Angel wasn’t the first word that I used to describe my mother when I was an angst-y teen. (I did, however, have plenty of other choice nouns in my arsenal.) But for 14-year-old model and actor Ke’Andra Samone, that’s exactly how she characterizes her mom, Ashley Rudder, a MAC Global Senior Artist. (To be clear, she’s not a regular mom, she’s a cool mom—an important distinction Amy Poehler’s character pointed out in Mean Girls.) With her expertly highlighted cheekbones and soft halo of curls—both features Ke’Andra was fortunate enough to inherit—Rudder looks nothing short of divine. For the face painter, her daughter (who she affectionately calls Kiki) is her “favorite canvas.” Rudder says bonding through beauty is “our thing—after she does her homework, of course,” as evidenced by the many mother-daughter makeup sessions captured for posterity on Instagram. (Even dear old dad gets in on the action from time to time.)
But despite having a kit stocked with every MAC product imaginable and countless beauty tricks up her sleeve, Rudder wants to pass down more than just the keys to a selfie-worthy glow or a sultry smoky eye. “I always tell [Ke’Andra] she’s even more beautiful mentally than she is physically. Beauty fades—what’s inside is what exudes.” That’s not to say she hasn’t shared her many makeup secrets with her daughter (who will never suffer the fate of over-plucked eyebrows thanks to mom’s watchful eye). In fact, Kiki started raiding Rudder’s makeup stash at the tender age of four. “I would draw all over my face thinking I was doing something,” laughs Ke’Andra of stealing a box of her mother’s lipsticks. “My face was like a coloring book!”
These days, the teenager is a bit more restrained when it comes to cosmetics (though she admits “sky blue lips are a good look!” every now and again). “I’m the type of person who would just grab everything—I want it all! But my mom taught me less is more,” says Ke’Aandra, who never leaves the house without highlighter (It’s got to be poppin’ all the freakin’ time!” she notes) and brushed-up brows. Her current staples include MAC’s Next to Nothing foundation (“It gives you coverage without being full coverage,” she explains) and MAC Eyeshadow in Motif or MAC Extra Dimension Skinfinish in Show Gold dusted across the high points of her face for that aforementioned “poppin’” effect.
In this relationship, however, mother doesn’t always know best (though it seems like she hits the mark most of the time). “[Ke’Andra] has shown me some cool glitter stuff, like glitter highlights and glitter brows,” says Rudder, who relies on vitamin C-packed skincare, black or dark brown liner, faux lashes, and MAC Powder Blush in Format (her “ride-or-die” shade). “I haven’t worn glitter brows yet, but there’s still time!” Beyond millennial-approved makeup trends, Kiki also reminds Rudder to “play up and focus on what I have” in lieu of hiding behind a mask of makeup or a killer contour. “It’s easy to want to adjust and tweak things, especially as you age,” says the pro. “You can always find ways to manipulate, but it’s nice to go back and pare it down and say, What is already there that I could be celebrating?” That said, Ke’Andra also encourages Rudder to experiment and dabble with the bold color she once considered her signature. “I used to love wearing teal eyeshadow,” she says, recalling the days before motherhood. “She definitely inspires me to get out of my neutral zone.”
It was Rudder’s own mother, however, who unintentionally sparked her career in cosmetics, as she wasn’t allowed to wear a “stitch of makeup” until she was 14. While most teens rebel by stealing booze from their parents’ liquor cabinet or sneaking a cigarette in the school bathroom (a devious act many of this year’s Met Ball attendees apparently still aren’t over), Rudder’s gateway drug was MAC’s Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation, the first “big kid” product she purchased after graduating from blotting papers, mascara, and Chapstick. “I started off small by going to the drugstore, but when I went to the department store, that’s when I found out what ladies do—they go to the counter and get hooked up,” she says. “It’s also the first time I met a makeup artist and had them referred to as that. I thought, Oh my gosh, there are artists and they are going to work on me?” The rest, as they say, is history. “My mom messed up because now I’m completely obsessed!” jokes the beauty junkie, whose supply of lashes and lipsticks is virtually unlimited. Her “fashion plate” mother’s passion for black and white films only added fuel to the fire. “Watching those silver screen stars made me want to know more about how to get those perfect lips and all that hair—my mom was the one who explained those things to me.”
And seeing Ke’Andra’s eyes light up as she talks about the transformative powers of clear mascara (her first “big kid” product), there’s no denying she acquired the beauty gene. But as much fun as this duo has testing every trend—from vampy sangria lips to graphic winged eyes—Rudder insists “there are definitely still rules” around makeup. With her Karlie Kloss-like legs (which came courtesy of daddy dearest), it’s easy to mistake the high school freshmen for a college co-ed. And while the teen is tackling big questions, like the westward expansion through the lens of art (the subject of her ninth-grade symposium), Rudder says “she’s got plenty of time” to tack on years with liner and lipstick. For now, Ke’Andra says she’s happy being herself in front of the camera and off—a true feat considering she’s at an age when most teens want to be anything but. “I don’t want people to see just a certain side of me, I want them to see the real me, and all of me,” she adds. There’s no doubt Ke’Andra got that unbridled confidence (along with that photo-ready face) from her mama.
In honor of Mother's Day, we challenged Ke'Andra and Rudder to choose beauty looks for one another—no questions asked. From black lipstick to navy blue cat-eyes, photographer Ibra Ake captures the dynamic (and gorgeous!) duo in action.