What do you do when iconic supermodel Iman calls on you to head up her signature makeup line? Just ask Byron Barnes, longtime makeup artist, now Cosmetics Expert & Artistic Director of IMAN Cosmetics.  With almost four decades in the industry, Barnes has worked with legends such as Grace Jones, Janet Jackson, Naomi Campbell and of course, Iman. Barnes chatted with us to share the latest with IMAN Cosmetics right before Thanksgiving.

EBONY: Tell me about the first time you met Iman?

Byron Barnes: Wow, I met Iman when she first came to the United States in the late 70s. She’s so striking in so many ways…not just physically but intellectually as well. She’s smart, well-versed, well traveled and left an extraordinary first impression.

EBONY: How did you become the creative director of Iman’s namesake line?

BB: In ’89 I designed a collection for model Naomi Sims and quite frankly, I was one of the few makeup artists who had any background in manufacturing products. The line was successful, but in 1993 Iman asked me if I could join her team. She told me, “You have no limitations, design exactly what our consumer needs.” I knew Black women wanted foundation that had coverage, but they also wanted the color and undertones to be more accurate. A lot of things that were positioned for Black women in terms of product, I had to debunk, change, or make better in terms of formulation.

EBONY: Women swear by Iman’s line, what are your favorite products?

BB: Our foundation selection is so vast and wide, we have several formulations, my favorite being the IMAN Cosmetics Second to None Cream to Powder Foundation ($16). It’s our top seller, gives great coverage and comes in 16 shades. I also love our Second to None Stick Foundation ($15) because it’s quick for direct application to the face. Our Luxury Translucent Powder ($20) is light in texture and dispels shine without leaving the skin looking chalk or ashy. They have a bit of tint to them but also a reduced amount of titanium dioxide.

EBONY: The line recently launched the beautiful Adorned Palette right in time for holiday party season—tell us a bit about the contents.

BB: I’ve been friends with Alvaro for years. He’s an incredible illustrator and did a great job creating the cover art. Inside the Adorned Kit ($10), you have two shadow choices—a deeper brown chocolate and lighter beige highlight. The brown has a bit of sparkle so it doesn’t go dead on the eye. Use the darker shade on the lid then go under the lash line with a liner for a bit more intensity. The lighter shade should be used to highlight the brow bone. It creates the perfect smoky eye but instead of black it’s real dark, jewel tones.

EBONY: Any exciting news you can share about IMAN Cosmetics?

BB: Of course we have new products launching but I am sworn to secrecy! We are always looking to innovate, especially in the skincare arena. We are looking more into cosmeceuticals, which has cosmetic enhancing value but also therapeutic value—think vitamin enriched or anti-aging. There’s lots of color, everybody has color! But when you have a product that performs in the treatment area as well, you’ll have a customer for life—she can’t get that benefit anywhere else.

EBONY:  Do you feel like the cosmetic industry is starting to embrace women of color more?

BB: They [other companies] have finally taken the time to invest in the actual research and development. Previously, all they would do is take an existing foundation and just make it darker without regard to the coverage or undertone. What I love about IMAN is that we have created a multicultural language and palette for our customers.  We can successfully address Latina, Asian, Caribbean and African-American women. As you see from our visuals, we always have more than one ethnicity in our advertising

– JH

Janell M. Hickman is the Associate Beauty & Grooming Editor for EBONY Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @jmargaretbeauty