Why Charli XCX Lives For Champagne, Britney Spears, and Glitter

Make Up For Ever
Make Up For Ever

When I met with Charli XCX to discuss her new collaboration with Make Up For Ever, I was immediately struck (and impressed) by her willingness to experiment with beauty. She sat before me sporting a dramatic, gradated cobalt and turquoise cat eye that extended to the tail of her eyebrows. It was flashy, graphic, and impossibly cool.

I should have expected this from her — Charli is clearly a risk-taker, and not just when it comes to beauty. The British electro-pop performer started making music when she was just 14 and began performing in illegal warehouse raves two years after that. Her gritty, synth-heavy sound truly blew up stateside in 2012, when she cowrote and was a featured singer on Icona Pop's "I Love It." In 2014, Charli went on to contribute vocals to Iggy Azalea's hit "Fancy" and release "Boom Clap," cementing her as an international pop star.

When you're as edgy, charming, and fun as Charli, you need the perfect artist to translate your essence to makeup. For the past two years, she's been working with her makeup artist and BFF Colby Smith to create music-festival-worthy faces.

The musician calls her signature look a cat eye, but like I said, it's not the perfectly polite swipe of liner that you might see on Lauren Conrad — Charli's wing is whatever she wants it to be when she wakes up that morning.

"The thing that affects my makeup choices is just how I feel when I wake up," she said. "That really decides if I'm going to have a full face or nothing at all, black or color."

That's why the new Make Up For Ever Aqua XL Eye Pencils ($21 each, available in May) are basically a dream come true for her. "I go pretty hard when I'm on stage. I party and I sweat," Charli told me. "It's taken me a really long time to find a product that allows me to do my signature look and supports what I do as an artist." She declared these new liners as "game changing."

Having tried the product myself, I completely agree. Aqua XL Eye Pencils were tested under running water to ensure they held up to their long-wearing claims. After sketching on the back of my hand, I rubbed each vibrant streak aggressively to find that not only was the formula ultra lightweight (I couldn't feel it on my skin!), but it wouldn't budge even when scratched with a fingernail.

The pencils come in 20 shades, including canary yellow, emerald green, and glimmering black. While you might be intimidated by some of the more unusual options, don't be: they're shockingly wearable. Colby told me that M-92, the milky lavender hue, was a chic alternative to nude liner on the waterline. "It gives a little hint of purple — just to brighten up the eye and pull out any lighter tones in the eye to make them look a little more fresh," he gushed.

Charli is particularly obsessed with ME-42, a glimmering bronze. I'm also a huge fan! It made the golden flecks in my irises pop, but I know that it would also look stunning on blue- and green-eyed babes.

Still not convinced? Trust me, Charli knows her stuff. She swears by using Bioderma Micellar Water ($20) to remove heavy makeup at the end of the night, Bumble and Bumble products to keep her strands looking stylish, and Kiehl's formulas for radiant skin — all editor-approved classics! Read on to learn more about Charli XCX's beauty style, how she preps for a show, and more.

Her Go-To Hairstyle

"Right now, [I like] slicked-back ponytails, fully up, really long, [like] Sporty Spice."

Performance Makeup Must Haves

"When I'm on stage I always go for glitter more I guess, it's more of a look. I like that. I like shimmer and highlighter a lot, particularly outdoors, so the light works with it."

How She Gets Hyped Before a Show

"[I] listen to Britney Spears, drink Champagne, have all my friends around, and have like a preshow party. Maybe throw in a dance routine, something like that. Pretend we're in a music video." Charli named her current favorite Britney song as "Everytime."

Where You'll Find Her After a Performance

"Usually for me I just party afterwards. So that's where I kinda go to. I'll change my clothes and touch up my makeup but generally I keep it the same . . . unless I have something like real crazy on and I'm going somewhere not so crazy."

How Her Beauty Style Has Evolved

"I think when I was young it was very much anything and everything — and really always very heavy on the eyes. I still definitely do that, but recently, I've been playing with the complete opposite as well. [Such as] completely fresh faced skin, really dewy and no color [on the lips] at all. It's really like half and half."

How Synesthesia Affects Her Music

Charli has sound-to-color synesthesia, a rare neurological condition in which the person experiencing it hears a sound, then sees colors and shapes. "It really helps me with the visual aspects of what I do. It helps me with lyrics and it helps me to be able to think about music videos and artwork for my songs. It allows me to paint a cinematic picture of my music."

Her Biggest Beauty Regret

"I remember when I was like 12 or 13 I had a school disco and I did everything purple. I did purple eye shadow, purple lipstick, purple mascara for your hair, purple body glitter, and I was wearing purple flares and a purple halter top. I looked like a grape or something. It was bad vibes."

Her Advice For Aspiring Musicians

"Just write as much as you can. I feel like songwriting is like a muscle — the more you do it, the stronger you become. If you have a flair for it, just keep going."