Michael Anthony is serving us all the glam inspiration we need for 2021.
Scroll through makeup artist Michael Anthony’s Instagram or peek into his expansive portfolio from the last decade, and you’ll quickly be blown away by his skill, creativity, and prodigious way around a makeup brush—not to mention the plethora of famous faces he paints on the regular. After starting out working with musician Roberta Flack on her international tours, Anthony’s artistry caught the eye of Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Nicole Scherzinger, Paris Hilton, and Doja Cat, every top-tier model in the biz. Clearly, his résumé speaks for itself, which is why he’s become one of the most in-demand talents in the beauty industry.
Born in Germany to US Army officers, Anthony would travel and be stationed in different cities with his parents throughout his childhood. “I spent a fair amount of time daydreaming and sketching my own little worlds to play in where I shaped the light and subject around me,” he says. His parents’ love of classic films further fed his growing interest in makeup. “I was always fascinated by the colors and textures of all things glam,” he explains. “From Liz Taylor’s white diamond eyes in Cleopatra, Whitney Houston’s bold red lip, Boy George’s club looks, the elevated ’80s blush that carried David Palmer’s girls, to Madonna’s shapeshifting qualities that constantly evolved her image.” It was this inspiration from ’80s and ’90s movies and music culture that later sparked the playful nuance of his work.
Owing his first real introduction of makeup to his aunt Robyn, the regional director for Mary Kay, he considered her office his personal beauty library. “The training manuals and testers were piled up in her office, and I couldn’t resist them,” says Anthony. It was this support from his circle around him that ultimately opened up the doors to his time at MAC Cosmetics. He assisted makeup legends like Dame Pat McGrath, Charlotte Tilbury, Mark Carrasquillo, and Diane Kendal, and it was during this time that his custom and abstract vision of beauty came to life.
“Those experiences really showed me how the creative process is unique to whatever truly works for your own specific alchemy,” he says. “I’m forever grateful that my mentors saw my own personal magic in the way that I do makeup. It really helped me along with either passing opportunities my way or even challenging me with the reality that it can be a very tough industry to navigate and succeed in,” Michael explains.
So how does he feel now that he’s working with some of the most famous faces in Hollywood? Ever starstruck? “Not with my clients; however, Nicole Kidman walked by me once at the Grammys a long time ago, and there is something about her that had me completely gobsmacked,” he says. Sometimes I look back and make sure I am not in a fever dream or astral-projecting in a different realm. When I think of some of the people I have had the pleasure to work with, it can be overwhelming yet empowering at the same time.”
As for some of his most iconic looks with Ariana, like her recent Positions album cover, Anthony says, “The process of carving out a super-iconic beauty look almost always begins with sculpting out a flawless and dimensional complexion. I adore Ari, it’s so much fun playing with different tones of liner and shadow on her. She is so beautiful it’s crazy!”
From the fluttery flowers in her lashes for her 27th birthday celebration, Swarovski crystal freckles at the VMAs, to her ’60s matte retro glam look in “Positions,” Anothony is a master of looks that are soon to be iconic. “A favorite look of [Ariana’s] would be the floating white eyeliner from the ‘Rain on Me’ video with Lady Gaga,” he shares. “Not only an incredible look on her, but it was so special to see so many makeup lovers re-create the look around the world—that will always be a special moment for us and a first of many, for sure.”
We caught up with Michael Anthony (virtually, of course) to discuss navigating the beauty industry, collaborating with his clients, as well as his stylistic approach to makeup. Plus, he shares the ever-faithful beauty products he keeps in his kit.
Firstly, in light of the pandemic, what was the shift like as a makeup artist?
“It was difficult, of course, but I’m lucky to live with my boyfriend who models and loves transforming into couture characters using makeup. We just started creating looks and making content—it was a great way to pass the time.”
How has it been navigating the beauty industry over the last decade?
“Like many, I’d struggled to make it ‘work’ in the field as a freelancer and for a while took random and strange gigs to keep things together. I hold those random gigs very dear to me, as it is in those moments that you hone a skill set that can only develop on the job. I am a firm believer in setting intentions and seeing through the lessons the universe provides…and it was through those lessons I was able to carve my own path that I continue to forge to this day.”
How would you describe your makeup style and aesthetic?
“There is always a backstory to every look that I create, but I would say that my style is forward, bold, experimental, and sometimes shocking. I always like my work to evolve with technology and encompass a modern technique without being ‘trendy’ or too much of a facsimile to other people’s work. I really love making custom pieces to add an individualistic element, whether it’s making gemstone lashes or cutting up holographic stickers. It keeps me busy, challenging myself, and mastering new ideas.”
How do you develop the looks for your clients?
“I find that most times, if you get the canvas perfect, the rest is a lot more fun and flows easier. I like to bring dimension to features with a subtle contour, and highlighting with cream and powder products for longevity. When it comes to the rest of the look, I always take into account the person’s features.”
How would you then define the finished look?
“I think it is really fun to put my own twist on something iconic, whether it is adding a different shape of lash, a new formula of shadow, or even a nuance like the placement of blush or eyeliner. It begins as a collaboration with the client, and then I am entrusted to deliver and execute new and exciting looks. To be honest, there are happy accidents and strokes of ‘luck,’ but it all adds up to a particular combo of ingredients that I call my personal ‘beauty alchemy.’ You mix experience with confidence and creativity, and the vibe is unstoppable!”
What would you say has been the most iconic moment in your career?
“It would have to be my first virtual masterclass with Colourpop. I was already a huge fan of the brand from their diverse color range to their easy and lightweight packaging. It was such an incredible opportunity to connect with so many viewers and discuss how makeup relates to so much more than beauty.”
And backstage, is there a moment you will never forget?
“I’ve done makeup whilst one of my clients was completely asleep and laying in a chair! I had no idea how the look was going to turn out until they awoke and sat up. I was lucky that it was still gorgeous and symmetrical, and interestingly, the angle meant the finished look was even more elevated and awake.”
Are there any beauty lessons you’ve learned from your clients?
“I am so lucky that my clients take meticulous care of their skin and have the radiant complexions to prove it! I probably drink more water after working in L.A. than I ever have in my life because of these girls and their gorgeous skin.”
What makeup trends are you excited to explore this year?
“I am super excited about exploring the idea of ‘filterless beauty,’ where we use makeup to give people the filtered effect without actually having to use one, although, let’s be real, we love a fun beauty filter…they can actually be very inspiring. I also think we will see a lot more exploration in texture, especially with eyeshadow formulation, that twinkle and shimmer that exists between a loose pigment, a glitter, and a cream product. The innovation is endless and always gets my creative tank revved up.”