Burlesque star Dita von Teese (née Heather Sweet) has said that she didn’t wait around to become beautiful – she remade herself to become beautiful. She transforms her facial features with pale foundation that covers never-to-be-seen freckles, red lipstick, winged eyeliner, and a tattooed beauty mark. She wears corsets that artificially constrict her waist. And, as a natural blonde, she dyes her hair an inky black and sculpts it to Veronica Lake perfection. She explicitly embraces artifice, which I deem a welcome alternative to the prevailing notion of natural-as-beautiful. As we discuss makeovers here on Deepglamour.net, I think one type of makeover deserving of attention is temporary, extreme transformation. Often the goal of a makeover is to become a prettier version of oneself, but sometimes the goal is akin to achieving an altogether different persona.
For performers like Dita, the transformation is clearly for professional reasons as much as personal. Lady Gaga, David Bowie, Boy George, Prince Poppycock, and many other celebrities established a distinct public persona through exotic makeup, wigs, hats, and clothing. But extreme makeovers aren’t just for professional performers. In fact, anyone can achieve a dramatic transformation for the sheer enjoyment of it. And there are many subcultures and hobby interests that embrace costuming for special events. Less often, people choose an exotic look for everyday wear.
Consider Aimee Elizabeth, a young lady from the Washington, D.C. area. Currently, Aimee sells cosmetics for a living. But on her own time, she designs and sews elaborate costumes for costume play, or “cosplay,” events. Themes and inspirations include: Gothic Lolita, Disney, cyber and “perky Goth,” FX make-up, Japanese and ancient Egyptian culture, mythology, urban legends, and horror films. (For more on cosplay, see this DG Q&A with photographer Ejen Chuang about his book Cosplay in America.) Naturally a green-eyed, fair-skinned brunette, Aimee Elizabeth created a colorful cosplay persona she calls “Laydee NekoAmi Chan.” She has executed dozens of costume looks that include theatrical makeup effects, colorful horns and grand hair ornaments, doll-like Asian-inspired dresses and petticoats, and enormous platform boots.
In far-away Sweden, another creative lady, a wife and mother, has become something of a Facebook and YouTube sensation. Whatever “Adora Batbrat” might look like sans make up, one can only guess. But the self-described “Martha Stewart of Goth” regularly posts public images of her “make up of the day,” which involves sharply stenciled brows, elaborately swirled and dotted eye make up, false eyelashes, face jewels, and freaky contact lenses. Her light color hair is tinged in colors that vary from cotton candy pink to lilac to light green, and usually topped with a crown or headdress. She also sports tattoos and permanent vampire-like fangs, conjured up by her dentist.
Adora Batbrat seems to have simply decided to embrace an extreme makeover as a matter of daily life rather than profession. “I never could have figured out so many kind people wanted to be part of my life and let me share theirs but I'm very happy about it, and you are all most welcome,” she tells her Facebook fans. “For those who just think I look cute and know nothing about me, I'm a Swedish alternative model, a Goth make up guru at YouTube, loves electro music. I'm a mother of 3 kids.” (She explains her makeover philosophy over on her blog.)
What I admire about people such as Dita von Teese, Aimee Elizabeth, and Adora Batbrat is their glamorous vision for beauty and self-transformation and their will to achieve it. It’s not for everyone, nor even for most of the people most of the time. Yet it’s inspiring to see that anyone who desires to re-imagine themselves can create a delightful, fleeting illusion.
When I turned in the manuscript of my book (now titled The Power of Glamour, with publication set for next November), I thought I’d get a makeover, for two reasons. The first was practical. I’d been on a sort of hair-dressing strike and hadn’t had a haircut in nine months or seen a colorist in nearly two years. The second was intellectual. The makeover is modern glamour—or glamorous modernity—distilled to its essence: transformation made possible by expertise.
Glamour isn’t a style. It’s something you feel. You’re flipping through a magazine and suddenly feel transported: that dress, that room, that vacation spot, those shoes—something speaks to you, pulls you into the scene, and makes you feel that if only you inhabited that alternative reality, life would be perfect. That’s glamour at work. It makes the ideal seem attainable.
To an audience gazing at before and after pictures or the “reveal” scene in a movie or reality show, the glamour of the makeover taps two longings: to be beautiful, certainly, but also to be truer to your inner ideal. The outward transformation signifies, and enables, movement toward a better life.
But what if you just want to look better? And what if the expert you trust with your public self makes you into someone you don't identify with? Movies and reality shows play that tension for drama and laughs. In the dramatic reveal in Miss Congeniality, the once-slovenly FBI agent Gracie Hart struts out of the aircraft hanger where she’s been worked on by a dozen pink-clad beauty experts. She swings her perfectly styled tresses and attracts admiring male stares with her short, skintight dress. But the new Gracie—who looks remarkably like Sandra Bullock—is as grouchy as she is beautiful. The makeover wasn’t her choice, and she hasn’t embraced her new persona. “I am in a dress,” she growls to her amazed partner. “I have gel in my hair, I haven’t slept all night, I am starved, and I’m armed. Don’t mess with me.”
Thinking about the possible results of a real-life makeover, I knew I wouldn’t wind up looking like a movie star or supermodel. But I worried that I might not look like myself. Makeovers and I didn’t have a happy history. The closest thing I’d come to “before and after” were the beauty treatments I got in the run-up to my 1986 wedding. When my mother treated me to a makeup lesson at a modeling school in my South Carolina hometown, I repaid her generosity by freaking out at the heavy-handed results. The new look seemed to represent everything I wanted to escape by hightailing it out of the South. And when I had my hair styled for my bridal photos, I spent the ride from the hairdresser to the photographer combing out my hair and complaining, “I look like a country music singer!”
This time, I chickened out. I got a basic trim, went back to my old colorist, and waited for my editor’s comments—which, quite unintentionally, reopened the subject. As I revised the manuscript, I decided it needed a short sidebar on “The Makeover.” Along with research that included movies, books, and reality shows, I wanted to interview someone who did them.
Fortunately, Diane is not from the Eddie Senz school of bossy makeovers. After talking with me a little about what I wanted in my hair—longish and blonde with a white streak, but not one quite as large as nature supplies—she proposed putting a bit more color next to my face and blending a highlight and lowlight with the white. Cutting the length so that it hit my shoulder blade would give the hair movement—a clever idea if you don't want to go above the shoulders.
These days, hairdressers tend to concentrate either on cutting and styling or on color--and they certainly don't do makeup. But Diane Gardner knew at an early age that she wanted to do it all. "I thought that in order to transform someone you had to do all three services," she says. "Because you have a vision, and then someone else takes it away from you when they do one of the other services."
At 19, she moved from New Jersey to Manhattan to hone her skills. She started with color, training at Louis Licari's La Coupe salon on Madison Avenue. With Licari's grudging permission, she then "moved downstairs" to apprentice with Antonio da Costa Rocha, who, she says, not only taught her how to cut but "how to style in a very glamorous way."
The trick, then, was to learn makeup. Fortunately, Trish McEvoy, then an aesthetician, was a La Coupe client. She offered to teach Diane makeup in exchange for doing her staff's hair. After that beginning, Diane apprenticed with makeup artist Sandra Bocas (now also a fine artist). "Sandra took me into a lot of places I never could have gotten into," she says. "I started doing TV commercials and runway makeup with her, and I loved it."
But, she recalls, "now that I had all three [skills] nobody would hire me, because I wanted to do all three." She started her own salon in New Jersey and later, at the urging of clients who were socialites from La Jolla, moved there, eventually migrating north to Los Angeles. In 2002, she set up her website at MakeoverSpecialist.com--just in time to catch the makeover-TV show craze. She did some work for shows like Movie and a Makeover and Fashion Emergency, but mostly she pulled in new clients who'd Googled "makeover" after watching their favorite shows. At the peak of the craze, she might do 42 makeovers a week.
Nowadays, most of her clients are regulars, but she still gets one or two makeover Googlers a week. During a break in my own makeover (which you can read about later in the week), I interviewed Diane about her experiences.
Virginia Postrel: Where do your makeover customers come from? Are they brides?
Diane Gardner: Weddings are a big part, but not the majority. The majority come from the Internet. I put my website up in 2002, and that was the peak of the makeover TV shows, so everybody started Googling “makeover,” and that’s how people have found me.
VP: So when people come to you for makeovers, what are they picturing?
Diane Gardner: Usually they don’t have a vision in their mind. They don’t know how they could look their best, but they want to trust me to give them what looks best. The number one request is to look natural. Everybody wants to look natural. And youthful.
VP: So why would they come to you for a makeover as opposed to say going to their usual hair stylist, or going to the MAC counter at Bloomingdale’s?
Diane Gardner: They usually come because they want to treat themselves. Sometimes a life-changing event has occurred. Sometimes it’s just that the kids have gone off to college and now it’s time for them, the women. Or it could be a young girl that’s coming out of college and now she wants to look like a young professional. Sometimes men will come for a makeover because they want to meet girls and want to look their best.
VP: How is the sort of makeover you do in real life different from a movie makeover or a reality show makeover?
Diane Gardner: I teach people to sustain the new look that I’ve given them. It could be in the form of regular color services. The makeup regimen is something that they can repeat over and over again and know that it’s going to look the same every time they do it themselves. And they can come back to me for regular haircuts.
VP: In real life, do people usually keep the look?
Diane Gardner: They usually keep it. A lot of times they’ll come back to me and say, “How does my makeup look? Am I doing the right thing? Does my skin look as good as it could? What do you recommend?” Or sometimes they’ll come back and say, “I love what you did. Let’s try something a little different,” usually in the form of a haircut.
VP: How often do you do makeovers?
Diane Gardner: A new client will come to me for a first-time makeover a minimum of once a week, and that’s someone that will find me on the Internet, on Yelp. There was a time when I was in Beverly Hills and the makeover shows were running where I would book 42 makeovers in a week.
VP: What spurred that interest? What were they looking for?
Diane Gardner: I think it’s the glamour. I really do. Because when you were watching those shows—and there are still some of them on television—they go from Plain Jane—of course they start with no hair, no makeup, no hair color—to looking absolutely glamorous.
VP: Right. And they think, “That could be me.” So having this expert treatment is part of the glamour of it.
Diane Gardner: And the enjoyment. I think it’s an indulgence, because a lot of women really don’t take care of themselves, they take care of other people first.
VP: Are there any particularly memorable makeovers that you’ve done that you can talk about?
Diane Gardner: When I moved to L.A. in 2000, I sought out a wedding coordinator I found in the Yellow Pages. She said to me, “I don’t hire new people. You’re from out of town. I don’t know your talent.” And I said, “But you have to give me a shot, you have to give me a chance. I know what I’m doing.” Finally she booked me a bride. She sent me up to Malibu, and she never told me that the bride had had her face burned and had missing eyelashes and part of a missing eyebrow with the burn scar. I walked in the door, and I thought, “Oh, I know what she’s doing.” [laughs] So I did this girl’s hair and makeup, and put on eyelashes and painted in some brows, and did her hair and made her feel absolutely stunning and gorgeous and beautiful, and she was so happy.
VP: So you passed the test.
Diane Gardner: Another of my most memorable moments was in March 2006. I got a call from that same wedding coordinator, and she said, “You have to come to this home in Beverly Hills. Drop what you’re doing, drop your client, you have to come here now. Her Majesty Queen Noor is here for a fundraiser. She’s coming from Larry King’s studio, and I know that you know the difference between television makeup. And she’s greeting 200 guests tonight.” And she goes, “But I don’t know how to tell her that.” So I told my client, “Listen, do you mind if I run?” And my client understood.
I get to this particular residence and I’m briefed by awoman who tells me what the protocol is. She introduces me to the queen, tells me I have to refer to her as “Your Majesty,” and of course you don’t speak unless you’re spoken to. Well, I took one look at her and she had pancake makeup on. And she’s one of the most stunning women I’ve ever seen. But her hair was heavily sprayed, and her makeup was way too heavy to be greeting guests in person. So it was difficult for me to say, but I did it anyway. She came in and she said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I know they hired you, but my hair and makeup is done.” And I said, “Your Majesty, I see that, but it’s television hair and makeup, and so I’d like to—” And she looked at me and at first she was taken back by that. And I said, “It’s just that you’re presenting yourself to the public face-to-face, and television makeup’s completely different.” And then she just turned around and said, “OK, do what you want.” But then she questioned me about every little thing I was doing. As a queen would. So this is my most memorable makeover, because it was done within a one-hour period of time. She looked absolutely stunning afterwards. And when she looked in the mirror she understood.
When Mademoiselle ran the first before-and-after beauty feature in 1936, the magazine enlisted Paramount Studios makeup artist Eddie Senz to transform Barbara Phillips, a nurse who described herself as “homely as a hedgehog,” into something resembling a Hollywood star. He was not tactful. “Your face is too narrow and—er—well your neck’s too long,” he told Phillips. He was even blunter with the anonymous subjects he transformed for the regular column Mademoiselle started after the makeover was a huge hit. “Once a young woman built on these lines would have been described as pleasingly plump,” he wrote in one column. “But let’s be realistic and point out that she’s short, fat, stocky, and missing in attractive feminine curves.”
For all his lack of tact, Senz did know how to change people’s looks. While at Paramount, he so dramatically transformed Frances Farmer that, her biographer Peter Shelley writes, “she did not recognize the person who looked back at her from the mirror.”
Toward the end of World War II, the Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor to the CIA) enlisted Senz to suggest how Hitler might disguise himself, by changing or shaving his hair (and mustache, of course), growing a beard, or wearing glasses. Although supposedly unknown until a Der Spiegel report in the 1990s, Senz’s work was actually reported, with concept photos, by The New York Times in October 1944. Senz told Victor Schiff, who wrote the story, that the hardest challenge would be to hide Hitler’s piercing eyes, “the most remarkable I have ever seen.”
Senz’s sense of patriotic duty extended to nearly pro bono hair styling in the 1960s. When LBJ became president, biographerRandall B. Woodswrites, Johnson told a “dumbfounded” Senz, “I’m a poor man and I don’t make much money, but I've got a wife and a couple of daughters, and four or five people that run around with me, and I like the way you make the look....This is your country and I want to see what you want to do about it.” A compliant Senz accepted transportation costs and a $100 bill to style the hair of the three Johnson women and a bunch of secretaries.
Although billed as a Hollywood makeup artist, for most of his career Senz made his living through savvy publicity that drew clients to his New York salon. (Here are his 1940 “beauty tips for office girls.”) He took a simultaneously bossy and skeptical approach to beauty standards.
“Beauty is all a matter of concept,” he toldNew York Times reporter Joan Cook in 1961. “In this country, beauty generally means an oval, Nordic sort of face. We’ve been brainwashed to think our standards are the only standards. Who are we to think we have a priority on beauty knowledge?”
Confronted with a client, however, that relativism disappeared, often along with the client’s eyebrows.“For many of my customers,” he told Cook, “my work consists of mentally superimposing the ideal face on top of theirs and then adding or taking away until the illusion of similarity has been achieved.”
To get you in the mood for Makeover Week, beginning Monday, we're happy to offer a giveaway from Global Beauty Care. The winner will receive a gift pack of all three versions of their IntésivEye eye-makeup remover pads: Cucumber Soothing, Oil-Free, and Anti-Wrinkle versions. Each pack includes 30 pads.
Infused with extracts and oils, these thick pads gently remove stubborn eye make-up, eye-liner, eye-shadow and waterproof mascara. They moisturize the skin as they clean and are hypoallergenic and PH-balanced.
Begin the new year with a clean new face. To enter, leave a comment below before midnight Pacific Time on December 31, 2012. The winner will be chosen using Random.org, and the prize will be mailed directly from Lane Communications. Open to U.S. residents only. We reserve the right to delete comments deemed to be spam.
Skindinavia makeup finishing sprays set your makeup so it lasts all day, defying the weather, overactive oil glands, and whatever else might conspire to make your skin look less than its best.
For this giveaway, we're pleased to offer the winner a choice of one of three formulations: 10 Years Younger, for drier more mature skin; Moisture Lock, which hydrates the skin; or No More Shine, for oily foreheads and unwanted summer shine.
To enter, post a comment below telling us about someone you think has beautiful skin. We will select a winner using Random.org.
Entry deadline: midnight Pacific Time, June 17. Contest open only to U.S. residents of the 50 states and District of Columbia.
A small battle takes place each day at the dental office where I get my teeth cleaned. One dentist likes rock music, and if he gets there first, the radio is set to a oldies rock station for the day. If the other dentist gets there first, she sets the radio to a country-western station.
Last week, hearing the music, I assumed that she had gotten there first, but it turned out that on that day she had rebelled against the system. The radio had been on the rock station for several days, and deciding she could not take hearing Cher one more day in a row, she had changed the channel.
Because music often serves as a cultural marker, I assume that cosmetics companies think carefully before choosing singers as representatives. CoverGirl has chosen country singer Taylor Swift (seen above) as one of their current faces, and it would be fascinating to know the demographic considerations that were discussed when they were considering her.
Viva Glam has chosen Lady Gaga as a current representative. In this advertising photo for them she looks far less made-up than she usually does in public appearances. Nonetheless, it reveals a different approach to makeup—reflecting the more over-the-top notion of glamour that Lady Gaga favors. She already serves, for example, as do Cher and Madonna, as a favorite singer for drag queens to impersonate.
Carrie Underwood, another country singer, has a contract with Olay cosmetics, and she seems an apt choice to appeal to a demographic of slightly more mature women than would Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga. It must be fascinating to hear the frank pros and cons that are brought up when cosmetic companies are discussing decisions about product representation. Appealing to their target customers is no doubt big business in terms of sales.
As a word glamour is tricky to define. Whether any of us experience something as being glamorous depends on our individual responses. I find Charlize Theron’s hair and makeup wonderfully glamorous in the photo at left, while others may not. I feel certain that the intent was to create a glamorous photograph, but intending something to be perceived as glamorous does not insure we will all respond to it in that way.
In dressing for the Oscars, Theron has made some choices that bombed with most fashion critics. Most people felt that the Christian Dior dress that she wore to the 2010 Oscars looked regrettable on her, and it made many worst-dress lists. The Christian Dior dress (shown at right) that she wore to the 2005 Oscars was panned by some as suitable for a high-school prom, but most loved it, and it has appeared on several lists as one the best Oscar dresses of the decade. When you see a large photograph of her making her entrance onstage in this dress, you can almost imagine that it was chosen knowing what the stage colors and design were going to be. The effect of the dress in relationship to that stage design is stunning.
In a situation when something strikes us as stunningly glamorous, the archaic meaning of glamour as magic or enchantment still seems relevant. What we experience seems to cast a spell on us, and what we perceive seems like an enchantment. Even while under the spell, we may sense that what we are experiencing is in part a transient, artful conjuration, and that everything possible has been done to try to make us feel we are experiencing glamour at its epitome, fully incarnated.
Small wonder this is so difficult to pull off—the slightest incongruity can break the spell of glamour. Oh, but what a delightful experience to have when the enchantment works as planned.
Chances are the moment you saw this photograph you instantly had an opinion about it: whether you felt the model was beautiful, whether her red lipstick looked stunning or overdone. Studies have shown we form initial impressions surprisingly quickly. At Northwestern University researchers found that when they tested listeners by letting them hear tiny samples of music, the listeners were able to classify different styles of music based on samples lasting only 250 milliseconds. A half-second sample added only a little more accuracy, and with a sound sample lasting a second most listeners could classify every style of music they were familiar with. This is an astonishing finding, because it suggests that we use timbre, the character of the sound, to quickly do most of the work when we are identifying musical styles.
This ability to form quick impressions is an extension of our survival skills, stemming from the need to assess sights and sounds that might indicate the presence of danger, or a friend, or an enemy. These quick impressions can of course be mistaken, but without the ability to form quick impressions our ancestors could not have survived.
Those of you who have watched Project Runway or The Fashion Show know that you decide almost as soon as the model walks onto the runway whether you think her outfit is attractive. Later, you sometimes think the judges are crazy to like an outfit that you immediately found unattractive. If we watch an awards show in which music, film, and TV stars are trying to look glamorous, we take one look and quickly decide if we think they have succeeded or failed.
The model in the photograph above is Emily DiDonato, a relatively new model who has been featured in several recent Maybelline ads. The photo at right shows her with little or no makeup. For a chance to form other quick impressions, look at DiDonato made up in strikingly different ways here, here, and here. If we were to imagine each image as our first impression of her, then our initial reaction to her might be quite different.
Understanding this allows us to see why some religions have been suspicious of makeup for centuries. When we see an image of Emily’s face, within milliseconds we have evaluated her appearance and formed an initial impression about her as a person. When her makeup changes she instantly appears to be different—perhaps even a different kind of person. This is horrifying if you believe that people should present only one face to the world. But, if you believe that we play different roles in life, and that we should have the option of presenting ourselves differently, then the ability to dramatically change our appearance in various ways seems liberating and fun.