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Logo of NARS

What does it mean to be authentic? This seemingly simple question has drawn the attention of leading thinkers across the centuries, spawning elaborate philosophical inquiries and even entire life’s works. Comb through the multitude of answers, and a common thread emerges: being authentic means presenting yourself to the world the way you want to; before the tabloids, TikToks, trendsetters, and television shows promised you three simple ways to fix everything about yourself. Before you thought there was anything you even needed to fix. It’s about surrendering to the little whims and wants that are unique to you, without (or in spite of) the influence of the wider world.

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That’s not to say it’s easy to resist the pressure to change yourself to fit a mold. With the rise of social media and the ensuing commodification of every part of one’s life and identity, authentic self-expression has become rarer than ever—but there are still some who unapologetically show up as themselves every day. Iconic beauty brand NARS spotlights three of Highsnobiety’s very own who are authorities of authenticity in their own right: Creative Director Nikki Mirsaeid, Style Writer Morgan Smith, and Beauty Editor Alexandra Pauly. Hailing from different creative disciplines, backgrounds, and walks of life, the trio are united by their unwavering commitment to self-expression which fuels their contributions to the artistic zeitgeist. Navigating the world with unwavering realness, each woman uniquely proves that being true to yourself will always be timeless—in fact, it’s their superpower. 

Chief among the forces empowering their dauntless self-expression is makeup. Far from its origin as a tool of concealment, makeup has evolved into a transformative medium that lets one’s outer self reflect the creative spirit within. Examples span the decades, from the doll-like mod makeup of the ‘60s and the outrageously colorful looks painted on by ‘80s Club Kids, to the smokey wet-look that dominated the ‘90s and the more recent Gen Z fascination with all things glittery and Euphoria-inspired. Pauly, a beauty editor whose earliest creative foray was making paper-and-marker magazines for her family, celebrates the revelation of makeup’s metamorphic power. “When I was growing up, makeup was marketed as a way to cover your acne or look good on a date,” the New York native reflects. “Young people today are pushing back against outdated beauty standards and expectations.”

Alex wears NARS Light Reflecting™ Advanced Skincare Foundation in FIJI (L5)
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NARS has driven this paradigm shift from the start. The pioneering powerhouse, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, has a history of championing creatives’ freedom to express themselves as they are and as they wish to be. Founder & Creative Director François Nars’ belief that makeup should have no rules guided NARS from the launch of its very first lipstick line. With the debut of the Light Reflecting™ Foundation in 2022, the brand demonstrates its continued commitment to supporting artistry and authentic self-expression through beauty.  

This philosophy of encouraging unfettered experimentation rings true for Mirsaeid. Growing up, she was a perpetual "new kid" as her family relocated frequently. Attending an arts university allowed her to find the sense of stability she craved. Bring makeup into the mix, and it's a case of life imitating art. “I use [makeup] as a base, in the same way that artwork has always been a base for me to focus,” she explains. Mirsaeid likens beauty products to every creative director’s essential—“the moodboard.” Both allow one to capture the vision that becomes the beautiful finished product.

Under the wand of NARS’ Director of Artistry, Niko Lopez, we witness makeup’s expressive power in practice. In the beauty expert’s chair, the trio’s natural, radiant beauty is accentuated by NARS’ Light Reflecting™ Foundation. As effortless as it is breathable, the foundation offers each of the women an extra layer of confidence as they muse on their creative processes, their relationships with beauty, and how they present their unapologetic selves while navigating the world as women. 

“It’s ideal for those days when you don’t want to wear a full face of makeup. You can just apply this using your fingers and go,” Pauly notes. Smith, meanwhile, singles out its airy feel as a point of praise: “I love that NARS’ Light Reflecting Foundation is lightweight and smooth on my skin. It also gave me this sort of natural glow, which is [essential] for the summertime.”

Beneath the studio’s bright lights, Pauly, Mirsaeid, and Smith are coolly in control, embodying the empowerment that comes from living authentically in every moment. Each meta-framing nods to the self-reflection necessary to know how we are perceived, own who we are, and project that core identity outward.

Morgan wears NARS Light Reflecting™ Advanced Skincare Foundation in Macao (M4)
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For Smith, such reflection is an ongoing process. “In anything in life, it’s easy to compare yourself to others and, at times, I’ve even tried to be something I’m not,” the style writer shares. “I’ve learned—and am still learning—to embrace and love what makes me unique. It feels like having superpowers.” Experimenting with makeup has been essential for the Virginia native to express herself fully. “I typically [opt] for natural looks, but occasionally I like to have a little fun,” she says, citing bold lashes and glitter as her more adventurous go-tos. “It’s like turning yourself into one of those Y2K computer makeover games, channeling your inner MUA and going with whatever makes you feel good.” 

The three women highlighted here are a testament to the liberating power of living authentically—letting your self-expression stem from within rather than from outside to reveal a foundation instead of a frivolous facade. Thankfully, authenticity isn’t a power limited to a select few, but one we’re all capable of wielding. The first step, as demonstrated by our trio of creatives, is choosing to show up every day as yourself—whether that means going full-faced or bare-faced, bold or subtle. You’ll quickly find that changing to fit the mold isn’t nearly as fun as breaking it.

For more on NARS and to unlock your most authentic form, click here.

  • Creative DirectorNikki Mirsaeid
  • Creative LeadL Cardenas
  • Senior EditorCzar Van Gaal
  • Photography91 Rules
  • VideographyEvan Brown
  • StylistMel Renee
  • Makeup ArtistNiko Lopez (Director of U.S. Artistry NARS)
  • HairstylistKazu Katahari
  • Nail ArtistSonya Meesh
  • Set DesignerElysia Belilove
  • Lighting Director Jeremy Gould
  • Digital TechnicianAlonco Maciel
  • ProducerSophia Parisel
  • Account DirectorJohanna Gerhardt
  • Account ManagerTeena Oh
  • Photo AssistantEric Hinsperger
  • Stylist AssistantPhoebe Davis
  • Makeup AssistantEduardo Jimenez
  • Hairstylist AssistantShinya Iwamoto
  • Set Design Assistants Juliana Bergen & Will Rose
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