As the founder and creative director of Delux Beauty, I’m more used to being behind the scenes. But when my husband, actor Patrick Dempsey, was nominated for two top awards this year, I found myself thrust into the red carpet spotlight.
Anyone who has ever watched a red carpet event knows that scrutinizing appearances holds a certain entertainment value. I know people who skip watching the awards shows altogether in favor of the pre- and post-show coverage. Recently, this spectator sport took on new meaning for me.
I live and work in Hollywood as a makeup artist, primarily tending to the faces of actresses. I’m also the creator of the cosmetics line, Delux Beauty. After years of making up actresses for the camera and red carpet, I’m very content to stick to the sidelines. In addition to preferring to be behind-the-scenes (okay, loathing the spotlight), I’m a workaholic. So finding myself on the red carpet was not only reason for blushing, it also forced me to work overtime testing out which products can weather what I consider extreme conditions.
My personal red carpet journey began with a call to my husband, actor Patrick Dempsey (“Dr. McDreamy” on Grey’s Anatomy), when he was asked to present an Emmy award. Next came a Golden Globe nomination for Patrick, followed by a SAG nomination.
After learning about Patrick’s nominations, it took all of two minutes for me to travel from pure happiness to genuine dread. Of course, I was elated, but I was also anxious about the looming question of “what to wear?” Fortunately, I have friends who, like me, make a living by getting people groomed for the red carpet, so I quickly called in reinforcements.
My best friends Nina and Clare Hallworth are also fashion stylists who I lovingly refer to as “beta blockers.” Their calm, confident approach is better than any antianxiety pill. We all agreed that since I was going as a supporter of my husband, my dress should be chic but not overstated. I wore Valentino to the Emmys and Lanvin to the Globes and SAG awards, and topped off each dress with beautiful jewelry from Fred Leighton. Solving the wardrobe dilemma meant that I was free to fixate on my hair and makeup.
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Ever since my daughter Talula was born four years ago, I just can’t find the time or energy for a complicated beauty routine. Truth be told, a five-minute face is my personal average, so the red carpet beauty regimen was a little overwhelming. However, vanity won out and I found myself becoming obsessed with issues that on any other day, would not have qualified as important life matters. Achieving the perfect hair color, exercising flabby body parts, choosing between body makeup versus spray tan and mixing the perfect lip shade suddenly became significant issues.
As luck would have it, I ended up getting a sinus infection before the Emmys, so my major beauty concerns centered around concealing my puffiness and camouflaging my red nose. My husband accused me (rightfully so) of “hogging the mirror” when it came time to primp because I needed extra time to cover up my sickly complexion. My good friend and talented makeup artist, Roz Music, did my makeup because she’s able to make me look more glamorous than I ever could. We sometimes argue over who gets to do what parts of my face, with Roz ultimately taking responsibility for everything except curling my eyelashes. This is what happens when you have two alpha makeup artists dueling in front of the mirror.
I’m a traditionalist when it comes to makeup so I like to use soft, pretty hues on the cheeks and lips and a vibrant pop of color to highlight my eyes. Getting ready for the Emmys took a shockingly long amount of time and we were late arriving. We only had five minutes to run down the red carpet; not exactly the glamorous walk I had envisioned.
By the time the Golden Globes rolled around, we were determined to be more relaxed about getting ready and arrive on time. I did my own makeup and was feeling healthy so no need for heavy duty concealer. Warmer skin tones look better in pictures than cooler ones so I stuck with rosey and bronzey shades. Cheek color tends to get absorbed into the face quickly, so I always over-compensate with blush—my quick math involves tripling the amount of normal blush.
I typically put on very densely pigmented lipstick and blot several times to take down the color to a stain, then apply a gloss or balm on top to allow the lips to move. The Globes also gave me a chance to test-drive our new waterproof lip liners as insurance against any fading or bleeding. I avoid a shiny forehead at all costs and never apply iridescence to this area. Keeping the t-zone matte requires a good powder (I like Chanel). Individual lashes are a must, even if it’s just two placed in the center or outer edge to open up and elongate the eye. I also use two different mascaras for important events: waterproof on the lower lashes and regular for the upper. Waterproof formulas are great to prevent running (especially if tears are involved), but they tend to be dry. For the upper lashes, I like lush formulas so that I can go back in and reapply to build thickness.
My final step is the camera check. When I’m ready to walk out the door, my sister takes a picture of me so I can see how my makeup reads in photos. Sometimes a last-minute adjustment is necessary and I usually perform touchs-up in the car while en route.
Once on the red carpet, I try to stand back from Patrick’s interviews unless his publicist motions me over. Or Access Hollywood host Billy Bush, who spotted me out of the corner of his eye at the Globes and liked my dress so much he beckoned for me to come over so he could compliment it on camera(!).
All in all, it’s been an incredibly exciting year for Patrick and me, and I’ve learned a few important beauty lessons, too, not the least of which is that white deodorant and the red carpet don’t mix.
This article appeared in WWD BeautyBiz a special publication to WWD available to subscribers.