When it comes to beauty, we all have our firsts—our first beauty lipstick, our first perfume, our first experience of testing a bold eye shadow on the back of our hands before swiping it across our lids with little attention to precision. And it's these early brushes with beauty that help us evolve our own beauty journeys. Follow us in our new series, First Brush With Beauty, as we revisit beauty firsts. Today we're talking to Rio Viera-Newton, a super-cool New York–based beauty writer who is best known for her BS-free beauty column for NYMag's The Strategist. A self-professed beauty junkie, there aren't many things Rio won't try in the name of beauty—she even recently dyed her dark brown hair platinum blonde. Keep reading for her first brushes with beauty.
When was your first brush with beauty?
"Well, my earliest beauty memory is pretty unfortunate. Growing up, I had really big, bushy eyebrows that I hated—I used to get teased a lot for them. So one night I snuck into my sister's room, stole her razor, and then proceeded to shave half my eyebrow off in an attempt to make them thinner. Unfortunately, I did this a few days before my yearbook photo was taken, so my fourth-grade class photo is terrifying. But this event did scare me so badly that I became pretty conservative with my brow hair removal at a young age—which I'm grateful for!"
Who has taught you the biggest beauty lessons?
"My mom was, and continues to be, my biggest beauty inspiration. At a really young age, she taught me that makeup can be this incredible tool to express yourself and that it's there to have fun with. She's always been fearless with her makeup—I mean, her staple of 30 years is bright green Chanel eyeliner on her waterline."
What was the first beauty product you bought?
"My sister, Harley, used to wear MAC's Ruby Woo every day—she still does. I remember being about sixteen and thinking to myself, I want a signature lipstick too. So I went to Sephora and I picked out this Nars Matte lipstick in the shade Heat Wave—it was this really pretty bright orange. I was obsessed with it. When I look through old photos of myself in high school, the lipstick is in almost every shot."
Have you ever made any beauty mistakes? Do you even believe in the concept?
"When it comes to makeup, I think experimenting and finding out what suits your face and makes you feel good is all a part of the process. So I actually, in a way, encourage makeup 'mistakes.' With skincare, it can be a little more difficult, as I've definitely tried and tested products that my skin did not agree with and it's broken me out or given me rashes."
Think back to your teens—who was the beauty idol we'd find on your bedroom wall?
"When I was in high school, I watched The Big Sleep in a film class and became obsessed with Lauren Bacall—I thought she was the chicest woman in the world. I used to curl my hair and do a really deep side part to try to achieve her quintessential Hollywood glam. And I wouldn't reserve this hairstyle for special occasions—I'd wear it to school and everything. I still to this day love the way the hairstyle frames your face."
What's the one perfume that can transport you somewhere else? Where does it take you?
"I got this delicious Jasmine Tom Ford perfume for Christmas that reminds me so much of spending afternoons sitting outside in my family garden."
Is there any part of your beauty routine that you've never changed?
"I've always been really into getting white polish on my toenails. Don't ask me why, but it's my go-to and has been for a while."
What was the beauty trend that defined your youth?
"When I was young, my friends and I were obsessed with Victoria Secret lip glosses. I honestly still love them—they give the most dramatic plump, glossy and shimmery lips."
How do you think beauty standards have changed since growing up and now? Has the change been positive?
"I think beauty standards have changed massively as a result of social media. There's obviously pros and cons, but what I think is great is that the individual now has the platform and therefore the power to challenge traditional definitions of beauty."
What beauty advice would you go back and tell your 10-year-old self?
"Don't try to be or look like anyone else!"
Quickfire round: This or that?
Juicy Tubes or Lip Smackers? Juicy Tubes
Highlight or contour? Highlight
Blue eye shadow or blue mascara? Eye shadow
Big lips or big brows? Big Brows!
Facial or manicure? Please don’t make me choose.
For more beauty firsts, check out our interview with Gary Thompson, aka The Plastic Boy.