Our sixth BEAUTYfull feature is here and I am so excited to share it with you all! Here is a subject who embodies authentic beauty from the inside out, and channels authentic beauty from the outside in.
BEHIND THE CONCEPT: What is BEAUTYfull™
Spread beauty. It’s our mission. And our goal in spreading beauty is that it reaches everyone. It is inclusive, not exclusive. We believe beauty comes in all ages, races, genders, features, abilities, sizes, shapes, body types… in all the unique elements that form each of our unique whole. There is a FULL spectrum of BEAUTY and we all exist in it. With our own personal experiences, stories and voices. And with that, originated the concept of BEAUTYfull™.
For the sixth post in the series, we shine a spotlight on Masha Erlikh.
Special note: All photography by Stephania Stanley. Concept, makeup and interview by Lauren Cosenza. Shot in Brooklyn, New York.
THE SIXTH SUBJECT: Masha Erlikh
When asked to describe herself, Masha needs only 20 words: “I am soul food not eye candy, a world citizen, work in progress, a warrior of the light, a unicorn!”
Masha was born in NYC to parents who had recently emigrated from the former USSR. Early in her career, Masha got a job in Sydney Australia, working for a department store chain as an assistant to the buyers. She loved her international stint in the fashion industry but ultimately returned home to New York in the beginning of 2008 to start an affiliate of her family’s Circle of Friends adult social day care center. “Authenticity is all you need to share your light with the world. They say ‘it’s a privilege to be able to hustle for what you believe’ and that’s the case for me. The elderly at my facilities go through a renaissance of sorts and begin to learn to sing, dance, act, paint and sooo much more. The soul never ages and it’s amazing to watch these people come back to life.”
As for the BEAUTYfull project, since its launch Masha loved the concept. “I’ve always strongly believed that each and every one of us have something that makes us uniquely beautiful and I love that this series celebrates that. I want to be a part of this movement that is redefining one the most misunderstood concepts of our modern world: What is beautiful?”
THE INTERVIEW: Masha on her belief in authentic beauty, keeping some sense of mystery, and not telling her she “has such a pretty face”
What do you love about yourself physically? Why?
In all reality, I believe that the totality of a human being is what makes us beautiful – but what I love most about myself physically is my smile. I try to smile as often as I can and at as many people as I can. I even like to throw people off by smiling at someone that looks sad. Its truly amazing to see the change in them and their energy. You should try it out sometime.
What have you felt pressure to change or alter, or have you otherwise struggled with or felt insecure about?
This is one of my favorite quotes of all time: The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must felt with the heart. It’s by Helen Keller.
I’ve always had an internal battle that I’ve fought with myself regarding my body. I never felt different to others until someone told me at the age of 8 that I was a “chubby” but I had a “pretty face”. At the moment, I was soo confused… but what about the rest of me?? For many years I could not take the compliment “you have such a pretty face” and would get soo annoyed when someone would say it.
From a very young age, I understood that the girls I was growing up with were skinnier than me and with much straighter hair and that made me feel like they were prettier than me. There was an endless stream of narrow-minded messages about beauty that sabotaged my self-worth. I was constantly being bombarded from every angle by the images in the media and fashion industry.
As an adult, I learned that being a beautiful woman had nothing to do with being perfect. Perfection is subjective, shallow, fake and boring. It’s about being a woman of substance, being true to yourself and authentic. It’s about having boundaries and honoring your mind, body and soul. I’ve realized that what makes us beautiful is the sum of all things and the ability to feel your own strength with a sense of balance and grace.
Describe the idealized standard of beauty for women as you see it today. What does the perfect woman, as defined by Hollywood, entertainment and social media, look like?
It seems like its like that Chorus Line song and all about “tits and ass.” I find that modern day women in Hollywood are striving for perfection and that doesn’t exist. It has created a fake standard in society where women are highly sexualized and it seems like they have something to prove. One of the greatest tragedies in life is to lose your own sense of self and accept the version of you that is expected by everyone else. I love the idea of artistic freedom and women being able to express their sexuality but to me, it sometimes seems like it’s a cry for attention. Just be real, love yourself the way you are and be authentic. That’s more than enough.
How do you think most women compare to this standard, or feel about it?
We as women all get so worried about being pretty. Like they say ”Lets be pretty kind. Pretty Funny. Pretty smart. Pretty strong”. I follow this mantra and believe that we all should rather than comparing ourselves to a phony standard.
If you had a crystal ball, what do you see in the future for beauty?
I believe that society is beginning to embrace the massive spectrum of beauty and that’s exciting. I believe that each and every one of us has somethings that makes us unique and beautiful. It seems like society is just beginning to embrace that concept. Truth is beauty and it radiates from within.
Who were your first beauty icons? Who do you see as a beauty icon now?
One of my first beauty icons was – and still is – Marilyn Monroe. She epitomizes the female form and was truly a beautiful woman. I believe that modern day beauty icons are rather homogenous and lack a sense of mystery that makes a woman sexy. Everything seems to be too accessible nowadays and I believe that a beautiful woman has an air of mystery and leaves something to the imagination.
When do you feel beautiful? What makes you feel beautiful?
I love getting dressed up! It’s soo much fun for me and I truly enjoy being able to transform my look with makeup and clothing. Never under estimate the power of a good outfit on a bad day. I do it for myself and not to get the approval of others, and that’s most important thing. If you’re dressing yourself for yourself and its done with love, then it will work. In our society, everyone is looking at everyone else to find out what is cool and trending. No one knows what is cool. Just dress yourself with confidence and no one can take that away from you.
When don’t you feel beautiful? What makes you feel not beautiful?
When I allow other people’s opinions in that don’t matter.
What is your beauty regimen? Has it always been the same?
I’ve had the same regimen for many years, which is I drink a lot of green tea and every morning before breakfast, I have a cup of hot water with about a half a lemon squeezed into it. A few times a week, I switch it up and soak a teaspoon of Chia seeds overnight in a tea cup with enough water to just cover the top of the chia seeds. Then, in the morning, I add boiling hot water with the lemon or a tea spoon of apple cider vinegar and a teaspoon of raw natural honey and hot water. This is my feel-good morning elixir and I feel like its very good for the skin and makes your eyes look bright.
I was raised to always be wary of the sun, so I never leave the house without tinted moisturizer with sunscreen on my face. I wash my face every night with Clarins foaming face wash and remove my makeup with coconut oil. It’s just the best and doesn’t irritate my skin or eyes. I also use a moisturizer and eye cream called “the cure” from “Natura Bisse” every night. Rose water is also a huge part of my regimen. I make my own from aloe vera juice and rose water concentrate that I get at the health food store. I mix them together in a spray bottle and store it in the fridge. I use it daily on my face and hair as a refresher.
Any beauty advice you’ve been given that you particularly appreciated? Any that you particularly did not?
My friend Beatriz gave me the advice on the lemon water with chia seeds and drinking lots of green tea. I believe that it has made the most difference in my regimen throughout the years.
Who is beautiful to you?
A person who is distinctively themselves with a badass style that expresses their personality.
What is beautiful to you?
Kindness and Love.
For this post I used the products featured below. Please note this post is not sponsored. All thoughts are unbiased and my own and the subject’s own. Products were provided for editorial consideration and/or my use as a professional makeup artist. All photos are property of DIVAlicious and Stephania Stanley Photography.
Lauren Cosenza is the creator and editor-in-chief of DIVAlicious, a trusted beauty/fashion expert, an on-camera personality and spokesperson, a leading NYC-based professional makeup artist, a published contributor and writer, a brand consultant, a product junkie and an insatiable style seeker — with a former life at Cosmopolitan and Shape magazines.
Serving up style with a side of attitude, her site DIVAlicious gives women (and men) the confidence and permission to be fabulous. The site, with a goal to SPREAD BEAUTY, is filled with must-have products, pro tips and tricks, how-to DIY tutorials, makeovers, style inspiration and insider access. Topics range from beauty, fashion, culture, career, fitness, wellbeing, men’s and unisex offerings.
Stephanie Stanley (or Stephania, as her Greek family calls her) is a New York City-based advertising and editorial photographer who specializes in fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. Her work can be found on ELLE, Harper’s BAZAAR, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Marie Claire, TODAY, DailyCandy, and TeenVogue. Her client list includes Levi’s, JCPenney, Clean & Clear, Microsoft, Olay, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Garnier, TRESemmé, Estée Lauder, Nexxus, GAP, Secret, and more.
Stephanie holds an MFA in Photography from Parsons and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and puppy, Ophelia, where she can be found running along Brooklyn Bridge Park and enjoying chocolate croissants from the local Italian bakery (typically in that exact order).