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The Makeup Maniac: Mary Greenwell’s red carpet rules

May 29th 2014 / Anna Hunter


Creating beautiful makeup for shoots is one thing, but for a red carpet it's quite another. Makeup artist Mary Greenwell gave this Makeup Maniac a few beauty pointers...

There’s a lot to consider when you’re creating a makeup look for the red carpet, or indeed a wedding, graduation or similarly important, all-day outdoor event. Granted, the French Rivera is normally partial to better weather than our soggy isle, but when you’re dressed in your finest and surrounded by photographers, it helps to know that your eyeliner isn’t veering off piste.

This is where legendary makeup artist Mary Greenwell comes in. She’s fresh off the plane from Cannes, where she worked her red carpet makeup magic on Uma Thurman, Cate Blanchett and Jessica Chastain. Three of the most stunning, accomplished actresses of our age rely on Mary’s deft hand, eye for colour and years of experience. I recommend that you do too; Ms Greenwell’s advice is golden.

Red Carpet Rule: Prepare your canvas

Mask-like base is out, but if you’re in full glare of flashbulbs, direct sunlight or VIPS, a little coverage will even out skintone and make you feel more confident. Mary advocates applying the sheerest base that you can get away with and making eyes the focus by going to town on reflective concealer. Once a red carpet look is complete Mary then buffs a fine powder over the face to set makeup and keep shine at bay - 15 minutes later the skin will look healthy and luminous, with no trace of oil or cakey-ness.

Red Carpet Rule: Avoid harsh lines

‘Softly, softly’ is the approach championed by Mary:

“Strong contouring and sharp liner looks fantastic on shoots, but defined lines can be difficult to carry off on the red carpet as actresses and models are being photographed from so many angles. What looks striking from one perspective can look odd at others. Blended colour and delicate, diffused contouring work much better in a real life situation.”

The red carpet may seem somewhat of an alternate reality for most of us, but the principles remain. At the Cannes Film Festival premieres take place in the early evening; there’s no chance of disappearing into the night. The daylight can certainly light up your eyes and throw everything into soft focus, but it also highlights stripy blusher and heavy-handed colour. Adhere to that old blend, blend, blend mantra and ensure that blusher, bronzer and shadow are seamless. That being said…


Red Carpet Rule: Define and conquer

Sidestep hard edges and severe lines but Mary recommends that you don’t forgo definition altogether. It’s about smart shading and accentuating your best features. Mary used single false lashes on the corners of Uma, Jessica and Cate’s eyes to add a certain je ne sais quoi allure, and filled in between lashes with a chocolate brown pencil to create the impression of thick lashes without overloading on mascara. Brows were subtly defined but not meticulously shaped, and Mary contoured the cheeks with a soft pink or apricot blusher, with the lightest dusting of matte bronzer under the cheekbone to sculpt the face.

Mary adhered to the same less-is-more precision where lips were concerned - all three actresses wore natural looking lip colour on the red carpet, but Mary brought life and polish to the final finish by lining lips with a neutral colour and filling in with a light yet vivid pink that enhanced their individual colouring. Cheekbones, eyes and lips popped, but we couldn’t quite put our finger on why. That’s the Mary magic in action.

Red Carpet Rule: Consider your look as a whole

They say that if you play up your eyes, you should opt for a more muted mouth, but Mary thinks beyond the face when creating a red carpet look. It’s about the whole picture - your dress, your hairstyle, your shoes, the lighting and the weather are just a few of the factors that should influence your makeup choices. At Cannes this year both Uma Thurman and Jessica Chastain wore flowing, ethereal gowns with flyaway, romantic hairstyles, and Mary tailored her makeup looks to suit both actresses’ features, styling and environment.

Uma’s strong bone structure and chiselled features combined with her bold yellow and detailed white dress choices inspired Mary to create a subtle, metallic eye in earthy tones of bronze and purple. The end result was a wash of elegant colour that caught the light and the attention of admiring onlookers but didn’t vie for attention with her natural beauty or dramatic gown.

Jessica’s diaphanous purple gown demanded a similarly soft, refined approach. Her green eyes stood out with just a haze of shimmery shadow - Mary insists that anything darker would have knocked her eyes back and detracted from their sparkle, not to mention the drama of the dress.


Red Carpet Rule: Don’t be afraid to break the rules

Mary describes the actresses that she works with as “glamorous, rare exotic birds. They’re in their element on the red carpet - they’re gorgeous”. It’s this inner confidence and outward presence that’s important when carrying off a look (“not to mention a lipstick in your purse”). This comes into play when Mary does Cate Blanchett’s makeup in particular. Cate is fair and statuesque, and Mary often uses more makeup when preparing her for the red carpet, as her pale complexion and poise make stronger looks all the more captivating. Instead of dreamy violets and burnished browns, Cate is often seen with a sootier grey eye, a brighter cheek colour or a darker lip. Mary rarely opts for flat black however, as it’s not as flattering as softer colours and finishes that pick up the natural tone and radiance of the skin.

Adhere to the above and you'll be the belle of the ball. Your carriage awaits...

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