Makeup is an excellent mode of self-expression for anyone, and celebrities are no exception to that. However, in the glare of the spotlight, it can be difficult to try new and creative looks without receiving harsh criticism in response. Because of this, many stars choose to play it safe in the beauty department, but there are a fair few that regularly fearlessly push the boundaries of what we consider “beauty.”
These chameleon celebs can be counted on to try something new, keeping people interested and keeping their makeup artists’ creative talents in use. Whether it’s an eyeful of glitter shadow or a Geisha-inspired blush, these 15 celebrities always manage to come up with something interesting.
They may decide to make the look their signature, or they may regret it, but at least they tried something unique. Whether you love these looks or hate them, they’re difficult not to talk about!
15 Nicki Minaj's Most Out-There Year
One celebrity who can always be counted on for a buzz-worthy look is Nicki Minaj. From bubblegum pink to the brightest of blues, Nicki has rocked every color of the rainbow, both on her eyes and her lips. The beauty chameleon is a bit calmer these days, choosing instead to wear much more subdued and natural makeup looks at this point. Ever since she burst onto the music scene, Nicki has been unafraid to wear beauty looks that would make a less confident person shy away.
Her zany and energetic personality has matched this wildness throughout her career, however, one year in particular that her crazy beauty looks hit a peak was 2011. Having just joined the music world with the release of her debut album “Pink Friday,” the hot new singer was experimenting both with her art and her appearance. She had her hair in bright blonde bunches of curls for a large part of the year and did not hesitate to add color to her makeup daily. This was her look for her performance at the iHeartRadio Music Festival that year.
The singer opted for electric blue eyeshadow with over-the-top lash length and what would become her signature bright pink lip.
Although we miss the crazy old Nicki, we do have to admit that she looks stunning in her more natural looks today!
14 Zendaya's Beauty Look Inspires A Barbie
Zendaya is one of the very few celebrities (and regular people, for that matter) who seem as though they can do no wrong. The former Disney channel star began her acting career starring alongside Bella Thorne in the network’s series Shake It Up. She continued to act for Disney in K.C. Undercover until earlier this year, while also launching her Hollywood career and building an internationally known name for herself.
Zendaya has never been one to choose boring red carpet looks and has had exceptionally good taste from a very young age. Slaying one event after another, Zendaya’s beauty and fashion sense are the stuff of legend. While seemingly untouchable, Zendaya is not a public figure without criticism.
She wore this incredible and iconic look to the 2015 Academy Awards. Zendaya’s nude lips and flawless, smooth skin are accentuated by her bold, natural brows and coral eyeshadow. Her fluttery lashes and drop-pearl earrings lend a dramatic flair to the look. She couples this pared-down but stunning makeup look with a timeless white gown and her waist-grazing locs. After Zendaya’s look was criticized on E!’s Fashion Police, she issued a strong rebuttal to the negative comments made and ultimately came out on top. Zendaya’s personal strength and flawless look were ultimately immortalized in a specially produced Barbie doll version of this look.
13 Bella Thorne Goes "Buxom" In Double Glitter Look
Never one to wear a “safe” look, Bella Thorne is one celebrity whose makeup looks always get people talking. The 19-year old Disney channel alum did not disappoint when she attended a product launch event for the beauty brand Buxom Cosmetics last August. Definitely known for her out-there beauty and fashion choices, Bella went all-out on this look, as per usual.
She piled on the glitter, using purple, green, and silver all the way up to her brows.
Her lashes were understated, looking pretty natural on both top and bottom. Her silver nose ring dangled above her punchy pink-stained lips. All of the fun and brightness was reflected in her hair, which she wore in fuschia curls.
The Shake It Up actress has certainly flaunted her unique personal style since her Disney days, unabashedly sporting bright colors, bold textures and frequently wild outfits. To match her bold makeup for this event, Bella wore a furry cobalt-blue spaghetti strap bodycon dress, matched with a pair of hot-pink shin high Doc Martins. The young star was clearly feeling her look, captioning one of her many SnapChat selfies “Buxom Babe.” While you may love this look or hate it, it’s definitely one of many that had people talking about Bella!
12 Miley Moves Past Crazy Makeup Days
Miley Cyrus is another Disney Channel alumni who has since moved into the mainstream celebrity realm. Once a pop-princess on Hannah Montana, the talented teenager switched from acting to singing for her post-series career. Finding it difficult to build a career and balance her image, Miley famously went through what she calls her “Bangerz Era,” wearing countless wild, bright and creative outfits. These days, however, the singer is paring things back and finding out who she wants to be. She spoke to Harper’s Bazaar about creating her own image, and even doing her own makeup on professional shoots. She shared,
“In the beginning, it was kind of like saying, Forget you. Girls should be able to have this freedom or whatever.' But it got to a point where I did feel objectified. It became something that was expected of me.”
At this point in her life, Miley seems happy with who she is and where she is. She openly discusses mental health and is a vocal advocate of causes she believes in, like teen homelessness and LGBTQ rights. While we may miss the creativity of her old makeup looks, it’s awesome that she’s channeling her energy into something good!
11 Katy Perry Does A Gothic Marge Simpson
Katy Perry always had unique and out-there fashion choices, since her astronomic rise to fame after the release of the OG single “I Kissed a Girl.” She started out sweet but quickly turned sassy (remember that bra that shot whip cream in the ‘California Girls’ video?) Known for the quirky hairstyles and cartoonish costumes, the singer usually used to keep things classic in the makeup department. While she might have blue hair, she usually sticks to a black cat eye and a nude lip, or a red lip paired with her black hair. And the star is showing no signs of slowing down: since she underwent her most recent transformation, cutting off her hair and dying it blonde à la Miley Cyrus, Katy has become even more fearless with her beauty looks.
As Katy is no stranger to sporting difficult-to-pull-off looks, she went absolutely all-out on her Met Gala 2016 look.
Describable as a Goth Marge Simpson look, the singer sported a towering glossy black beehive.
Her heavy bangs dusted across her barely-there eyebrows, colored blonde for the look. Her lips were the heavy black of your middle school punk phase, and blush was notably absent, although she did do a highlight. The only color was in her blue-rimmed eyes, popping against her goth beauty look. This look was spot on with the drama, and definitely memorable!
10 Harry Styles Isn't Afraid To Do Man-Makeup
Although you wouldn’t always guess it at the first glance, celebrities are almost always wearing makeup. This is especially true when they’re on stage or in front of cameras. And men are no exception to this rule! In an ironic twist of fate, men are the true masters of the “no-makeup makeup” look. Male celebrities from all walks of fame wear makeup regularly to even out their skin and hide any blemishes or inconsistencies. Harry Styles is a champion of this.
The heartthrob former member of One Direction was once caught on film joking, “I don’t wear makeup,” as someone was applying makeup to his face before the interview. His makeup artist while on tour is the same that had been with 1D from the beginning, Lou Teasdale. Lou handles hair and makeup, and she spoke to Teen Vogue way back in 2013 about what it was like working with the band. She said that she tries to “put as little makeup as possible on them.” However, Harry has been known to branch out from that, sporting lipstick to the world premiere of “This Is Us” in ’13. When you’re that good-looking, why not try something away from the norm?
9 Gigi Hadid Does Not Hide From Color
Gigi Hadid is an international supermodel and does not hide from any style. The wildly successful elder Hadid sister works regularly with makeup artist Erin Parsons, rocking incredible looks for both her daily life and her big public appearances. She’s walked an insane number of runways and has been photographed for more editorial fashion spreads than most people have Instagram posts. So she’s no newbie when it comes to makeup. In fact, the supermodel has been the face of cosmetics giant Maybelline since January 2015, and just last year launched a cosmetics line in collaboration with the makeup company, calling it GIGIxMAYBELLINE.
This look is one created by Erin for a photo shoot for the brand.
Her colorful eyes and flawless face were done entirely with Maybelline products.
The bright eyeshadow look featured a green and purple arch on the left side mirrored with an orange on red on the left. Both eyes had a colorful dot underneath and a white inner corner highlight, plus a sharp black liner and some spindly top and bottom lashes. Gigi’s skin was left otherwise uncolored to let the eyes really shine.
8 Yara Shahidi Channels Diana Ross
Yara Shahidi of Black-ish and Grown-ish is the type of 18-year old actress who could wear just about anything and still look amazing. The teen has a casual 2.4 million Instagram followers and posts regularly about fashion and red-carpet events alongside prom photos and videos of her dancing goofily. Yara is also very outspoken politically, using her platform to voice her support of issues regularly. The sophisticated teen debuted on the big screen in Breaking In this year, as well as attending the Met Gala.
Yara wears artistic makeup looks with regularity, posing before in pink eyeshadow as well as an icy blue look that featured drawn-on freckles. However, she seems to prefer neutral looks, for the most part, letting her natural beauty shine through. One case in which Yara upped-the drama was this Harpers Bazaar shoot. When she shared this snap on IG, her followers were quick to spot and comment on her striking similarity to a young Diana Ross. The singer wore a similar Twiggy-esque makeup look many years ago, with the dramatic bottom lashes, here complimented by Yara’s full brows. Even the subtle silver shimmer seemed like an homage to Diana, and Yara looked amazing in it!
7 Lupita Nyoung'o Stuns On March 'Allure' Cover
Lupita Nyong’o is yet another stunning celebrity who wears bright, difficult makeup looks with grace and ease. Our theory that the Kenyan-Mexican actress can pull off anything has yet to be disproven. At 35 years old, Lupita’s skin is as clear and supple as a 20-year-old’s, and that’s exactly what was so buzz-worthy about this look. While we’ve seen Lupita with bold red lips, plum eyeshadow, and even a blue cut-crease, it wasn’t a bold makeup color that took center stage of this look. Vernon François was the hairstylist for this Allure shoot, and the crown of braids and jewels was not something to compete with but to compliment.
Fortunately, the makeup artist Nick Barose understood this perfectly and simply magnified Lupita’s already stunning natural beauty.
The movie star is also an ambassador for beauty brand Lancome, and Barose piled on their product to achieve this no-makeup makeup look.
Starting with their Ultra Wear foundation, the artist added their Blush Subtil. He subtly highlighted Lupita’s eyes with a bronze shadow stick and a thin swipe of liquid eyeliner. Lancôme’s L’Absolu Rouge lipstick in Luxe looks perfectly paired with her glowing skin. With makeup this beautiful, the team kept Lupita’s hair from stealing the show.
6 King Kylie Matches Matte And Gloss
Kylie Jenner, 20, is one of the youngest and most successful beauty moguls ever to exist. Kylie Cosmetics has become a beauty empire, started and run by the youngest member of the Kardashian-Jenner clan. So she knows a thing or two about beauty. Famously, Kylie began getting lip injections at a young age, dramatically changing her appearance and quickly becoming her most famous asset. She soon after capitalized on this buzz, launching her Kylie Lip Kits and starting her company. It goes without saying that Kylie’s makeup looks are legendary. While the star also famously changed her hair color regularly and dramatically, she always had a strong makeup look to go along with it.
This sultry Instagram selfie is from one of Kylie’s blonde phases in 2016. Ky has always had a penchant for glamour and drama, and the blonde hair seems to only make that more. Wearing a large off-white fur coat and sleek black nails, Kylie poses in her mirror wearing a face full of @KylieCosmetics (which is tagged, obvi). Kylie wears an eye-catching red lip, lined wide for maximum effect, paired with a bronzey-brown smokey eye. The part that makes this look memorable and fun is the difference in texture; traditionally, lips are glossy and lids are matte, but conversely, Kylie’s lips have a velvety-matte finish, and her shadow looks wet to the touch. Sticky? Perhaps. Chic? Definitely.
5 Rihanna Always Slays, Obvi
Rihanna is number one when it comes to dramatic, show-stopping looks. The Barbadian singer-songwriter is also a fashion icon in her own right, winning the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s “Fashion Icon Award” in 2014. Rih appreciates the fine art of dressing for impact and has never been afraid to stand out. Rihanna’s new Fenty Lingerie line is highly anticipated, pairing up with her recent smash success in the cosmetics industry with Fenty Beauty and her dazzling array of foundation color choices. Obviously, Rih understands cosmetics.
One of the Bad Gal’s beauty looks that was totally unforgettable was her 2017 Met Gala look. Yes, the dress added to her history of drop-dead gorgeous dramatically hued Met looks, but what kept the attention after the dress grabbed it was her beauty look. Rihanna’s flawless features peeped out from behind dark, face-framing bangs, completed with a sky-high red-carpet-worthy top knot. She kept her brows light, so as to not compete with the frame of the bangs. Her lips were a bright berry red, carefully and perfectly lined.
But the real stand-out part of this look was Rihanna’s eyeshadow and blush combination.
The two features were done in a matching rosy purple, starting at the inner eye and extending out toward the temple, around the flick of her cat-eye and down to the apples of her cheeks. Reminiscent of traditional Japanese Geisha blush patterns, the look was definitely strong and perfect for the event’s theme, which celebrated the work of Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo.
4 Christina Proves Less Can Be More
Christina Aguilera’s most talked about makeup look actually involved no makeup at all. Her recent cover story in Paper magazine featured a fresh-faced and freckled Christina, stripped of all her cosmetic glory. The singer was left bare-faced, and she looked strikingly beautiful. At 37, her skin could be that of a teen, minus the acne.
Usually dolled-up in a full face of makeup, Xtina has made heavy cosmetics her go-to. She’s most recognizable in her signature red lip and dark smoky eye, even during the day. She was known for her beauty experiments back in the day, rocking cherry red hair like few can. The pop-princess seemed so comfortable in the early 2000s wearing her purple eyeshadow and black-and-white striped dye jobs. Allure asked the singer whether she regretted any of her more-out there beauty looks, and while some people would certainly like to snatch the heavy blue eyeliner pencil out of their teen self’s hands, Christina saw the beauty in all of her past. She replied, "I don’t think taking chances on your beauty look can ever be a mistake.” We love it!
3 Bella Goes Almost Bird-Like With These Wings
As an international supermodel, Bella Hadid can rock any crazy makeup like it’s her job, because, well, it is. We’ve seen her with blonde hair, vintage bangs, and any number of eyeshadow looks, whether she was dressed up for the runway or a night on the town. Somehow, she manages to pull it all off. However, the looks that prove to be Bella’s best critiqued and most memorable seem to be the ones that embody dramatic classic glamour. Bella fresh-faced and makeup free? Stunning. Bella’s naked face plus a simple red lip? Ready for the red carpet, and you’d better believe someone is going to make a tutorial about how to get the look.
Bella wore this bird-like look to the Cannes film festival in 2017. Her slicked-back pony kept her perfectly straight, glossy strands from obscuring her chiseled cheekbones.
A tight-lined inner eye corner swept across the upper lid and out into a dramatic and wide swoop, narrowing her nose while also featuring quite the wing.
Her skin was dewy and bronzed, featuring a subtle skimmer across the brow bone and cheeks. Finally, the model’s look was finished with a simple red lip, in a similar hue to her dress. Magnifique, non?
2 Selena Gomez Goes Full Bombshell
The former Wizards of Waverly Place cutie isn’t afraid to show her spicier side. Selena Gomez may have gotten her start on the Disney channel hit, but she certainly didn’t stop there. The singer and actress has been the most followed person on Instagram since 2016, with a cool 138 Million followers. When she’s not designing handbag collections for Coach or popping wheelies on dirt bikes (hello, February Harpers Baazar feature), the mega-celeb is changing up her beauty game. With a round face and a snub nose, the youthful star’s figures could read as childlike, if she were not always dressed with such sophistication.
A large part of that sophistication comes from Selena’s beauty game always being on point. The IG queen changes now her hair quite regularly, going from the long black curls of her formative years to an abrupt chop, subsequently bleached blonde, now dyed dark brown but with the addition of straight across bangs. Selena’s everyday beauty look is undeniably gorgeous, but casual and approachable as well. That’s why this dramatic and sultry look garnered so much attention: Selena went full glamour. In this bombshell look, Selena sports a near-black smoky eye, extended into a cat-like smear, with full, luscious pink lips and full long lashes. She looks amazing, so it’s no wonder the glam flick got nearly 3.5 million likes on Instagram!
1 Ariana Grande Brings The Renaissance Drama
Ariana Grande has what may be one of the strongest signature looks of any celebrity today. For years, the high-pony and cat-eye pair has been unmistakably associated with Ariana. The pop singer got her start on Nickelodeon’s Victorious, where she played the sweet and shy Cat. She started wearing her long red hair in a tightly pulled pony at the crown of her head and the rest is history. While Ariana’s makeup looks do range a bit more than her hairstyles, she usually keeps things classic and flattering with a black cat-eye. Her naturally full brows always complete the look.
Although Ariana has been known to change her look on occasion for special events, the singer stuck to her tried-and-true look for her very first Met Gala attendance this year.
A.G. pulled out all of the stops with her outfit, wearing a bespoke Vera Wang gown featuring scenes from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, covered with gauzy and dream-like tulle that appeared again in a massive bow adorning her ponytail.
With an outfit this dramatic, it makes sense that she kept her beauty safe!