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February 11, 2004

Could You Pull Off Model Makeup?

Our intrepid beauty reporter, Ning Chao, went backstage at the shows to road-test spring's dramatic new looks.

marie claire's ning chao getting a model makeup makeover

Blushing Beauty

Photo Credit: Fabio Pettinari/Fabio Pettinari

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I may be tall, but make no mistake, I am not a model. When people gather to take a photo, I lean out of lens range. So when my editor asked me to go backstage during New York fashion week to try the latest beauty looks, I knew it would test my confidence. But would it also help me master makeup tricks from the best in the business?

Blushing Beauty
I show up backstage at 11 a.m., figuring it'll ease me into the week: Natural beauty is the signature of Roy's lead makeup artist, Bobbi Brown. Past shows have boasted pretty, neutral palettes — perfect for a makeup minimalist like myself. (My morning must-haves are blush and a lash curler.) I also miraculously woke up this morning without a breakout in sight; I can do this.

The gentle rhythm of Brown's brushstrokes makes me zone out. With everyone in the room looking at me, escaping mentally to another place is mandatory (which may explain models' spacey expressions). Then Brown starts applying a bubblegum-pink blush to my eyes. Whoa, that's a lot of color. But with heaps of black mascara, it somehow looks OK. Maybe a little intense for a Wednesday morning, but I can imagine rocking this look for a special occasion — perhaps a costume party? After a swipe of creamy concealer to pale out my lips and a few clicks of our photographer's shutter, I'm done.

Out on the street, cabs are hard to find, until one pulls up and the passenger inside considers letting me hop in to share the ride. But when he gets a look at my bright-pink face, he mouths, "No way," and tells the driver to keep going. Back at the office, I see why: Runway makeup is meant to last 15 minutes on a catwalk, not an hour schlepping around the muggy city. The mascara has now melted into an inky black pool around my eyes, and the pink makes me seem puffy. I look like a beat-up Kabuki go-go dancer.

MC RECOMMENDS: Bobbi Brown Powder Blush in Pale Pink; CoverGirl TruConceal in #2; Rimmel Volume Flash Mousse Air-Whipped Volumizing Mascara in Extreme Black.

Retro Siren
Five hours later, I'm perched on one of those uncomfortable high stools backstage at L.A.M.B. It's total chaos, with Gwen Stefani at the epicenter, balancing baby Kingston on her hip while surveying the models. Along with makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury, Stefani was inspired by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl; as a result, it takes four shadows and two liners for my cat-eye transformation. I'm barely recognizable. As showtime approaches, the music gets louder and champagne flows. Just as the floors start to shake, Gavin Rossdale appears and plucks Kingston from his wife's arms, then covers the baby's tiny ears with noise-canceling headphones. When the show ends less than 10 minutes later, I head to an after-party, even though I never go out on school nights. In the heavily contoured makeup, I feel energized and practically incognito.

MC RECOMMENDS: Avon Perfect Wear Eyewriter Liquid Eye Liner in Evening Black; MAC Lashes in #6; Estée Lauder Pure Color Eye Shadow in Sea Breeze.

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One winner will receive a year’s supply of makeup products from Lancôme ($389) and a year’s supply of hair products from Garnier Fructis ($90), as selected by the Sponsors.

One winner will receive a year’s supply of makeup products from Lancôme ($389) and a year’s supply of hair products from Garnier Fructis ($90), as selected by the Sponsors.

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