It was hard not to feel overcome with joy when fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad won a bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics. In case you aren’t familiar with her story: Muhammad became the first American woman to medal at the Olympic Games wearing a hijab. But she was also wearing something else that day that caught our attention: perfectly winged inky-black eyeliner. “I always wear it when I compete,” she says. “I believe women should wear and do what makes them feel best. If you feel great, you’ll conquer anything in your path.”
The 32-year-old swears by Sephora Collection’s liquid eyeliner. “Some eyeliners can be dull or dry shiny. This one is very pigmented and stays matte.” When asked who her regular makeup artist is, she laughs. “I’m not that glamorous,” Muhammad says. “I do it myself, and I feel like I’ve finally perfected it.” For this shoot, there was a makeup artist to do most of her makeup, but Muhammad did the eyeliner herself. “Just as with fencing, practice makes perfect.” Her friend first applied wings on her in her junior year of college. “It’s become my signature look. It’s my shield of power. It’s not about anyone else or how I appear to other people. Some women like to spend time on their hair. For me, this is something that brings me happiness.” (You can see Muhammad show off her amazing liner skills in the video below.)
Not only are her wings perfect to begin with, but they never seem to smudge, ever, from pregame to the medal ceremony. It would be impressive enough for a mortal, but for an Olympian during a competition, it’s remarkable. Her secret is simple: “A great angled tip,” she says, and then lets us in on another, less expected trick. “My hijab prevents sweat from entering my eyes.” She takes off her liner before bedtime with Garnier Clean+ Purifying Oil-Free Cleansing Towelettes. “Even though my liner is very pigmented, one wipe takes it all off and doesn’t leave a greasy feeling. I never, ever sleep in makeup.”
But the power of Muhammad’s look comes from a lot more than her makeup. “I like to look someone in the eye when I speak to them,” she says. “Whether it’s an opponent or a stranger. It’s a signal of respect. It allows you to connect with a person.” And what do opponents see when they look into Muhammad’s big, dark, illuminating eyes? A woman whose beauty comes with each lunge and parry — and some fierce black wings.
Fashion stylist: Coquito Cassibba. Hair: David Colvin. Makeup: Allie Smith
A version of this article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of Allure. To get your copy, head to newsstands or subscribe now.
For more on muslims in breaking boundaries in the beauty and fashion industry:
- Why We Need to Discuss The Hijab in Western Fashion
- Muslim Model Halima Aden on Defying Beauty Standards
- The Fashion Industry Is Starting to Embrace Muslims, But Is This for the Long-term?