Filmmaker, John Waters once declared that lederhosen should only be worn by children in Germany under the age of 12.
Clearly he would have made an exception for lithe and winsome Gregory Arlt, who was in folk-dancing troupes -– the Lariats
and the Aman Folk Ensemble -– until he was 18.
“I did the usual –- the tap and the modern and the jazz -– but I also I danced dances from all over the world from the ages of
three to 18, in costumes,” recalls Gregory. “There were Mexican costumes, Bulgarian and Hungarian costumes and I had to go
Alpine Village, a specific German emporium, to buy authentic lederhosen. The moms would open their purses and make us up
with whatever was in there, whether it was the right shade or not, and all the little boys would whine, “I’m not wearing lipstick”
but I would be puckering up, first person in line. It wasn’t even so much that I thought I looked good in it but I loved the smell.
My mom would put a little blush on me; I looked just like Friedrich von Trapp from The Sound of Music.” Stage makeup was
Gregory’s first taste of the transformative power of cosmetics but there were two “defining moments” that catapulted him into
a career as an artist. The first, when he was 8 years old, was seeing his mother come home from a department store after she’d
just had a makeover. “My mother was beautiful and looked like Audrey Hepburn but she wore very minimal makeup,” he says.
When he saw her made-up he says his jaw “dropped to the floor,” and he thought, “Oh, my god, that’s my mom? She looked like
a movie star. Wow -– that’s what makeup can do. She never could replicate what they did in the store,” he says.
But the second defining moment came in 1982 when his father brought home the Francesco Scavullo book, Women, and said
“You’ve got to see this photography.” “He opened the book to an image of Patty Hansen and she had no makeup – freckles, clear
blond eyelashes, no eyebrows,” says Gregory “and the next page was her in full, diva blown-out Way Bandy makeup and I knew
at 12 years old, that I wanted to be a makeup artist.”
Gregory credits his father, a fine artist and graphic designer, for fostering creativity. “His studio did the Sunkist orange logo,”
says Gregory. “He’d say things like ‘Don’t throw away those candy wrappers because I can use them as stained glass windows
for my train set.’ He drew caricatures of us kids on placemats at restaurants, and when most dads were throwing a football
around in the backyard, my dad was setting up easels for me and my sister and we’d paint en plein air; he would teach us about
colour theory and mixing. (His father now uses M·A·C brushes and has even used M·A·C eye shadows as art supplies.)
While he was an honors student and in a gifted student program Gregory was restless and constantly experimenting. “Like a
lot of people who have worked for M·A·C my hair has been every colour imaginable,” he muses. After his last tour in Ireland with
his dance troupe the beauty quest won out and he began working selling cosmetics and fragrances at Fred Segal in 1989.
By 1993 he had built a healthy freelance clientele as a makeup artist. When four M·A·C artists in one week told him he should work
with M·A·C he decided it was fate, went on an interview, and was hired on the spot. “My heroes at the time were Boy George, Nina
Hagan, Zhandra Rhodes,” says Gregory who recently found the inspirational Scavullo book on eBay. “I got the book and memories
came flooding back,” he says noting there was also an image and interview with Zhandra in that book. “I did Zhandra’s makeup
for M·A·C’s Zandra Rhodes collection and she sent me a thank-you letter saying she liked her makeup so much she didn’t wash it
off for three days, and that the staff admired her pink eyebrows. It was one of the biggest compliments I’ve ever had as a makeup
artist. But then when I read her segment in the Scavullo book she mentioned that she never washes her makeup off at night.”
Gregory now teaches master classes to artists all over the world -– for the past two years he’s taught “the red carpet master
class,” that is, how to get the look of the red carpet – and works the shows in Paris, Milan, New York and L.A. (Allure calls him a “brush-wielding, witticism-tossing… anchor… in the eye of the storm during Fashion Week”), but he’s best known as a Hollywood
makeup artist and confidant to the stars.
The L.A. Times noted he’s been known to leave his chocolate mousse to run over to Dita Von Teese at an Oscar bash and touch up her Ruby Woo lipstick with a brush. Other clients include, Fran Drescher, Minnie Driver, Elton John, Mary J. Blige, Victoria Beckham, Pamela Anderson, Sienna Miller, and M·A·C Beauty Icon, Liza Minnelli. “I love that I travel the world for M·A·C. I love that today I’m in London for a shoot and last night I was in Madrid watching an authentic
flamenco show. I love the makeup and the people. I’m a beauty exorcist; I always say I like to pull beauty out of people instead of putting makeup on them. I respect a person’s bone structure, features and personality. I draw inspiration from the obvious –- fashion magazines and the runways -– but I always visit the museums in the cities I’m working in. Extreme talent motivates me.
Seeing how young artists play with colour and lines and textures. I might see a taupe sitting next to an orange and think, ‘that
could be an interesting makeup look.’ It all comes out in my work.”