“Sorry the place is a bit of a mess — we threw a party here last night for my friend’s birthday.”
Gallatin sophomore Isze Cohen sits crossed-legged on her couch atop an oversized cowskin rug. A sign that reads “SHE’S 20 BITCHES” is taped across the exposed brick wall, and a helmet decorated with flames and the painted words “I AM STUPID” is tossed in another corner. Disorganized, but make it chic.
Her apartment on Elizabeth Street is an eclectic mismatch of art, colors and textiles — everything, even Isze herself, is a statement piece. Yet her place exudes an air of comfort with its lived-in nature. On that rainy Saturday, I think that perhaps Cohen is the source of warmth in the SoHo flat, with her bleached hair and pink glasses perfectly matching her sweater whose laugh naturally induces my own.
An ideal hostess, she offers me water and introduces me to her space, which embodies the respect she shows her clients when they come over to get their face beat. However, while her apartment is a vibrant environment and her outfit represents her dynamic personality, Isze’s face is practically bare. At first glance, one wouldn’t assume she’s a skilled makeup artist.
“I’m looking at your eyelid space right now — it’s just the canvas and foundation for everything else,” Cohen said, eyes squinting behind her lenses.
Her expertise is proven through her attention to detail. However, Isze isn’t about subtlety. With a mother and older sister who use makeup on the daily, Cohen said she grew up surrounded by beauty products, but she “took it to the next level.” She was initially inspired by Instaglam makeup trends and red carpet looks, but for Cohen, glam wasn’t enough — go bold, go bright or go home.
“I don’t like anything that you can’t notice from three feet away,” Cohen said nonchalantly. “When I moved to New York, I just kind of exploded.”
Frostie Delite, Cohen’s freelance makeup business, burst this past January in a sea of neon and glitter. She proudly states that she has been doing “Euphoria” makeup, or the bright colors and sharp eyeliner looks that define the characters from the acclaimed TV show, long before the trend started. Stemming from Cohen’s craving to transport people into a sweet simulation, the name evokes images of glazed donuts and swirls of ice cream. This sensory overload that characterizes her vibrant and glistening looks may make it appear like she is mostly inspired by colors and visuals, but for the Isze, it is all about the feeling.
Cohen concocts these surreal looks in hopes of transmitting feelings of self-assurance to everyone around her. Isze, who is half-white and half-Mexican and has coined her Gallatin concentration as “Gender and Media Studies,” argues that this confidence comes from creating universal looks on individuals of different size, race, gender and sexual orientation.
“Diversity is not just a trend but an important aspect of creating any business,” Cohen said. “Visibility and representation are what is going to give people confidence, which is what I’m all about.”
Cohen has seen the power of makeup in boosting one’s self-esteem unfold among many who were hesitant to wear the extreme looks that she creates. Last month, she wrapped production on the shoot for her Frostie Delite print calendar, coming out in January 2020. The makeup looks were nothing short of wild, ranging from pearls on eyebrows for January to washes of green for March. She reminisced about how she understood the apprehension many of her clients felt towards getting such drastic makeup done, especially those who had never touched a makeup brush before. However, through just the right amount of coaxing, she convinced them to trust her to put gobs of glitter on their eyelids. Their reaction was better than she’d even hoped for.
“The boys were feeling themselves on a different level — they were taking selfies and photos of each other for two and a half hours, long after the girls had already taken their makeup off,” Cohen said. “I want clients to feel like themselves, but also like a part of themselves that they didn’t know came out.”
If Isze had a religion, it would be makeup. And she works hard to convert others who typically shy away from wearing neon and sparkle on the daily.
“People come up to me and say, ‘I love your makeup, but I could never do that on me,’ and I’m like, ‘Yes,you can. Everyone can do it,” Cohen said. “My makeup is a push that some people need.”
She’s assertive, to say the least. But regardless of external criticism (“older people don’t really understand my makeup, but I don’t really care — they’re leaving, I’m coming in”), Cohen finds pleasure in knowing what makes her happy among the dreary and often cynical concrete jungle.
The happiness Cohen finds in her bright and bold makeup looks is nearly infectious. While she often does her clients’ makeup for a night out, the courage they gain lasts long after they have washed off their look, and more often than not results in a new friend through Isze.
Gallatin sophomore Jessica Menuck, one of Isze’s best friends, grew closer to Cohen after letting her do her makeup for the first time.
“I just remember her making me feel really confident, and I was impressed that she was so good,” Menuck said. “As we have gotten closer, it’s become really clear to me that she is an extremely motivated, creative and independent person. She is one of the most self-assured people I have ever met.”
Uber-confident Cohen creates intimidating makeup looks and may seem like she’s too cool for school, but more than anything, she’s relatable (“I once threw a party for 40 people, but instead [of participating] I was hiding in my room doing makeup for two hours”), delightful and kind.
Isze speaks fondly of her time working with customers as a sales associate this past summer in LA at Bluemercury, a makeup and skincare retailer. Her brown eyes big and smiling, she remembers approaching one of her customers with her typical “what are we going to do today?” greeting, becoming pleasantly surprised when the woman told her it was her birthday — and equally heartbroken when she told Cohen that her boyfriend had broken up with her just hours earlier.
“Doing another person’s makeup normally takes me 30 minutes,” Cohen said. “But we sat there for an hour just talking about how sh-tty he is.”
Cohen noticed the customer’s rose gold iPhone, saying that “no one buys this iPhone unless they’re really into that color,” and decided to craft her look around the pinky metallic shade.
“I knew she was trying to get over her boyfriend, so I gave her waterproof mascara and really set everything, basically plastering the look on her face just in case,” Cohen said. “I didn’t tell her though.”
When Cohen finished, the woman finally looked in the mirror and gasped in astonishment, telling the makeup artist how much she loved the look and that it was the highlight of her day.
The happiness Cohen is able to bring to others through her makeup creations inspires her to possibly continue pursuing a career as a freelance makeup artist. She even dreams of one day creating her own line.
But for now, Isze focuses on the present gift of confidence that her makeup looks give people.
“Even if you’re faking it, at some point the makeup isn’t going to wear you and you’re going to be able to step into it,” Cohen said. “A makeup look can go into a person’s walk, outfit and how they hold themselves, so why not start with the face?”
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