With a background in painting and photography and a degree in linguistics, Aaron Smith Henrikson is not your average makeup artist. No wonder then that he has been plucked from the high fashion world into the close-knit team of one of the world’s most enduring megastars.
As Madonna’s official makeup artist, Smith Henrikson talks exclusively to Professional Beauty about his favourite Madonna makeup creations, life on the road, and what it’s like living the dream.
You are the official makeup artist for Madonna. What is it like working with such an iconic and incredibly gifted person like Madonna?
Literally a dream come true and one of the greatest learning experiences of my life!!! Madonna not only has a gift for recognizing talent, but really shares her experience and knows how to bring out the best in others and help them reach their full potential.
What was your inspiration for Madonna’s makeup looks throughout her Rebel Heart tour?
The show was divided up into thematic sections, so I had to create something that could quickly flow from one into the next. Madonna opens the show with tightly choreographed battle scenes and I really wanted to underline her strength and power while doing something different from previous tours by sculpting a fierce warrior brow combined and combining it with some classic Madonna beauty elements. The bold brow flowed easily into the 1950s teddy-boy/Rockabilly inspired section. The lips flowed from a wine stain to a more defined deeper scarlet for the (third) Spanish section and finally to a classic iconic red for the Parisian 1920s-themed finale. For this final act I also added some sheer pink camellia blush and a golden glossy lid.
Pressure must come with a gig like this one, how do you handle the stress of a world tour?
I think that’s why some people on tour become a traveling family and support network. I’ve learned that increased visibility opens up the possibility for increased criticism….good thing I’ve been working with someone who has been at the top for decades no matter what has been thrown her way! Having all of the amazing catering around the world was always a good thing too!!! I travel all the time even when not on tour, so I am fortunate to also have friends all around the world!
How is a tour like Rebel Heart different to working backstage at a fashion show?
I guess the work at runway shows is divided up among so many gorgeous top models, trying to maintain a certain look and quality across many different faces for a quarter of an hour, whereas in an over 2 hour live show, rain or shine, in sickness and in health, for many months feels like comparing a 100 meter sprint to a 42 km marathon! I had to learn to be quick on my feet backstage at the world’s top runway shows for over a decade, but I called on all of that experience to concentrate and perform consistently, quickly, and cooperatively with the others under the stage for our dramatic Formula-One-worthy 2-minute quick changes.
You also did her makeup for the Prince Tribute at the Billboard Awards. The eyes were incredible. What was your inspiration and how did you achieve this look?
While on the Rebel Heart Tour in Minnesota we were so fortunate to be invited by Prince to a special private performance. It was amazing and now it is even more meaningful.
I took inspiration from Prince’s own two-toned brown and black liner that he often wore. From a distance it looks like a strong and thick winged liner, but in actuality up close it’s actually a thicker brown liner with a thinner black definition at the base….plus a little purple shadow over the brown because I just had to put a little purple into my makeup tribute! It also had to be well-sealed and waterproof for such an emotional historic moment.
We also loved Madonna’s makeup look on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show when President Obama came on as a guest. Those eyes were amazing…
That was another historic moment and I wanted to add a little feminine smokiness to her masculine styling. When meeting the president of the United States of America, it’s important to give good face! We went with a subtle brow-framing warm smoky eye. Her skin had that signature lustrous glow and radiance combined with a favourite lip stain. I wanted to avoid using any black on those eyes so I used a strategic combination of burgundy, brown, peach and bronze to achieve this intensity. I’ll try to post a face chart on my @visionaaron instagram since I’ve gotten so many requests for this look.
Follow Aaron on Instagram here: instagram.com/visionaaron