Celebrity makeup artist Eric Ferrell was the mastermind behind late R&B legend Aaliyah’s signature face. After thirty years of making magic in entertainment, Eric’s death at age 50 was reported in early November 2020. His cause of death is still unknown, but his legacy lives on through the art he left behind.
Eric has painted the faces of powerhouses like Beyoncé, Solange, and Brandy, but he’s most renowned for crafting Aaliyah’s iconic makeup aesthetic. “Eric Ferrell is my make-up artist. I never have to worry with Eric. I close my eyes, open them and he makes me beautiful,” Aaliyah said in a 2001 MTV Diary.
As Eric told The Fader in 2011, he met Aaliyah on the photoshoot for her very first album, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, when she was just 15. He worked in her glam squad for eight years and even helped create M.A.C’s Aaliyah collection in 2018. Over the years, Eric built his own niche of timeless nostalgia. Aaliyah’s sharp brow, sultry lashes, and ultra-glossy lips transcend their late ‘90s timestamp and still influence beauty trends two decades later.
Aaliyah’s trademark makeup has a timeless appeal, and the secret lies in Eric’s eye for bold simplicity. He was just as comfortable highlighting her natural beauty as he was making her look like a futuristic vixen. Aaliyah completely redefined feminity and sex appeal by balancing a tomboyish edge with feminine accents. The harmony Eric achieved between the two oozed mystery and was way ahead of its time.
Fans of the iconic makeup artist’s work, and stars who worked with him, showed an outpouring of love on social media after hearing about his passing. “The Boy is Mine” singer Monica paid tribute on Instagram stories writing, “rest well @ericferrellmakeup. I’m both shocked and devastated. Your smile, talent and constant ability to make many feel beautiful will never be forgotten!” Aaliyah fan accounts also reminisced over Eric’s legendary looks on social media. “It’s so devastating to know that such an innovator in the makeup community is gone. Eric Ferrell’s work was really ahead of his time and will always be revered,” tweeted fan account @butterflyrares.
A star’s legacy is written in their work, so it’s only right we pay homage by remembering Eric’s standout looks on his muse.
1. The Aaliyah Brow
Eric gave us variety and innovation in every look but nowhere is this more celebrated than in Aaliyah’s pristinely groomed brows. The angle of her arch was always precise and not even a hair was ever out of place. In an era when women were loyal to a thin stencil brow, Eric kept Aaliyah’s full and natural.
In an Instagram post in 2019, Eric revealed that Aaliyah maintained her brows at Anastasia Beverly Hills, but he was responsible for their signature shape. “I groomed and maintained them on set and on tour. I did create the initial shape and I would tweeze razor and trim with scissors,” he wrote.
2. “Try Again” music video
Aaliyah wore an unforgettable, smoldering charcoal eye in her chart-topping 2000 hit “Try Again.” In line with the song’s resilient message of “dust yourself off and try again,” her looks exuded power. Eric never shied away from throwing away the rule book and revamping Aaliyah’s expected looks into something more dark and dangerous.
Her bold and blown out smokey eye looks like an icy superhero’s mask of power. “I remember she said, ‘I feel like guys are going to look at this and say I want to go towards you but then I am afraid,’” Eric told Vibe magazine in 2016. In an industry fuelled by the male gaze, their artistic choice gets a big yes.
3. Aaliyah’s Dark Smokey Eye
No one framed Aaliyah’s hypnotic eyes quite like Eric. Her intense smokey eye and rouge lip in “We Need A Resolution” are etched into R&B history. They say you should never pair a bold eye with a bright lip but Eric’s choice of vampy red and gothic black makes this Aaliyah’s most sultry look.