Q&A WITH JAMES GAGER
Senior Vice President and Creative Director, M·A·C Cosmetics
How did the idea to do a sweeping search for new M·A·C faces emerge?
Well, part of the idea was the simple fact that everyone loves a good makeover. Just look at all the tv shows and magazines that cover the topic! And of course, when it comes to the idea of transformation, who better to do it than M·A·C? However instead of just making up a pretty face and concentrating on one facet of a makeover, I really wanted whoever won our contest to be involved in a total transformative process, which meant the makeup and the hair, the clothes, the attitude, the experience of being in New York and working with an A-list team of Michael Thompson (photographer), Paul Cavaco (stylist), Brigitte Reiss-Andersen (makeup) and Serge Normant (hair), and how this team and photographer would interpret their look. Who wouldn’t want to win that experience? It’s all about living out a fantasy.
You received thousands of entries. What was the process of combing through them like and how did you make your selections. What was the criteria?
I asked a very trusted member of my team, Executive Director Rory Gevis, who worked as Style Director at W as well as other fashion magazines, to help by doing some pre-selecting for me. After she narrowed the entries down, I evaluated whom we had and found myself more interested in the reasons why they wanted a M·A·C Me Over!, not only their looks. It had to be more personal than that, so we focused on the “I want to be a part of this because...”. It worked out that the M·A·C mantra – All Ages, All Races, All Sexes – was definitely represented in the chosen winners.
M·A·C is famous for working with celebrity spokespeople and collaborating with artistic luminaries. How was working with average American M·A·C lovers different for a change?
People living and working in New York and especially this industry can get a bit jaded, but these people were not taking a second of this experience for granted. Frankly, that’s very refreshing. I think when they all arrived at the photo shoot and walked in the door, they didn’t have a clue of what was going to happen to them! When you arrive and you’re the star being treated like one by all these amazing people, you really have to trust and hand yourself over. Each of them really went for it. It was just great to be among people that were so excited. I think that level of appreciation happens in our stores a lot, when a makeup artist creates a look on a customer and they not only look good, they feel wonderful. It gives them a confidence boost. So this was a taste of that exchange, which is thrilling!
At the shoot, how did you and the creative team decide who would represent what look?
The best way to describe it would be to say it was like going on a blind date! You didn’t know what you were going to encounter or what to expect. Obviously, we had photos of them beforehand. Paul had some ideas of how he was going to style, and they had some of the makeup looks assigned to them, but on the day of the actual shoot we chatted with them and tried to understand their personas and where they could go, transformation-wise.
What was the goal of the makeovers? How did people feel once they were transformed?
The general feeling was,“I never thought that I could look like this.” They were exposed to a different way of seeing themselves and their full potential. Some people were really amazing on camera too. Xee, for example, was a natural. I was like, “Have you done this before?"
A number of the people who were selected cited being on the M·A·C email list as the way they heard about the contest. How do online initiatives now play a role in how you connect with fans?
We have a huge fan base that we respect and cherish, so we are always thinking about the ways we can keep engaging them in fresh and interesting new ways, and of course more than ever that pertains to the digital space. We think of our fans first and foremost. I think especially for this collection, this was a way to say, “We admire you so much that we want you to be the new face of M·A·C.” That’s kind of the ultimate compliment, right?