We said it last night, and we’ll say it again: The Grammys were highly understated — which wasn't that surprising, considering the relatively tame awards shows we've been watching as of late. Our obsession with red carpet style has turned awards shows into evenings of spectator sport…albeit, one that’s overly rehearsed and sponsored. And, thanks to worst-dressed lists and the joy of Twitter, everyone’s a critic, which means a celebrity has to have particularly thick skin to, say, wear crushed diamonds on her eyelids and dress up like a couture matador. (Thank God for Madonna.) In a way, it was refreshing to see “understated” from leading ladies who are known for their daring signature beauty looks. It was fun to see Gwen Stefani, for example, without her ubiquitous slick of red. And, Gaga (though gray-haired and smoky-eyed) ditched her usual antics to stand alongside her date and fellow artist, Tony Bennett, looking screen-siren elegant. Nicki Minaj has been rocking her own version of minimal for a while, and it’s working like a charm for her.
But, a few of the evening’s biggest stars — most notably Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus, and Rihanna — understood that there’s more than one way to do understated. “Red carpet” understated is different than any other reasonable definition of the word: It usually means contour, lots of foundation, a little bit of liner, false lashes, and nude lipstick. These three, instead, seemed to be much more into a minimal aesthetic: Beyoncé paired long, flowing strands with filled-in brows and luminous skin, which was fitting for her angelic performance at the end of the show. Rihanna’s brows were also the main focus of her look, filled in and precise. Just a little bit of contouring in her eye sockets and pinky-nude lips completed the face — alongside, of course, her signature glowing skin. (Fun fact: She doesn’t have pores.) “We’ve done so much in the past 10 years,” says Mylah Morales, the star’s makeup artist. “This go-round, the dress was a lot of things, and we just decided to do more editorial, supermodel makeup… Ri kept saying, ‘I want to look like a baby!’ so that’s what we did — glossy eyes, beautiful skin, and nude lips.” She adds, with a laugh: “We can make a statement with a lack of a statement, because we’re fierce.” And then, there was Miley. When she was onstage to introduce Madonna, she proclaimed her allegiance to and respect for the icon. For a while, it seemed Miley was very interested in following in Madge’s footsteps of treating the red carpet as performance art. But, last night, she seemed to be the most pared-down and bare-faced of them all. “When I went to see her in the morning [before the show], we had a talk, and we agreed that, when something is expected, it’s so much chicer not to do it,” says Sabrina Bedrani, Miley’s makeup artist for the evening. “The Grammys are the event! They’re all performers — they’re used to the stage, the makeup, the hair. But, we wanted to go against that.”
To do so, Bedrani simply evened out Miley's skin tone with a little bit of concealer, defined her eyebrows, applied mascara, and then added nude lips. “I also gave her blotting papers, so she could pat down any shine before she went onstage, but I don’t know if she ended up using [them] or not.” It was so awesome to see actually minimal makeup work for the red carpet, mostly because it took some of the circus out of the normal E! pony show. And, please forgive me for repeating this reference, but it really did remind me of the François Nars looks backstage at Fashion Week: those models with no makeup on, about which he said he doesn’t “like to do anything that’s middle-of-the-road.” In other words, if you’re going to do “natural beauty,” really go for it: Don’t add the lashes and the tricky contouring. It’s a fun rejection of expectations — kind of like showing up in jeans and a T-shirt, but for your face. And, hey, if you’ve got it — like these ladies do — why wouldn’t you flaunt it?
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