his own brand that he had. Looking back at some of the looks that he created in the past, I think everything is going to come back down to this classic kind of era. Very mod, ’60s, red lips are probably going to be huge. I think [it will be] refreshing, because what we’ve seen in the past couple of years, everything has been over the top [with] feather lashes and crazy makeup, [and] I think this is going to bring it back to classic Hollywood makeup.”

How do you keep a makeup look (especially red lipstick) looking perfect all night long for an event like the Met?

“Especially for red carpets or performances, you need to use products that are more durable. Sometimes [that means] a foundation meant for oily skin, [and] a powder meant for oily skin. And when you’re using a lip color — especially a red — you want to use something that is either matte or semi-matte. You don’t want to use too matte of a lip on a red carpet because it does tend to look a little dry, so you want something in-between which is usually a satin finish.”

I also do this technique for lips where I do ‘reverse lip liner.’ I take a little bit of foundation and go around the lip. It kind of creates a barrier around the lip so it locks it in place. It’s almost like making a little wall around the lip so it’s not bleeding throughout the day.”

What would your dream Met Gala theme be, and what look would you create for it?

“I would love to see an Old Hollywood theme, where everyone comes in beautiful sequin dresses and the makeup was Old Hollywood like Marilyn Monroe with a lash, a liner, a red lip, and the beautiful, carved-out eyes. Old Hollywood just does it for me when it comes to makeup, and I’m always referencing ’50s and ’60s black-and-white films. There is so much elegance, and it would be really nice to see everyone class it up.”

A random aside, but when I was a little girl, our family Halloween parties were like our personal Met Galas. One year, I dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz — but the twist was I was fully in black and white, before the film turns to color. I can see a very ‘camp’ version of that for your Old Hollywood theme on the carpet.

“I love your brain, yes! You know, it’s so funny you say that — I want to say about eight years ago, I did a greyscale makeup look for me and my friend Amber Rose. We looked like we were in a black-and-white film, and everyone’s jaws were on the floor.

If someone showed up [to the Met Gala] in black and white, that would be sickening.”

You've worked with so many icons over the years. What is the vibe usually like when you get ready for major events?

“I am very lucky. All of my clients have these amazing, fun personalities, and it’s always an experience. The personalities that you see on TV, on camera, and on the streets is the same as they are when they are sitting in your chair, and I think that a lot of my clients are very authentic. I can’t pick a specific moment, but I do just enjoy those moments of watching TV, laughing, eating, just talking. It’s almost like you’re in a room with your girlfriends just getting ready. It’s a slumber party vibe which I love.”

Tell me more about your partnership with Secret. What is the one product that you always keep in your bag?

“I have been wearing Secret Deodorant since I was 12 years old. As a makeup artist, people would be surprised what’s in my set bag. I basically have to be prepared for anything, and deodorant is actually something I always carry. I’m in love with the Weightless Dry Spray ($8.50; target.com) because of its 48-hour sweat and odor protection. I also love that it’s a spray applicator, so the share-ability quality is amazing. At these big events, like the Met Gala that’s coming up, you don’t want deodorant stains on the clothes, so having [the formula] be invisible is a huge thing for me.

Also, the scents are amazing, [and] I’m kind of obsessed with the Waterlily + Argon Oil scent. Sometimes I’m wearing it and my client is like, ‘You smell amazing. What perfume are you wearing?’ — so that just tells you how good they smell.”