Have you ever met someone who immediately made you feel like you could let your guard down and spill your heart–the good, the bad, and the ugly–out to? That’s exactly how I felt the first day I sat in Samantha Ray‘s chair for my wedding hair and makeup trial. When I think back on all of the times Sam has done my hair and/or makeup since then (along with my wedding, she also worked her magic for a number of Southern Weddings events), there’s no question that she is someone who has made me feel my most beautiful…and I don’t think that’s just because of her technical skill. She also has the warmest, kindest personality, and the most encouraging heart. When she’s doing your makeup, you feel that she’s not trying to cover up your imperfections–rather, she’s working to bring out your best features and make you look like the loveliest version of yourself. Sam recently announced that she’s moving into a new season of focusing on encouraging women to “see and honor the beauty in themselves,” and I couldn’t resist asking her if I could pick her brain on that very topic.
This post is on the lengthy side, but I encourage you to read the whole thing! Grab a cup of coffee, get comfy, and let’s soak up Sam’s wisdom together :)
Tell me about yourself! Who are you and where did your interest in beauty come from?
Hi! I’m Samantha Ray, but most of my friends call me Sam. I am a Raleigh, NC native, and live downtown with my husband of five years, John. We love eating great food (pizza and Mexican are our faves), taking walks around the city, traveling anywhere and everywhere, and spending time with our family and friends. I am the youngest sister of four girls, so I can remember playing with hot rollers and Clinique makeup when I was little, and loving it! It wasn’t long before I was doing makeovers on my sisters and then my friends.
As much as I was your typical “girly” girl, playing with Barbies and American Girl dolls, I also loved being outside, getting dirty, building forts and catching crawdads in the creek. I think there is something to that that shows in my style today–I love the elements of beauty that are fun (the perfect berry shade of lips, shimmery bronzer, perfect beachy waves) as much as the elements that are a bit intangible and gritty, like choosing to love when it’s hard, appreciating your idiosyncrasies and flaws, radiant joy and peace, and getting out from behind iPhone screens and into the presence of people we love.
Tell me about your business and what you’re doing now.
I officially started LULA about five years ago after John and I got married, and I had totally open hands and very few expectations. I knew I loved doing hairstyles and makeup looks on my friends, and had been doing weddings/proms for people I knew for a few years already. I made a Facebook business page with pictures of my work, and I’ve been doing hair and makeup for weddings for women in the area ever since. It grew fast and I am so thankful that I have been able to turn something I enjoy into provision for my family.
This year, I’m shifting gears a little bit from styling for weddings to focusing more on creating meaningful and encouraging content about beauty for women of all ages. I found that I really missed relationship and conversation about true beauty when working wedding after wedding, where the stress tends to be a bit high and the idea of “perfection” is prominent. I’m really excited to share my voice about the things I’ve learned practically (how-tos, product recommendations) as well as much-needed truth about what beauty is, and what it looks like every day.
I would guess that most women care a lot about beauty, but especially as Christians, sometimes feel guilty about that. Why does beauty matter? How do you navigate the balance between caring for your physical appearance and avoiding vanity?
I think caring for your physical appearance is super important, because God created our one body, and we are a temple of Him inside of us! He cares about our bodies! When I’m 40 and running around with my kids, I want to have kept my physical self well, healthy, and vibrant so I can live to the fullest with the people I love. Same goes for when I’m 60, or 80.
The truth is that beauty always begins on the inside. I think we’ve all known people who are really put together on the outside but not super beautiful on the inside, and those things always have a way of overshadowing the perfect topknot or liner. As believers, we should put effort in keeping our insides beautiful with Jesus–forgiveness, love, thankfulness–and that totally radiates to the outside, in your eyes, in your smile. It comes out from underneath shame and reaches out to others, saying “I am a child of God! You are too!” Nothing is more welcoming, alluring, and beautiful than that.
I think every woman was created with something inside them that recognizes the beauty around them, and longs to radiate beauty as well. Women from all cultures and era in history have created ways to enhance their natural beauty–berry stains for pink lips and cheeks, cactus juice as a facial treatment, braids in hair with flowers tied in. I like to think of makeup and hair styling as something fun, something extra, that embraces your unique natural features and plays those up. Like taking a cake that’s already delicious and decorating it! The decorating should never replace the substance of the thing itself (vanity), but it can totally be fun, and make you feel extra alluring, special, and unique, an echo of what’s already on the inside.
What lies do you find women believing about their beauty? How do you combat these lies?
One of the most common red flags I hear is “you should”–whenever I come across that subliminal message in a beauty article or advertisement, I put up caution tape. Women don’t need any extra thing on their list of what or how they “should” be in order to be valuable, loved, or enough. So many women think they are somehow less-than because they “should” know how to do their eyeliner or “should” own a curling iron. Those are lies. You are enough, just as you are! If you want to do your eyeliner, do it. Watch a YouTube tutorial that resonates with a look you’d actually do on yourself. Ask a friend for tips. It’s more important to spend more time investing in taking good care of yourself (rest, hydrating, play, love) than in stopping the signs of aging or mastering a perfect five-minute face. Our priorities have gotten out of whack!
I also hear a lot about what women don’t like about their face, hair, or body. They sit in my chair, and then I hear a role call of all that they want to hide or change. It is so important to turn that talk into what we love about our natural features! Believe me, it’s hard for me too, but we have to fight against talking down about ourselves for our own sake, as well as the women around us, our husbands, and our children. Look in the mirror and smile at yourself. Then list all the things you think are beautiful on that wonderful person looking back at you.
What makes you feel your most beautiful?
When I feel at peace and content. If there is something nagging me, like being jealous of a friend or bitter about something my husband did or didn’t do, it is near impossible for me to feel beautiful. I have to deal with that stuff (normal as it is!) with Jesus. Listening to signals my body is giving me and being kind to myself also really helps me feel extra beautiful. If I’m super worn down or stressed out, taking a bubble bath and doing a face mask while listening to beautiful music is like saying, “Hey Sam, I really care about you and honor how you feel,” and it is so peace-giving! Also, being at the beach or lake with my family, no makeup, after a day in the sun, laughing together–that is probably when I feel the most beautiful!
What’s your favorite tip for feeling beautiful from the inside out?
Take good care of you, just like you would for a friend or family member. Spend a few moments in the morning or night journaling things that you are thankful for. Hydrate with a huge glass of iced water. Move your body and sweat, regularly! Get out from behind your computer screen and get out in nature. Don’t neglect your own needs to be the superhero. Make time for things you love, and make time to spend face-to-face with other people (social media doesn’t count!)
What’s your favorite product in your day-to-day routine?
My enzyme cleanser and vitamin A serum. I dealt with really painful cystic acne in my 20s and this combo has been the most gentle and effective on my skin. People will tell me “your skin is so beautiful” and it is like music to my ears after so long of dealing with facial cysts. Healthy skin > good makeup!
What product do you love to reach for on special occasions?
Highlighter and a pop of lip color make me feel SO fancy! My favorite highlighter recently is Galaxy Milk from Kani Botanicals–it smells amazing and gives the perfect glimmer. I’ve also really been enjoying Revlon’s Just Bitten color stick in Smitten–it’s a stain, which I love, and it gives off the perfect “I just ate a ton of berries and my lips are just like this” look :)
Do you have a favorite product that looks gorgeous on practically everyone?
Yes! One of my favorite BB creams is Stila’s 10-in-1 Illuminating beauty balm, and it is the most universally flattering BB cream I’ve ever come across. It stays in my kit at all times! It looks amazing on almost all skin types and tones, with a very soft, even coverage and a hint of radiance. Forever a fave.
Thank you SO much, Sam!! Keep up with her on the Lula Hair + Makeup Journal and on Instagram. I also highly recommend her newsletter!
Sam’s headshot by Forage + Film, my wedding photo by Ryan Ray, other photos by Nancy Ray via Style Me Pretty Living