Confessions from Madonna's makeup artist
By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Paula Rath
"Working with Madonna is so exhilarating because she's not afraid to take risks. How many people do you know who are truly open and susceptible to experimenting? It's really gutsy to put yourself out there and allow yourself to go against the grain," said Madonna's makeup artist Gina Brooke.
Brooke should know. She's been working with the star for three years, traveling with her to photo shoots for the covers of fashion magazines, working backstage at her concerts and creating her makeup for a wide range of public appearances all over the world. Brooke, who was recently named artistic director of the Tokyo-based cosmetics company Shu Uemura, will bring some of the theatricality of her world to Honolulu when she leads a choreographed makeup show here on March 16 at Neiman Marcus.
Madonna, of course, is renowned for reinventing herself, and a key aspect of her reinventions is her makeup.
"We've gone from a clean, natural beauty to the '70s and a 'Saturday Night Fever' look, because she wanted to take herself back there," Brooke explained, when we caught up with her by phone in Los Angeles. "Recently her look has been soft and glowing, with no hard edges or harshness. Her skin always looks luminous.
"Madonna is a beautiful woman, of course," Brooke said. "It doesn't take much, just a little contouring and focusing on her features. Her eyes are beautiful, so I like to focus on them. Even though she has long, beautiful lashes, I put lashes on her; I put lashes on everyone. No matter who you are, they really enhance and define the eye dramatically."
Madonna's beauty secrets begin from within, Brooke said. She sleeps well and works out daily. She eats healthy foods and avoids junk.
Brooke does the same. She lives a tricoastal existence between Los Angeles, New York and London. When in New York, she rides her bike. In Los Angeles, she swims or hikes.
Brooke's list of celebrity clients also includes Eva Longoria, Selma Blair, Reese Witherspoon and supermodel Alek Wek, to name a few. She has created makeup for the covers and pages of Vanity Fair, Vogue, W, Elle, People and InStyle. She also works regularly with the world's most influential photographers, including Steven Klein and David LaChapelle.
When Brooke signed on with the Caliente Agency in Los Angeles, the first thing the agent asked her was: "If you could make up anyone in the world, who would you choose?" The first person she mentioned was Queen Rania of Jordan. The second was Madonna. Madonna responded immediately to the looks portrayed in Brooke's portfolio, and three days later Brooke was on a plane to New York to do the icon's makeup.
The first time Brooke met Madonna, the makeup artist had her signature head lamp on (picture the lamps miners wear on their foreheads). "What is that on your head?" Madonna said. They had a laugh together, and Brooke has been doing Madonna's makeup for photo shoots, videos and public appearances ever since.
By the way, Brooke is now designing a head lamp for Shu Uemura to manufacture for professional makeup artists.
"Whenever we go to different interviews, I'm always running around like crazy making sure the lighting is flawless. Light is everything to me. A makeup artist can't work on a set if the lighting is not perfection — the whole shoot will just be a waste," Brooke said.
"I never get nervous or starstruck. At the end of the day, everybody is the same, and we all have the same worries and insecurities. The outside public may think, 'Oh, my God, she has this and that,' but these women — and it doesn't matter who it is — have even more worries because they're so exposed. Imagine if every time you stepped out the door someone wanted to take your picture. God, if I had to live like that it would take me hours to get out the door every day."
LESS IS MORE
As women age, it's important not to wear too much makeup. "It can add wrinkles and age the face," said Brooke, who is known for her light touch. That puts the emphasis back on healthy skin.
Brooke's tips for skin care are similar to tips one might hear from a healthcare professional:
For cleaning the face, she uses Shu Uemura's Cleansing Oil in Chamomile, a product created in the 1950s to remove makeup. It was a favorite of Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe, and Madonna uses it now.
"The only thing that will cut oil is oil," Brooke insists.
THOSE MINK EYELASHES
During the fall of 2005, the buzz about bling centered on Madonna's mink-and-diamond eyelashes. The custom-made mink lashes laced with one carat of diamonds were the talk of the town in New York.
Brooke explained how they came about. Shu Uemura was the innovator of luxe lashes made of animal fur, and they became famous at his lash bars in Japan. He then added diamante details to give a sparkle to the eyes.
As Brooke was making up Madonna for the launch of her CD, "Confessions on a Dance Floor," the makeup artist said lightly, "Oh, wouldn't it be amazing if I could put real diamonds on these lashes?"
Madonna replied enthusiastically, "What a great idea. Let's do it."
"Well, you know, when you need something for Madonna, everyone will drop whatever they're doing and help you." Brooke said. "So I called a friend and asked him to bring us some flat-back diamonds. The first set wasn't so special, but the second set was perfect. So there I was on her bathroom floor, gluing these diamonds to the lashes. She was all dressed, with her shoes on and her makeup done, ready to go out the door, and I was gluing diamonds to her lash lines. It was nerve-wracking."
The lashes stayed on and are now part of the biography of bling.
Brooke is quick to explain that no little minks die for the lashes. Minks shed their fur during the winter months, and the eyelashes are made from the shed fur.
Think you want a pair of mink and diamond eyelashes? A pair is being brought in to Neiman Marcus here just for the Shu Uemura events. The cost: $10,000.
For those who can't afford $10,000 eyelashes, Shu Uemura sells a diamante version for $25.
Reach Paula Rath at email@example.com.