Celebrity Beauty Favourites

Achieve Immaculate Arches With The BrowGal

We never get tired of talking about eyebrows – hence why we jumped at the chance to grill the founder of {The BrowGal} to help us in our quest for some immaculate arches.

Call us obsessed but brows can make or break a beauty look. They’re like a picture frame, working to showcase the rest of the face without stealing the show – but when they’re wrong you really notice. And with the craze for the bushy brow showing no signs of going away, brow products have gone from strength to strength, with innovative new formulas and products to get us even closer to full-on eyebrow fabulousness. 

The latest player in town is {The BrowGal}, a pioneering range of pencils and products founded by classically trained artist turned celebrity brow queen Tonya Crooks. (Her clientele includes Megan Fox, Eva Mendes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry and Britney Spears.) We caught up with LA-based Tonya to tell us more about The BrowGal range, as well as her life and career thus far.

{Cult Beauty} What is it about a thick, full brow that’s so powerful as a beauty statement?

{Tonya Crooks} Eyebrows are our most expressive facial feature. Both sides of our face are never perfectly symmetrical, but a properly shaped brow will make a face appear more balanced. A beautiful thick brow is in fashion now, but like other trends, they change over time. I love thick full brows because it looks youthful and makes such a strong statement.

{CB} What inspired you to start out on your brow-journey being a classically trained artist?

{TC} I never had the desire to become a make up artist – not to mention an eyebrow specialist! I was going to art school in London and having the time of my life. One day a friend of mine put me forward to do the make up for a fashion photographer. She assured me that I was a qualified painter and that my use of colour and ability to shadow and shade were exceptional. The photographer loved my work and I was able to continue to work for him to fund my studies in London.

I was in the process of applying for my Master’s degree when my life’s path changed. There was an unexpected death in my family which made me decide to take a year off to be with them. During this year, I continued to work in make up and earn money. The next thing I knew, I had an agent and found myself working on photo shoots, movies, television and fashion shows. I was really happy and it was at this moment that my mother suggested I should move to Los Angeles to further my career. I thought about it for quite some time and then packed up everything I owned, took my little dog and did just that. 

I didn’t know anyone when I got there, but I found myself getting make up work very quickly. I noticed when I was doing a lot of photo shoots, the eyebrows didn’t look right, so I made it my personal mission to reshape them to fit each person’s face – not just by using make up, by actually removing the hair to recreate the shape while balancing the face. I used all the principals I learned in art school and applied them to the face. The models and the photographers loved the end result. 

I then began mixing special shades to fill the brows in to match the colour of hair. My secret was quickly out and I would have models showing up at my apartment door to get their brows touched up. Then the next thing I knew, I was doing all of their friends’ brows as well. This was 15 years ago, so the word got out without the help of social media. I decided to find a different place other than my kitchen floor to use as a working eyebrow studio. The name {The BrowGal} was given to me by people who would recognise me for my work but didn’t know my name… Hence this is how the name was born!

{CB} Do certain face shapes suit certain brow shapes? 

{TC} Every face has its own natural blueprint. There is not one universal brow for each face shape. Think of it more like trying to decipher your own shape. Brows usually fall into a variation of three different categories: an arch, an arc or a straight brow. It is always best to look at an old picture of yourself before any hairs were removed. This is the natural structure of your brows and from there we begin to correct.

Imagine the brows to be like scales, the idea is to try to get both sides to balance. It takes a little time and patience, but we at {The BrowGal} make it our personal mission to educate our customers about their brows and steer them towards the most natural shape.

{CB} Why did you decide to swap fine art for beautiful brows?

{TC} I didn’t really, I am still very much an artist. I see it more as a pause from painting. Being an artist is who I am, and I still create some form of art in my life daily. It could be arranging flowers or practicing calligraphy. I crave for the day that I can spend endless hours in my art studio at our home in Italy. From the window I see fields of grape vines and peach trees… this is my happy place. 

{CB} What’s your ultimate can’t-live-without product from the range?

{TC} My absolute must-have is our {Skinny Eyebrow Pencil}. People ask me why a pencil and not a powder? The answer for me is simple – I was taught that to be an excellent artist, one needs to learn how to draw before they can paint. I spent hours upon hours in drawing class trying to make a still life look like a photograph with all the minute details. 

I became very fond of the simplicity of pencils and what different lead textures could produce. I would have my electric pencil sharpener plugged into next to me to continuously sharpen my pencils to perfection in order to achieve the most precise detail. This is why I created my eyebrow pencils with a built in sharpener cap. For me this just was a given, it made perfect sense.

{CB} What aspect of your range are you most proud of?

{TC} It took me three years to test and create my six shades and I am very happy with how they turned out. I have created three ash tones and three warm tones, all varying from light to dark. I am proud to say that I created our #2 pencil for my long-term client Megan Fox and she wears it daily.

{CB} How do you stop your brow make up from smudging/sweating off throughout the day?

{TC} Our pencils are highly water resistant, as is our water-resistant clear {Eyebrow Gel} that holds the brows in place. This product will set and seal your brows so they will look perfect, even after a hot yoga class. I actually tested it on hot yoga instructors while it was in development. 

{CB} What about picking out the perfect brow shade – do you match with your hair colour or go darker/lighter?

{TC} I like not being able to tell where the hair colour ends and the pencil colour begins. I always think it’s best to stick with your natural eyebrow colour when choosing your fill colour. There are always exceptions, blondes have a wider range of colours they can use. For example, a platinum blonde can wear her brows very light for a natural look, medium depth for more of a contrast, or darker for an edgier look. Us brunettes don’t have as much of a wide range. So you could say that in this case blondes do have more fun!

{CB} Do you think the ‘skinny brow’ trend (à la Posh Spice circa ’98) will ever make a comeback?

{TC} As much as I love (and always have loved) a thick full eyebrow, it is inevitable that the trend will again change. Brows are an accessory in their own right, and like fashion accessories, they’re never permanent. I do believe that we will be riding this thicker fuller brow trend for at least five more years (if not longer) before we start venturing off back to the ’90s.

{CB} Who is your ultimate brow icon?

{TC} This is such a hard question to answer. I have been so blessed that many A-Listers have chosen me to tame their arches, it’s hard to single one out. Megan (Fox) up until last year had the most Googled eyebrows on the web. I love the look we have created together for her over the years – she is my modern day icon.

Historically, my favourite icon would have to be Audrey Hepburn. There was something that made a lasting impression on me when I watched her in Breakfast At Tiffany’s. In the film she carefully and effortlessly filled in her brows with an eyebrow pencil. Maybe this was an omen? I’m not sure, but what I do know for certain is that I would have loved to have worked with her.


Verity Douglas

Verity Douglas

Content Editor

Verity is our Content Editor and a Cult Beauty veteran. Currently on maternity leave, raising Cult Beauty’s honorary ‘word nerd’, Tabitha, she speaks fluent ‘beauty’ and loves nothing more than the marriage of language and lip balm (and cleanser and candles… ad infinitum). Nothing can stop her from quoting Nancy Mitford, treating herself to yet another Bella Freud candle for her desk or buying that pilgrim-esque collared or heavily fringed outfit she’s been eyeing. You can trust her to debunk widespread beauty myths and dispense invaluable advice with ease…