When LaVonndra Johnson, owner of the women's boutique Elle VJ, was a kid, her first lessons in makeup application came from watching her grandmother, who utilized only two products: pressed powder and lipstick.
"She used her lipstick for everything," Johnson says. "She would put her pressed powder on and then she would take her lipstick and she would rub it on her finger to create her eyeshadow. She would then take her lipstick, rub it on her finger to create some blush, and then she would apply the lipstick to her lips."
Oh, how times have changed.
Once the little girl who thought the only thing you needed to be beautiful was a tube of lipstick, Johnson is now launching her own cosmetics lines, dubbed BEAUTÉ by Elle VJ (www.beautebyellevj.com), available at her NoDa boutique on Valentine's Day. If it can go on your face, she's got it in her line: lipsticks, glosses and glazes; foundations and correctors; bronzers and blushers; eyeshadows, eyeliners and mascara; and so much more.
"I've always wanted to do something with cosmetics," Johnson, 31, says. "When I first got here at the boutique, I had the idea of setting up a little beauty bar. Girls come in, they're able to pick out the perfect dress, the perfect shoes, the accessories. And then sometimes, when you see them out, they went completely wrong with the makeup.
"My first thought was to do my ultimate favorite, which is lip gloss," she continues. "I thought, 'Maybe I'll just start a lip gloss line because I'm a lip gloss fanatic.' Then I thought, 'Maybe I should do lipsticks, because not every girl is a lip gloss girl.' And from there, it just kind just snowballed into a full cosmetics line."
Johnson says she felt there was a void in the beauty industry for a comprehensive kit that also provided a personal connection. "I would find myself with a Mac pressed powder, a Revlon mascara, something else for the lips. There wasn't anything on a local level that was something you could use from start to finish on your face," she says.
So Johnson and her consultants — many of them "makeup artist gal pals" — set out to sample products to determine what would work best for the line. In the end, everything is hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, allergy-tested, non-comedogenic, and made in North America.
One of Johnson's main goals is to target the woman who is on the go, "the woman who wants the preset formula of how to make her makeup beautiful and gorgeous."
As a single mother and store owner — in addition to being the president of Cinthe Magazine and organizer of the upcoming Mode Noir | Black Mode (CIAA Fashion Week) — Johnson knows what it's like to be constantly busy. "My biggest obstacle each day is time," she says, admitting that between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. she's working.
One product she boasts about is Camera-Ready ($42), a makeup base that offers a matte, silky smooth finish. You apply it to your entire face prior to putting on any other product, and it helps your makeup last all day.
That was the selling point for Johnson. "For someone like me who's on the go, you don't have time to check and recheck — it's the perfect solution."
Another item that will help save time is the five-well eyeshadow palette. The colors are predetermined, so you don't have to figure out what colors best compliment each other on your eyelids — it's already done for you.
Of course, we can't talk about BEAUTÉ by Elle VJ without highlighting the types of lipwear available. The lip gloss ($16) is long-lasting, available in cream, glitter, opal, pearl and sheer, while the lip glaze ($16) is a high-shine gloss, "developed for women who do not want a tacky feel." The lipsticks are available in four different formulas (cream, high-closs, pearl and metallic), in a variety of colors. Johnson says for the Valentine's Day launch, she's pushing nudes, peaches and soft pinks.
In addition, the lip glosses and lipsticks are enriched with vitamin E.
Grandma would be proud.
Preview the new line on Tuesday, Feb. 14, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at Elle VJ Boutique (136 East 36th St).