Our relationship is so much more meaningful than the words, “KeKe Cifferello does my make-up.” It feels unbelievably trite to say, “KeKe feeds my soul.” You would probably roll your eyes if I said, “It’s complicated.” So let’s take a more abstract approach, similar to Tom Ford’s shade & illuminate.
Have you ever created a friend in your head that you wished existed in real life? This friend will eagerly talk with you for hours about everything you secretly obsess over: jewelry, home-décor, fascinators, lipstick, sunglasses, style, etc. Just like you do, she appreciates and drools over vintage pictures of women who possess that effortless unquantifiable style. This friend in your head is your biggest cheerleader and constantly provides that daily positive meme to get you through whatever crisis, no matter how trivial, you may be encountering. She has no envy or ill-will towards you. She only wants your star to shine brighter than Sirius. This friend never judges, only celebrates. She never pries. She is quick to laugh, has killer cheekbones and a smile so captivating it intrigues the most apathetic stranger. This friend in your head is fiercely loyal and, while you have never seen her go there, you strongly believe that her inner tigress superhero qualities will emerge with lethal claws if someone dared crossed or hurt you. And then, to add whipped cream on top of an already perfect apple pie, in 45 minutes or less, she can transform your face and attitude from grubby housewife sitting around in sweatpants to red carpet ready. That friend in your head is my real life KeKe. Do you get it now?
I met KeKe Cifferello in Winter 2012 soon after she helped launch Tom Ford’s eponymous beauty line at Bergdorf Goodman. Tom Ford Beauty is tucked away in the center of Bergdorf’s bustling beauty level located on the basement floor, that luxurious treasure in New York City which has a reputation for stocking hard to find products from luxury lines such as Charlotte Tillbury, Chantecaille and Edward Bess. When Tom Ford Beauty exclusively launched in 2011 at Bergdorf, it was the biggest beauty launch of all time and created pure mania. When you couple the media frenzy leading up to the launch of Tom Ford Beauty with Ford’s prior fashion successes at Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and his namesake line with his Oscar nomination for a A Single Man, consumers lined up to buy these new products packaged in rich dark brown and accented with gold. Half the products sold out immediately and Estee Lauder, who owns Tom Ford Beauty, had trouble meeting the initial manufacturing demands. I once saw a grown woman almost burst into tears when the counter staff told her that the award winning primer was sold out and they had no concrete date for the new shipment.
KeKe was the quiet in the midst of this crazy storm. Dressed head to toe in black in her trademark turban, always smiling and speaking in her proper Jamaican accent, everyday KeKe would flit from product to product, customer to customer as if she was having the most fun hosting a 1970’s cosmetics party. She was and is wickedly funny, passionate about beauty and always a straight shooter. “Hey Keke, what about this lipstick with this dress?” “No dahling, that is much too ordinary for this magnificent piece. I want to do something stronger, bolder, fresher. More High Fashion.” When I started working with her, I immediately understood she aimed to make people look their absolute best rather than trying to sell them unnecessary products they neither needed nor would even use more than once or twice. Women would wait for almost an hour to specifically speak with her. Never mind that other sales associates were completely free. They only wanted to deal with KeKe. I know the feeling.
What began as just a sales person on the beauty level helping a customer find the perfect shade of lipstick 💄 has developed into a treasured friendship. Over the past four years, KeKe has taught me countless make-up tips ranging from the quick cat-eye to unique make-up brushes uses. Through a series of posts, we plan to share many of her trade secrets with you here at Jackie Unfiltered.
For a little taste of Keke, check out my interview below with her about the beauty category and make-up:
Jackie: How would you describe the beauty category?
- Beauty is really an experience, something to explore or some way to have an adventure. The minute you find that perfect beauty tool, someone comes up with something better. You are having tea with a favorite girlfriend and you discover a new trick. To be successful in the beauty business long term, you have to be an explorer.
- Beauty is about rituals. Every woman has an individualized way they care for themselves which is customized to their particular lifestyle. Some people set aside specific time every morning to prep their skin, apply their mascara and lipstick while standing in their perfectly organized bathroom. Others may sit at their desk and complete their routine while sipping a cup of cappuccino. No one can create this ritual for a client. I know that because no one can create a ritual for me. It is one you create for yourself. No brand can do that for you. A brand can certainly inspire you. I remember Tom Ford talking about how he was inspired by watching his mom sit at her dressing table getting ready to go out in the world.
- Beauty is also attention to self-care and having a deeper, intimate relationship with yourself. Self-care means that you are self-aware. And when you take care of yourself, people respond and recognize that you see your value. When a woman is really well groomed, a man wants to handle her in the same way.
Jackie: What 5 items are always in your make-up bag?
- Sharpener with a lid that captures the shavings
- Really good mirror that is small, decadent and fits in palm of your hand. One side should be magnified because after 40 your eyesight is just not the same dahling
- Black Eyeliner
- Red Lipstick
- Intensely Black Mascara
Jackie: What do you tell a woman who sits in your chair and says, “I never wear makeup?”
- Those are my favorite clients. I always get her to wear makeup. She is right, no one has to wear make-up. But I love introducing that woman to a little mascara, a little eyeliner and lip-gloss. I love watching her as she watches herself transform into something a little different.
Jackie: What do you tell the woman who sits in your chair wearing too much of all the wrong make-up?
- These are always the most challenging clients. I try not to tell them its wrong. Most of these people are stuck in a time warp. They are stuck in the 80s or the 90s. They are holding on to their heyday saying, “When I was in high school, I was that popular girl.” But really, every era is your heyday. Life changes. I deal with them delicately. It is a subtle thing. Let’s take off the eyeliner and then show them how much younger they may look. You have to give them a benefit of why their current habits are not working. I want to show them that when you subtract certain things, your routine is simplified and moves toward a more effortless nature.
Jackie: How should a woman approach the evening face?
- The evening face is really the time where you want to do something a little different and really explore. Play dress up. Put on that bright or dramatic lipstick that you never wore before. Darken your eyeshadow. Never wash and start your face over. Make-up looks better well lived in so you just need to refresh. The evening is not about starting over, just adding to.
Jackie: What is your 5-minute face?
There are the perfectionist who thinks they cannot do their makeup in 5 minutes. Perfection is your greatest weakness at times.
- Always start with a freshly hydrated face
- Lightly dust a bronzer in a loopy “E” shape on each side of your face starting from your forehead, continuing down the side of your face under your cheekbone but not past your outer eye and then down your jawline. Also dust along the side of nose, in the crease of your eyes and under your chin.
- Lightly dust a second layer of bronzer on the cheeks bones so your face looks structured and balanced
- Apply mascara top and bottom from roots to tip.
- Put a little something on the lips
- Make sure your brows look groomed
Come on, at this point, don’t you ❤️ my KeKe as much I do! To book or contact KeKe, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
KeKe Cifferello is a CERTIFIED member of Jacqslist!