Makeup, beauty and skincare influencers populate my Instagram search suggestions (cats too, but that’s another story). And it’s rare these days that one will break through the background noise. Andreea Ali is an exception.
The Paris-based makeup artist and beauty influencer stood out from the rest. I found myself mesmerized by her cosmetic tutorials, going down the rabbit hole of watching her execute, on herself, one flawless look after another. I might even have bought a lipstick or two at her recommendation.
I am far from alone in my fandom. With a large social media following: 685,000 followers on Instagram and 1.33 million YouTube subscribers to date, it’s clear that others — many others — share this enthusiasm. Her A-list roster of clients which includes some of the world’s great beauties — Angelina Jolie, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Natalia Vodianova and Candice Swanepoel among others — provides the ultimate professional imprimatur.
But there was something more to it than witnessing the transformative power of expertly applied foundation and eyeliner. There are myriad makeup artists and beauty entrepreneurs who do the same thing. Andreea is indeed beautiful and the fact that this 38 year-old mother of one often features fashion, favorite Parisian haunts and glimpses of her family life, keeps things interesting. Doubtless, the high-quality videos, produced by her husband, Alex Rosu, add to the appeal.
Still, there’s more to it than that. A softly accented English adds to the charm. Perhaps the lack of pretension and the quiet self-confidence were born out of a passion for the craft — a passion that took hold in childhood. Perhaps it has its origins in this Romanian native’s ability to uproot herself and become successful in a new country without even initially knowing the language. (For the record, Andreea is currently fluent in four languages: Romanian, French, English and German.) Or maybe it has to do with her grounded upbringing.
Curiosity took hold and so, on a rainy autumn evening in Paris, I found myself in Andreea’s studio, talking at length over cups of tea, about her start in the world of makeup artistry, her collaborations (there are a few), and on balancing motherhood with a busy career. And of course, we parsed her favorite products and makeup tips. All makeup in the photos is by Andreea Ali.
Paris – baptism by fire
“When I came to Paris, my life basically started all over,” says Andreea. “It was a rebirth.” It all began seven years ago when the newlywed, happily settled in Romania, working as a makeup artist and posting tutorials on YouTube, was recruited by Anastasia Beverly Hills to work for the brand at Sephora in Paris. She turned them down not once, but twice.
“I was happy and self-sufficient and I just said ‘No, thank you. I’m good where I am.’” But, with coaxing from Anastasia’s glamorous representatives and with her father’s encouragement, she eventually agreed even if her husband wasn’t initially keen on the idea. “I said to him “You love me. You’ll follow me.’ He came four months later. But those first four months marked the biggest change of my life.”
For starters, having a boss and a schedule took some getting used to for the self-employed entrepreneur. Second, Andreea didn’t know the language. “I knew only how to do Anastasia’s eyebrow routine in French and that’s only because one of our colleagues taught us how to memorize it.” Quotidien necessities like finding an apartment, opening a bank account, even getting a phone was complicated. “Everything was really hard to achieve,” says Andreea.
On top of that were the challenges of the job. “We came here – four Romanian girls working for Anastasia, covering all of France. A few days a week, we would be at Sephora Champs Elysées which is one of the biggest Sephoras in the world. That Sephora has more customers than the Eiffel Tower has tourists! That’s how it used to be before Covid. It was crazy, pure craziness!” recounts Andreea. “The noise and the music and all the fragrances, it was draining, especially when I had to work the late shift. In those days, the store used to stay open until midnight.”
Responsibilities also included traveling to Sephora stores all over France. “I went everywhere, taking the train from Paris to Nantes, Blois, Bourges, Lille, Brest which is the western most city in France, teaching staff how to use our products. This, in and of itself, was a challenge because occasionally the staff would tell me they didn’t have time for me and could I come back? Well, of course I couldn’t, I had just come from Paris! So, I would just sit in the store for two hours, praying for customers to come because I was bored.”
The stint with Anastasia at Sephora lasted the better part of a year. “After nine months, I quit, but I am forever grateful to the brand and the founder, Anastasia Soare and to the team with whom I am still very close to.” The lessons gleaned were priceless.
“I learned so much from that job,” says Andreea. I didn’t realize then all the ways this job would change my life.” For instance, “I could see what women were buying and I was blown away by how much money they spent on makeup,” elaborates Andreea. “And I saw how they did their makeup and it didn’t look expensive. It didn’t look as good as it could.” A two-sided video showing makeup dos and don’ts was the result. “On one side of my face, I showed how most women were applying cosmetics and on the other side, I applied the makeup the way I thought it should look:”
That tutorial, Makeup Mistakes to Avoid, was posted in the summer of 2017 and it went viral.
Requests for makeup applications started pouring in. “People whom I wouldn’t have thought were watching, like the Duchess of Luxembourg, hired me to do their makeup.”
Then came the pandemic. A mention in The New York Times during lockdown accelerated viewership even more. “Covid was another big thing for me,” says Andreea. “For the rest of the world, it was a huge drop. For me, it was a huge rise – in terms of viewership, in terms of jobs, but mostly it was connecting with people.”
Her output was prolific. “I am not the type of person to sit at home and do nothing,” says the influencer. So, inspired by what she was wearing, or a playlist or a pair of earrings, Andreea posted a new makeup look every day. “I connected the look with the makeup and people would just watch. They were curious because each day was different.”
It wasn’t long before celebrity clients started calling and then collaboration opportunities came knocking. To date, there are three such endeavors: a red lipstick with La Bouche Rouge, a sustainable, clean French cosmetics brand (“It was a huge success”); a line of jewelry inspired by the important people in her life with Cinco, a Portuguese company (“The founders are like family now. We go on vacation together — all thanks to the love we share for beauty and jewelry.”); loungewear collection with New York-based Skin — “I found them on Net-a-Porter while I was pregnant. I was looking for comfortable, but cute loungewear. I tagged them on my Instagram. The founder reached out to me and we met in Cannes.”)
All this came from a low-key YouTube start. Launched in 2015, her channel had about 5,000 subscribers in Romania when Andreea first arrived in Paris. She spoke Romanian in those videos, which were filmed by her husband while she was applying makeup on models, friends and actresses. At the time, “it didn’t even cross my mind to apply makeup on myself,” recalls the influencer. But, in Paris she found no takers. “No one wanted to be my model, not even my colleagues at Sephora,” she says. Distraught at the possibility of having to discontinue her channel, she turned to her husband for advice. Her response upon his suggestion that she use herself as a model was unequivocal: “Absolutely not! I’m a professional makeup artist. What would people think? First of all, I don’t have the features of a model. I have so many flaws.”
But she went ahead and in her words, “the very first video was kind of a disaster. I still had toothpaste on the corner of my mouth.”
Viewership picked up and picked up again when she began filming the videos in English. “One day I decided to do everything in English and that’s when I saw a big, big shift.”
Andreea’s passion for makeup and her command of English are both rooted in her childhood. English lessons from a neighbor helped her master the language and an aunt who worked in Germany helped spark her love of cosmetics. Her aunt happened to work for Schwan-Stabilo, one of the largest makeup manufacturers in the world. “They create every pencil you could possibly think of – Dior, Chanel, Maybelline, NYX – everything that comes in a pencil form – lipstick, lipliner, eyeliner – is made there,” informs Andreea. “My aunt would send products. I didn’t even know who Dior was, but I was so, so interested and incredibly happy whenever I would receive something from her.”
When her mother’s friends came over, Andreea would imagine how the new colors she received would look on them and how she would make up their faces. She was only eight or nine years old at the time. A few years later, she was allowed to apply products on her mother’s friends. “It was endearing and fun until they realized that I was actually good at it,” she recalls, smiling.
Fast forward to college where she got a job as the makeup artist for the most popular a television news program in Romania. “I remember I went there and one of the reporters said ‘I heard that you were going to do magic, so I’m waiting for this magic to happen.’ I started doing her makeup and she was like ‘Oh my God, you’re actually really good.’ And they hired me. It was my first year of college. I would do the makeup every day before they went live.”
That kind of gig is quite a coup for a college student. “I was so happy!” says Andreea, “because until that moment, it was just a passion, something I loved doing. But it was a confirmation that I was actually good at this.”
After graduation, she immersed herself in an intense, year-long aesthetician course that was heavily based on chemistry, focusing on products’ ingredients, how they work together and how to layer them.
During the course, she also learned “how to think about a look, where to get inspiration, how to look at a person and decide what to change, what to keep – how to preserve the beauty of a woman. That was the best foundation I could have had at that time,” says Andreea. Stints with magazines, assisting other makeup artists and doing makeup for the stage soon followed.
“When I came to Paris, I had a really good base,” says Andreea. “Here, I didn’t start from scratch professionally. I started from scratch personally. Everything was different. The apartments were small, the language, culture and food were all different. But with makeup, I had a good base.”
A sense of accomplishment
I asked Andreea how, picking up her life, moving somewhere totally new and landing on her feet affected her self-confidence, her self-esteem. Does she feel like she can touch down anywhere now and be able to make her way? “For sure,” was her response. “Now, you could take everything material from me and I can move just like I did seven years ago when I came to Paris with just two suitcases and my cat and my husband. Now, I feel like I could move anywhere in the world. All I need is to be healthy physically and mentally.”
MAKEUP TIPS, PRODUCTS AND CAREER ADVICE
What’s the biggest mistake people make when they apply makeup?
The most common mistake is to assume that buying expensive products will give you the results you want. Expensive or not, you need to know how to apply the product. [To that end, Andreea’s YouTube channel has many tutorials.]
Any favorite products? And tips?
In terms of skin care, the most important thing is SPF. I know that you hear this over and over again, but I recently had a doctor on my YouTube channel and he demonstrated with photos — after studying 500,000 people — the one thing that makes a difference to skin is not Vitamin C or moisturizer. It’s sunscreen. I really love the one from Summer Fridays — SPF 30.
For makeup, Luminous Silk from Giorgio Armani is a beautiful foundation that works on most people. But, if your skin is dry, especially for mature women, there’s a product from Danessa Myricks. It’s called Yummy Skin Serum. It’s absolutely transformative. Outstanding product.
In terms of easy products for cheeks, I prefer creams — everything from Westman Atelier — all the colors are amazing — the Baby Cheeks, those sticks are easy to use. And if you’re looking for something that’s more affordable, but not cheap, I love the DreamSticks from Persona Cosmetics. They’re very easy to blend.
If you’re someone who loves a cheek powder product — like blush or bronzer — I’ve never seen a formula better than Valentino Beauty. Their blushes and their powders in general are exceptional — an investment, for sure.
When it comes to lips, I’m a huge lover of a lip routine. I always go for a lipliner, lipstick and then maybe something hydrating on top. I will always apply lip liner. I love Anastasia Beverly Hills lip liners. There are two shades that are absolutely gorgeous on every skin tone: Deep Taupe and Parchment (for deeper skin).
And then for lipsticks — Lisa Eldridge has amazing, beautiful velvet lipsticks.
The best eye pencils – if you like a good black, I would recommend Makeup by Mario — the blackest black — it doesn’t smudge. If you’re looking for the best blue, there’s a spectacular blue from Violette FR. She does color like nobody else. And for me, the best mascara of all time is YSL Lash Clash.
Finally, any advice for someone looking to become a makeup artist?
The only thing you need to do is apply makeup on people, take pictures and analyze your work, looking for ways to improve it. Do this day after day, week after week. Things come a lot harder than you think. For those people for whom success happens super fast, they are an exception. For most people, it takes time. It takes time to have the clients that you dream of. It takes time to work with the brands you dream of. That’s the reality. Everything takes time. You need patience and persistence.