A Master Class With the Makeup World’s Rock-Star Artist

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When a musician or rock star hits the stage, the crowd usually breaks into hysteria. That's what happened last week when Val Garland, the makeup-artist world's superstar, walked out onto the glossy white runway at Milk Studios. The room, packed with hundreds of makeup artists, photographers, and fashion and beauty influencers (many of them boldface names as well), lost its mind.

She is their Stevie Nicks. And they were there to witness the artist at work for MAC Cosmetic's Master Class. As the last stop in this tour (she's already taught in London, Sydney, and L.A.), Garland showcased twenty of her favorite looks in a runway show — from Vivienne Westwood shows to W magazine editorials to Lady Gaga album covers — and re-created a handful of them onstage, all while giving out indispensable tips (like, say, use a concealer brush to paint lips quicker) and offering a taste of her unique humor. "I was telling my team once how to do the lip like I like to do," said Garland as past members of that team erupted into a giggle fit. "I said, 'I want a big, fat lip, I want a big, fat lip brush, I want a big cock-sucking lip.'" And thus, the "CSL" look was born.

The Cut sat down with Garland, pre-show, to discuss her career.

How did you select the twenty looks for this master class?
They had to be moments that I thought people would remember. So when you see them you’re like "Oh, that was this show," or "Oh, that was that show." And because it’s a makeup master class, it is quite makeup-y.

What common mistakes do women make with their daily makeup application?
Too much blush or too much bronzer. I often see people out in the street and you think there’s something odd going on there … I don’t really think you want to feel that.

Do you ever do that as you’re walking down the street — critique people's makeup?
I did say it to one of my colleagues who I’m working with on this thing, who is a very experienced makeup artist. I said, "Why do you use that pink on your cheeks?" And she said, "It gives me a bit of color." "Maybe you should be using apricot, because you’re not that sort of blue-based skin tone." And she goes, "Oh, I’ve never thought of that." "Because all I see is this pink, and it makes you look cold." But sometimes I think, "Whoops, shouldn’t have said that." 

Who was your first big celebrity moment?
Well, I remember the first time that I worked with Kate Moss. I was doing a show in London; I’d just arrived from Australia and I’d somehow gotten an agent and somehow was on this show. The show was for Bella Freud, who used to work with Vivienne Westwood, and I was the lead makeup artist. The first time I was in London and I see Kate walking into the room and I think, Kirsten Owens is in the room, Gail Elliott. I think Helena Christensen is in the room — and nobody knows who I am. They don’t know who the lead makeup artist is, and I can remember Kate sort of saying, "Who’s doing the makeup, then?" And somebody said, "Oh, Val Garland." And she said, "Who’s she then? We’ve never heard of her." I was petrified. But I remember Kate walking in and she had no makeup on, a little short skirt, flat ballet shoes, and there was just something about this girl, it was like there was this aura around her, she just oozed this presence. She was wonderful. I did her makeup and she was just really beautiful and down-to-earth and natural.

Do you still get nervous when having to do makeup?
Yes. It was quite funny doing this master class. For about three weeks before I did the one in London I couldn’t eat. I was so nervous, petrified. As a makeup artist you are behind the scenes, you are doing the makeup; the spotlight is not on you. I’d just rather be behind the scenes. So to be onstage, and do makeup in front of a lot of people, and talk about it … because when I do makeup I kind of go into the zone and when I’m applying makeup I’m actually quite silent, then I’ll talk in between. So to have to do makeup onstage and talk, it was a horrifying nightmare. But we got there.

Click through the slideshow to the looks from her master class — from haunting Vivienne Westwood to avant garde Alexander McQueen — then start thinking Halloween 2013.

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