If you’re a Gwen Stefani or a Cher fan, the name Gregory Arlt should be familiar. Long before I learned that Gregory is the director of makeup artistry at MAC Cosmetics, I followed him on Instagram because Gwen would tag and pose with him in photos.
Meeting him then merited one question first, “Is Gwen Stefani everything you want her to be and more?” Gregory, who constantly works on the pop star’s looks for The Voice, confirms that she is. “She would ask me if we could lengthen her eyeliner a little bit and then apologize quickly, thinking she was ruining my work.”
As a makeup artist, Gregory’s bio is full of names that every creative would dream of working with: Dita Von Teese, Victoria Beckham, and Alicia Keys, along with brands like Oscar De La Renta, Alexander McQueen, and Chloe. He’s also a man of quotes like, “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love glitter and those who lie.” He’s one of the best, who has been with the best and Preen was lucky enough to share some breakfast with him for a #PreenPopQuiz.
What do you think of Instagram makeup?
I’m not so much into it as there is a tendency for everyone to look alike. When I sit down with someone and I see them copy the contour trend, all I tend to look at is their contour. I always say, “Go gentle, not mental.”
I’m all about making people the A-plus version of themselves when it comes to makeup. Everyone should switch it up and not give yourself a bloodless face lift. There is no standard beauty. Makeup should be fun, you can do your own makeup. People shouldn’t look at it as a necessity.
When I look at Instagram, sometimes I can’t tell who is the makeup artist who did it because it all looks the same.
How did you fall in love with makeup?
I’ve always been fascinated with makeup, I had two sisters, my mother, and my father was an artist. When I was 19, I got a job in Fred Segal in Santa Monica. What I really wanted to do was fragrance and they did custom fragrance and they had a bar where you can make your own scent. I applied for a job there and they asked me if I had makeup experience, I lied and said yes. I really went out on a limb. (Laughs). At that time, I didn’t know there was red carpet beauty or fashion makeup. In the ‘80s, I loved music. It was all about Culture Club and Boy George, Duran Duran, Madonna, and Cyndi Lauper, and all these makeup heroes and music videos. I remember thinking how there was a whole world out there.
When I was there at Fred Segal, I worked with a girl named Andrea and she taught me more about makeup.
Who was your first celebrity client?
My first day on the job, there was a woman shopping and she was on a big show in the ‘80s. I asked her if she needed help. She told me that she was auditioning for a role to be a housewife in the 1950s. It was funny because I was into pin-up makeup with the cat eye and the red lip, I loved it. That was the very first day ever in my job, my first celebrity ever.
The first one who was loyal was Fran Drescher, who was in The Nanny. She was the first person I worked with, she kept calling me to do her makeup. She was the first who was loyal to me and soon after, Cher came along.
What was the call from Cher like?
In 1999, she was an executive producer of a makeover show that I was called to be a beauty consultant for. This is the craziest story: I got the call [from the producers] on a Monday. On Wednesday, I had a sit-down interview. The next day, I had to go to the MAC store to get some makeup and Cher was in the store shopping. All by herself, looking at lipstick. I’m not working, I was super casual in a t-shirt in jeans, [debating] whether I should talk to her. God and the universe said go talk to her. I walked up to her, [I introduced myself] and said I just met with your producers for Style Challenge. We started talking for 10 to 15 minutes. I told her how I just worked with Kevyn Aucoin but in my head, “Oh my god! Oh my god! I am talking to Cher.”
The next day the producers called me and said that my name came up a lot. So I got into the show. I ended up designing Cher’s makeup for her tour.
How is Kevyn Aucoin like?
He’s amazing. He’s a wonderful person.
What did Kevyn Aucoin teach you about makeup?
Transformation. Makeup is transformative and is about polishing the pearl.
How does the process of designing makeup looks work?
It’s an amazing process. I love collaborating. I sat down with the creative director of the tour. She shows me the costumes and the set design―there were eight to nine changes. I then flew to Toronto to meet with Cher and talk about it.
I thought how she doesn’t have time to change her makeup so it had to be one look that could encompass her. We did face charts and did the look itself. Cher then asked if we could add Swarovski crystals. Of course she could, she’s Cher.
How do you make red eyeshadow work?
It’s theatrical. It’s an accessory and you go all out. It should be more pink-toned, if it’s too much you’ll look a lab rat. Cher liked that pinky-red.
What work is waiting when you fly back?
I was supposed to go with Angelina Jolie to Cambodia. It didn’t work out because I have to go to New York to meet Gwen Stefani. I call it a champagne complaint. (Laughs)