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December 9, 2011

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Creator of smoky eyes and nude look

LINDA Cantello has never been one to shy away from bold statements, pushing boundaries with her creativity. She is the originator of the famous "smoky eyes," "glowy face" and the "nude look."

Since the influential British-born makeup artist joined Giorgio Armani Cosmetics three years ago, she has reinvigorated the brand with her fresh ideas and color expertise. She works closely with Armani on his runway shows and new product launches.

Her makeup regularly appears in all the fashion and beauty bibles, including American, British, Italian and French Vogue, Harpers Bazaar and ID. She has collaborated with every major photographer, including Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and David Sims.

She had done art-like makeup for Kate Moss, Megan Fox and Lady Gaga.

The makeup artist was in Shanghai last week for the Elle Style Awards and she was named Best Makeup Artist of the Year by Elle China. Cantello spoke with Shanghai Daily about her three decades in makeup and the latest trends.

Q: How did you become a makeup artist?

A: My mom told me "you cannot wear makeup until you're 14,'' so I locked myself in my bathroom with mom's makeup bag, mixing and playing with them. Even at 12, I experimented with foundation and mascara to make brown eye shadow, but I never thought of becoming a makeup artist. I studied fine art at London's Harrow Art School. In the late 1970s everybody was desperate to be in fashion. In 1981, I moved to Rome and invented myself as a makeup artist. You can be anybody in a foreign country. I brought a tiny, cheap box filled with some products and pretended to be a makeup artist, bluffed my way. An Italian fashion magazine gave me a job.

In 1982, I moved to New York following my best friend Sam McKnight who later became Lady Diana's hairdresser. My first job was for American Vogue beauty with photographer Irving Penn. The beauty editor Andrea Robinson liked my makeup and adopted me and Sam as a team. I owe everything to her. Two moments are very important: one is the first work for American Vogue in 1982 and the next is the first Gucci show that Tom Ford did (where) I created the smoky eye. People started to realize makeup could be sexy.

Q: Do you prefer magazine and advertising shoots or creating looks at backstage for runway shows?

A: To be honest, I love working with products. I'm truly happy when I'm in a lab, doing research and creating new ideas.

Q: Is there a favorite collaboration so far?

A: I'm very proud of my collaboration with Giorgio Armani. It works like osmosis. He oversees every single thing and his attention to detail is incredible. I'm also very obsessive and compulsive but he is more so. Backstage he usually gives me a reference about what he likes and I try to present it in my way ... He has a very clear vision and I understand the same vision. I've worked with all the designers and I can honestly say he is the most fascinating with an incredible allure. He is 77 but he is incredibly young at heart. When he tells me "well done,'' I feel a blast.

Q: You're Lady Gaga's favorite make-up artist. Would you share some stories?

A: I've done quite a few magazine shoots with Lady Gaga and I love her. When I first worked with her, she had just started to become famous. She is so committed and such a hard-working person. She cares for her fans. I once went backstage of her concert. At 24, she was so calm, collected, mature and almost zen. When somebody told her "Oh, I thought you were drinking and high," she said something fascinating: "What's a bigger high than having all those people and audience here for me?" It's interesting to see her grow and evolve. I saw beauty in her when I think she didn't see beauty in herself. She has a great face. Her makeup isn't always as crazy now as it used to be.

Q: How do you find new ideas?

A: It's a question of timing and catching the moment. It is something very spontaneous when you have the right photographer and right model. I also get inspired by people and places. I always try to bring sensuality to makeup as I think women are lucky to use makeup as a tool. And I don't think it's so great to go to beauty school.

Young artists always learn in a very rigid way and creativity is killed. They don't learn to look at the face and create different looks.

Q: What is your favorite look today? What's the look for Christmas and what's the trend for next season?

A: When Elizabeth Tyler passed, she inspired the trend for old-time glamor. We had Megan Fox as an icon and made her look like a 1950s Hollywood actress. Burgundy-red lip color and smudged eye liner are the keys to the vamp look for Christmas.

For the 2012 spring/summer Armani look, we did underwater inspiration like moonlight under the sea. Armani is obsessed with light and this makeup inspired a lot people in Paris. The focus is the mother of pearl-like highlight on the eyes and the temples. It will be the trend next season. Pastel colors and a lot of gold is another trend in spring. Highlighter and pretty sheer lipstick are must-have products for spring.

Q: What's your advice for Asians?

A: I noticed Asians have very straight eyelashes, sometimes eyes look better with only eyeliner and one coat of mascara or even no mascara. A sheer cream-based blush is also good on Asian look.


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