Unpopular makeup opinion: I don’t get the buzz about Anastasia Beverly Hills.
I don’t really like their formula, their pans are tiny (though I am tempted to buy the Norvina Pro Pigment palette, which is much more generously sized!), and the color stories are bland and super repetitive. They are powdery as fuck and the shimmers tend to get really crumbly right away.
Now, all of that criticism somehow hasn’t stopped me from amassing no less than 6 of their palettes: Modern Renaissance, Subculture, Prism, Riviera, and now the Alyssa Edwards and Jackie Aina collab palettes, which I’m focusing on for this review. I did manage to get Subculture for a steal at TJ Maxx, but I paid full price for the rest of them – the power of hype is real, y’all! It wasn’t powerful enough to talk me into the Norvina palette (purples? where?!) and I don’t think anything could ever get me to entertain those beige and boring Sultry and Soft Glam palettes (though I do hope that In Bloom from Sultry comes out as a single, because it’s a lovely color), but the brand has a certain mystique around it that I don’t think the products always live up to. Ya know what I mean?
Right before Bismarck Pride, I decided to pick up the Alyssa Edwards palette. She’s not my favorite drag performer, or even one of my favorite Ru-girls, but she’s definitely growing on me and I thought it was pretty cool that a big brand like ABH was collabing with a drag queen. Plus, it had the sort of shades that I think make it a really good starter drag palette. I’m all about that!
(I don’t know what happened: I took photos of this palette in front of my fancy studio background, but they disappeared! Here’s a stock photo from a retailer, sorry ’bout it)
While I think non-drag makeup wearers can get some great, colorful looks out of this palette, this has some real staple colors for beginning performers who are learning about drag makeup. I think that everyone can and should develop their own style, but when you’re starting out it’s good to have some of these basics – a matte white, a matte black, a bright fuchsia pink – to play with as you develop your skills. I love that the pink matte and purple matte both have matching shimmer shades, and there is a lighter purple to help with making a lovely gradient. Brick Road is a fun primary color, and Dream It is a nice primary blue, so you can blend out and get a pretty good rainbow look (if you don’t mind bright pink in place of true red).
Let’s take a look at the swatches. I swatched them with the smaller, denser end of the brushes that were included with the palette. I started doing both brush and finger swatches, but finger swatches of ABH palettes frustrate me for a few reasons. First, they don’t perform well when swatched that way. That’s fine, I don’t generally fingerbang matte shadows onto my eye. Second, the shimmers start to get crumbly and messy fairly easily, which I hate. Third, I have huge monkey fingers that are impossible to get into those tiny little pans. I rarely use a finger for anything except pressed glitters anyway, so I decided the brush was good enough. I seem to be one of the few people who actually really likes the brushes that come in ABH palettes, and the dense, smaller side is perfect for doing swatches! I did all of the swatches over The Crayon Case Glue Stick eye primer. The top photo is under studio lights with no flash, bottom photo is the same lights with a flash.
L to R: Headliner, Inspire, Unicorn Tribe, Brick Road
Headliner is a matte white. It’s not my favorite matte white, and SugarPill’s Tako definitely blows this out of the water, but it performs and blends well enough, and it will be a great shade for beginners. Inspire is a pretty basic champagne gold shimmer, very soft in the pan but applied nicely. Unicorn Tribe is a light berry purple matte. All of these mattes gripped the primer a little more than I would like, but it is a thicker primer so I’m willing to forgive it in most cases. Brick Road is a nice yellow, but if you want true color payoff, definitely use a white base instead of a nude or clear.
L to R: Texas Made, Dream It, Back Rolls
Texas Made is a very dry bright fuchsia pink, very powdery in the pan as you can see. So much powder! Dream It would probably be more bright blue on a white base, but on a nude primer it looks much darker than you would expect, almost navy. Back Rolls is a rich, deep chocolate matte. It’s a nice shade, but ABH does a million browns in every palette, so this isn’t anything to write home about.
L to R: The Supreme, H.O.E., D.D.G., B.B.D.C., Beyond, Believe, Beast
The Supreme is a bright peach matte, very smooth and nice, though it did react a little with the primer. I swear, I’m going to use up this primer and then never use it for swatches again! It can be so tempermental! HOE is a medium tan brown, matte, nice enough, boring. DDG is a gorgeous bright royal purple metallic. This is a very lovely color, and it has so much metallic shine! BBDC is a deep wine shade, red-toned but still very much violet. Beyond is a fuchsia pink shimmer, slightly blue-toned. Believe is a bright purple matte, but would again need a white base to real show up true to pan color. Beast is a matte black, not the best I’ve had but definitely not gray or chalky.
Here is Alyssa’s video talking about the palette and the shade names:
More recently, Jackie Aina announced that she had a collab palette with ABH. There was some manufactured drama about a couple of the shade names, but it was so stupid I’m not even going to dignify it by saying what it was. So dumb.
The color story wasn’t as bright as the ABH palette, and when I first saw promo images, I wasn’t going to pick it up.
Even in my photos, the palette just looks kind of…blah. I don’t usually watch Jackie’s YouTube channel anymore (that’s a story for another day!) but I decided to watch her reveal video, and I’m glad I did: these shades may look kind of lackluster in photos, but the swatches are absolutely gorgeous! The promo photos looked like a musty, dusty mess but these shades are vivid, highly pigmented, and the shimmers and shifty shades are too pretty for this awful world.
I swatched these shadows after the Alyssa Edwards palette, so they are all just brush swatches. You’ll survive.
L to R: Soleil, Supreme, Pinker, Big Wig, Dwollahs, Credit, Lituation
Soleil is a really pretty creamy gold shade. It’s yellowy, but not too yellow. It’s gold, but not too gold. It’s like the slightly darker, more refined sister of the white based “candlelight” yellow gold shade. It’s so pretty in person! I know it just sort of looks like a light gold, but it’s really amazing in person – you have to check it out in stores if you’re on the fence! Supreme is a light raspberry pink, leaning to lavender. Pinker is a deep berry pink, almost with a brownish undertone? Big Wig looks really purple in the pan, but it applies darker and more berry toned. I think it might have darkened in contact with the primer, but I would suggest giving it a white base or applying over a set primer if you want the brighter color to show. Dwollahs is a bright yellow gold, very sparkly. Credit is a deep chocolate brown, almost deceptively deep! The base can look almost blackened. Lituation is a cool deep brown with a taupe/silver shimmer to it.
L to R: Zamn, Wiggalese, Shookington, Trust Issues, Edges, Sponsored, Ginger
Zamn is a coppery golden shade with brownish notes to it, very sparkly but definitely different from either of the more gold shades in the top row. Wiggalese is a reddish copper brown shimmer, very warm-toned but a nice shade. Shookington is a bright purple shimmer, not as saturated or as metallic as the purple shimmer in the Alyssa Edwards palette. Trust Issues is a white based shimmer that shifts greenish gold. I think it reads more yellow than anything, but people insist there is a green note there as well. Edges is a warm cinnamon brown matte. It gripped the primer and got a little wonky, but it wasn’t terrible. Sponsored is really nice; it’s one of those reddish brown base shades with green shimmer, but the green in this is super saturated which sets it apart from other shadows of this type. Very nice. And ginger is a medium tan brown that looks much darker in my swatch because it reacted really poorly with the primer. I don’t know why those browns struggled so hard with the primer!
Alright, let’s have some #RealTalk.
Did I need to buy either of these palettes? Beyond the obvious that no makeup is truly necessary, I didn’t really need to add either of these palettes to my collection. I have shades upons shades that are similar to the Alyssa Edwards palette – they are drag staples! – and many of them perform as well or better, in larger pans, with less powdery kick up, etc. The shades in the Jackie Aina palette were nice, and look much better in person, but there’s still a lot of browns and really warm colors that I just don’t fuck with that much. Sponsored is the standout for me, and we know I love me a green shadow, but I have colors that are similar to this that would work just as well in a pinch.
So why did I buy them?
I bought them because they were collab palettes. Now, I know that I’m not really directly supporting either of these people with my purchase; these kinds of contracts are always confidential, but it would be pretty strange for a brand to do a profit sharing arrangement on one of these products. We can pretty safely assume that both Alyssa Edwards and Jackie Aina cashed their checks long before I picked up either of my palettes. I’m not opposed to either of these influencers, but I’m not really a huge fan, especially of Jackie Aina who I think gets way too self-righteous about certain things considering that she’s basically a paid mouthpiece for Too Faced at this point (but again, there’s enough there for a whole other post!). I bought these palettes because I wanted them to be successful.
It doesn’t matter to Alyssa or to Jackie that I bought their palette; like I said before, it doesn’t affect their bottom line. But a lot of brands, and especially big brands like ABH, tend to only collab with certain types of people who look a certain type of way. These collabs are with a queer person and a black woman with a deep skintone, and I think that deserves some attention because even if it doesn’t matter to Alyssa or to Jackie, it might matter to the next queer person or person of color who gets the chance to collab with a big brand because these palettes were successful. Makeup is many things, but it is first and foremost a business. If we only buy the collabs from people who look a certain way, brands are only going to work with people who look that way. They aren’t subsidizing collaborations that don’t sell for the sake of inclusivity. Now, if these colors weren’t going to work for me, I wouldn’t buy them just for the sake of inclusion – we should still be somewhat realistic about the makeup we consume (though some would say my makeup collection passed realistic some distance back!). So don’t buy something just to make a point, but if it is something you’re going to use and it also supports ideas you are in favor of, like greater inclusion and representation in the cosmetics world, then why not have one more palette with some repeat shades?
What are your thoughts? Did you add either of these palettes to your collection? Is one still on your wish list but you just haven’t pulled the trigger? What do you think of the color stories? Are you a fan of the ABH palettes? Any interest in a review of the new Norvina Pro palette (I’m so tempted to buy it and I think I just need a nudge!)? Let me know all of your thoughts below!
In addition to these palettes having some really nice colors, I’m also in love with the packaging on the Jackie Aina palette. It’s a shimmery, iridescent snakeskin that is sort of a taupe/gold base with a rainbow of shiftiness to it. It’s a fabric, but unlike those horrendous flocked velvet covers like Modern Renaissance, it actually resists staining. I am glad they’ve been experimenting with different materials and I hope it continue! As for me, I think I’ve gotten my ABH fix for a little while – unless they’ve got another surprising face waiting in the wings…