Sade Adu is no ordinary beauty. Since Adu, who turns 63 today, released her debut LP Diamond Life in 1984, the Nigerian-British singer has not only left an indelible mark on the R&B landscape, but also cultivated a striking signature aesthetic. The red lips, the rope braid, the gold hoops—it’s an unmistakable combination that’s all her own, three decades and counting.
Simply put: It’s impossible to imagine Adu performing one of her soulful, blush-inducing ballads without her ever-present crimson pout. Immaculately traced on and saturated with pigment, it often boasts a lustrous, high-shine finish as demonstrated in her “Smooth Operator” music video. But while a scarlet mouth is the pièce de résistance of her makeup look, she scrupulously adorns around it. Underneath full, perfectly groomed brows, she accents her almond-shaped gaze with subtle flicks of winged liner and coats of mascara on the outer lashes to cat-eye effect. Always one to let her dusting of freckles show through, sculpting sweeps of dusty rose blush are all that dress her supernatural complexion. Adu’s approach to hair is more pared-down—but in take-no-prisoners (or flyaways) fashion. The thicket of dark hair that trails behind her is perpetually slicked back in a long braid or ponytail that punctuates her visage, yet makes for a powerful profile. And even when she switches it up, as she did in 2010, making a rare public appearance at Alicia Keys’s Keep A Child Alive Black Ball with her lengths worn loose, her signatures—a red mouth, winged gazed, and glowing skin—were still at play.
Many pop stars pride themselves on an ever-evolving look, but Adu is a study in sticking to the classics. Not to mention, minimalism with maximum impact.