One Woman, 100 Different Makeup Looks

Photo: Courtesy of Francesca Tolot.
When you’ve been Beyoncé’s go-to makeup artist for over 12 years, collaborating on every performance, shoot, and music video — as well as painting the faces of just about every other celeb in the biz (including Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna, and Cindy Crawford) — you would think you’d have checked off every professional goal you have. But, Italian-born, L.A.-based Francesca Tolot is just now finding out about a whole new level of creative success with the launch of her first book: One Woman 100 Faces (featuring a foreword personally written by Mrs. Carter).
It’s the beauty version of Boyhood: one woman, shot over 20 years, celebrating femininity, breathtaking art, and the transformative power of makeup. We spoke to Francesca about taking on this mammoth project and how she managed to nab the coolest job in the industry — making up Queen Bey.
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Photo: Courtesy of Francesca Tolot.
The idea of transforming one woman into 100 different personas is so unique. What inspired you?
“Actually, it didn’t really start with the idea of the book — it was a process. I had worked with [model and muse] Mitzi [Martin] for 10 years — doing various jobs and creative testing — until, one day, I realized how many beautiful images I had of this woman — and how she had been transformed thanks to makeup, hair, and lighting.

All of a sudden, a title appeared in my brain. And, in that moment, it became a dream and a project...Another 10 years went by. We had no pressure...[It was a] pleasure meeting with the best hairstylists in L.A. — getting together and being creative.”

How did this project evolve over 20 years?
“Some of the collection is from 20 years ago. The oldest picture in the book is from 1986. So, you can actually see within 20 years the changing of Mitzi [and] the changing of style. Also, to me, it shows that if you love what you do and put in your heart and soul, the images become so strong and timeless.”
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Watching someone grow and change from age 17 feels very intimate and reflective. Was this your intention?
“There was no intention, really. Whenever we organized a photo shoot, it was pure, artistic expression with an open mind to whatever was going to happen.

The changing of Mitzi is not really even that noticeable, because she still looks incredibly beautiful. She has no wrinkles! The only difference is that her face is very chiseled, so now, she has a stronger cheekbone and jaw line...Otherwise, she’s really the same.”

How did it feel having the freedom to work purely with your own ideas as opposed to working for clients?
“It’s very different. Working on this project has been where I’ve had my creative freedom. Most of the time, though, there are exceptions with my celebrity clients that are free to experiment and be fearless — there is so much involvement. In a video [shoot], there are so many people to please, and the result is not for me, it’s for the people I’m working with. Obviously, I have to be proud of what I do as well, but the most important thing is that I deliver what the client and celebrity wants.”

Do you have a favorite image in the book?
"It’s so hard — there are so many that I love! Probably the most iconic would be the black eyelashes. One thing that I love to do is doing makeup without makeup: using other elements and materials."
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Photo: Courtesy of Francesca Tolot.
How did you end up getting the best gig in the world — working with Beyoncé?
“We met on a video shoot for 'Crazy in Love,' which was over 12 years ago. It was such a beautiful video — and we had such a great time. She right away loved the makeup, and we had an immediate connection...I love her to death, and I admire her to death. From her, I feel respect and appreciation — which is major when you work with someone that close...And, she’s fearless: always changing, trying, and experimenting. It’s a dream job to be able to try so many different looks on her.”

What are your all-time favorite looks you’ve done together?
“I’ve loved everything we’ve done in the last run of videos, and I loved what we did a few weeks ago for the MTV VMAs. It’s really hard to choose one look, because she does so much that even when I do barely any makeup, the result and the way she projects herself is so beautiful.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Francesca Tolot.
Are there any makeup tricks that your celeb clients can credit you with teaching them?
“I think, funnily enough, I get most of my clients to wear less makeup...I have them appreciate their beauty without covering it up.”

Do they teach you anything in return?
“Every day! Makeup application is so different for everyone. And, it’s not about the product, it’s how you use it. Everyone has a different way to apply makeup — or has an idea or trick, so I’m happy to learn from them.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Francesca Tolot.
How has makeup artistry changed for you over the years?
“It hasn’t changed much: The only difference today is social media. As a makeup artist, there's more pressure on making sure your clients are looking as flawless as possible, because they can take a photograph on their phone at any moment and be all over the Internet. That puts some extra pressure [on me].”

Looking back, what’s been your most memorable experience?
“Definitely the day I met Elizabeth Taylor. I had just moved to America and barely spoke English! I was lucky that Helmut Newton was one of the photographers I worked with in Italy, so we connected when I moved here.

He requested me for a job, and it turned out to be the iconic photo shoot with Elizabeth in the pool with the parrot for Vanity Fair. That also became the cover of Helmut’s book. That was the day I met her. It was just love to begin with. She understood me even when I didn’t speak English. It became an amazing relationship: For 30 years, she was so loyal to me. I felt at home in her house — she was so generous and such an amazing friend. I miss her dearly."

One Woman 100 Faces is available at bookstores and on Amazon.
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