“The juice ain’t worth the squeeze if the juice don’t look like this.” — Lizzo
I love Lizzo. You love Lizzo. Is there anyone left in 2019 that does not love rapper-singer Lizzo? Her powerhouse vocals alongside her body positive messaging have embedded her into the cultural zeitgeist.
She is currently on tour for her “Cuz I Love You” album and those who are lucky enough to snag tickets get to see her play her signature flute up close. They also get to see her makeup, which interweaves drama and glamour together seamlessly. The man responsible for creating these juice-worthy looks is Alexx Mayo, who is known for never repeating a look and who has worked with Lizzo for two years now. “I feel like music, even though we can’t see it, triggers inspiration for me,” he says.
The duo has been on tour for a few months now, making Mayo the perfect person to grill with questions about stage makeup and lighting. As someone who panics when looking at herself in the H&M dressing room (curse you, fluorescent lighting), I can’t even imagine what I would look like underneath bright stage lights.
Below, we chat with Mayo to learn more about Lizzo, his stage makeup secrets, and how he inspires others through art.
Q: How did you start working for Lizzo?
Somebody that I had previously worked for began working for Lizzo, and one day her makeup artist at the time wasn’t available, so they were scrambling to find someone last minute. He called me and said, “Are you available? There is this new artist.” It was actually for her “Water Me” music video. Our two-year anniversary is coming up in August.
We are both Tauruses, so I feel like I have that same energy too. When you get in the room, you automatically feel that connection and it is like you have known them for years. I introduced myself to her and she had this really cool necklace on, and I was just so intrigued by it. We just really hit it off.
Q: How does your experience with photography and lighting come into play when doing stage or editorial makeup?
I think that in any setting, whether it be a red carpet where you have more flash photography, or you are on stage where there is a constant spotlight, keeping the light in mind plays a huge part when doing makeup. The first thing I ask a director is “How is the lighting?” On stage, since it is so bright, you have to almost double up on the contour and really shade the features, so they don’t get lost in the light. Things can get very washed out. With the [Lizzo tour, in particular] there is a lot more cool and warm tones that change throughout the show. If we are doing a pink lip when they shine a purple light on her, it is not going to read as pink, so I try to play more with contrast. Sometimes, I will do a darker lip. It might be a little too dark in person but on stage it reads as kind of neutral.
Q: Can you tell us more about the flute-proof lip?
I love that we are calling it the “flute-proof lip,” because that is truly what it is. Some nights on her longer set she brings out Sasha, which is the name of her flute. I ask her, “Is Sasha making an appearance tonight?” Because if she is going to play the flute, I need to make sure her lipstick stays on. There is something about the way her lips blow on the instrument to make a certain noise that they have to be drier. Her having any sort of cream or gloss on will affect how she blows air into the flute. To really make the flute-proof lip, we use a liquid matte lipstick, something that has a high saturated color but dries down so she can eat, drink, play the flute and [we know] it is not going to go anywhere.
Q: How do you prevent Lizzo from sweating on stage?
It is tricky, sweat is something that is kind of inevitable. You have to find products that will help you work around it. For me, my foundation of choice, especially on stage, is the Make Up For Ever HD foundation. I love it because it doesn’t oxidize, so if she does get moisture on her face from sweating, it is not going to change color. It is actually water-resistant, which I love. Also, setting powder is crucial. I love using a loose powder, Laura Mercier is one of my favorites. The technique is to apply it with a powder puff versus a brush. When you use a powder puff, you are almost pushing it into the skin, which creates an antiperspirant layer.
Q: How do you quickly touch up her makeup between songs?
I have this little headlamp backstage, which is actually a headband with a light attached to it. The first thing I do is dab away any excess sweat with a towel because you don’t want to apply powder to a wet face. Then I will take the powder puff that I was using previously and dab [the face]. Then, I will finish it up with a quick pressed powder in the T-zone and I try to refresh the lip as much as possible if anything is fading away. I have about a minute to do all of that. It is a lot. Once I know that the song is coming down, I have my towel in one hand and my puff in the other. It is a system at this point. Her energy on stage … I don’t know how she does it night after night. I’m exhausted by the time we’re done with glam. I don’t know how she has the energy to perform an hour-long show.
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FEELING LUXURIOUS ⚜️ SWIPE➡️ @lizzobeeating for @afropunk PARIS Styled by @marko_monroe Hair @theshelbyswain Makeup @iwantalexx @theonly.agency using @hudabeauty obsessions eye shadow pallet in “Emerald” @ardellbeauty in studio effects Demi wispies @hourglasscosmetics gloss
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Q: If you have dry skin, does pushing the powder in make you look drier?
If you prep the skin right and make sure that you are hydrated, it should be okay. It is all in the skincare.
Q: Are there any makeup mistakes people commonly make?
I am rooting for anyone who tries. I think makeup is one of those things that there is really not a wrong or right thing. I would say the biggest mistake is not trying at all.
Q: With so much creative freedom and such high-profile clients, do you ever feel anxious or stressed?
There is always [an] eye on you and there is always this expectation of, “What are they going to do next?” or “I can’t wait to see the next look.” While that definitely creates an excitement, it also creates a bit of pressure. I am just focused at what I am doing at that time and what is organic to us. I try to let the art speak for itself.
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