Talking Shop with Gisele’s Makeup Artist
“You really shouldn’t wear blush lower than right here,” says makeup artist to the stars, Rose Marie Swift, while touching the fleshy part of my cheek, just below my eye bags. “No offense.”
She’s right. My face is puffy and droopy. “None taken,” I say.
Harsh, but true. Everything that comes out of Swift’s mouth is matter-of-fact. And she’s an expert. The 60-year-old artist has been doing makeup for more than 30 years—in addition to other careers as the lead singer in a rock band (“Way back in the late 70s, I was in a band called ‘Insex,’ but everyone kept calling it ‘Insects.’ We backed up the Ramones once,” she says), an astrologer, and a seamstress. Using her own initials, Swift created RMS Beauty, a raw-coconut-oil-based, organic makeup line that is trying to disrupt the industry.
The products are made without chemicals, and the acclaimed color cosmetics line first started showing up in stores a few years ago. Now, the brand is popping up locally in hip boutiques such as Follain and Blue Mercury, and internationally in famous destinations like Harrod’s.
On a cold day last season, Swift, who has worked with many celebrities, had just darted across town from Brookline—where she was doing Gisele’s makeup for a commercial shoot—to do a meet-and-greet at Follain’s South End location. Swift stood on her feet for three straight hours, taking 15-minute appointments at a time, imparting makeup knowledge on some of Boston’s chicest women (a well-known South End pastry chef, a hospital executive, beauty bloggers with more Twitter followers than you—and me).
After waiting for my turn, Swift’s hands were gliding across my face (she prefers a skin-to-skin application), the canvas for her finger painting masterpiece. A store employee wrote down all of the products Swift used, and after showing me my new look in a small hand mirror, I giddily clutched the list of products (a $200-plus tab), eager to hand over a credit card for a chance at complexion perfection.
Before she jumped on the last train back to NYC, I talked with Swift about the line, makeup mistakes, and just how flawless Gisele really is.
On the first time she met Gisele:
I did her makeup when she was 15 when she first came [to the U.S.]. And I am also a professional astrologer so I did her chart when she was sitting in the chair, and I said to her, “Honey, you are going to be so rich and famous, you had better put on a seat belt.” And she goes, “Oh no, I don’t even speak English.” And I said, “Honey, you wait and see.” After that, we would run into each other from time to time, but she got really, really famous and was working with all the big guys. I wasn’t a well-known makeup artist at that time. But then, as my career started getting bigger, she began pulling me in on her jobs.
On why she uses her fingers to apply makeup:
I’m a skin-to-skin girl. I think [that kind of] application is the best. I don’t believe in full face foundation or powder.
On her new brush applicator:
I developed a brush that mimics the fingertips. It’s really going to change the way people put their foundation on because the flat foundation brushes just drag across the face. It leaves too much deposit in the corners of the nose and around little wrinkles. Whereas this brush can deposit and even out with just one little whoosh of the brush. It mimics skin-to-skin application.
Contouring is really in style right now, but nobody has a clue what they are doing. If I see one more bronze chocolate bar going down a face, I’m going to freak out. People have no idea how to contour.
On working with Gisele:
She doesn’t like heavy foundation. She’s a natural beauty. Even her eyebrows are great. Sometimes we will add a bit of definition to the brow. She has great eyelashes, too, so she loves her mascara. She has a few little freckles that sometimes we will enhance a little bit just because they look cute on her and give freshness to the skin.
I can’t get into the exact products because she has a Chanel contract, but in addition to Chanel, she definitely uses my stuff my when she can. On her, I’ll use my “un” cover-up because it mimics the skin and covers little imperfections and evens everything out.
On creating an organic makeup line:
The beauty industry is scared to change. I wanted to create beautiful-wearing, high-performing makeup that is safe and clean. I want to make a good product that’s better for you.
While working as a makeup artist for decades, there were many product lines that I liked, but I didn’t like how they were made with so many chemicals. I have seen what these chemical products are like after a few hours on the skin. It’s not nice. They all have too much alcohol in them. They are drying.
And then the beauty industry started putting silicone in everything, but then you have a grease slick on the face. I would see that on the red carpet and I would go, “Oh they’ve got some silicone foundation on their face and they are completely greased up.” You can’t even powder that stuff down.
I wanted to do that beautiful glow and emulate beautiful natural skin from a healthy person, and so I just decided to take the products that I liked, and remake them with good, organic ingredients.
On applying your own makeup like a pro:
Well, a beautiful sculpted brow really frames the face. It’s wise to always to keep your brow in the same sync as the look of your face. If you have got a big square jaw or big face, you don’t want to have these thin eyebrows. You want to make sure everything is balanced on the face and the best way to do that is through the brows. You can darken them a little bit with a bit of powder.
Sometime people ask me, “I don’t know what color to use on my face.” I’ll just go blank for a moment and stare into their eyes. I love to go inside people’s eyes and look inside of the iris. Match the iris, match the skin, too.
For more on RMS Beauty and tips from Rose Marie, visit rmsbeauty.com.
This interview has been edited and condensed.