The Team Behind Janelle Monáe's Best Beauty Looks Tell All

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With the end of the 2023 award season near, we can all agree there is one person who consistently serves a beauty moment: Janelle Monáe. If you've yet to take stock of some of their best red carpet beauty looks so far, allow us to walk you down memory lane.

For the 2023 Oscars, Monáe donned three jumbo cornrows with metallic detailing intertwined throughout the braids. However, instead of using quintessential tinsel, a metallic thread was what gave the peekaboo effect. For the Critics' Choice Awards, she rocked a similar three-cornrow style, but this version had a cobweb-like effect, which highlighted her sheer Vera Wang gown perfectly. It also set the stage for her bat-winged eyeliner that looked sharp enough to cut you. Let's also not forget their gravity-defying ponytail for the CFDA Awards, accompanied by a thematic black-and-white graphic eye that felt reminiscent of their "Electric Lady" days.

"When people message me ahead of a big event and say they can't wait to see what I come up with, a lot of times I'm thinking, 'Me too.'"

That is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the beauty narrative Monáe has managed to craft for herself. Many of the looks the star has become known for were created by their go-to hairstylist, Nikki Nelms, and makeup artist, Keita Moore. Many of Monáe's best beauty looks can be described as nothing short of art, so the duo behind them broke down exactly how they come up with these masterpieces, as well as what it's like working with one of the biggest names in entertainment.

Janelle Monáe's Hairstylist Nikki Nelms

Nelms describes her work with Monáe as a dance. "Some days, she will have something specific that she may want to lean into, and then I may help her tweak it and find a way to execute," Nelms tells POPSUGAR. However, sometimes Nelms will come to Monáe with an idea. "We truly work and build together."

After meeting the star during the press tours for the movies "Moonlight" and "Hidden Figures," Nelms felt Monáe was ready to go in a different direction from their then-signature look but was initially unsure how to broach the topic. "It always gets tricky when you're being a part of a process change," she says. "So I was really nervous."

But those nerves are what Nelms attributes her creativity to in the hairstyling space. They're the reason she often doesn't plan the hairstyles she creates for Monáe. "The minute I'm not nervous, I'm scared, because it means I'm bringing more of myself to my styling sessions rather than being open," she says. She describes her hairstyling method as not too formulaic but instead, almost divine. When she creates, she likes to rely on "the hands, the mind, my God, and that's it."

While she doesn't plan looks, Nelms is inspired by objects, shapes, and even places — they are often what help her ideate when it's time to execute. She can look at something like a tree and immediately see how it would translate into a hairstyle. "While slightly unconventional, this process allows me to really enjoy what I'm doing as a stylist instead of falling into monotony," Nelms says. "When people message me ahead of a big event and say they can't wait to see what I come up with, a lot of times I'm thinking, 'Me too.'"

Each styling session is different for Nelms. "People have said it's like they can see an idea coming out of my head through my hands."

Janelle Monáe's Makeup Artist Keita Moore

Moore is newer to team Janelle Monáe, but he has already made his mark with the star. They met in 2022 when he did their makeup for a Ralph Lauren dinner, and the rest is history. Moore credits Monáe's trust in his skills as the vote of confidence he needed to really shine as a makeup artist. "She let me do my thing the full way through, but I would stop and ask for her input as I was working," he says. "It was definitely a collaborative effort figuring her out that first time," he says.

Since then, the duo have gone on to create a number of makeup looks that have graced the red carpets of award shows and events like the Met Gala. Monáe's 2022 Met Gala appearance where they wore a crystal-covered hood is one of his favorites to date because all eyes were on the makeup. "As an artist, it was one of those moments where you never know what the cameras are going to pick up until after the event, but she looked flawless," he says.

If you take a peek at Monáe's makeup evolution over the past few months, Moore has perfected a particular kind of "your skin but better" approach to the star's look. "I call it 'we woke up like this' makeup," he says. "A lot of it is light coverage and nice highlighted skin — she loves to glow."

Though the duo have experimented with a few out-of-the-box eye-makeup looks, Moore's favorite way to make over Monáe is with different lip shades. "We did a really deep lip color once and both loved it, so I would love to explore more of those tones."

You can find most of the products that Moore swears by when doing Monáe's makeup at your local Sephora and drugstores. "For her brows, we like to use the Fenty Beauty Brow MVP Ultra Fine Brow Pencil & Styler ($25), and to keep them in place, I use the Got2b Hairspray ($9)," Moore says. For skin, he likes the Heritage Store Rose Water ($10) and the Make Up For Ever HD Foundation ($45).