Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Interview with Mickey Contractor

Mickey, how long have you been working with M·A·C?
It's been 32 years since I started working as a makeup artist and this is my 6th year with M·A·C. I've collaborated with the brand since they launched in India. M·A·C wanted to work alongside a makeup artist with credibility, experience, the ability to inspire who was also an authority of goodwill in the industry. So when they came to me and said, "We'd like you to collaborate with us, we're opening a store in Bombay": I thought, "This is a Godsend for me". Working with M·A·C was an opportunity to really convey my vision. They have such incredible authority and influence in the industry and becoming a part of that was incredibly exciting to me.

Had you already been using M·A·C products?
Yes, I'd been using M·A·C for years. I first discovered M·A·C when I was in Canada about 15 years ago where I bought Twig, Malt and Marrakech lipsticks. Those kinds of shades just weren't available in India. In fact, so little makeup was available in India back then! I've been a huge fan ever since.

What’s your beauty philosophy?
For me, beauty is about a natural-looking woman who wears makeup, but wears it so cleverly that it doesn't actually show. She's also somebody who carries herself with a lot of confidence, not just someone who's pretty, but who also has a lot of character. For me...that defines beauty.

Who have been your creative influences throughout your makeup artistry career?
I began my makeup career thanks to Indian Bollywood star and Sixities Item girl, Helen. I also used to look at Linda Evangelista's pictures in the Seventies and Eighties and be utterly inspired by her beauty. Linda, Christy Turlington, Paulina Poritzcova- they were the models who really inspired us because all we really got to see were advertising campaigns in the very few foreign magazines that were available to us.

You’re known as the Master of Modern Bollywood. How has Bollywood changed since you started working in it?
In terms of makeup, by the Nineties I had managed to influence Bollywood a lot. My whole idea was to try and minimize the old Bollywood way of makeup as much as possible – we used to be into panstick and pancake makeup, which looked really thick. I wanted it to look more modern, more real, more today, closer to what Hollywood does...because it makes it more believable. That was my contribution to this culture.
I was doing a lot of movies at this time, so when people saw the makeup they realized what I was talking about and they all started to copy it. A lot of actresses would send their own personal makeup artists to see what I was doing and make them watch me. Most of the A-grade actresses were taking a lot of tips from me, asking what colour foundation they should be using, what kind of look they should go with, etc.

You’ve said that the ‘no makeup’ look requires more effort than a full-on makeup look... how come?
The "no makeup" look in India is about using everything you need to use but making it look like nothing! That‟s the reason it's so much more difficult, because your blending has to be perfect, the contouring need to be perfect, you've got to be able make an exact match to the colour of the skin's very, very difficult. But the products and tools in this collection all work together to make achieving this look so much easier.

What have been your biggest creative challenges?
It's taken me almost 20 years to take the Bollywood makeup "down" to what it is today. I've been saying "cut down on the makeup, cut down on the makeup" for many many years. Yet there are not a lot of women who are willing to change their makeup very quickly because it's something they've been doing the same way for years. Since M·A·C brought me into the picture it was much easier, though, because I had many more products to play with, and of course M·A·C is an authority in the industry. As a Director of Artistry for M·A·C, people took me even more seriously.

You’ve already worked with M·A·C on product development in the past haven’t you?
Yes, three years ago I created a few foundation shades for the Middle East and India, because so many people wanted to use M·A·C foundations yet felt that they couldn't find the exact shade and tone they needed. They didn't have enough yellow undertones in them, which caused them to appear grey on Indian skins. The foundations did so well that M·A·C realized that it was the right time to do a whole collection and expand on this.

What was your inspiration for this collection?
My USP is skin. I am one of those makeup artists who focuses a lot more on the complexion and contouring rather than just colour, so I wanted to split the collection into two parts: "Face" for creating the perfect skin and "Colour" to add definition. The inspiration for this collection really came from what I felt Indian women needed. Pigmentation and discolouration problems around the mouth and under the eyes is something that most people in India have a problem with, so creating the concealers was really important to me. They really work to address these issues on any olive-based complexions and outside of India they'll also work beautifully on Hispanic, Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern skins, which can also have similar issues with pigmentation. Because creating beautiful skin is always my priority as a makeup artist, I wanted to focus on that, as well as developing the best colours to accentuate it with.

Tell me a bit about the Face range...
I do a lot of in-store appearances, whether that means promoting Viva Glam on World Aids Day or doing one-on-one appointments with the customers. When I meet these women and identify their needs, what it comes down to is that they all want the perfect shade of concealer. So, I created four new shades of Select Moisturecover Concealer that really are perfect for Indian women‟s skin tones and anyone with an olive-based complexion. Select Moisturecover is by far my favorite concealer formula in the range. It's texture works on all skins, even on more mature skins and really doesn't cake up under the eyes.

The double-ended colour corrective concealer looks amazing. How did you come up with this idea?
This product is ideal for taking a concealer or foundation you already have to almost the exact shade for your skin. If it's too dark you mix some of the yellow in to make it lighter. For whiter skins the yellow also works beautifully to counteract the slight greyness or blueness that Western skin tones have. If it‟s too light you just add a couple of dots of the coral to it to make it darker, and the orangey tones neutralize the dark brown or red undertones that Indian skin often has. You can dab them on as colour correctors and then wear your usual concealer over it.

How about the Colour range? How does this reflect your signature style?
I love using browns and earthy tones on the eyes, so I have designed an eyeshadow quad of my perfect neutral colours. I took existing shades of Folie brown and Carbon black, to which I've added two new shades, Viva (which means "marriage" – it was great to give the products Indian names), a new golden-y coppery brown, and Jaan (which means "my life"). The name of the quad – Athma – means "soul" because the colours in it really reflect the look that I am known for. I'd say it pretty much defines the makeup that I do in terms of colour.

The lip products are gorgeous and so wearable...
I always prefer to give attention to one feature, and my signature look is really a smoky eye with a mouth that's really simple and neutral. You can use the lipstick with the gloss, or just one or the other to play around with getting the texture you want, but still have beautiful natural colour. Of the lipsticks, Yash (which means "fame") is an almost nude-beige-brown and Mehr (which means "grace", also my wife's name) is a pink-nude. Any brown tones read as nude on Indian skin, which on white skin will actually read as a stronger colour, but these shades look beautiful on both skin tones.

The four single eye shadows are gorgeously strong shades. In particular, the bright pink is really striking. What led you to this vibrant colour?
Yes, they are. For example, in India a bright pink is known as Rani pink – Maharani's in Rajasthan used to use a lot of strong bright pinks in their outfits, so I created the strong fuchsia eye shadow, Rani, to reflect this. It looks a lot hotter in the palette than it does on your skin – you can wear it as a light wash if you're delicate when applying it.

The two Fluidlines are very vibrant and unusual too? What inspired these?
The Fluidlines came about because on the last few films I've worked on I've been using a lot more colour. I reached a point where I thought that just gold and black would be boring so let's use a little bit of colour! To create shades like this bright turquoise and green I previously had to use an eye pencil and then put a powder shadow over it. Since everyone was coming to me asking how to recreate them, I thought "why not make it so they can have it in one pot and just paint it on?"

So, from neutrals in the quad to the brighter single colours, there’s something for everyone, then?
Yes, between the quad and the singles you get the full spectrum of choice – a little bit of colour and some neutrals, some matte and some frost. Of course there are so many wonderful colours in the existing line up, but I created what I felt were some of the M·A·C colours that were missing in my kit.

What was important to you in terms of texture?
I like shadows with a little more pigment in them so that they have a very smooth application with great longevity and strength of colour. The single eye shadows have more of a pearl undertone to them – Indian women do love to wear shine and frost. I really love the formulas that we've got to now. There was a lot of back and forth with the labs to get them exactly right, but they‟re really amazing now!

How do you cope with the challenge of working in the excessive heat in India? It must be hard on you...and the makeup!
It's a huge challenge to work in the heat. For years the majority of film studios in India weren't air-conditioned, and even some today. If you were working outdoors, it was sometimes a nightmare as you could be working in conditions that would dry the skin and also melt the makeup. That's why I'm so happy with the textures we created in this collection as they really do stand up to the heat with great staying-power and don‟t look heavy on the skin.

Is having the opportunity to create your own line of products your dream?
Of course I think it should be every makeup artists dream to create their own line of products.

Will these products work on everyone, not only Indian skin tones?
Absolutely. These colours will work on almost everyone, not just Indian women, but particularly Hispanic, darker Mediterranean and Middle Eastern skin tones, too. Of course you can play with the shades and use them differently whether you're a makeup artist or a customer, but everyone will love them I'm sure!

What are your star products in the collection?
The Select Moisturecover double-ended corrector is my star product. In terms of the colour, the Athma eye shadow quad is something I'll use all the time, and I also really love the Lipglasses. I've finished almost all the final product testers that I have – especially the lipsticks and Lipglasses, which I'm using on a daily basis. I couldn't be happier with the products that M·A·C has created for me. They're all perfect.

To view the MAC & Mickey Contractor collection, click here.

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