A face like model Shanina Shaik’s is rare. A combination of Australian, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern genes create what her makeup artist, Rae Morris, calls the “most feminine yet editorial face.” But what’s even rarer than the Victoria’s Secret model’s striking beauty is her relationship with Morris. Over years of working together, the two have developed a creative symbiosis as artist and muse.
You might think the dialogue between makeup artist and model is more one-sided—the artist does her thing, and the model accepts whatever that may be. But whether they’re on set for a magazine shoot or a makeup tutorial video, Morris and Shaik’s process is much more collaborative. They learn from one another’s experiences; they memorize each other’s specific tastes and quirks; and they understand one another on a deeper level.
Last week, we got to tune in as Shaik and Morris swapped the best beauty secrets they’ve learned along the way. The two were in L.A. for the launch of Morris’s new beauty book, Makeup Masterclass ($70), which features Shaik on the cover. These two are busy people, and they don’t always get the time to sit down and chat makeup, so we were lucky to get to eavesdrop on this rare event. During their conversation, we learned under-the-radar hacks we’ve truly never heard before. (You’ll never guess their secret trick for finding your foundation match.)
To listen in as a top model and her makeup artist exchange inside tips, keep scrolling.
BYRDIE: Shanina, what are some of your favorite beauty looks you’ve ever worn? And Rae, how did you execute them?
SHANINA SHAIK: With Rae, it’s hard to choose an all-time favorite beauty look. She’s definitely my go-to makeup artist because she just knows what works for my face and my skin tone. And overall, she’s so talented.
RAE MORRIS: I love you, Shanina. I’m gonna leave now. You can just keep going!
SS: So I definitely think the cover look that Rae just released [for her book Makeup Masterclass] is one of my favorite looks. Then, recently Rae and I were in Australia, where I did a fashion launch. In Australia, we came together and decided to do another look that really worked for me—it was a really subtle, bronzy, beautiful look. But what I loved about it was that it had a white shimmer in the corners of my eyes. It was just really pretty overall, and the feedback from that look was tremendous. And I think one time we did a red lip. Rae doesn’t tend to put a lot of makeup on me. From what I know, I don’t need a lot of makeup, which is great. But she does a really great red lip, so we did a Valentino red. So I think those are my top three.
RM: To me, Shanina’s got the most feminine face, but it’s also a really strong editorial face. I just find with that bone structure, I’ve really got all that strength there, where you don’t need to contour, make the eyes bigger, or make the brows stronger. She already has all that there. So for me, what I love is keeping things really pretty. On the cover [of my book], it was about golds and purples. And then I remember we did half a shoot where they made you so tan, like Beyoncé tan.
SS: Beyoncé tan!
RM: It was awesome. But again, it’s all about not changing her structure. I personally don’t love really dark eyes on Shanina. She can wear anything, but her eyes are so strong that dark eyes really detract from them. I actually think it’s a crime to put makeup on your face, Shanina. [Laughs.] That’s how I feel most of the time: like I can’t make this look any better. I’m getting paid to do something, but there are times where I’m like, You don’t need makeup, do you?
BYRDIE: That’s awesome. It sounds like she has a dream face to work on. Well, a dream and not a dream, because you don’t get to go crazy.
RM: We do sometimes. But it’s craziness with, like, highlighting every point and doing the brows strand by strand by filling the lash, you know? I still love creating that perfectionism in the makeup. There’s still an aesthetic. Shanina’s features are incredible, so it’s all about highlighting. Not contouring too much, because that could make the face look too thin. But not highlighting too heavy on the eyelids, because that could make the eyes look puffy. You just have to understand someone’s face and what looks the most beautiful on them.
BYRDIE: Absolutely. So I’m wondering, what are a few of your favorite on-set or on-location makeup hacks?
RM: Here’s a good little thing that I do with any skin tone: I always get the model to put her chin to her shoulder and take a photo with my iPhone with and without flash, which gives you a really good true reading of skin tone. I actually don’t match skin tone to the neck; I match it to the body color. Oh, and I don’t use powder! I use blotting papers. Blotting papers absorb more oil. A powder flattens the skin. I never want the skin to look matte. Even if I don’t want the skin to look shiny, I only use blotting papers. I don’t use powder on Shanina at all.
SM: And you don’t make me close my eyes!
RM: Oh yeah, I never make you close your eyes. Never. When I do her makeup, she’s got to look down but not close her eyes, because if you close the eye, it wrinkles up. It’s hard to blend eye shadow. And with lips, I think we tend to do a fainter look. And if I am going to do any contouring or any cream blushes, I always apply that directly onto the skin so the skin doesn’t look like we’ve overdone it with makeup.
SS: It’s rare that we would do a full lip.
RM: Yeah, and if we do, I always bring the lip shape in on the corners. I never make them look really big on the outer corners because it can give you that sort of tired mouth. (You know that expression you get when you’re tired?) So if I do lipstick, I just make sure I lift those corners up. And then I highlight the corners of the eyes. And also, whatever shimmer I use on the face, I use the same on the body so her face and her body have the same reflection.
BYRDIE: That’s a great tip. Are there any other unexpected beauty lessons you’ve taught each other?
RM: The thing I like is that Shanina will be really honest and tell me if something’s not working. I think with us—with Shanina—she’s all about top mascara, top lashes, with nothing underneath, because I think for her, that feels a bit heavy under her eyes.
SS: Yeah, I usually don’t wear anything under the eyes.
RM: Because the mascara might get too heavy.
SS: I think also, with skin, we don’t really use foundation. We just use tinted moisturizer. Rae and I always agree that skin should just look like skin and not fake like a mask.
RM: We hate that, yeah. We look at cute girls on YouTube and think, She would look so much prettier if she just took some of that foundation off! We’re always about [natural] skin.
BYRDIE: That’s awesome. You have such a symbiotic relationship, it seems.
RM: If my daughter grows up the be half the girl Shanina is, I will be very happy! She’s a special girl, that Shanina.
BYRDIE: So, speaking of—Shanina, you really do have the world’s prettiest skin. What are your tips for finding your most flattering makeup colors?
RM: I think for your eyes, the reason purple works so well is because they’re green, yeah? With pastel colors, it can look a bit ’80s, because of your skin tone, so for the eyes, I always go with a deeper jewel color. I’ll also put an aqua green on you, or a deep, deep, deep blue. I just keep away from doing light colors, because it’ll look like an ’80s Spice Girl.
SS: I definitely say if you want to go for a natural skin look, use a tinted moisturizer. If not, if you have a foundation you like, mix it up with moisturizer, so it’s a bit lighter coverage and a not so heavy.
BYRDIE: Is there a favorite tinted moisturizer of yours right now?
SS: Nars ($44) has a really great one.
RM: Love that one.
SS: Giorgio Armani ($64) has an amazing silk foundation, too. I think it’s really easy to find the right skin tone match with them.
BYRDIE: What are a few more of your favorite makeup products right now?
RM: There’s a new eye shadow palette, actually. I love it. The brand is Natasha.
SS: Natasha Denona.
RM: The eye shadows ($48) blew my mind! I’m not kidding you—you have to put your finger in them. Amazing!
SS: Tom Ford’s palette ($80) for contour. I love that.
RM: I think for Shanina, I find [contour colors] are either too dark or too red, but that one’s perfect for you.
SS: Yeah, it’s very light and looks pretty. Urban Decay also has really cool eye shadow palettes.
RM: We like the Make Up For Ever liquid eyeliner, too. They’ve got this brand-new one ($23)—they’re like tiny liquid diamonds. And there’s a foundation color I love from Make Up For Ever called 153. It’s really golden. Kind of like Shanina, that J.Lo-gold skin tone. It’s really hard to find foundations that are that warm, so 153 is my go-to color.
BYRDIE: If you two had to describe each another’s beauty aesthetic in five words or less, what would you say?
RM: I would say for Shanina, “ship-wrecked beauty bronze babe. From space.” [Laughs.]
SS: Oh my god, words to describe you.
RM: James Bond girl. You actually look like a James Bond girl without makeup.
SS: Words… Um, legendary! Yeah, just legendary. And what I love about Rae is she doesn’t try to change somebody with makeup. She enhances the beautiful features. That’s what I love about her.
Ed note: This interview has been edited for tone and clarity.
Shop some of Shanina and Rae’s favorite products below!
Make Up For Ever Aqua Liner ($23)
Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation ($42)