my kit: makeup artist jeanine lobell on john waters and channeling siouxsie sioux

In the third installment of My Kit, a feature in which we get industry pros to share their best products and trade secrets, we play mahjong and talk tinted moisturizers with the queen of dewy skin, Jeanine Lobell.

by Alice Newell-Hanson
Jul 1 2015, 2:15pm

photography brayden olson

Jeanine Lobell has had many lives. She grew up in Sweden, spent her teenage years with a fauxhawk in 80s London, then moved to LA and became a beauty counter girl. Soon odd jobs around Hollywood (she worked with Mariah Carey on one of her first-ever performances) turned into real jobs, and today she's Natalie Portman's regular red carpet makeup artist. At some point during all of this (actually it was 1994) she also founded the makeup line Stila.

Today, in addition to shooting editorials with the likes of Inez and Vinoodh, Jeanine oversees the creation of her four childrens' high-concept Halloween looks. In a photo on the wall of her Manhattan apartment, her youngest daughter is wearing a flawless homemade version of the Björk swan dress. "Last year, I made one of their friends into Lady Gaga and another into Dakota Fanning," Jeanine says. "This year one of them did 'Hollywood Cemetery.'" Her experience in the film and music videos, and her hard-learned special effects skills, are, she says, what's helped her adapt and evolve creatively.

But Jeanine is also known as "the skin person." When you look at a celebrity on a step-and-repeat and think, "How many chlorophyll shots do I need to drink to glow like that?" it's likely that Jeanine did her makeup. Recently, she helped turn Jemima Kirke into a porcelain, smoky eyed goddess for the Golden Globes and made Cate Blanchett's face look like a cherub had kissed it for the Oscars.

In her next incarnation, Jeanine will be an app founder. She and her friend therapist Jane Reardon will release Rx, a savvy self-help app with illustrations by Jo Ratcliffe, later this month. Sitting at her electronic mahjong table (a gift from her kids), Jeanine told us about some of her most-used products and favorite looks.

How did you first get into makeup?
My best friend from high school went to makeup school in London, so I did too. Later, I went back to the States and ended up having to take makeup counter jobs in LA. I didn't have a car, so I'd be lying on the back seat of a friend's car wailing , "Why do I have to wear pantyhose?" I was never a very good employee like that. Then I started getting work on videos. I'd do makeup but I'd also cut people's hair. Back then, I practically had to iron the clothes! You can't sit around at home with your tiara on waiting to get discovered.

What was your first major job?
The first job I ever did was the makeup for Hairspray, the John Waters movie. It was awesome, all 60s and wacky. That was a sign.

How has the way you work changed since then?
I don't have to figure things out any more. If you ask me how to do something, I can do it, and also add something to your idea. The collaboration is the part I really like - making somebody's picture the best it can be. I also come from the days when if you had to retouch, you were in fucking trouble. Today, when so much of it is digital, people say to me, "Your makeup is so clean." But I just didn't learn the fix-it-later way.

Who are some of your favorite collaborators?
Inez and Vinoodh are amazing. Lately I've also been working with Emma Summerton a lot. She uses beautiful lighting. But in the beginning I mainly did music videos and films. I did R.E.M. "Everybody Hurts," with Jake Scott. It was based on Avedon's In the American West, with all the carnies. We had at least 65 or 70 extras and I didn't have an assistant. I had to work out of the back of a truck and yell at everyone with a bullhorn. I also worked with 10,000 Maniacs, Mötley Crüe, Tom Petty for "Free Falling." Old school!

Did you experiment with your own makeup growing up?
I went to Bow Wow Wow concerts in London at like 16. I had a fauxhawk and Siouxsie Sioux eyeliner. We probably spent more time doing our hair and makeup than actually being out! I think that's my fascination with makeup - that transformative power. Girls sort of come alive. It's this tribal process, getting ready.

Were there any cool techniques you used back then? Were you styling your hair with egg whites?
I would shoplift my makeup. Does that count as a technique? We were really into Barbara Hulanicki and YSL - there was this bright fuchsia lipstick they had back then, I think it was number 49 or 19. You would wear that, then put fuchsia blush on your eyes. And you'd use a piece of paper to get that angle on your cheeks.

What five products do you always have with you on a shoot?
1. Laura Mercier Oil-Free Tinted Moisturizer... I like to build it up, so it still looks like skin.
2. Chanel Inimitable Mascara... It's the best.
3. La Mer Moisturizing Cream... I always put it on first. It's sticky so the makeup doesn't slip as you're applying it on top and you can use less.
4. Nars Soft Touch Shadow eye pencils… They're amazing.
5. Burberry Nude Radiance… Have you ever tried it? You can use it anywhere as a highlighter. It's so beautiful because it's not a sparkle, it's just a sheen.

What are the craziest products you've ever used?
Oh my god, I have so much stuff. I did an orange story for Chinese Vogue where I actually brought my sieve from the kitchen and sifted orange pigment onto her neck. I also have weird things that friends who still work in movies have recommended, like glycerin that beads to look like tears or sweat. Or the purple liquid I apply with a sponge to tan people. It's a stain, so you can still the freckles and it looks totally real. With Inez and Vinoodh once, I made a fake scar. I've done a black eye for a boxer. Having worked in videos, I know how to fake things for a photo.


Related: Nail Artist Madeline Poole on Russian Nail Salons and Hand Selfies


Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Photography Brayden Olson