The Inventor of the Smoky Eye Wants “Instagram Makeup” to Stop

Beauty


Although, it’s hard to actually trace the origin of the smoky eye, makeup artist Linda Cantello is widely believed to be the “inventor” of the ubiquitous beauty technique. Created for Gucci shows when Tom Ford was at the helm in the ’90s, Ford apparently requested messed up, smudgy, lived-in eye makeup at a time when beauty looks were a lot more precise. “It will probably be on my gravestone: Linda Cantello—creator of the smoky eye,” she’s said.

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Beyond that milestone, Cantello’s also worked with iconic photographers like Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, plus brands like Giorgio Armani, which named her international makeup artist in 2009. In this role, she’s had a hand in developing products including the Neo Nude collection of powder foundations, balm lipsticks, and “watercolor” multi-use makeup.

I recently caught up with the beauty legend to discuss everything from the rise (and hopeful fall) of Instagram makeup to why she thinks festival beauty looks have a place in everyday life.

Armani Beauty Neo Nude Compact Powder Foundation, $58

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How would you define this current era of beauty?

I’m going to be very honest: The whole heavy kind, of lash extensions and contouring, I never thought that would become mainstream. To me, it was a joke. And now I see people walking down the street—especially when I come to the U.S.—and they look like everything I thought was never going to happen. There are people like me who are trying to desperately educate women and free them and help them understand that they don’t have to be slaves to makeup. They can embellish themselves without thinking they have to do a whole tutorial every time they put their makeup on. No one’s going to judge them, and they’ve lost sight of the fact that [on Instagram there are] professional makeup artists, Photoshop, retouching—there’s this completely surreal attitude to makeup. There’s this whole plastic, completely over retouched, unreal expectation of women. It’s never going to look like that [in person].

How do you feel about the trend of photo-driven “Instagram makeup”?

That, to me, is one thing that makes me very sad because on the other side there’s been so much movement toward being more “natural” and freeing women up. Again, helping them understand that basically they can look better without makeup or looking like they’re wearing a mask. Instead, put on products that make them feel good about themselves. There are definitely two movements and they fight each other a lot.

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As a makeup artist, how do you feel about the push for more natural, no-makeup makeup?

Makeup is the best tool that women have. It’s fun. It shouldn’t be every time you go to put your makeup on you’re thinking, Am I doing it the proper way? That’s why I’m always talking about not following rules and trends. Do your own thing. Think what suits you. Find your product. Get expert advice if you have to, but think about yourself.

It’s ironic because along with the no makeup movement, there seems to be a rise in services like lash extensions, lip fillers, etc.

Yeah, it’s like, Oh she looks so fantastic and she has no makeup on. But she probably has access to the best dermatologist. It’s a very weird, complex time.

There’s this whole plastic, completely over retouched, unreal expectation of women.

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What’s a beauty trend or look from past you wish would come back?

I like that thing in the ’60s where they—you see it at Coachella a lot where they kind of decorate and kind of paint things up. Why can’t we have that walking down the streets in Manhattan? Why does it have to be out in the desert? I think that’s the whole idea about makeup, it’s fun and it wipes off. Makeup is a great self expression. Makeup is an adornment. Who am I to say you’re wearing too much makeup, or you shouldn’t wear makeup.

What would you say to people who argue that makeup is frivolous?

There’s a website called Look Good Feel Better. It’s for cancer victims—I had cancer a very long time ago. Nobody knew I had cancer. I wore false lashes, I had a wig made by the best wig maker. Nobody knew except my closest friends. I was very lucky. Makeup can make you feel better about yourself. I’ve seen women have makeovers and they cried. They felt they were invisible then somebody comes and does their makeup and it’s like they live again. They feel that they exist again. It’s such a fantastic, basic comfort. It’s not frivolous. It means something and it’s extremely important.

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What else do you wish people today would know about makeup?

When I was a teen, I used to wear so much makeup. I remember how much of a crutch makeup was for me. I couldn’t go out the door without wearing makeup. Then I got older and wiser and a bit more confident. We can never make makeup a thing where it’s like our lives depend on it. Have the confidence to say, “I don’t feel like wearing makeup today, so I won’t.” Why can’t we have the right to wake up and think, Ok I feel like painting my face today. Who are other people to judge you?



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