Look what came in my in-box this week, the legendary makeup artist Kabuki sent me a message about a competition My Face Cosmetics (Kabuki's the artistic director) are running. I've always been a fan of Kabuki's work and this is a great chance to win some cosmetics and get a signed illustration of an original Kabuki drawing. I'm little bit jealous as I'd like one of his drawings myself. I interviewed Kabuki for iD magazine a while ago so for those of you not so aufait with him I thought I'd put it up... meanwhile here's the details of the Halloween competition, you can find out more by going to their fb page myface.cosmetics where you simply upload your looks to enter.
You were a “club” legend early on and now you’ve become
a “make-up” legend, tell me darling, what made you cross over
into piling make-up onto others rather than yourself?
"The crossover to professional make-up artist happened because Pat Fieldcalled me up out of the blue and asked if I was interested in being the make-
up artist for a new TV show called “Sex and the City” that she was going to
start styling. I’d recently done some test shots so I had something besides
snapshots of myself to show the producers and Sarah Jessica Parker. Before
that happened, I’d had no career ambitions or plan. It all seemed beyond my
control. My interest in make-up was purely personal expression. I’d started
wearing make-up in broad daylight at age 14, before I moved to New York City. I
was the Naked Civil Servant of the redneck section of Florida.”
Who were your first subjects?
“I learned the most from painting myself because I could spend hours and
hours doing it. I had a club kid friend named Jodee Jingles. We’d go to Disco
200 together and she’d nag me to do her make-up. But I’d be so burnt out after
spending hours on my face, I’d just slap something on her in 5 minutes. Once
I painted her face white, then ringed her eyes in black liquid liner, then another
ring and then another, until her whole face was full. That night we saw Olympia,
the bartending drag mother/club legend. She was well known for always having
varied and theatrical make-ups. She screamed in excitement: “Let me look! I’ve
never thought of that before – the onion!”
Who or what inspired you initially?
“Erte, Boy George, Grace Jones, Oriental art, the New Romantics. My first make-
up inspiration was definitely Richard Sharah’s work in the “Ashes to Ashes” video
and his Zandra Rhodes stuff. I didn’t actually see the “Fade to Grey” video until
the late 90’s having been stuck in Kissimmee, Florida when it came out. I also
loved all the faces of Bowie, especially the cover of “Pin Ups” with Twiggy. I
was so occupied drawing and painting my own fantasy illustrations as a child.
There’s a video on youtube called “Kabuki Starshine on Kidsworld”. I would also
make dolls by painting faces on wooden spoons, so I guess those were my first
Nowadays, you are constantly in demand and your work covers
a spectrum of sublime, beautiful and fantastical visions. What
keeps you enthralled with creating such concepts?
“What keeps me going is working with great stylists and photographers who, like
me, care, almost neurotically, about the standard of their work. I hate working
with lazy people; what’s the point? Also, I’m so lucky to have some very beautiful
and interesting faces to work on.”
So, the Mac master class tour, what’s it like? Do you find yourself
being quite technical about it?
“I think I made the right decision not to talk at all whilst working on the stage
and then have a full question-and-answer session afterwards. My partner/agent,
Chuck Fiorello, put the music together, which enhances the feeling of each of
the three looks I demonstrate. The music cues let me know if I’m on schedule
or running long. I start by demonstrating a glamorous smokey eye look taken to
an editorial level. Next I do the Kylie cd cover look. The last look is much more
intense and bizarre. I originally did this look on Karen Elson in Italian Vogue in
What kind of projects do you find challenging? Do you have an
“Many of my jobs are very challenging, requiring a huge amount of preparation,
time and work. Occasionally, I have one that is so easy that I wonder “Why am I
here?” So I guess there’s no pleasing me. Usually the packing and the prepping
is more stressful than the actual day of the shoot or the fashion show. I’ve done
shows where I worked for three days without sleep. Manish Arora, Boudicca, if
you look closely, you’ll see my bloodstains on their clothes…”
Do you find yourself subconsciously picking up ideas for
new “looks” in really random places?
“Not subconsciously, really. I’m usually given a theme and then I take if from
there. When Manish Arora did his medieval themed collection, I designed a mask
based on a chastity belt to compliment the make-up look. I sent the prototype to
India and then I put the finishing touches on it Paris. That mask had a second
life after the show, popping up in Italian Vogue, Numero and on Kate Moss’s
What’s the most obscure, maddest place or person that’s inspired
“I don’t know, Boy George is pretty mad…”
I heard there’s a trend for a “nude” look, which do you enjoy
applying most… a lot of make-up that looks like it’s not there or a
lot of make-up that most certainly is there?
“To be honest, I like both really. Variety is the spice of life; something’s got to
Personality or celebrity-wise, have you ever been in awe of your
“Once in a while but I get over it quickly. If I’m trembling, I can’t work. When you
meet someone famous, there’s the weirdness of thinking you know them, but of
course you don’t. I thought I might faint when I met Michael Jackson, but I didn’t.
I did two shoots with him and he couldn’t have been nicer.”
Talking fashion shows, which have been your most challenging,
surprising and favourites?
“The shows that are my favorites are the ones that are the least challenging
or surprising. My team shows up 3 hours before the show and I have to have
everything ready for them. If it’s too confusing, too weird, too far out of their
comfort zone or they simply can’t handle it, I have to run around fixing everything
like a demented bee. Thus, with the shows that everyone seems to remember
most, I’m up nights trying to push them out of my mind.”
When you’re not thinking about “make-up” what do you think
“I think about getting my hands on Harper’s Bazaar’s from the 1910’s and 1920’s,
the ones with the Erte covers. I think about Liza a lot too.”