You Will Not Believe How Much Adele Has Changed

Photo: Getty Images.
"Everyone thinks I get it right the first time, that I just pick up the liner, whiz it along, and it’s done, but I don't — it does take me time," Michael Ashton, Adele's makeup artist told me, referring to the singer's iconic eye makeup. We were sitting with Ashton right before he got Adele ready for one of her last concerts ever. The icon might be retired from the stage, but her cat-eye is eternal — and it's all thanks to Ashton.
The Marc Jacobs Beauty global artistry ambassador has been doing both her hair and makeup for a decade, single-handedly proving just how vital a signature look can be. (He even painted her nails in the early days!) But as it turns out, eyeliner was the first thing that he ever applied on Adele — and it was all by happenstance back when she was 19-years-old.
"She was going to an event with friends and I got called to cut her fringe," Ashton explains. "She asked if I could do eyeliner, and I said, 'Sure, I can do eyeliner.' I suppose it got the seal of approval because here we are!" That strategy has morphed into a three-product technique that anyone can copy.
We asked Ashton to walk us through Adele's beauty journey, sharing his tips and tricks to copy some of her most-iconic looks at home. "What I love about having started to work with Adele at the very beginning is you go on a journey together with someone, and you both grow," he says. Check out the exciting evolution, ahead.
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Photo: Getty Images.
The Brit Awards, February 2008

"This must have been her first red carpet ever," Ashton says when we pulled out this shot. "For me, this look is all about her youthful skin. I love that you can see her freckles and the natural texture of her skin, the eyeliner is obviously still there, a smaller flick though. And the brows... I guess back then brows weren't such a thing."
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Photo: Getty Images.
Mercury Prize Awards in London, September 2008

"This was the start of her experimenting a little bit with new things: a heavier bang, more wave in the hair, a little bit more shadow on the eye. This was the start of the evolution."
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Glamour Women Of The Year Awards, June 2009

"I love this one, I think it's fresh and youthful," Ashton starts, "I love her skin in this image. I use my fingers to do the initial base, then stipple on concealer, and use a large brush to powder just the T-Zone.
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Photo: Getty Images.
The Brit Awards, February 2011

"She has the perfect eye shape for a cat-eye," Ashton muses. "She has the perfect face and bone structure for it — and it suits her, so we stuck with it. Yes, it's evolved over time and I've made tweaks, but I never set out to make an iconic look out of it. I guess it still doesn't quite register with me."
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MTV Video Music Awards, August 2011

"There have been about four or five hair evolutions — and it was all organic" Ashton says. "There was the side bun or the low pony at the back with the sweeping fringe. Then we moved into big hair.

"We would use half wigs on tour because it shortened the amount of time we had to be in the hair and makeup chair — and then it stuck. Each had a name; one was called Jackie. She really enjoyed big hair."
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Photo: Getty Images.
Barclaycard Mercury Prize Awards in London, September 2011

After that came the beehive phase. "It was a lot of backcombing, a lot of hairspray," Ashton recalls. "I'm sure she even [used to say] the higher the hair, the closer to heaven... or something like that."
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The Grammy Awards, February 2012

"The next hair evolution was when she went blonder and shorter," Ashton says. "For me, I feel like this was the real moment that she arrived as far as style, hair, and beauty. The Grammy's red carpet in 2012 was the big beauty moment for her.

Ashton suggests Marc Jacobs Beauty Le Marc Lip Creme Lipstick in Goddess and Oh Miley — his two favorite reds — for a similar result. "When doing a red lip, I always start by applying the color directly from the bullet and ask my client to rub their lips together," says Ashton. "We then go back in with a lip liner over the top to create more definition and fullness." He finishes by tracing the exterior border with a small brush dipped in concealer.
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The Grammy Awards, February 2012

"Everything about her is very organic," Ashton says. "There is no strategy. There is no game plan. And I didn't do the winged eyeliner and think, 'Let's stick with this. It's going to make you a beauty icon!' It's just a beauty look that really suits her."
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The Golden Globes, January 2013

"There's actually not a lot of contouring," Ashton says of his go-to strategy for Adele. "I use an angled, natural-hair brush with a powder contour. It's a couple of different shades I mix together applied under the cheekbones, sculpting slightly under the apple, around the perimeter of the hairline, down the temple, a little bit along the jawline, and just down the nose to refine and give that three dimensional effect. It's quite minimal."
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The Grammy Awards, February 2013

"I think that's three different types of lashes on her," Ashton admits. "I don't want to say I've made my own custom lashes, but I always take different brands and styles and combine them together. Sometimes you might want the length of one, but more density at the roots, so you layer a lash that's a little bit thicker and shorter."

So how do you pull this off at home without making your lashes look like caterpillars? "You do the longer one first, and then you do the shorter one on top as a second layer, so you get the fullness of the lash line. Then you just pop [a small clump, half set, or individuals] on the corners, so then you've got length, thickness, and lift," he says.
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The Academy Awards, February 2013

"Anything I've ever wanted to try, I have," Ashton says. "She could carry any makeup look. She's always been beautiful, but I think as she's grown older and become a woman — and not a 19-year-old girl — she's grown even more beautiful."

There's a secret to this look. "Well-placed blush not only gives a flirty flush, but can also help make you look younger by giving the illusion of light and lift to the cheek area," Ashton says. "I like to use a large powder brush to give a more diffused application of product, starting lightly on the apple of the cheek and then working upwards, back towards the temple and along the high plane of the cheekbone."
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Being Honored by Price Charles As A Member of the Order of the British Empire, December 2013

"This was a new take on the beehive that had been there before," Ashton says. "It was creating this beautiful shape on the back of the head that was still a little bit volume. We knew she'd be wearing the hairnet, which was a beautiful detail. Then, as far as how her skin and eye looked: to me, it's that iconic feline shape, the fresh skin. This day was all about her being recognized for what she's contributed to the British music industry. To me, this is the iconic look."
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Out in New York City, November 2015

"Brows and blusher are two things that can give your makeup that final polish," Ashton says. "When I want to create a little more definition and fullness to the brows, I like to first brush them into place using a clear brow gel, like Marc Jacobs Beauty Brow Tamer Grooming Gel. This gives the brow pencil something to adhere to."

And for definition? "Using light, feathery strokes with a brow pencil, I fill where needed before going back in using a soft, flat brush and a matte eyeshadow to set and ensure the brows have a softness to them," he adds.
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The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, November 2015

"This was during her primary run of 25," Ashton says. We were doing a lot of TV shows and interviews, and it was really great because it gave us a chance to do a bunch of different looks in a very short space of time. She was really wearing some incredible outfits, so it was nice to see a new outfit, then think of a beauty and hair look. I love this kind of textured, youthful, beachy wave. The winged liner is still there. The lip is a little bit lighter, a little bit peachier. I love this."
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The Grammy Awards, February 2016

"This red carpet look was all about keeping the makeup and hair simple, but with the classic element of the iconic eyeliner," Ashton says.

We know what you're thinking: Get to the cat-eye technique! "I do it first with a gel liner to get the shape, then I go over it with liquid liner," Ashton tells us. The third product ensures a perfect line, every time: "Even I make mistakes, so I get a Muji tip, dip it in [micellar] water, and then go over the top to clean up any mistakes."

To a makeup artist, that may seem simple."I always said that it was easy, but I thought, if I’m going to talk the talk, I should walk the walk, so I tried doing it on myself, and it is not easy," he says. "When I do it on someone I start in the inner corners and do the flick last, but when I tried doing it on myself I found that it is too hard; it’s easier to do the inner corner first, then work outside in to join them."

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Ashton used three liners, it has been corrected to reflect two liner types.
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The Brit Awards, February 2016

Want to copy the look? Ashton is tight-lipped on the exact products he uses on Adele — very standard with big celebs — but he suggests picking up Marc Jacobs Beauty's Fineliner Ultra-Skinny Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner in Blacquer and the brand's Magic Marc'er Precision Pen Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in Blacquer. Thanks to the high-impact formulas, you won't need another layer. "I like to do the gel liner first to sketch my outline, then that gives me a really nice base, then go in with the Magic Marc'er," he says. "Once you have that on it’s not going anywhere."
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Performing In England, March 2016

“This makeup and hair look was designed for the 25LIVE World Tour," Ashton says. "It was all about creating a beauty look that would stand up to two hours on stage under lights, as well as looking flawless when projected onto the huge screens. I found the best way to give lips definition that really lasts is to lightly fill in the lip shape using a lip liner and then apply lip balm over the top before blotting with tissue.”
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The Grammy Awards, February 2017

"This is one of my absolute all-time favorite red carpet moments!" Ashton says. "What I love about this look is how radiant and glowing the skin is... By using subtle bronzer to warm the skin and a soft blush, it kept everything polished and fresh"

What is it like to see a decade of work evolve in one interview? Pretty amazing, he says. "Both of our careers have gone on this really wonderful trajectory together," Ashton says. "We've just finished 120 or so shows around the world together, and this year will be our 10th year working together. We finished the tour in London, which is obviously where Adele is from, so it's a really wonderful, full-circle moment: our journey together, her beauty evolution. It's been a really great ride."
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