A Lipstick Fit For The Queen of Pop
All right, America. After a whirlwind global tour that has taken her from Israel to Istanbul with stops in Rome, Barcelona, Berlin, and Paris shorty thereafter, Madonna is wrapping up the far-reaching, European leg of her MDNA tour and is looking to make landfall in the U.S. of A at the end of the month (there will be a few stops in Philadelphia and Canada before the Material Girl finally touches down in New York on September 6). And while there are some reliable constants seasoned Madonna showgoers can expect from the superstar’s latest heart-pumping performance piece—expert choreography and mind-boggling costumes, to start—there is one brand-new feature ticket-holders have to look forward to: a red lip. “I tried doing a red lip once,” Madge’s trusted makeup artist Gina Brooke admits. “But in the middle of a quick change, they ripped off her boot at the same time as I was doing her lip and it went like this,” Brooke recalls, motioning across her cheek. “It was a nightmare”—and it has kept Madonna’s onstage makeup an eyeliner-only affair ever since.
Until, that is, Brooke caught wind of a new lipstick innovation from Make Up For Ever. Debuting at Sephora this September, its new Aqua Rouge is a lip-saver modeled after the brand’s successful Aqua Cream franchise. A double-sided wand, the pout perfector offers a supersaturated pigment that applies like a stain on one end and a glistening gloss on the other for a lacquered effect that is waterproof, smudge-proof—and even boot-to-the-face proof. There are 12 shades in all, including one that Brooke custom-created for the MDNA tour. Here, after a month of grueling rehearsals followed by two months on the road, Brooke talks to Style.com about pre-show prep, why creams always trump powders, and what it’s like working for “the most detail-oriented person you’ll ever meet in your life.”
So take me back a few months. How does the creative process for one of these mega global tours usually start?
I start about four weeks before the tour. [Madonna] is in rehearsal for months before that, but I work with [stylist] Arianne Phillips, who will send me the sketches and the concepts of the show, and then from there I’ll start thinking about what we’re going to do with the makeup. Then I’ll create storyboards, show [Madonna], and then she ultimately knows what she wants. I’ll bring some ideas to her and then she puts her own twist on it.
Where do you typically take inspiration from for your storyboards?
I have a huge collection of art books. I have files. When I’m not working, my assistant and I make copies of everything in the art books, and we put them in binders, so when it’s time to do an editorial spread or something like that I pull it out. It’s easier to make storyboards that way. A friend of mine got me this Melvin Sokolsky [photography] book—it’s amazing. You have to wear white gloves to open it! It’s just beautiful and it’s all his work from the fifties and sixties. You know, Madonna loves her eyes. She likes that fifties, sixties look and I love the sixties, so combining the two seems to work. I always focus on her eyes, but for this particular tour we’re really focusing on the lips.
What caused the shift in focus?
Just to change it up. Because, you know, she’s always been very much about her eyeliner. She’ll never go on stage without a really strong line to her eye. But I just wanted to create something that’s more shocking. Her skin is really creamy and beautiful, so we wanted to make something like a strong red and I was searching, and searching, and searching for a color, but I couldn’t find a color that was bright enough to really stand out on stage, and I heard that Make Up For Ever was doing this Aqua line. I wanted a really, really blue red that’s shocking, and I wanted it to be waterproof and not move. Because I would say out of all the tours this is the most strenuous tour.
Once you determined that you wanted to do a lip, how does that get implemented into the overall show?
So basically this is what happens: I come in and I meet with the stylist and the hairstylist and M…
Is that what you guys call Madonna?
Yeah. Every night we have a meeting. All the heads of department sit around after rehearsals and we go over every detail. Madonna’s really unlike anybody else because she usually goes in at like three o’clock in the afternoon, and she’ll do the whole run-through—sound check, lighting, everything—and then we go into a room and we actually get her ready for hair, makeup, wardrobe, and we do an actual show, and we go under the stage and all the makeup that we’re trying, we test, and then they film it—there’s a camera crew! Then we go over and say, “This isn’t working.” This is my fourth tour with her, and all of the years I’ve worked with her, my biggest struggle was to find products that were going to stay put. She’s dancing and moving around and it’s such hard work to sustain that color. There are a lot of great products out there that are smudge-proof and waterproof, but there’s not enough pigment. That’s why I contacted Make Up For Ever. They have an Aqua eyeliner and it doesn’t move. And I thought, maybe I can call them and see what’s happening.
And Aqua Rouge was happening. It looks pretty glossy but you say it doesn’t move. How is that possible?
So you put it on, and you feel it on your lips. Then after a few moments you put on the gloss, and it just settles in and locks in and it does not move. We change her look three times and [Aqua Rouge #8] is the main lip color.
That’s the color you custom-created for the tour?
Yes. It’s really incredible. When you see her walking down the front of the stage, all you see is this creamy skin and the bluest red lip. Honestly, it’s gorgeous. You guys are gonna die when you see it!
With all the hot lights, and the sweat-inducing dance moves, how do you prep the rest of her face to make sure her makeup stays on?
Believe it or not, I’m working with all cream. Creams don’t move as much as powder. They absorb into the skin and stay there. Foundation, concealer—everything’s cream. The highlighter’s cream, the blush is cream. I use HD Foundation by Make Up For Ever as it’s excellent for camera because fine lines are not as visible. I also used it for her Super Bowl performance. Hourglass’ primer helps it, too. And I’m using Make Up For Ever 05 Aqua blush. It sort of looks like [NARS] Orgasm, but it’s a cream and it doesn’t move. You’ll see it on her cheekbones when she turns her head—it’s beautiful! I put a little bit of Shu Uemura colorless loose powder here and there, too.
What about her skin? I imagine proper skincare is important to having a good base for three months of touring.
For the tour we have somebody else doing skincare. Michelle Peck. She does an [Intraceuticals] oxygen treatment before every show. It’s a non-invasive treatment that infuses vitamins mixed with hydrochloric oxygen into the skin. Because we’re flying in and we’re flying out of every city—there’s no day off—the plane takes a major toll on your skin. Also at the venues, the air is so dry. So [Michelle] does the treatment before every show and it hydrates the skin, it tightens the skin, and it plumps the skin.
Not that this is surprising in any way, but it Sounds like “M” doesn’t overlook a single detail. Does that ever get stressful?
Well, you can never get too comfortable because the minute you feel comfortable she will let you know, “This is not working. I need to change it.” It’s bizarre. As soon as you feel totally relaxed, she’ll go, “You know what I noticed? I noticed that when you do this…” And I’m like, “Oh my gosh!” She’ll critique you but also make you better at your job.
Photo: WireImage / Courtesy of Make Up For Ever