Porsche Cooper

You've seen strobing on the runways, but if you're like us, you're unsure of how that look translates on a black canvas. Celebrity makeup artist, Porsche Cooper, teaches us what it is, how to do it, and what products to use.

Virginia Lowman
Aug, 07, 2015

Porsche Cooper has 'made up' some of Hollywood's biggest stars. Scroll through the contact list in her phone or the various clients on roster, and for a second, you may think that you're reading the celebrity yellow pages. Talent aside, she is infamous for a number of things— namely: her signature red lip (it's Guerlain "Garçonne", by the way), her winged liner and her voluminous hair. 

A few minutes into the conversation, a few things become clear: Porsche is true to her roots. She has business savvy that is quintessential New York, but warmth and personality that can only be found in the South—scratch that—it can only be found in Texas. A Dallas native, Porsche moved to the City after undergrad to pursue her dream of working in fashion and becoming a makeup artist. One would think that a renowned makeup artists' primary beauty icon would be Iman or Grace Jones— Porsche's ultimate beauty icon is her mother. In fact, her signature beauty look can be fully attributed to Mama Cooper. Last and probably most evidently, Porsche is a true beauty girl and she really knows her stuff. With a mature beauty vernacular and a diverse body of product knowledge, even I had a few moments during our interview when I found myself feverishly taking notes on beauty tips I'd never heard before; tips I will now refer to as "Porsche Beautyisms."

We had a chance to chat with artist to discuss beauty faux pas' and the latest beauty trend: strobing. Read through to find out what she had to say!

ESSENCE: What's your take on strobing and can you define what it is?
COOPER: The term is new, but the actual technique has been done backstage at fashion week for years. It is basically a form of extreme highlighting. Most people think of contouring as a marriage— if you highlight you need to contour and vice versa—strobing [breaks up that marriage] takes out the harsh and the heavy contouring so that you can have more natural, youthful and luxurious looking skin. [Strobing] focuses on the high plains of the face: the forehead, the cheekbones, the bow of the lip, the bridge of the nose, the brow bone and inner corners of the eyes and the chin. When it comes to beauty and fashion, sometimes people need a new term or approach to get them excited about something that they may have already been doing or something that's been [remixed] from the past; that's what happening with highlighting and strobing.

ESSENCE: When you execute this extreme highlighting or "strobing," are there particular shades or textures that you recommend for women of color?
COOPER: When we talk about highlighting, it reflects light from your face, so you want to make sure that the undertone of the highlighter is complimentary to your skin tone. If you have more of a fair complexion, you want to use something that's more of a pinky-beige highlight. If you have more of a caramel to light brown skin tone, stick to a peachy or golden glow like a champagne color, and if you have a rich brown ebony skin tone, then deep golden hues like bronze shades or burnt orange sheen look really beautiful on the skin because they're closer to your skin tone but they also add warmth than what your natural skin would radiate. Beware of the 24K supreme gold highlighters because if it's too gold for your complexion it can look a little dated. As it relates to texture, you should definitely keep in mind what your skin type is. If you have combination or super oily skin, then you may want to be on the minimalist side of strobing. Make sure that you use a mattifying primer—I like Peter Thomas Roth— so that you don't end up a shiny messy as a result of the natural oil that your skin produces mixing with the high shine of a highlighter. If you have an oily t-zone tone you may not want to highlight your forehead.

ESSENCE: Do you recommend using a brush, your fingers or a sponge like a BeautyBlender?
COOPER: Here's the thing: I'm a little old school when it comes to tools. I know a lot of people like foundation brushes when it comes to that sort of thing, [but] I'm more of a fingertip and a sponge kind of girl. As it relates to liquids and creams, I like to apply the product to the back of my hand and let your body heat cook the product so that it melts into the skin as you apply it, then use the ring finger to apply it where needed. For those who are heavy handed, or have an issue with blending, I'm a huge fan of the BeautyBlender— I think it's an awesome product and I wish I'd invented it! After using your fingers, stipple the area using the BeautyBlender to prevent the makeup from looking streaky

ESSENCE: Do you have any shortcuts for perfecting the strobing look?
COOPER: Before you add color to your skin it's really important that your canvas is hydrated and your imperfections are concealed. If you have blemish marks all over your face and then you go in with a highlighter, you're only going to draw more attention to your imperfections. Make sure that your canvas is concealed and you're even toned and then you can go in and apply the highlighting and the blush color that you want. So, hydrate your canvas, prep with a primer, even your skin tone, then start with a liquid highlighter and blend with your BeautyBlender, set with a sheer or loose powder using your fan brush and finish with a finishing spray like Caudalie Beauty Elixir.

ESSENCE: Do you have specific products that you like to use for strobing?
COOPER: One of my absolute favorite highlighters is a liquid because I feel like they melt into the skin and mimic the natural texture of skin and give a more natural finish than powder ever could. My favorite liquid highlighter is Becca Illuminating Skin Perfector. Their Moonstone shade is a pale gold that's great on golden complexions, and their Topaz shade is a golden bronze pearl which is great for rich and ebony brown skin complexions. I also like Chanel Sheer Illuminating Fluid in Sunkissed, which is really gorgeous on brown skin when paired with their Illuminating Powder. Tom Ford Illuminating Skin Duo is another favorite. It has two different colors, one of which is a highlighter and the other is a golden color that when layered together look really great on brown skin. If you pick up both on your brush you can custom blend them for your skin tone. Lastly, I also really love Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder— they've been out for a while, but they're really one of the most beautiful highlighting powders because the shimmer is so fine.

ESSENCE: Is strobing great for every occasion?
COOPER: There are levels to strobing. I don't think that you have to dull your shine for work, but I do think that you should keep strobing to a minimum. For example, perhaps when you strobe at work you focus on the inner corners of your eyes, the high points of your cheekbones and the bridge of your nose. For girl's night out, definitely go all out since glowing skin looks great in dimmer lighting. Just make sure that regardless of the occasion that your makeup is really well blended. That's the key—strobing needs to look believable.

ESSENCE: Lastly, do you have any advice for the strobing novice?
COOPER: Pick your best feature and custom strobe. Everyone should not try to strobe like the next person. Of course blending is a high priority and I also highly recommend taking a photo before you walk out of the house to see how the products will look to other people.