“Oh my God, you’re gorgeous!” Mally Roncal exclaims as our Zoom interview begins. Her excitement is infectious, and I confess I put makeup on just for her. You can’t meet a celebrity makeup artist and beauty-brand entrepreneur without applying a little mascara. Except, as I would soon learn, you can.
It’s no secret society has inflexible standards for what it deems “beautiful.” Women should be skinny, yet curvy. Men should be strong and never vulnerable. And to be anything outside of those lines is othered, and less than. Coupled with 24/7 access to filtered highlight reels on social media, the urge to compare yourself to others can be all but consuming. It’s something Roncal sees often.
“You don’t know how many times someone has sat down in my chair, celebrity or not, and all of a sudden every insecurity comes out,” she says. “They’re pointing out blemishes and wrinkles, things I never would have noticed.”
It’s an important reminder: A majority of the time, the things we’re focused on aren’t necessarily what the world sees. More pointedly, I’m not looking at your zit because I’m worried about mine. Perhaps your body’s changed in recent years. Perhaps you’re not yet friends with the new lines underneath your eyes. Most likely, you’re the only one giving it a second (or hundredth) thought. Yet imagine how differently it would feel to walk through your day simply proud of the legs that carry you.
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Roncal’s career as a makeup artist began unconventionally and with a lot of hustle after she jumped tracks from her original path in dermatology. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do [right away],” Roncal admits. “But I knew I was always drawn to connecting with people, loving people, and making them feel good on the inside and the outside.”
There’s a beautiful familiarity in the way Roncal speaks with you, and I can tell instantly why A-list celebrities trust her with their looks. Even her Zoom presence leaves you with the same kind of peace experienced after a vacation with no cell service. It’s because Roncal takes the time to see you, and it’s the most generous of gifts.
Roncal has worked with some of the most recognizable celebrities of our generation, including Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna and more. She founded her own company, Mally Beauty, in 2005 and wrote a book titled Love, Lashes and Lipstick: My Secrets for a Gorgeous, Happy Life in 2014. She’s navigated her career differently than most, bypassing the apprenticeships and courageously trusting her gut—she embodies how you don’t have to follow what the world tells you is the road to success. “You can get to where you want to go by just following your heart and listening to what your inner whisper tells you,” she says.
I ask her how she deciphers whether something is intuition directing her, and she laughs, “Oh you’re going there!” Roncal describes it as a feeling deep in your stomach that doesn’t leave you. An invisible dripping faucet, if you will. But you have to pay attention; it’s called an inner whisper for a reason.
“I wonder how many times we block [our intuition] and don’t even know it,” she says. “It’s about being open and allowing yourself to feel opportunities while also being prepared.”
Roncal has dedicated her life to helping people feel like the best version of themselves by mirroring their outward appearance with their inner beauty. But, of course, feeling like our best on the inside can be rare and fleeting. What then?
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The best people in Roncal’s life are what she calls unicorns—those who unabashedly break the mold. It’s a privilege to see people live with their hearts open. Who tilt their head back and laugh from their soul. That’s beauty.
When you’re feeling distant from that version of yourself, she has some recommendations to help shift your focus.
Keep a little arsenal of tools in your back pocket. And no, I’m not talking about makeup brushes, though that certainly is an option. As Roncal says: “You need the self-awareness to notice, ‘Ah yes, I don’t feel like my best today. Maybe my heart’s a little sad today. What am I going to do to help me out of it?’”
In Roncal’s pocket: gratitude, a practice she learned as a child while observing her mother, who was diagnosed with breast cancer and lived 17 years longer than the doctors had believed possible.
“When I have bad days, I look around and say, ‘I have this moment.’ Things might seem s- – – -y right now—and you know what, they are—but you’ve got to find your strength and say, ‘I’m here and I can find a way to get out of this feeling.’” Roncal adds, “I think it’s also key to have something to believe in—for me, that’s God; for my friend, it’s the universe. Whatever it is, you just don’t do it alone. Because that’s a lonely place to be.”
Other items in Roncal’s pocket: a cup of coffee at 3 p.m., a hug from her daughters, preparing a special snack or treat she loves. She stresses they are all small ways to intentionally build simple pleasures into her day.
I start nodding in agreement so much I get dizzy. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the importance of finding joy in the little things. Maybe even the common things. The flowers on your afternoon walk. The way your next-door neighbor decorates their front door to celebrate whichever holiday occurs that month. When someone goes out of their way to yield so you can make an unprotected left turn in Los Angeles. There is so much noise surrounding us, and often we are moving at such lightning speeds, those little moments can be hard to notice. But that doesn’t make them less important. It just makes us too busy.
“Having that wonder and being able to stay curious as we get older, I think that’s really important and something that keeps us young,” Roncal says. “And if we don’t, that’s when we die on the inside.”
Most of all, Roncal urges everyone to extend themselves a little grace. If your goal is to get back in shape, start with a walk and do what you can today. If you don’t meet your goal, try again tomorrow. It’s OK to go slow. In the end, patience is just another way to show yourself love.
When someone sits in her chair, Roncal’s goal is to leave people feeling better than she found them. And I can certainly say, even over Zoom, she’s done that for me.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 Issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photos courtesy of Mally Roncal.