It’s Tuesday night, the kickoff of New York Fashion Week, and Addison Rae Easterling is having a ball. Or rather, a floral-strewn “soirée” on the Public Hotel’s terrace, overlooking the city’s skyline at sunset. The multi-hyphenate phenom—a singer-dancer-actor whose TikTok stardom counts 84 million followers—has gathered an equally photogenic crew to celebrate Item Beauty, her talked-about cosmetics range that has just earned Sephora’s Clean seal. Given the brand’s pandemic-era launch—first with makeup, now skin care, all under $25—this is the first in-person event for Easterling to meet the 50-ish vaccinated influencers and beauty editors in attendance. “I’m wearing Lash Snack, and then Brow Chow, and I had the Lip Quip on, but I’ve eaten like ten burgers, so that came off—but I have it in my bag,” she tells me in a singsongy cadence, describing what her glam squad applied for the party. Her PR promised me facetime to speak with her in the green room, though Easterling’s slinky turtleneck dress and eye shadow (not her own) are the only green in the airy white space where we sit on boxy club chairs. Off-camera, I’m surprised at the speed at which she speaks. In our 13-minute conversation, she somehow rattles off a half-hour’s worth of material, thanks to sheer enthusiasm.
“It’s so crazy. I think that’s the only way to describe it—it’s just, like, insane,” Easterling tells me of her rapid-paced rise to fame and public influence. It’s been a packed day for her, with a television spot in the morning and shopping with her mom preceding the event. “I’ve progressively learned that opportunities come and go. I have FOMO with everything, so I want to say yes and do everything, but then I realized quickly that for my mental health it’s really important to step back sometimes, so I got to do that today, which is great.” She smiles and takes a breath.
Soon, she’ll leave the party early, possibly with enough time to wish a friend happy birthday in person. Keeping people around her that are able to appreciate and support the kind of instant celebrity that she’s experiencing right now is important to her. She feels genuinely excited when friends text her for refills of beauty products, with excited reviews of the formulas. “It’s just so refreshing to hear people that you love spending time with also love the things you’re doing—and, like, supporting each other. It’s hard to find people that are real friends, especially when you’re going through a lot of life-changing scenarios, I guess.” It’s a relatable feeling, even for someone with zero public presence, not to mention tens of millions of strangers critiquing every move. “There have been so many pros, but, you know, there are cons to it at the same time. I’m only 20, and going through these formative years in the eyes of people that are willing to tear me down or look for something for me to mess up on. In reality, I’m gonna mess up.”
We talk about how her mom was a makeup artist while she was growing up, how pageants and dance competitions had her in a “sparkly eye shadow and red lipstick” at age four. She was the one doing her friends’ faces for prom and homecoming—“They’d pay me, like, $20,” Easterling says—so, in a way, she’s had a lifetime of experience in the field. I ask if she’s finding beauty, a notoriously friendly arena, to be welcoming. “Yeah, it’s definitely more relaxed. You kind of do what you love and express that through the products, and are able to show creativity without judgment,” she says. “Different fields have a lot of criticism, but beauty is one thing that I feel like people can’t really have a say on. It’s very ‘to each their own,’ where other aspects of the industry, I guess you could say, people have this ridiculous standard sometimes that’s almost unattainable to a lot of people.”
As Easterling poses near the floral wedding arch, and chats with guests coming from the friendship-bracelet bar and candy station, charming is a word I hear describing her presence. And she is—and wants you to know she’s aware of her own faults and potential. “There’s no need to categorize yourself, especially when you are in love with so many different things,” she says of juggling projects like Netflix’s He’s All That remake and her quick-and-catchy “Obsessed” track on Spotify. “I really am passionate about everything I’ve done and involved myself with, and maybe I have lots of growing and learning to do in those spaces.”
She’s confident she’s mastered the perfect mascara, though. “I’ve tried millions of mascaras—I love mascara so much,” she says, blinking with a top-to-bottom set of thickly coated with her Lash Snack formula, one of her favorites in the line. “Obviously there are many incredible mascaras, but I wanted a wand that was precise and small,” she explains. “I’m like a huge mess maker, so I always get mascara all over my eyelids when I do it with a big brush.”
We go on to discuss her most starstruck moments as a striking young talent, including working with Rachel Leigh Cook on He’s All That, and, of course, the Kardashians. She shares the screen with Kourtney in the film, and appreciates the family’s skill at turning public persona into big business—a move this quick study has already figured out, garnering no small amount of attention. “It’s awesome to see people use that platform and be real and true and themselves,” she says without a trace of irony.
As Easterling is ushered away, I chat up some of the party guests, who describe her as “a full-on celebrity, not just TikTok star” of Gen Z. This is a networking moment for the influencers, they tell me in between beading BFF bracelets and toasting bubbly water and prosecco, and they’re just as excited to see dark pop artist Tinx (who arrived straight from walking Collina Strada’s runway) as they are to see the host. The beauty line? Many are trying its products, which decorate tables, for the first time. They’re entrepreneurs sharing a platform, doing it for themselves, and they don’t mind giving Easterling a chance to dazzle. And I, for one, am enjoying the atmosphere, the conversation, the colorful matching ensembles—and after misting on a rosewater spray and filling an orange bag with candy, I carry home the Item Beauty offerings with a new attitude.
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