7 Weird Secrets You Learn Doing Makeup For US Politicians
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Before the 1960 presidential debates, Kennedy and Nixon both declined the services of a makeup artist. This didn't impact JFK, because he had the bronzed skin of a Greek god. But Nixon was coming off of a long flu and a bout of infection; he looked like Death after a fistfight with Pestilence. His ghastly appearance may have cost him the debate, and therefore the Presidency. Ever since, politicians have relied on makeup artists to hide their late nights, cold sores, and reptilian skin from public view. We talked to three of these artists: Natalie Hayes, Stacey Frasca, and Leah Greene. They told us ...
You Get Shockingly Close To The Most Powerful People On Earth
Natalie did Jimmy Carter's makeup once. He wasn't president at the time or in the middle of building a house for homeless people out of bones he'd personally removed from Goldman Sachs bankers. He was just being interviewed for a documentary. But he still had a Secret Service detail.
"You get background checked. There were three occasions I was supposed to do Jimmy Carter's makeup. Every time I had to submit to a complete criminal background check."
But, Natalie was surprised to see that "when I actually went, no one went through my kit at all. And I thought, wow, if I were ..." she trailed off at that point, but then noted, "I would have had complete access to this person. They even left the president and I alone at the room."
Leah reported a similar experience with George W. Bush, back when he actually was the Republican nominee for president, though not quite yet president. She also received a background check, but said that the Secret Service didn't check her assortment of powders, although "they did search the bag."
She worked on Bush twice. The first time was in a hotel room full of his people, but the second time was on his campaign bus:
"I guess it was his campaign manager, she left the bus, and I did think it was a little odd she left me alone with him. That was the second time I did his makeup, so maybe they trusted me more ... I just kinda remember thinking, I'm all alone with this man?"
Stacey has also done some very high-profile makeup jobs, including for Jeb Bush and Elizabeth Warren. She pointed out that the only time her powders have actually been checked is when she was working on some big-shot bankers:
"In Boston I had to go to the federal reserve building and I was doing makeup for one of their very important clients, and there was a lot of new banking that was going to be announced worldwide ... your license is being copied, I'm going through a scanner, my makeup products are going through a scanner ..."
We're not suggesting that nefarious evildoers train up a cadre of unstoppable cosmeticians, complete with poisonous foundation, but if the folks writing the next Bond movie are hurting for ideas, well, there's a freebie.
Everyone Has Their Own Style, And It's Important To Respect That
Leah has done Bernie Sanders' hair. Love him or not, one look at the man should inform you of what a task that is.
Reminder: Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 9, this fall, only on HBO.
"Usually, the politicians that I do, they are used to it. But Bernie Sanders, I did his makeup, it was his first time running for a major office and I don't know how much TV he did before. But he was appreciative of it, y'know, and you do their hair too. He can look a little disheveled if you're not careful."
She thinks she was one of the first stylists to work with Senator Sanders, as this was the week before he announced his candidacy.
"I don't think I thought it needed to be perfect, but it did need to be nice looking and laid down, not sticking out everywhere. Y'know, I personally like his hair when it's cut a little shorter. But it wasn't short that day. And he didn't care, he could care less one way or the other, but he appreciated it looking as nice as it did."
For some men, the unkempt look can be part of their appeal.
"I did Tim Russert's makeup. I was getting ready to brush his hair and he was like, 'No, no, no, I'll brush my hair.' And that was his look. The tousled look is what he was."
Most of our sources pointed out that women took more makeup than men, because it's more acceptable for women to look visibly made up on television than men. But some female politicians, like Elizabeth Warren, consciously avoided too much makeup. Or as Stacey told us:
"Senator Warren said to me, 'Not too heavy on the makeup, they need to pay attention to what I'm saying.'"
Sometimes You've Got To Convince The Men
"You can smell the fear on them," Natalie says of many male clients. "I've gone as far as let them hold the mirror so they can see I'm not caking powder on them or making them look like a woman in any way shape or form."
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In some cases, this is because her clients have suffered the sting of a bad makeup or hair job in the past:
"Some of them have been burned, men and women. Typically, it's that they've had too much makeup applied, to where you can tell they've had makeup on. Unfortunately, in the state of Georgia, you don't have to have any certification to apply makeup. So there are a lot of makeup artists working that shouldn't be, because they haven't properly educated themselves."
Establishing trust with anxious men is a big part of the job. Being able to read people is as important as being able to put down a good foundation:
"I can tell right away if they're dreading it, and as soon as I can find out why they are apprehensive, then I can find out ... last time you were too orange? OK, check this out. Here's the color I use, you're going to be just fine."
There's A Reason So Many Public Figures Look So Strange Lately
Leah pointed out that most politicians, particularly the men, have a cadre of advisors around to make sure the makeup artist doesn't -- purely hypothetical example here -- do them up like an Oompa Loompa with a liver disease.
"And their handlers are there with them, and they're making sure I don't mess up or change their look."
But that doesn't stop one troubling trend: literally airbrushing makeup onto clients.
"The other thing, like if you watch a lot of television nowadays there's like a wide ring around their forehead ... I think they do that in Washington studios ... they do that airbrush makeup where it's sprayed on."
It's basically impossible not to use Ted Cruz for these examples.
"This is the year that will make or break makeup," Leah said. She thinks the recent change in the quality of President Trump's makeup is evidence of that. "I don't like the spray-on makeup where you see the lines ... I'm not really sure why people are doing that, because definitely you can tell. So I think this is the year for that."
You've Got To Be Apolitical To Do This Job
Leah did the makeup for a Republican primary debate in South Carolina back in 2012.
"I did that debate. I did everybody's makeup except Mitt Romney; I don't know if he had his own makeup artist, or his wife did his makeup, or if he didn't wear makeup ..."
Leah seemed to think everyone she's worked with were nice people. She might just be protecting her livelihood, but then again, successful politicians are successful because they have charisma.
"The politicians are always in a good mood. They're always people people. They're always nice to talk to ... they're glad I'm there, so we started with Michele Bachmann, and then Herman Cain, and Jon Huntsman, and um, the last person was Rick Santorum, but he was the last person to get on the ticket to run ... so they had to put him in the debate, but maybe a month before he wasn't, so by the time I got to him, his campaign manager was a little frazzled because it took me so long to get to him."
Santorum bottom right, proving no amount of makeup would have made that smile less frightening.
Leah seemed genuinely surprised when we asked if her own political bias might impact the quality of her work.
"No, no there wasn't. I guessed uh, because I am a professional, I do both sides of the spectrum. As far as like, even, George W. Bush and I've done, oh God what is his name... Al Sharpton. And so I think I guess, I make them both look equally as well. So I think because I am professional, they trust me to do that."
Hmm ... Perhaps Ted Cruz should have a word with whoever keeps doing that to his face. There must be somebody on his team harboring one hell of a grudge.
Yes, Everyone Wonders About Donald Trump's makeup
Natalie's never done Donald Trump's makeup. But she and all of her colleagues have spent a lot of time pondering it:
"There are always conversations, in general, about who is doing Donald Trump's makeup, because so many times it looks so orange. I mean, it's not a slight on the guy. But that has been a conversation. People have asked me, do you think he does his own? Because it looks really white around the eyes, and like, orange elsewhere, and it's not even blended or anything. If it needed to be orange, and that's what he wanted, whoever did it didn't blend it."
At one point, Stacey was actually set to do Trump's makeup back when he was running for office. He didn't wind up doing the appearance, but she walked through her thinking:
"People have always said, 'Oh my God Trump is orange.' He looks white underneath the eyes ... I don't know if he has a makeup artist on his payroll ... I don't think any makeup artist would be like, 'Oh, oh, that's my work! I make President Trump orange.' So I don't know if he does his own, or if he likes it a certain way and they just have to please their client."
Leah had some inside information that suggests Trump, at least for a while, did his own makeup:
"South Carolina's governor Henry McMaster was one of the guys that was backing Trump in South Carolina, so I never did Trump's makeup but [Henry] told me that when he was around him, Trump did his own makeup. But then I heard from, I guess news articles, that there are artists who have done his makeup."
For her part, Leah thinks Trump's original makeup job was "a spray can which makes tan turn orange. So I think that's what he was going for, at the beginning, being new to it all ... and makeup, he just did what he was normally doing in business. Which you know, a lot of men do their [own] spray tan, so that isn't odd. White circles under the eye can be from sunglasses, or even the brim around your hat -- the hairline can be from a hat. So a lot of that can be a tan, not just a spray tan." She did add, "But I do think his makeup's great now."
Don't believe her? Here's Trump during his first week in office, looking like a human being:
And here he is in February of 2016, looking like the result of a disastrous attempt to breed an orange with an iguana:
"Grab 'em by the tail. You can do anything."
So whatever our politics, we can all agree that at least one person on his staff is doing their damn job.
You Get An Inside Look At Famous Politicians, And What You See Might Surprise You
Jimmy Carter apparently has the most beautiful eyes in the world. Natalie got a real good look at them:
"My first impression is his eyes were the most beautiful color of blue I have ever seen. Up close, wow, the blue was just the most beautiful color of blue. I never thought about that before ... but they're also very sensitive. So he has an assistant, and she has to sit on every set before he sits down, and she knows what type of lighting is OK with his eyes, and she sits down first and lets the gaffers know, OK, this needs to come down."
And Ben Carson has Jimmy Carter's beauty inside:
"Ben Carson, he was quiet, he was chill, he was very quiet, very respectful, very approachable. He let me do whatever I wanted and needed to do with no issues." Stacey, who also worked on him, said exactly the same thing.
While doing this job, you can't help but notice shitty makeup jobs on TV politicians. Leah said, "It's really hard sometimes to watch TV, and their makeup is horrible, and their hair is messed up. Y'know, sometimes I put makeup on a guy and it looks like he has lipstick on, and it looks like he has a drop of lipstick on him, and I had nothing to do with that. Some guys' lips are red, they just have a lot of pigment."
So, the next time you see a politician looking like this:
Come on, Ted.
... It might not be the makeup artist. God help him, he may really look like that.
If you ever see Ted Cruz be sure to gift him one of these. He needs it more than anyone.
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