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Before she was one of The Real Housewives of Potomac ladies, Monique Samuels was a little girl from the Jersey Shore, secretly running a booming salon business out of her bedroom. She began experimenting with her own hair at age 8, and by the time she was ready for college, had plenty of money saved up from styling the hair of her prom-bound classmates and mother’s coworkers.
“It was a nice little hustle,” she said.
So who does a glam expert like Monique turn to when it’s time to rock a few next-level interview looks for RHOP Season 5? The best of the best, of course. Enter Jeff Enriquez and Tasha Lyons, the makeup artist and hairstylist, respectively, who Monique trusts to bring her one-of-a-kind ideas to life. This season, the trio collaborated to travel throughout time with hair and makeup inspired by moments in history.
“I like my confessionals to be like works of art,” Monique explained. “I want it to represent something.”
The collaboration process with Enriquez and Lyons requires lots of trust to create each look as Monique envisions. “It’s kind of like a gift and a curse,” Monique said of her hands-on approach. “For a lot of stylists, they prefer when they can just sit you down, and just create what they want.”
Luckily, the ultra-collaborative workflow is effective for this dynamic team.
“Monique is very particular,” Lyons said. “It makes me step my game up, and I love that about her. What most people wouldn’t notice, she has that eye for.”
Monique’s looks are also created under a strict lock and key.
“I definitely don’t tell anybody about my looks. I don’t share or disclose what I’m doing at all,” Monique laughed. “I don’t want anybody stealing my ideas.”
Old Hollywood Glam Takes Potomac
With a bright bold lip, long wavy hair, and luxurious lashes, Monique looked like a retro Hollywood starlet as she served up epic reads and unforgettable one-liners this season.
“I wanted to start with an old Hollywood, 1950s sort of look. They did a lot of those pin curls, and that wavy look,” she explained. “I don’t try to like, emulate it to the T, but I just wanted to kind of be in that era.”
Although this look was most definitely in the realm of classic movie stars, there was one aspect that was completely out of Monique’s comfort zone. “I don’t do red lips,” she said.
“I had to talk her into that,” explained Enriquez, who met Monique during her first season as a ‘Wife, through Charrisse Jackson-Jordan. Creating a comfortable working relationship between the two has taken time. “I would literally have to argue her down and say, ‘Look, can you just let me do me today? And if you don’t like it, we never have to revisit that again.’”
Enriquez kept the rest of the makeup classic to stay true to the old Hollywood glam.
“What did they do back then as far as glam? It wasn’t a whole lot, you know,” he said. “She wanted to be just really clean. So, I barely did any eyeshadow. Just got to contour the eye a little bit, and a good pair of lashes.”
Although Monique takes incredible care of her skin, Enriquez also credits her glow to the NARS Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation.
“We love that one because it offers full coverage, which gives us that instant glam look,” he said. “It has a very luminous, radiant finish to it that always mimics skin, so we love that. I rarely stray away from using that on her.”
As for those ultra glamorous curls? They’re Lyons’ signature wand curls, crafted with a few extra steps to keep them looking flawless on television.
“Doing hair for TV is totally different than doing everyday hair. One thing I’ve learned is flyways, flyaways, flyaways. The camera always picks up flyways,” said Lyons, adding that Monique has a go-to product she uses to tame her mane between takes.
Unfortunately, Monique isn’t about to reveal her holy grail flyaway tamer anytime soon. For starters, it’s discontinued. It’s also definitely not for amateurs.
“It’s a professional grade, so I don’t like to share that, as if you use it incorrectly, it could totally pull your hair out leaving bald patches. Probably why they stopped making it. I don’t want anyone blaming me for their lack of hair,” Monique joked.
Speaking of creating a look specifically for television, Monique also has some solid tips for choosing her clothing and accessories. A self-described “frugal” shopper, she has a tendency to grab random pieces that catch her eye when she’s shopping. Monique picked this sparkling Swarovski necklace up at the mall a few years ago, thinking it might work for a confessional or reunion look some day. For clothes, Monique prefers online shopping, and will send back whichever options she doesn’t use. In terms of sizing, she has a hack to make sure any dress, like her stunning gold number from Revolve, will always fit like a glove.
“I still had some baby weight on me. My boobs were like, huge, so I ordered a size up,” she explained. “I’d rather go big, because the thing about confessionals is, you’re not moving, so you can always clamp it, or do whatever to make sure you fit in it good, and it looks nice and neat.”
1970s-Inspired Black Panther Glam
Intended as a nod to the Black Panther movement of the 1970s, there’s also a current-day influence that Monique had in mind when coming up with this hairstyle: her daughter, Milani.
“I really wanted something Afrocentric. Every season, I always do at least one Afrocentric confessional style. And this time, I was looking at my daughter. She had a poofy ponytail,” Monique said, explaining it’s her favorite way to style Milani’s hair. “I was looking at her hair, and I was like, I want to do something that is a little more risky, that most adults don’t really wear. It’s kind of kid-like, it’s inspired by my daughter, but I can still glam it up.”
Lyons came over the night before the interviews were filmed to workshop the look, which featured a braid down the middle of Monique’s head that split in the back to feed into each poof, a style Monique said she “literally just kind of made up.” After experimenting with three different kinds of naturally textured clip-on ponytails and measuring for extreme precision, the duo landed on the perfect style, which mimicked Milani’s hair texture with tight coils.
“I’ve been fully natural for the past 10, 11 years, but my hair just won’t coil that way anymore,” Monique explained. “So, I had to get the little clip-ons. It’s like a little drawstring pony. It worked out really cool.”
Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that Monique’s hairstyle also features a pop of gold, thanks to a bit of string threaded through her braids, that perfectly ties in with the gold details of the black lace Zhivago dress. The striking piece, which features high shoulder pads and an intricate neckline, was an unusual choice for an interview look.
“Since it’s Potomac with the cherry blossom, it’s always very springy colors,” Monique said. “So it was definitely risky doing the black look. But I thought it would work, because it had a lot of lace.”
Shockingly, Enriquez and Lyons both admitted that they weren’t initially sold on this look.
“It was not my favorite at first, but I mean, that’s the thing. Monique and her creativity is so out of the box, but it’s just so perfect,” Lyons said. “Especially with the time that we’re in now, it was so fitting and perfect."
“It wasn’t until they started showing the [RHOP Season 5] previews, and [the look] got an overwhelming response, that I actually got on board. And I admitted that to her. I wanted it to be a little bigger. A little grander,” Enriquez added. “Honestly, she directed that entire look. I had no say in it. So, I did what I was told for that look, and it ended up being my favorite.”
Creative direction is definitely a skill Monique has already passed onto little Milani, who has been confidently picking out her own hairstyles since she was just 2 years old.
“Little mama has been giving me direction on how she wants her hair since she could talk,” Monique said. “And when we’re done, if it’s not how she wanted it, she’ll politely tell me.”
Luckily, Monique’s interview look got the highly sought-after Milani seal of approval. The proud mom knows she’s nailed a look when her daughter requests a lookalike style.
“As soon as I came back home, and had my poofs in, she came in the house and she was like, ‘Oh my goodness Mommy, I love your hair. Can you do my hair like that?’ So, as soon as she said that, I was like, ‘Yes! It worked!’”
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