Hairstylist Nikki Nelms and makeup artist Johanna Rollins are without a doubt a dynamic duo—that fact was made clear to me when I got the chance to meet (and simultaneously hang out with) both women in action, on set during Venus Williams’s December cover shoot for DuJour. Another fact worth mentioning? They’re actually Williams’s go-to beauty squad when she’s in New York. And it’s pretty obvious why: their creative visions are stellar.
Nelms’s love for hair stretches back to the sixth grade, and her first production job was on a Timbaland music video. “I’m grateful to work with any client,” Nelms says. “Whether the client is an actress, musician, school teacher or a stay at home mom, it’s really an honor to be the one that any person chooses to make them feel better, look better and to execute any specific style they have in mind.” And even though you can find Nelms’s work on the likes of Beyonce, Janelle Monae and Zoë Kravitz, the self-coined “Hair MacGyver” still feels like she hasn’t made it (although we here at DuJour would like to beg to differ).
And for Rollins, that feeling of making people feel beautiful is equally as fulfilling. After falling in love with the consultation process ahead of her own wedding—and effortlessly recreating her wedding day look on her own—Rollins went full-steam ahead in her newfound love for makeup. “I went to school because I said to myself, “If this is something that I want to provide a service for, I want to make sure that I’m the best at it.” You know? So that was that,” she says. “And now, seven years later, I’m here doing a big-time magazine cover with Venus Williams. I mean, you can’t go bigger than that!” Although being Williams’s go-to makeup artist in New York might also be up there, too, we think.
Below, catch a peek behind Nelms’s and Rollins’s processes and see what went on #BTS for DuJour’s December cover issue, now on DuJour.com!
Had you worked with Venus before?
JR: It’s been a year-and-a-half since I first worked with her for her press tour ahead of the US Open and we basically ran that for that whole tour. And then from there, any time she’s in New York, I basically get called!
NN: Yes, I’ve worked with Venus and her sister for many years!
What’s one highlight of working with Venus for you?
JR: She is a legend and she is so powerful but when it comes down to doing her look she doesn’t need to be in control. It’s not like “I don’t care what you’re doing.” It’s just that she trusts me, and that’s what I love so much about her—she knows that I’m gonna give her the look that she wants, pretty much. The first time I worked with her I was like, “She’s probably gonna, you know, be this personality! Like, ‘no, I don’t like this, I don’t like that.’” But she pretty much just sat down in the chair and she gave me that room and that space to do what I have to do to create the look.
NN: One of my favorite parts about working with Venus Williams is being able to say that I’ve worked with Venus Williams (and I can one day tell my kids!). She’s so amazing and a part of history. She’s beautiful, she’s smart—she’s an amazing role model. So I feel like I’m a part of history in some ways because she requests me so often to help execute certain styles on big productions and photoshoots such as this one that we did with DuJour.
What was your vision for Venus’s cover look?
JR: What I run through with her is mostly making sure that her skin looks flawless, and that her brows are amazing as well—to basically define her natural beauty because she doesn’t really like much on: she’s very much a minimalist. If she doesn’t have to have makeup on, she does not. She also likes a little bit of contour so I’ll do that and a highlighter—she doesn’t want to look super snatched, just everything else like her cheeks.
NN: The look for Venus was totally collaborative. She’s very involved with how she wants to look which I totally appreciate. In fact, I’m thankful that she chooses me to execute her vision. We come together with her ideas and my expertise and we create something pretty and magical—something that we both like.
What was one product you used for the look that you love?
JR: I used Fenty Beauty’s Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter—I had just got it a day or two before the shoot, when it was released. It was the first time that I’d used it and it was awesome because it took away a lot of what I had to do. It just added onto giving her flawless skin, which is great to have in my kit. And I was also able to use it with my fingers, and it gave me more control in the areas you want to put it and the areas you want to highlight.