Gwen Stefani on beauty blunders, '90s make-up and Urban Decay
Just a girl
Last month, we gave you a sneak preview of the Urban Decay x Gwen Stefani palette - which no doubt (pun intended) has many feverish beauty addicts marking December 26 in their diary, but so far we've heard very little from the woman herself. From the singer who single-handedly sparked a bindi revolution in the mid '90s (don't deny it - we all tried it) and has her signature red pout locked down, we were very curious to know her beauty secrets. Thankfully, during a chat with Urban Decay's chief creative officer Wende Zomnir, she was more than happy to oblige.
What was your first experience with makeup? Clearly you're a make-up girl...
Clearly, a make-up girl. I don't think it's something that you know, you're just born into it. My first memory was with my best friend, Amy Hunter. Her mom had so much Mary Kay, it was off the chart. We'd get home from school and I would tell Amy to ask her mum if we can go play in her make-up. And that's just what I did all the time. Up until the point where I was also discovering old Hollywood and movies. I was always into retro make-up, the fantasy of old Hollywood and discovering Marilyn Monroe and all of that glamour.
And you even played Jean Harlow in The Aviator!
Isn't that crazy? I was also a fake make-up artist when I was 20. I worked at this mall called the Anaheim Plaza at a department store. I worked in the sportswear department, which was older women's clothing like pull-on polyester. I really loved making up these women and getting outfits for them, but my dream was to be a make-up artist because those were the stuck up hot girls behind the counter that made you feel really intimidated. I thought maybe one day I would be that [laughs], and then I did [become one]. I worked in a mall that didn't even give you any lessons. They just put you back there and said "Ok, put the make-up on..." what was it called... Ultima II and Borghese! If I wasn't what I am now, I probably would have been a make-up artist.
You might not remember this, but the first time we met was backstage at a small nightclub in San Francisco in 1997. Do you remember your first Urban Decay experience?
I think it was Gash lipstick? For me, I was so naïve, I didn't know what was good or cool or anything. So I would run into amazing talented people along the way and that's how things evolved. Someone would give me something, like a blue furry triangle bra, and I would wear that to the MTV Awards since I got it for free. And then, I'm going to dye my hair blue because somebody sent me...
That was mine!
That was yours?
Yeah! The blue hair dye was me! It was called UD-40.
What is the chance of you asking me that question and then me talking about that when I didn't even know that was Urban Decay! You sent it to my house and I came off tour and it was there. And I thought, I guess I'm going to make a Judy Jazzhand skirt and dye my hair blue.
And put bindis on your face.
Such a good idea, right?
Related story: From DJing to digits: meet the queen of OTT nail art
Your make-up is always on point - I would love to know about your beauty evolution.
I think the evolution started when I discovered old Hollywood and Marilyn Monroe. And, of course, when I discovered ska music, which is this crazy hyper music from England. The guys kind of dressed in '50s retro suits and I didn't really know how the girls were supposed to dress, but I tried to figure it out. I really love a cat eye and red lipstick or anything glamorous.
I didn't start wearing red lipstick until after high school. I was very naïve and very old for how immature I was. I lived at home until I was 25 and lived with my parents. When Tragic Kingdom came out I had no make-up artist, no stylist, just my make-up box. I went on tour and was gone for two and a half years. I had to do my make-up in disgusting bathrooms using just a compact. I don't even know how I did it. Like when I used to put those little gems on my eyes at the show, I used to take them off every night and have to save them for the next day.
Sometimes you just do your own better.
I used to love the process. There is just something about the transformation mentally. I recently wrote a song called 'War Paint' and it's really all about facing life, facing yourself, who am I today, and what do I feel like.
Have you ever had any beauty mishaps?
One time I did a shoot for MTV and there was one really close up picture of me with bindis all around my eyes. It was on billboards and it was just my eyes. They wanted to bleach my eyebrows and I was totally into it. I left the shoot with bleached eyebrows and they looked really awesome, but when they started to grow out and turn yellow, then it was not so cute.
And one Thanksgiving weekend I went to my parents house in Anaheim. I went down to some salon because everything was closed. She didn't really speak English, but told me she could do it. It started burning and it literally stained a tattoo on the side of my face. My mum had to take me to the emergency room and they told me it was going to be permanent. I had chemical burns all over my forehead.
Why did you felt it was the right time to work with us?
Make-up was one that I've wanted to do forever. I talked to different people about it and it never was the right time. I don't ever want to do anything unless it feels right, genuine and honest. It has to be the real deal for me. And so, when you came along at that time, I was pregnant and really trying to put all my energy into designing.
What was so amazing about it was just hearing your story. The fact that you were an Orange County girl like me, we are pretty much the same age, and how you started your thing - it aligned with everything I was doing. Your aesthetic, attention to detail, you were punk rock and edgy, and had an attitude of who cares what they're doing, I'm doing this. It felt like really perfect chemistry and I was so excited about it.
What was your favorite part about the make-up collaboration?
The actual shades were really, really hard, and I had to lean on you guys a lot. I was determined to make something that was honestly what I would wear. And typically, I don't wear a lot of shadow. Now that it's done, I literally have already gone through the first one and I wear it every single day.
The shade names are a nod to your music and your life, and the look of the palette reflects your aesthetic. Tell us about your vision and design direction for the palette.
I wanted it to feel chic, timeless and have that nod to old Hollywood. So, it had to be black and white, the gold was a nod to old Hollywood and I have a piece in my house that had the circles. It's wall art from the '70s, maybe late '60s, and it's like these circle cut outs, futuristic and modern, but really retro, and so that was the inspiration. It turned out beautiful. I'm really proud of it.
The Urban Decay x Gwen Stefani Eyeshadow Palette, $95, is available from December 26 at Mecca Maxima stores and mecca.com.au.
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