Atlanta Peach: makeup maven Tracy Ewell
A recent double-spread Peach Patrol for Atlanta Peach Magazine's May issue on local makeup maven Tracy Ewell...
Title: Face time
Time and tide wait for no one, but for Inman Park makeup and skincare maven Tracy Ewell, bad luck and worse weather were just a hiccup on the road to a thriving business. Her upscale makeup boutique in New Orleans had just expanded to meet the demands of a burgeoning clientele when Hurricane Katrina hit a mere three weeks later, forcing her to abandon her grand opening and the city to the elements.
After ten days, Ewell returned to get her cats – “I broke into the city with guys and guns” – and tried to see what she could recover from the wreckage of her boutique. With no money from insurance, she was forced to ask one of her suppliers for a job. “Caudalie, the French skincare line, put me in Atlanta as an account executive,” she says. “But six months later I decided to go back to doing what I love, somehow, someway.”
Ewell pulled some money together and opened up a capsule makeup boutique inside Rockit Salon on the outskirts of Little Five Points. Nine months later she’d been voted best beauty boutique in Atlanta, but a bad fairy seemed to be presiding over the timing: her award went to press just as Rockit closed. Sure of her calling, Ewell persuaded her best friend to join her in Atlanta. Natalie Essaied packed up her belongings and left her job as a social worker in crumbling New Orleans. After a year and a half of working with children and displaced families, her friend’s plea to freelance as a makeup artist made her “the happiest person in the entire world.”
The partnership was a match made in heaven (or at least junior high): Ewell and Essaied have been best friends since the sixth grade, as evidenced by the school yearbook currently sitting on one of the store’s shelves. “I was the hippie girl who never wore makeup but always had been interested in the aesthetics of beauty, fashion and style,” says Essaied. “Tracy was my muse, and she would dress me and put makeup on me and write speeches for me in high school.”
The two found the perfect space to grow their fast-growing, word-of-mouth business in a charming rehabbed cottage in the heart of Inman Park. The calm, sunlit boutique’s beaded-board ceilings and whitewashed walls contrast with rugged wood shelves made from wood brought from New Orleans.
With hot-selling cocktail rings and pendants by Charles Albert, exclusive perfumes and lamps by Lampe Berger, and unique semiprecious jewelry by Lexi Lu and June Shin, business is booming, but it’s the makeup that’s the star, and Ewell and Essaied are their own best advertisement -- all clichés about dewy skin and enhancing natural beauty apply. The duo advises women on makeup, skincare, and brow shaping with a yin/yang tag-team style that feels as comfy as a slumber party, an approach that has nabbed celeb customers such as Dawn Robinson from En Vogue, indie actress Jennifer Coolidge and Rhianna.
And the lines Ewell carries – Caudalie’s Vinotherapie skincare line, developed from grape extracts and created on the site of a centuries-old vintner, plus makeup lines by Susan Posnick and Face Stockholm -- are more than mere inventory, and you won’t find them in a department store, says Ewell. “None of these lines is corporate America – they’re more of an underground cult.” She unearths her faves in each line, citing her commitment to buying the most natural, skin-friendly products out there, such as Caudalie’s chemical preservative-free serums and Susan Posnick’s mineral makeup with SPF ground into the pigment. “We really believe in what we sell. We’re very picky as to what we use.”
Essaied chimes in. “Everything that’s here -- we’d love and marry it.”
In a natural disaster, I'd grab...
Ewell: Tola, my cat. The makeup kit. My portfolio, computer, phone, camera. Grandma’s jewelry and Tiffany lamp. My Lampe Berger, my buppy (childhood stuffed animal) plus water food gas and friends.
Essaied: Mimi,my cat. My iPod, old pictures, and important documents. Yaya's holy water, my gratitude stone and my favorite vintage pieces which cannot be replaced and my crystal collection.
What makeup trend is overrated?
Ewell: All of them! I think trends were originally designed so that woman didn't get bored with their look, giving them options. Now I think the majority of trends are for marketing purposes. My advice, try new things but make the look...you!
Essaied: I think the only good thing about trends is that they can be a source of inspiration. The problem lies within the translation to mainstream fashion: often haute couture appears contrived when taken to the "street", and the same philosophy remains true with makeup trends. Best advice: On a daily basis enhance, not mask; and when you want to look your best, don't be afraid to take chances; play with color and technique, because if you rock it with confidence and finesse, there are no rules, just infinite possibilities.
In high school, my style would best be described as...
Ewell: Artsy, fun, flirty, colorful, and classic.
Essaied: Eclectic. I was more cerebral than stylish.
People are surprised to learn that I...
Ewell: Used to sing and secretly wish I was in a band! Also that before makeup I was a ceramicist, a photographer, and a graphic artist.
Essaied: Have a Master of Social Work and practiced clinical therapy and interventions with children for five years. I was also influential in changing a law, lobbying both Senators and Representatives in Louisiana, by removing the spousal exemption from the Sexual Battery and Simple Rape laws, allowing the spouse to be prosecuted and sentenced.
What makeup item can you not do without?
Ewell: Susan Posnick Mineral Blush in Camellia, which can be worn on eyes, cheeks and lips! An instant transformation.
Essaied: Face Stockholm's Medium Quad Correcter Kit. It conceals imperfections, neutralizes redness and blue undertones, and provides flawless coverage without feeling masked.
My favorite place in Atlanta is...
Ewell: Little Five Points, sitting outside watching the people go by -- it's like being in the French Quarter in New Orleans!
Essaied: Inman Park. It was the first place Tracy brought me when I visited Atlanta, it has an old historical feel, which is important to me. I think the area and the people represent the best of what it means to be a community. And not to mention it's absolutely beautiful.