Teddy Quinlivan, the New Face of KUSH Mascara, Has Some Thoughts
by Abby McIntosh
Teddy Quinlivan is our kinda girl. She sort of does…whatever the f*ck she wants. Or, at least, that’s the goal. She was unhappy in New York, so she moved. She’ll 100% wear a smoky eye at 10 AM (and then happily wash it all off in front of you). She has no plans on cooking anytime soon. And no, actually, she wouldn’t go back in time and give advice to her 15-year-old-self. She’s a woman who’s come to understand that all she’s gone through, even the worst of it, has brought her to where she is today, to a truer relationship with herself and a fuller understanding of the world. She’s on her way and moving fast, learning as she goes, but she took a minute to sit down with us and talk about the important stuff: eyebrows, Jane Fonda, and lobster ravioli. With sharpness and moxie unmatched, we thought: who better to rep the evolution of a game-changing franchise like KUSH than Teddy?
Milk Makeup: What’s your relationship with makeup? Is it a daily thing for you?
Teddy Quinlivan: I love wearing makeup. There are days when I don’t wanna put stuff on my face, but makeup makes me look infinitely better. It’s not that I don’t feel confident without it, it’s just that I know I look better with it. I feel like, you know, why not? Also for me, doing makeup is a very meditative process. I put on YouTube and I’ll watch the news or something while I do it. It’s alone time.
MMU: How long does it take? Do you have a 5-minute version of your routine and then, like, an hour-long version?
TQ: Girl, there’s no 5-minute version. For me, I would like to take an hour to do it — that way I feel like you get in everything you want and it looks perfect. An hour is ideal to do, like, a perfect glam. But a fast glam I can do in 15 minutes. But I like to do looks.
MMU: On a daily basis?
TQ: Yeah. I’ll do a smoky eye for, like, 10 AM. I’m just that kind of a girl.
MMU: So what are your essential products that you have to have whether you’re doing a serious look or the fast version?
TQ: A good concealer, like a contour shade that’s nice and cool. I’ll use it around my face, on my forehead, along my jawline. You can honestly do a full face with just concealer, contour, and highlight. I go through phases where I love my brows with nothing in them and then sometimes I feel like they need a kick, so for me, a good brow pencil [is essential]. And I’m really into brow pens now, like a skinny little tip so you can do smaller strokes. Even on a day where I’m doing a completely fresh face I’ll do a brow because I look too normal without makeup on, too pedestrian. I like looking like my profession. There’s this Joan Crawford quote — actually, maybe it’s not Joan Crawford — but she’s like, “When I leave my house, I leave my house as Joan Crawford the movie star,” you know? I’m not famous or anything, but I do get photographed a lot on the street, and you never know what client you’re going to run into.
MMU: After you’ve done a lot of shows or shoots, do you go through periods where you’re like, “I just can’t wear makeup right now?”
TQ: Yes. If I have a big breakout or something…if I start to get pimples in the center of my face, like by my nose and cheeks, that’s when there’s been too much product on my face.
MMU: What about skincare?
TQ: I’m a skincare addict. At the end of the day, if you’re going home with a guy or a girl or whatever your preference is, like, even for a one night stand, I will not sleep in my makeup.
MMU: Even then you’ll take all your makeup off?
TQ: I’ll take all my makeup off in front of them. But I feel comfortable doing that because my skin is nice. Invest in a bougie moisturizer, invest in a bougie serum. I use a hyaluronic acid serum because hyaluronic acid attracts water. I have kind of dry skin. I use that day and night and it instantly plumps you. So I’ll do an AHA toner and then on top of that I put my serums. I layer serums, so I’ll do, like, two serums and then a rich moisturizer.
MMU: So you’re not afraid of doing too much?
TQ: Oh no. I think you should do too much. The only thing I’m not into is eye creams. And so then, on top of that, I’ll put face oil. Face oil should be your last step because it’ll block any penetration of anything that goes above it. Then I feel like I have a nice, greasy barrier to put my makeup on. Your skin, even the oiliest skin type, loves moisture. That’s how you stay right and tight: moisture, moisture, moisture, moisture.
MMU: How about mascara?
TQ: I do like mascara.
MMU: 1 coat? 2 coats? Waterproof? Primer?
TQ: I’m the waterproof girl today, but I’m not normally a waterproof mascara kind of person just because I plan on not crying wherever I go [laughs]. Waterproof mascara is a special occasion type thing or if I really wanna lock in a curl.
I like to use a nice thickening [mascara]. I actually really love KUSH Mascara. It does what I need it to do — it lengthens, separates, and gives me good volume. That’s what I like. I don’t need a false lash look, but I want it to look like my lashes on their best day.
MMU: What about false lashes? Lash extensions?
TQ: Nope, none of that. For some people I think it makes a lot of sense and it looks really good, but it’s just not my style. I like to look done but not artificial. And it’s also a particular style and aesthetic. Like, when I think of false lashes, I think of a specific person, and that’s just not me.
MMU: What’s your go-to look for a night out?
TQ: I like a brown smoky eye with a really nice inner corner highlight. A nice coating of mascara, beautiful skin, contour and blush, highlighted, brows done. I’m an eye girl; I’m not a lip girl.
MMU: When you get home after a night out, what’s your routine for taking stuff off? Do you really take it all off?
TQ: Yeah, I take it all off. I have a really nice cleanser that just melts it all away. I take a good moment cleansing my face; I just let it melt off and do its thing. I’ll cleanse once to get the makeup off and then I’ll use the same cleanser again to make sure it’s really off. Maybe if I was only wearing a little bit of makeup I’d just cleanse once, but I wear heavy makeup when I go out.
MMU: Outside of work, what have you been doing recently that makes you happy?
TQ: I live in Paris. I’ve lived there since August, but I lived there for three years prior, and then I lived in New York for a few years. New York is just not my city. I just don’t really connect with it quite as much as I want to. I feel like I’m a Parisian girl at heart in so many ways. I like to explore; I like to listen to my music and walk around. There’s so much to see in Paris. There’s so much stuff that inspires me. Whether it’s sitting at a cafe and watching people walk by on the street or going to the disco with my friends and partying all night. I just keep my eyes and ears open. I’m always trying to absorb as much as I can.
MMU: Do you love your alone time?
TQ: I honestly need my alone time.
MMU: Do you think it’s because part of your job is to give so much personality?
TQ: Yes. I show up to work and it’s Teddy Quinlivan the model that shows up. In my daily life, I wanna look like Teddy Quinlivan the model but be removed from that sphere in a way. In some ways, I’m quite introverted in my free time. Look all you want, but don’t touch. Do not come up to me on the street and talk to me. Just because you follow me on Instagram, doesn’t mean we’re friends.
MMU: When you have days where you just don’t wanna do anything, what do you do?
TQ: Oh my gosh, I will just sit in my bed except to just pick up my Uber Eats that I’ve probably ordered three times throughout the course of the day. I’ll just go into the black hole of the internet, or I’ll catch up on something I have to do. Like, tax season is coming up…
MMU: Do you get sick of traveling?
TQ: Yes. I travel a lot and it does get really stressful. I hate airports. I hate airplanes. I hate, like, sitting in a seat that’s completely uncomfortable. And I’m not a business-class-only kind of girl. I’ll fly myself economy if I’m paying for the flight. Or a lot of times clients don’t have the budget — or “don’t have the budget” — so a lot of the time you’re not flying comfortably. And I’m a 6-foot-tall woman; I’m a tall girl. It’s a lot of time doing nothing.
MMU: So do you have a reset period when you get back home?
TQ: After I travel, ideally I’ll have 48 hours to myself. I need, like, two days to kind of get back into being a human again. But that’s not always the case, either. That’s my preference, but sometimes you just have to jump right back into work.
MMU: Do you want to keep modeling?
TQ: [Modeling] was never a passion of mine; it was never something that really excited me. I was excited about fashion and creativity and being able to work with creative people and create beautiful images. I don’t really care about being the subject of an image, but [I care about] playing a role in creating something beautiful and iconic… Or something like this [Milk Makeup KUSH campaign] that’s going to be in Sephora and knowing that so many people are going to see it and be influenced by it, that’s the cool part. But I don’t gag for sitting in hair and makeup for hours.
MMU: So what’s the most frustrating part about being a model?
TQ: When the idea isn’t good. When the concept isn’t nice. You know by the second look or the second shot how it’s going to turn out. Especially if you’re not getting paid, you’re just sitting there like, “Well, this is gonna be shitty.” I did a lot of that at the beginning of my career ‘cause you just have to suck it up and do it, but I’m at a point now in my career where I can say yes or no to projects that I’m impassioned or not impassioned by. I just wanna say “no” way more often now.
MMU: What’s it like to be a spokesperson in addition to modeling?
TQ: For whatever reason, people wanna listen to pretty people talk about things. I knew it was gonna come with the territory. It’s not like I came out about being transgender publicly on CNN to not talk about it. Having this extra layer to my career adds depth and makes it worth it. Even when I really don’t wanna be at a shoot and don’t wanna take another f*cking photo, I think to myself, a young trans person is going to see this and think, “Maybe I can do that one day,” or feel inspired and less uncomfortable about being who they are. Even though it’s not the kind of work I envisioned myself doing in my life, it’s good because I know that it will leave an impact. Fashion, whether you like it or not, is highly influential on culture. Just by me working and being successful and trying to set an example and lead by example, that’s going to hopefully rub off on people.
MMU: If you show up to set and they wanna chop your hair off or something, what’s your reaction?
TQ: People wanna do things to me all the time, and everybody has an opinion and suggestions about how you should live your life and how you should look. I’ve just seen myself so many different ways from modeling for so long and now I know, like, “No.” I don’t wanna be rude and be like, “That’s a shitty idea,” but sometimes it is a shitty idea and you have to be like, “Oh, well what about this?”
MMU: You tell them to f*ck off in your own way?
TQ: Yeah, in my own way. I’m not very good at hiding how I feel. My face gives it away and I can’t fake liking something. You can make any hairstyle work with the right makeup, and you can make any makeup work with the right hairstyle, but they have to work in sync with each other. They’re both equally important.
MMU: What are you listening to right now?
TQ: I’ve always been really big into deep house and disco and electronic and techno. That’s really what I listen to the most. Right now I’m really into a genre called soul house or gospel house. It’s basically music that takes you to church, you know? You’re like, “Yes gawd! Praise the lord!” Music that uplifts you and makes you feel happy and gives you energy and makes you feel like life is beautiful and fun and dance-y; I like music like that.
MMU: What do you listen to when you need a somber moment?
TQ: I download a lot of movie soundtracks. I love to listen to movie soundtracks when I walk around. A great one for anyone in New York — ‘cause I know Milk Makeup is a New York brand — download the Blade Runner soundtrack, the original Vangelis soundtrack. On a rainy, cold-ass day in New York, listen to “Love Theme Song” from Blade Runner and it’ll set the mood. That’s such a good somber one. Don’t depress yourself with Lana Del Rey. Don’t listen to music that’s like, life is so hard, life is so sad, nobody loves me, I’m alone. It just reinforces that negativity. You can listen to a song that reflects your mood without it having this message of, like, “I’m down in the dumps!”
MMU: What are you watching?
TQ: Right now I’m really into Grace & Frankie with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. Jane Fonda is a literal representation of me in 50 years. Or maybe in 40 years. She’s so snatched; I won’t look that good in 50 years. I’ll be dead [laughs]. She’s just such an icon and I’m so inspired by her right now. Like, Jane Fonda — you could have a drink with Jane Fonda. You could have a drink every night with Jane Fonda. I like women who have been places and done things and who live authentically and have opinions and aren’t afraid to share them and aren’t afraid to embrace their sexuality. I didn’t fall in love with Jane Fonda as an actress, I fell in love with her as a person. She’s a real bitch and I love her. So Grace & Frankie, j’adore.
My favorite movie is Kill Bill. And Girl With A Dragon Tattoo, the American version by David Fincher, I love. And I love Stoker, it’s by a Korean director. It’s kind of about having an attraction to something that you know is wrong. It really explores these feelings of attraction in a way that most movies I think are too scared to touch on. It’s a super-twisted coming-of-age type thing. Handmaiden is another fave.
MMU: What would say to your 15-year-old self? How would you spend the day with your 15-year-old self?
TQ: I wouldn’t say anything. I feel like because I had no guidance and no person tapping me on the shoulder saying, “No, do it this way,” I had to figure out things for myself. That’s how I’ve become the person I am today. It’s the butterfly effect. I wouldn’t wanna go back. I wouldn’t wanna spend the day with myself. Like, let my 15-year-old self be miserable and lonely and bullied and all the things I was back then. That’s the shit that makes you humble and makes you appreciative of looking in the mirror and being like, “You know what? I look great today, and I’m gonna go hang out with my cool friends.”
MMU: Yeah, like, “Despite all the shit I went through, I’m still a decent person.”
TQ: Exactly. I think you need to go through the bullshit to become the person you are. So I wouldn’t go back in time and hang out with myself or speak to myself.
MMU: Ok so what’s your favorite meal?
TQ: Oh my god, I can think of a hundred. I love seafood. I’m a seafood addict. I grew up in Boston. I didn’t live on the coast, but we had fresh seafood all the time. And I’m from an Italian family, so like, pasta. One of my favorite dishes is lobster ravioli.
MMU: Do you cook?
TQ: Oh, I can’t cook to save my life. And I don’t necessarily want to, you know what I mean? I would rather break the bank on Uber Eats than cook for myself. The other thing, too, is like you go to the grocery store and spend $200 buying all these nice ingredients. I feel like if I don’t use them all, I wasted all this money.
MMU: Yeah. Don’t play yourself.
TQ: Don’t play yourself, girl. Just order your food and shut up. But you know what? I like people that can cook and want to do that. I’m inspired by that but it’s just not me. I would love to date, like, a hottie who can cook.
MMU: Do you like to be the hostess?
TQ: In ways, yes. I like to have a good time, but I don’t want people to count on me to facilitate the good time. I’m not the inviter; I’m the invitee. I wait for the invitation and then I’m like, “Ok, let’s do it.” Also, too, I don’t think the quantity of friends matters in terms of hosting. I know a lot of people with that mentality. They wanna be around a million people all the time, and I would rather be around, like, two really cool, down b*tches.
That’s part of the reason I left New York. I was in this group of kids who didn’t like me but wanted to hang out around me. I ended up being surrounded by people I didn’t like who were really negative. It had a really negative effect on my life. They were all basically drug addicts. Jobless drug addicts, too. Like, “I host parties.” If you’ve been hosting parties and you’re not, like, Lady Fag…like, what’s going on? As much as I love it — I love to have fun and party — it can be a very dark lifestyle. I was hanging out with people who only did that, or that was their recreational activity, like going out and getting f*cked up. Life is about balance. You have to find the balance.
MMU: Are you going to stay in Paris?
TQ: No. I love to travel. I love to live in different places. I love new experiences. I don’t like to get too attached to one place. I started going to boarding school when I was 15 or 16 and I started modeling when I was 17. Be adventurous. Life is short. Don’t just stay in one place. You don’t know what you’re missing out on. Take a risk. The world is so beautiful and it’s not going to be here for much longer, so you know what, you wanna see a coral reef? There’s, like, one left. We’re damaging the world in ways we don’t know, so go see it while it’s still here. Sorry, that’s a negative note to end on, but it’s true.