Inarguably one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood was the late Marilyn Monroe. In the 1950’s, she represented an ideal of beauty that people aspire to even today; with her seemingly effortless sex-appeal that somehow still maintained an aura of innocence which nobody has been able to emulate since. A brilliant comedienne and underrated, talented actress beneath the Studio-created vacuous blonde sex-kitten fluff, she wasn’t really taken seriously because of the Hollywood Boys Club era she was unfortunately living in during the 1950’s and early 1960’s. However, we have proof of her talent in movies like Some Like it Hot, Bus Stop, How To Marry A Millionaire, Don’t Bother To Knock, Niagra, and The Misfits.
She was one of a kind.
Her makeup, however, looks quite easy to reproduce! It’s actually rather elegant in its seeming simplicity; the look was created by Allen “Whitey” Snyder, her lifelong friend and makeup artist, who used some nifty tricks to achieve her iconic appearance. But although it appears fairly basic, he used quite a few complex methods to create her look. Which is, of course, the beauty of it; making the complex seem simple.
Some of the tricks that we blithely assume were created by Instagram mavens were actually innovations of Whitey – he was contouring and highlighting Marilyn’s lips, cheeks, and eyes before there was colour TV.
One example of the brilliant things he did was combining different colour eyeliners like brown, white, and black to give the eyes dimension – instead of using just one; a method i use all the time (i’m a huge Whitey fan, and learned a lot of my own methods from reading about him as a teenager before i went to work professionally both as a model, then later as a makeup artist – all because of my early obsession with Marilyn). Also, the use of white/off-white eyeshadow, blending it all the way up to the brow-bone and placing it between the eyes to make them look bigger and more open – another trick you’ll see often on Marilyn that has made its way into modern makeup trends, and one that i use almost daily as well.
One not-so-simple trick he employed on Marilyn all the time was to blend five (yes, five) different shades of red lipstick to contour her lips and give them that famous pout; it certainly worked, but i can’t be bothered in this post, sorry! I think the Tom Ford shade i used made my lips look awfully lush, though. He would also place a small dot of highlighter on the philtrum (that little dip on the bow of the lips) in order to create the illusion of fullness. Brilliant dude, this Whitey.
Another trick he’d use on that lovely face which SCIENCE, makeup, and good skincare has thankfully rendered obsolete is the use of Vaseline as a primer to give her skin that K-Beauty Gwang glow we all covet these days…thank you, seven-skin method, Chanel Healthy Glow, Burberry B.B. cream, and cushion compacts! Although – caveat – i do know some people who still swear by good old Vaseline for hydration; and if your skin can take it, then more power to you! I don’t know that i’d use it under makeup, though…
And of course, we can’t have Marilyn’s look without the winged eyeliner. Whitey actually put a new spin on it by creating the “double wing”, by which he extended the lower-line out with a lighter colour as well, creating an open-eye effect. To further open the eyes, as well as giving them that sultry, deep-set effect, he would keep the base colour a light, neutral or goldish shade, keep the brow highlighted, and then sweep a taupe shade across the orbital socket, creating contour (the precursor to the cut-crease phenomenon – hello).
Marilyn’s brows were always arched, peaked almost near the center at times, in order to narrow what she thought was a too-wide forehead. This, of course, became part of her signature look as well. Just don’t over-do it, or you’ll end up looking more Joan Crawford (Resting Bitchface Queen Mother) than Marilyn!
And finally, we have the lips. As I mentioned earlier, in pretty much in every movie in which you see Marilyn wearing her signature red lip, Whitey used no less than FIVE shades of red lipstick with which to contour Ms Monroe’s lips, in order to give them their iconic full pout; using the darkest shade towards the outer line, and the lightest shade at the center. Talk about high maintenance. I did NOT replicate this today – you get ONE Tom Ford lipstick. But it’s a gorgeous one :).
So – let’s get on to the makeup i used today, shall we?
We’ll start with skin, since that seems logical. Marilyn always had glowing skin – and since there’s no way in Hell i’m putting Vaseline on my face (can you say breakouts?), i had to make do with my trusty Chanel Base and powder, with a little Laura Mercier blush thrown in for colour.
- Chanel Le Blanc Light Creator Illuminating Base in Mimosa – $55: Reviewed here, this is what i use in lieu of Vaseline! Not being a fan of foundation, i compromise with this, as i generally do need a bit of colour-correction and brightening. Whitey always made sure Marilyn’s skin was youthful and glowing – never matte. This is a very sheer primer/base that leaves a beautiful, glowing finish, leaving my skin looking natural, healthy, and banishing redness to boot.
- YSL Touche Eclat Radience Perfecting Pen – $42: Reviewed here. There’s nothing like this classic highlighting pen to give you a luminous glow wherever you need – especially under the eyes, atop the cheekbones, wherever you need it, really. I also use it as an eyeshadow primer – there it makes colours pop like nobody’s business.
- Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Colour SPF 15 – $58: Mini-reviewed here, this powder is really sort of the anti-powder. It just leaves a sort of veil of healthy colour behind, taking away the unwanted oil and leaving a beautiful, natural, glowy finish. Not something a powder generally can accomplish without all kinds of reflective pearlescent bells and whistles, but this one manages, somehow. And that’s why i pay what i do for it.
- Laura Mercier Second Skin Cheek Colour in Lush Tangerine – $24: This is a gorgeous, highly pigmented blush that gives a natural, healthy, youthful coral/peachy colour to the cheeks. Use a light hand, or you’ll be blending/powdering ’til the cows come home…
- Chanel Stylo Sourcils Waterproof Brow Pencil in Blonde Tendre – $34: Mini-reviewed here, this brow pencil is one of my favourites. It has a lovely ash undertone, and is just waxy enough to draw a nice brow arch fairly effortlessly with its angled tip.
Of course, the two most important elements here are the eyeliner and lipstick. I used two eyeliners, and one lipstick (NOT five!).
- Pat McGrath Permagel Ultra Glide Eye Pencil in Brown Blitz – $25: Reviewed here; I adore this pencil, despite its one drawback of being ultra-soft and therefore needing frequent sharpening. These pencils are all highly pigmented, need just one pass to get a nice, opaque line, and last hours on my eyes (YMMV if you have oily lids). They aren’t waterproof, so on days when my allergies are kicking in high gear, they aren’t perhaps the wisest choice – but other than that, they are SO good.
- IPKN Twinkle ESTHERLOVESYOU Longwear Liquid Eyeliner Pen – $9.95: Reviewed here: I love this eyeliner! It lasts and lasts and lasts…it’s waterproof AF, and super-black. It’s easy to apply, and the packaging is the ultimate in K-Beauty cuteness. It has a bunny on it, FFS. What more can you ask for in a liquid liner?
- Tom Ford Matte Lipstick in Ruby Rush – $54: This is SUCH a gorgeous, iconic, blue-based red – i can’t believe it’s taken me this long to buy this lipstick. SUPERHUMAN willpower was employed. But now that it is in my possession, I think it might even beat out my love for Chanel’s Pirate, it’s so beautiful and opaque and jewel-like. The second i had it on in the store, i knew i had to have it. Two Tom Ford Beauty Associates came over to coo over me as soon as i applied it, and i had a veritable PILE of rejects preceeding it on the tester table. “It’s like that red was made for you”, one of them exclaimed. I have to say i agree. It is probably my perfect blue-based red. And so, of course, perfect for the Marilyn look! The wear is very comfortable for a matte – i’d say not quite as moisturizing as the Pat McGrath, but instead, it just feels like i’m wearing nothing. If your lips are prone to peeling, as mine are, i’d suggest a lip mask the night before, and a bit of conditioner or cream before applying, as it is a tiny bit drying. Nothing too major, even for a ultra-dry lip person like myself. It does last and last, however – i’ve eaten twice today and there’s still most definitely enough of a stain to get by, although i will touch up when i get the chance. Without eating, the wear is about 8 hours before needing a touch up, YMMV, of course.
And that’s pretty much all, Darlins! Isn’t it amazing how a trend can survive for decades? Some things are just timeless. I love this look more than any other – and Marilyn will always have a special place in my heart. And you too, Whitey – you were the genius behind the chair, and one of Marilyn’s besties for nearly two decades.
What a cool guy.
I hope you all liked today’s post, and enjoyed learning some of Whitey’s tricks! Stay devastating, people.
XO – Monday