The Bizarre World of Makeup Artists, Where Ovals Are Perfection and Monsters Are Beautiful
Photo by Star ForemanSpots? Why not.
When the International
Makeup Artist Trade Show rolls into town, it brings with it a million
tiny pans of eye shadow -- and the utter conviction that the right shade
of lipstick can change your life. At the Pasadena Convention Center,
where the trade show took place earlier this summer, beauty is the main
concern. Conceptions of beauty, however, are as varied as the people in
For professionals like Donna Mee, who is teaching the
Perfect Beauty/Advanced Artistry workshop, scientific principles hold
true. "The epitome of beauty is the oval. The epitome of beauty is not
to have cheekbones -- it is to have high prominent cheekbones."
specializes in corrective techniques. The list of undesirables that can
manifest on any given face are infinite -- large pores, oily skin,
wrinkles, crooked nose, weak chin. All of it, right down to a person's
bone structure, can be fixed by the strategic application of makeup.
methods are highly specific. Take brows, for instance. You could write a
dissertation on brows -- in fact, Mee is doing just that. Her book, Eyebrows for Dummies, is forthcoming.
know you've applied the right makeup, she notes, because it feels "like
looking at someone through a sheer, tinted veil of chiffon." She
summons a memory from a recent photo shoot. "This girl came in," Mee
says of the model. "I was like, 'Really? She looks like a troll. Oh God,
I thought, I gotta cover that shit up.' " Shit thusly covered, the
transformation was so magical that, afterwards, Mee reports, the girl
could not stop snapping pictures of herself.
The convention has
barely started and already one young woman, Phadra, a slight waitress of
24, has blown her budget on $100 worth of eye shadow. She seems
unperturbed by the amount of product now in her possession. "I have two
big boxes of eye shadow back at home," she says.
To her, ideal beauty is about the eyes. Today, her eyelids are aggressively shaded with purplish black and chartreuse.
friend Amber's concept of beauty isn't tied to one facial feature. The
perfect face, she believes, is mainly about technique: "It can be goth
or whatever, as long as it's done correctly." Her eyebrows are
meticulously drawn, but in green -- like two fuzzy caterpillars perched
on her forehead. Clearly, to some women, the parameters of the beauty
ideal extend farther than oval-shaped faces.
Makeup, for that matter, is no longer even the exclusive provenance of women.
can wear makeup, definitely," says makeup effects student Fredrick
Faith. "Ladies," he advises, "pop a bit of foundation in your man's
moisturizer and see how many compliments he gets."
Asked if he
wears makeup every day, Faith nods yes, then reconsiders: "Well, every
night." Sometimes he accents his cheeks with hot pink blush and cakes
his brows with concealer so they all but disappear. "When you open up
the forehead like that, it's incredible," he says.
To him, ideal beauty pushes a few buttons.
guys prefer a natural look -- like themselves, only better. "Yes, I have
makeup on right now," says fitness model David Kimmerle. To the abiding
interest of a half-dozen girls with cellphone cameras, it is
practically the only thing he has on right now. Kimmerle, who is manning
the South Seas Skincare booth, is wearing South Seas Island Tan Matte
Bronzer, a pair of shorts and a serious expression.
beauty?" he says. "She would be worried as much about her inside as her
outside. She would not wear a lot of makeup." His pectoral muscles
twitch as he talks.
"This is not my natural color, by the way," he
adds. "This," he says, pulling down the waistband of his shorts, "is my
real color." The girls giggle.
Like any other scene,
the professional makeup world has its rock stars. One of them is the
artist known as Kabuki. In New York, he attended "the nightclub school"
of cosmetology. Each night, he'd turn himself into a blue-faced Hindu
goddess, say, or a gold Thai dancer. He'd encrust his friends' eyelids
in jewels, cover cheeks in lace and turn eyelashes into insect wings.
Kabuki walks into the auditorium -- pale, lanky, dressed in black -- a
hush descends. A model lies supine on a recliner onstage, her body
covered in a gold shroud. Kabuki kneels, his slender hands fluttering
over the girl's upturned face, painstakingly applying rhinestones with a
"I had a really strange trajectory," he murmurs. "I used
to go around to agencies and drop my book off. They wanted to know what
famous photographers I was working with, but I wasn't working with any."
Then he did his first fashion shoot with Stephen Klein for Italian Vogue.
After Klein picked the craziest looks from Kabuki's portfolio, Madonna
called him. Soon, this guy who'd been wearing lipstick since he was 14
was doing makeup for Dolce & Gabbana couture runway shows plus Gwen
Stefani, Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga.
"I can do whatever I want
now," he says. "But as far as my favorite things, they tend to be
androgynous." Beauty, to him, is inextricably linked with strangeness.
are building up on the model's face now. Using the back of his hand as a
mixing palette, he brushes and dabs and blends and blots. It is like
watching paint dry. It is watching paint dry.
up. The model's eye socket is a moody swirl of color: mauve, violet,
indigo, yellow and crimson. "It's pretty," he says, examining the girl's
face critically. "It's like a sunset on Mars."
Barney's Burman's makeup for Star Trek
Odd and beautiful
are two sides of the same coin. "I find character beautiful," says
artist Barney Burman, who won an Oscar in 2010 for makeup in Star Trek. "Not something poured out of a mold. But take a beautiful face and put a scar on it."
the convention floor with his young son, Burman stops to observe a guy
painting a pair of prosthetic webbed hands at one of the special effects
"Like monsters?" suggests his son.
can be beautiful," Burman says. But not the webbed hands in front of
him: "Not that. That's chaos. That's a mess. It's uninspired." Anjelica
Huston's witch in Captain EO was beautiful, he says. Or H.R. Giger's alien, in Alien.
"Predator?" offers his son.
"There's a certain beauty and elegance to that one," Burman says.
of us makeup artists strive for elegance," he continues. "The original
Frankenstein was elegant ... the Hunchback of Notre Dame ... Bjork."
finds Bjork's off-kilter smile and asymmetrical face quite beautiful.
"Perfect symmetry does not exist," he says. If it did, he suspects, it
would look pretty damn weird.
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