Alana O’Herlihy, better known by her nickname (and Instagram handle) Lil Mami Lani, is making her official move into the beauty realm. The photographer, art director, and noted best friend of Bella and Gigi Hadid (they went to high school together in Malibu), has recently been named the creative director of Isla Beauty, the ingredient-first skincare line founded by Tracy Dubb and Charlie Denton. The role, O’Herlihy tells me during a phone call from her home in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, came about with a simple e-mail. Dubb and Denton reached out in hopes of “starting a conversation, and that’s exactly what we did,” O’Herlihy says. She got her hands on some Isla products and, for the next three months, used it exclusively. After experiencing its efficacy firsthand, O’Herlihy got on board.
O’Herlihy got her start as a photographer when she moved from California to New York City to study photography, film, and media at Parsons—she dropped out after a year and a half, when work began picking up (“They have a rule: if you miss more than three classes, you automatically fail. So I was like, I’m not paying all this money to fail, and I’m working, which is kind of the point of going to college.”). She took on gigs photographing the new faces at modeling agencies and shooting self-portraits in various states of dress-up, cultivating a series of signature characters that still show up in her work today. Kitsch, high fantasy, and a candy-colored throwback aesthetic can be seen in video shoots she’s directed for Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid’s editorials, and campaigns in which O’Herlihy herself stars. Below, the artist details her plans for Isla’s visual direction, explains why a bath is like therapy, and gives her credo on getting older as “camp.”
Behind the scenes at O’Herlihy’s Isla Beauty campaign shoot.
I was intrigued to hear about your appointment as creative director to Isla Beauty, because the brand, in my opinion, has a very pared-down, simple approach to beauty. I feel like your approach to beauty is so much more loud, out there, and colorful. How will you approach blending your personal aesthetic with Isla’s?
I don’t like to abide by the labels of: modern, simple, pared down, and loud. I can’t do my insane, crazy makeup looks without having good skin. You need a good canvas, otherwise you’re gonna spend all your money on retouching and go broke. You can’t have one without the other. It’s about finding the marriage between how those two meet and showing that process. What’s behind the character, the mask that I put on? That’s me, going to sleep at night, doing my skincare—then waking up and putting 50 pounds of makeup on and creating a character whom I think would love the products we’re making.
What’s your nighttime beauty routine?
I use Isla’s Snow Scrub, then I do the toner and the serum.
What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning, beauty wise?
I have to drink water—I get real parched when I sleep. I sleep with a heated eye mask on, which I bought on Amazon. You can spray rose water mist on it, or lavender mist or eucalyptus. It’s nice for dry eyes, especially if you’re looking at a screen all day. I just plug it in, and it gets super hot for 30 minutes, then turns off and becomes a normal mask for the rest of the night. I’m also a bath girl—I take a bath in the mornings.
Do you like any particular bath soaks?
Yes, actually, a friend of mine just told me about this: it’s called Dr. Singha’s Mustard Bath.
Apparently Gwyneth Paltrow uses this product and loves it.
Okay, she’s Gooped on it, if you will. It’s really, really, really cool. Especially after I do a hard workout or something, I’ll take a bath in that. I’ll just sit and baptize myself for the day, get my thoughts in order. I wash my face in the bath, then I get out and lather on the skincare. I put it everywhere: on my tits, my neck, sometimes in my hair. I’ve been obsessed with skincare for, basically, my whole life. All of my friends will attest to that. It’s been therapy to me. It’s the moment I have to myself to just be quiet.
What are the products you’d have to have on a deserted island?
My favorite at the moment is the toner, because if you don’t have face wash or a scrub, the toner can get the job done on both ends. And when I put it on my face, it’s just like, boom, diamond, immediately. My face is glossy and glowing and gorge. The other one would be the Isla Whipped Dream, which we have coming soon—it’s a very nice, thick moisturizer. And then the Storm Serum; if I’m on a desert island, I’ll need it to protect me from whatever I might be dealing with out there.
You’ve begun posting some images you’ve art directed for Isla on Instagram—there’s one where you have all this liquid dripping down your face. What was the inspiration behind that look?
Each character has a description, but this is supposed to be an ethereal, dreamy, Nineties kind of alien woman. And that stuff on my face is supposed to represent the serum or the moisturizer—anything wet and gooey that is gonna make you visit the fountain of youth.
What was on the mood board for the girl in silver?
That’s my David Bowie space girl—2001: A Space Odyssey meets skincare. It’s supposed to be otherworldly, spacey, and kind of trippy. What am I taking to Mars? My Isla.
I wanted to ask you about another Instagram post of yours, which you posted on your birthday. In the caption, you wrote, “Getting older is camp, and I love it.” Is that the mantra for your life?
For a couple years, I would always cry on my birthday. At the time, I was scared of getting older; it held this daunting feeling. The clock strikes 12 and you’re like, Oh, here’s a new number that’s attached to me now. But as I’ve gotten older and I’ve lived more—working, moving, experiencing breakups and all the things that life has to give us—I realized that each year of my life has just gotten better. Even when shit hits the fan, I come out on the other end. I have more freedom and I know who I am. And I think that in itself is camp. People think you’ve gotta stay young forever, look perfect forever. But no, there’s so much beauty in getting older. And camp—that’s something I feel passionately about.