EXCLUSIVE! All eyes on Malia Baker

🌀 Seeing Blue: All-around eyeliner gets a girly upgrade in brilliant blues. Line your upper and lower lash lines with aqua cream eyeshadow (we like NYX Vivid Brights Creme Color in Endless Skies, $10), then blend your inner and outer corners with a Q-tip to soften, says celebrity makeup artist Zabrina Matiru. Add a bit of shimmery blue shadow on the lid, a peachy tone above your crease and a pop of gold in the inner corner to make your eyes really sparkle.

There are some unwritten beauty rules society tells us to never break. To name a few: Don't go to sleep with your makeup on, don't forget to blend your foundation down your neck and never...I mean, never...cut your own bangs.

But rules are meant to be broken, especially if you're 15-year-old actress and activist Malia Baker, who spontaneously snipped a set of curly fringe all by her own dang self just a couple weeks before our interview. "I just cut them on a whim!" she says with a casual laugh, and I can't help but gasp. Would it be too dramatic to call her...brave?

As it turns out, the answer is definitively no, because crushing the DIY bangs game is hardly the only beauty barrier Malia has overcome.

From the outside, the Canada-based actress totally looks like she has her proverbial ish together. Not only does she star as Mary Anne Spier in Netflix's The Baby-Sitters Club, but she's also an unapologetic advocate for gender and racial justice. She and her mom started @hashtagsand, which provides information and resources for social justice platforms, and she was just named a youth ambassador for She's the First, a nonprofit organization dedicated to achieving gender equality through education.

It takes a ton of poise to juggle so many intense responsibilities, but all of that is nothing compared to Malia's own story. Life has taught her some major lessons about the relationship between beauty and mental health the hard way.

☁️ In The Clouds: Find yourself constantly daydreaming? Embrace that creativity! Sketch lines with a white primer, then grab an angled brush and wet it, advises Matiru. Swirl the brush in a white powder eyeshadow to create a paint-like texture. Pro tip: Matiru used pancake makeup (a water-activated powder) to create her clouds (try Mehron StarBlend Cake Makeup in White, $12).

Malia started struggling with anxiety when she was little—long before she knew what beauty rules and standards even were. Actually, Malia started a lot of things early: She began dance lessons at 2 and musical theater at 3. "Dance was my life," she remembers.

Then, when she was 8, Malia was diagnosed with a debilitating condition known as CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome)—a rare disease often correlated with anxiety. The condition relegated her to a wheelchair, unable to walk or dance for nearly a year. Her dreams of performing seemed suddenly out of reach.

"It felt like something had been taken away from me—my beauty and grace were gone," Malia shares. "There are always layers within a person that you see as you get to know them. CRPS is definitely a layer that shaped who I am."

Malia's CRPS experience forced her to acquire mental health tools that she'd need in the years to come, especially after getting cast in The Baby-Sitters Club, when her life suddenly got a hundred times more exciting...and a hundred times more pressure-packed ("Going through puberty on Netflix? Not exactly every teenage girl's dream," she says with a laugh-cry).

To stave off anxiety, Malia draws on mindfulness tricks (like connect-the-dots games to get out of her head), distractions ("books, books and books!") or just telling herself, this too shall pass. "It's all about finding things I love that aren't focused on whatever it is that I can't control," says Malia.

🔶 Avant-Garde Optics: "Think outside the lines," says Matiru. Apply the neon eyeshadow of your choice to your entire lid and under your lower lash line. Then, drip a makeup sponge (try the L.A. Colors 3 Makeup Blending Sponge Pack, $11) in the same shade and sweep it out toward your temples (don't be afraid to change up the angles to work for your face shape). So new! So unexpected!

It's low-key amazing how the better you feel inside your brain, the more secure you feel about your outside appearance—and the more willing you are to do something adventurous, like cut your own bangs. But Malia confesses that no matter how solid her mental health routine has gotten, she still has moments when her confidence slips. It's no secret that 2022 (an area of sky-high beauty standards and everyone having an opinion) is not exactly an easy time to be in the public eye.

Malia (like all of us) has a love-hate relationship with how beauty is portrayed on social media. That said, she tries to focus on the positive: "There are a lot of different sides to it, especially on TikTok. You can see people being super creative and independent, and that empowers me to go my own way, too," she says.

Unlike five years ago—when Malia's social media algorithms only showed FaceTuned "perfection"—her FYP now offers everything from beauty affirmations (Malia starts each day with positive self-talk in the mirror) to random out-of-the-box makeup hacks that are actually helpful (for dramatic lashes, she wiggles her mascara wand side-to-side, not just from the bottom out). And when something doesn't make her feel inspired? Those mute, block and unfollow buttons are there for a reason.

But Malia swears nothing makes her feel more beautiful than focusing on projects that are bigger than herself, like using her star power to help other young women or treating beauty as a form of activism in its own right. "You can take a stand just getting something at the drugstore," shares Malia, who recommends supporting BIPOC-owned beauty brands (her absolute favorite is the Indigenous-owned company Cheekbone Beauty).

💎 Embellished Eyes: We see your faux freckles, and we raise you the cutest set of scattered gemstones. Your secret weapon? Lash glue. Using a Q-tip, add dots of glue across your cheeks and nose wherever you want the stones to sit. Carefully place the gems with your fingers (or use a silicone-tipped tool). Tie the whole look together by coordinating your flair with your fit.

Becoming besties with her Baby-Sitters Club co-stars, especially Shay Rudolph (who plays Stacey) and Momona Tamada (aka Momo, who plays Claudia), has brought unparalleled joy and support to Malia's life, too. "It takes a village to raise someone—and we all raise each other," she shares.

So what's next for Malia? Her face twinkles like a disco ball when she tells me about her next movie, Harvest Moon, a "passion project" she was cast in literally a week before filming started in South Carolina. It just wrapped up late last year.

The film was made by one of Malia's bucket list directors, Mark Waters, who also directed Freaky Friday, one of her favorite movies (Malia also dreams of working with Wes Anderson and Greta Gerwig, in case any of the Hollywood gods are listening). She also hopes to make her way to the other side of the camera one day, too, directing films and TV shows and inspiring other young people of color, especially girls, to tell their stories in a big way.

No matter how glamorous Malia's life gets, though, she has learned full well that feeling TikTok baddie-level gorgeous all the time is not realistic. And that's OK.

Whether she's donning brilliant beauty looks for a fabulous photo shoot (like, um, this one) or going bare-faced to lunch with Shay and Momo, Malia reminds herself that beauty more than filters and fame—it's accepting that life is full of curveballs, and you just have to do your best to grow into your most authentic self anyway. "Doing the small things every day," says Malia. "That's what keeps me going."

Hey, girl! Just wanted to let you know that this story originally ran in our April/May 2022 issue. Want more? Read the print mag for free *today* when you click HERE.

Credits: Photographed by Sean Scheidt. Story by Amanda Montell. Styled by Leila Bani. Hair by Alicia Chowen. Makeup by Zabrina Matiru. Beauty copy by Erin Sargent. Story edited for digital coverage by Kathleen O'Neill. GIF via Giphy.


by Amanda Montell | 4/18/2022