Madonna finally performed in Singapore for the first time late last month, and all the controversial restrictions aside, we’d say it was still worth the 30-year wait. For two hours, she delighted the audience with evergreen hits like “Like A Virgin”, “Material Girl” and “Bitch I’m Madonna”, tirelessly singing and dancing for a good two hours, and literally dazzling the crowd with 2,500,000 Swarovski crystals.
It’s insane that this woman is pushing 60 – to us, she’s never looked better. So when the chance to interview her makeup artist Aaron Smith Henrikson came along, of course we jumped at the chance. Henrikson has been in charge of all of Madonna’s concert makeup looks since 2014, and was also recently named International Makeup Artist for Gucci’s makeup line. We bombarded him with questions about Madonna’s seriously fierce stage makeup for the Rebel Heart tour, as well as her secrets to eternal youth.
How did you end up doing makeup for Madonna?
I’d like to say it was destiny – I’ve been a fan since I was little – but I’ve learned from many other successful people, that hard work and perfecting your skills are really at the base. Many people don’t realise that it can often take more than a decade to become an “overnight success!” Fortunately, I’ve been doing make up since the 1990s, and have had the amazing experience assisting the fashion world’s premiere make up artist for over a decade working on the top fashion shows in New York, London, Milan, and Paris. A top make up artist in New York who had previously committed to another important job asked if I could be available to work with Madonna for an event the next day. I moved heaven and earth to make it happen and literally didn’t sleep at all that night as I prepared for the next day! My work was very appreciated and it led to more work with her for events, television appearances, and more recently music videos like “Ghosttown” and “Bitch I’m Madonna”. It was just the start of a long list of amazing experiences that brought me to be living this amazing experience with Madonna on tour today.
(Right: Madonna at an appearance in New York in 2014, when Henrikson first did her makeup)
Take us through how you prepared Madonna for her Singapore concert. Were there any special considerations you had to take into account, considering the weather here?
Getting ready for Singapore was challenging for a couple of reasons, probably the first was that we were in such a beautiful place, that it was difficult to get myself to work! Secondly, Singapore had a completely different space than we have ever performed at during the Rebel Heart Tour. This included the stadium being partially open to the elements, which meant extreme heat and humidity, without access to temperature control!
One of my favourite interpretations during the show is the rock guitar version of “Burning Up”… which was pretty literal that night! This was by far the hottest performance so far this tour. What that entails in terms of make up is to keep the moisturising a bit lighter and avoiding too much powder during the significant time after make up is finished and when the show actually starts. It’s better to tissue off excess shine until the show is about to start, at which point I can use powder to prepare the skin for hot lights and HD filming. In cooler environments I like the more natural application of face powder by brush, but in this situation it’s important to use a powder puff to obtain a matte finish.
Was there any particular inspiration or reason behind how you designed Madonna’s makeup for her Rebel Hearts tour?
As the show is divided up into four thematic sections, it was important to create a look that flowed from one theme to the next. The intro has a strong warrior vibe and we wanted to underline Madonna’s expression with a fierce defined brow. This flows well into the next section which is more 1950s and rockabilly inspired, so expressive eyebrows were perfect. The third section opens up into a Spanish-inspired world of colours with costumes created by designers like Gucci, full of colour and embroidery, which you see are becoming huge current trends. The lip starts flows from more of a berry stain at the beginning and flows into a deeper red in the third section. The fourth section is inspired by the 1920s and Paris, so we wanted to vibrance and drama of a bright red lip combined with a silver screen reflective eyelid and a rosier pink blush.
Pre show Game face!!! Getting ready for Bangkok!! ❤️#rebelheartour A photo posted by Madonna (@madonna) on
Madonna Make Up for Rebel Heart Tour by Aaron Henrikson M wanted a fierce warrior look to open the show. I love how it flows from the decadent glamour and violence of the opening Iconic video we shot with @stevenkleinstudio I felt that bringing back a strong, defined brow would give her the impact she was looking for. It also worked perfectly with the dark roots and center-parted textured waves by the amazing @andylecompte We wanted to make sure to maintain some intensity in the eyes, but with more natural lashes than M has used in the past. Sculpted cheekbones with a wine-tone stained lip really complete the look! Gucci Cosmetics products available in Hong Kong at SOGO and in Macau at New Yaohan #Madonna #RebelHeart #MakeUp #MakeUpByMe #MakeUpArtist #RebelHeartTour #HongKong #Macau #Facechart #illustration #drawing #BeautyBreakdown #theQueen #QueenOfPop #Iconic #Beauty
So what’s Madonna’s secret to still looking like she does, even at her age?
Madonna, who we usually call “M”, could just as easily have that M stand for Motivation! It’s inspiring to see her work ethic up close. She takes amazing care of her body. I’ve seen teenage runway models who would envy M’s tone, definition, strength and flexibility. She’s definitely in better shape than I am! Her focus on overall health carries over into her maintaining a precise and personalised regimen for the best skin care possible. For special events it’s important to make time for some extra special skin treatment to look your best on the red carpet, for example.
It can actually be more of a challenge for me to work on younger models and performers who don’t take such good care of their skin. You’ll also see that even when Madonna’s working hard on her philanthropic efforts in Sub-Saharan Africa, like in Malawi, she keeps covered and protects herself from the most significant contributor to premature aging, sun exposure. I appreciate that many women in Asia are also very good about skin care and tend to regularly use SPF and avoid excessive UV radiation.
What are Madonna’s favourite makeup products? What kind of look does she usually go for?
Madonna has had so many looks and incarnations over the decades, but definitely some defined black eyeliner and mascara on both top and bottom lashes is a flattering go-to look. Recently we’ve been bringing back a bolder brow than what she had been doing for the past decade. She often alternates lip intensity based on the mood or outfit choice. During this Rebel Heart era wine-toned stains or iconic red lips have been at the forefront, but she’ll often opt for flattering soft nudes during time off the stage. A little more defined contour is also popular now and looks great on her.
Henrikson (left) with Madonna.