michelle obama inauguration
Former US President Barack Obama and Former US First Lady Michelle Obama arrive for the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th US President on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC.
JONATHAN ERNST/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
  • Michelle Obama supported Black-owned beauty brands with her Inauguration Day makeup.
  • Makeup artist Carl Ray told The Cut he used products from Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty on her face and eyes.
  • He also said he used eye shadow and eyeliner from Pat McGrath Labs on the former first lady.
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Michelle Obama made a bold fashion statement at President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday – but the symbolism behind her makeup was more subtle. 

Carl Ray – Obama’s longtime makeup artist – recently told The Cut that he wanted to create “a statement look that honored and celebrated the occasion,” especially because he knew it would be “a huge moment for women.” To do so, he utilized a variety of beauty products, including some from Black-owned cosmetic brands.

“I wanted her to have a powerful beauty look that was classy, bold, and confident; but all of that would also need to be achieved through the top half of her face only,” he told the outlet.

To create Michelle Obama’s Inauguration Day look, makeup artist Carl Ray used products from Black-owned beauty brands like Fenty Beauty and Pat McGrath Labs

From Rihanna’s brand, he chose the $25 Match Stix Matte Skinstick for contouring, and the $22 Flyliner across her eyelids. Ray also used Pat MacGrath Labs’ $25 Eyedols Shadow in the shade Divine Mink, and the brand’s $28 Permagel eyeliner in the shade Xtreme Black.

On Instagram, Ray described Obama’s final makeup look – which also included products from Glossier, Lilly Lashes, and more – as a “Smokeshow 🔥💨.”

A post shared by CARL RAY MAKEUP ARTIST (@carlraymua)

The smokey makeup perfectly complemented Obama’s plum-colored outfit

She arrived at Capitol on Wednesday wearing a monochromatic outfit created by American designer Sergio Hudson. It included a turtleneck, wide-legged pants, and an ankle-length coat.

Obama also wore a black face mask, matching gloves, pointed boots, a curled hairstyle, and a red belt with a statement buckle.

michelle obama
Barack and Michelle Obama at Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Many have since pointed out that Obama’s outfit and hair contrast a similar look she wore to former President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. At the time, she donned a maroon coat, matching dress, black boots, and an updo hairstyle – all of which were arguably more casual than the outfit she sported on Wednesday.

According to the former first lady’s stylist Meredith Koop, the 2021 Inauguration-Day outfit was meant to be practical – both warm and comfortable for an outdoor event with lots of stairs – but also a representation of Obama and “what she means to you and to America.”

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