From Frankfurt to Ariana Grande
The son of army officers, born in Frankfurt, Germany, and raised in several places in the United States, Michael Anthony he always had a creative streak. Playing with makeup from the age of six, he often used everything he found around the bathroom and pretended to be at the spa, before moving on to the creating looks for her sisters, girlfriends and “anyone who sat motionless and trusted me,” he says. After honing his skills at MAC Cosmetics, moved to New York where he began working as an assistant for industry legends Pat McGrath, Diane Kendal and Mark Carrasquillo.
Since then, Anthony has managed to get people talking about himself, becoming the make-up artist trusted by the stars, regularly collaborating with Katy Perry, Paris Hilton and Ariana Grande. It is the mind behind Grande’s distinctive sparkling and pastel-colored looks, and has transformed the singer
of Thank U, Next in a robot woman for her 2020 video 34+35, matching in a scene a White eyeliner, graphic and winged and red lips barely hinted at a 360º supernatural sheen, and a silvery circuit around the eyes with mauve-metallic lips in another.
Here, he shares his tips for entering the industry and where his career has taken him so far.
Growing up, where did your idea of beauty come from?
“The painted leather, so indulgent, is the eighties synth music, all the charm and glamour of the decade had a big impact on me. Janet Jackson and his prolific makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin, Madonna’s 1991 documentary, In bed with Madonna, with the make-up artist Joanne Gair that jumped from one connotation to another; the soap Dallas (from 1978 to 1991) with shiny lips and eyelids. The iconic purple eyeshadow of Elizabeth Taylor… and, of course, the portrait of my beautiful Mom hanging in our hallway, staring at us with her perfect nails and false eyelashes. I think it can be said that all the strong women of the 80s and 90s inspired a lot of what I do today.”
What does makeup mean to you?
“The whole process of sitting down and focusing on something was meditative for me as a child. It allowed me to Focus, but it was at the same time to play. Now, I realized that when I deal with makeup, I can channel that same energy, but I also collaborate with anyone who works at the time. I like the satisfaction that people have when you
they feel safe, beautiful or transformed.”
When did you decide to pursue make-up as a career?
“To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever made a conscious decision to pursue it as a career. The trick has always been one outlet for my creativity and expression. I knew I wanted to see my work on the glossy pages of magazines and learn everything I could about glitter, masking tape, red lipstick, the corrector, or anything that could turn someone into a character or another version of themselves.”
What was your first big breakthrough?
“I’ve heard that in industry you need ‘30 major breakthroughs‘. I would say that a moment of great realization for me was working on the first covers of Vogue: Vogue Australia and Vogue India, both with the fantastic and unmistakable Katy Perry. I felt that I had pierced the veil of success and that I had conquered something that many people do not even have the
chance to try.”
What keeps you creatively inspired?
“I am inspired by my peers and the creative in the community Queer and in the beauty industry: their freedom of self-expression is so strong. I’ve worked with a lot of artists and people Underground of New York nightlife, for this reason to see the TikTok generation and beauty influencers create
it’s stimulating in a whole new way.”
How would you describe your creative process and aesthetics?
“The most important part of my process is being responsible of my energy and collaborate with anyone in my chair, which requires a lot of listening. As for my aesthetics, a phrase I often hear in my head is ‘be there for the twist‘, and for me
this means doing what works, or something that makes a person feel comfortable, adding, then, their own touch. I hate the terms ‘experimental’ and ‘bold’, but I hear them often. Strangely prefer satisfying, adventurous, strong and colorful.”
When you work with someone like Ariana Grande, how much of her personality affects the look you give her? How is your approach to her make-up?
“She is an absolute beauty with or without makeup, and it is a dream to make up her delicate features. We always try to understand the feelings and what are the feelings for the project. It has such a recognizable look, and I like to keep that in mind when I add a nice touch, like the double eyeliner or a white graphic line. We even created paper flowers in his eyelashes.”
What was the inspiration for the look of his video 34-35?
“For the video we made a look from ‘fembot‘ soft and retro, with pastel colors and pearly white strokes. We also created a robot look that required an extra bit of creativity, so I made a printed circuit board with metal tape and studs. It was fun to adapt it to his eye and see the result on the screen.”
What are your best tips to create the ultimate look for Ariana Grande?
“One of the things I’ve learned over the course of my career is that I like to create looks that can amplify a person’s individuality, experimenting, at the same time, with positioning, intensity and color. This is a great approach to working in fashion, music and entertainment. I’m the type that people call when they want to bring a
look to a different fantasy.”
What advice do you have for those like you who want to make it in the industry?
“‘Pay your debts’ sounds so old school and it’s exhausting, even vague, but time and experience in the field are things you can’t speed up. I would also say to continue to work on the relationship with oneself, as well as on mental and physical health. Other than that, find something that is of interest in the industry, trying to make your way according to the ‘rules’.”
What was the moment that made you most proud?
“The inauguration of the president of the United States in January 2021 (when Katy Perry sang Firework) at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC: it was truly surreal. In a moment of such darkness, being part of such a light and joyful thing was pure magic.
How much consideration do you give to the notion of beauty in your work?
“It has a duality: it can be seen as something that we measure unconsciously by analyzing the facial symmetry or clarity, color, proportion of characteristics, and much more. It can also be something that we apply cosmetically, an external way of protecting ourselves against
hard looks at the world, so it is always present in my thoughts when I work. Beauty can mean so many different things to people, whether it’s improving someone’s symmetry or building protective armor with glitter and false eyelashes, so they can go on stage and give their best.”
What is beauty for you?
“Beauty is growth. It’s great to see the progress and development of the character and witness someone’s evolution. Beauty for me is uniqueness, generational characteristics handed down in the family, a strong sense of self and safety.”
What are your hopes for the future?
“More collaborations with brands that want to diversify their teams and shake up the ‘status quo’, not only on set or in the makeup room, but during development meetings and in creative positions of power. My hope for the industry, overall, includes the momentum that already I see and hear with young leaders at the rudders of prestigious brands and in the positions of creative director. I would also like more collaborations with artists who have different experiences and backgrounds.“