NEW YORK — When it comes to beauty muses, MAC has its own unique set of criteria, usually heading in the completely opposite direction from the standard perfectly shaped waif with the Mona Lisa smile. With connections in the past that include names as hip and controversial as k.d. lang, RuPaul and Sandra Bernhard, it seemed only a matter of time before the iconoclastic cosmetics company would sign up a bona fide living legend.
With three Tonys, two Golden Globes, one Oscar, one Emmy and four husbands under her belt, the only thing seemingly missing from Liza Minnelli’s CV was a MAC makeup collection.
This October, MAC will introduce Liza for MAC, a makeup collection featuring products designed to help the consumer re-create Minnelli’s legendary look, in particular those spiky lashes and movie-star lips. The line, which is divided into a.m. and p.m. looks, includes new shades of familiar MAC items, like Lipglass, Lip Pencil and Eye Shadow X 4, as well as nail polish, mascara and, of course, false eyelashes. Prices range from $9 for the falsies to $32 for eye shadows, and shades of every item are named for Minnelli (Liza Red) and/or her showbiz lifestyle (Girl About Town).
Minnelli’s age of 57 is decades past the prime of most cosmetically contracted women, but MAC sees this as an opportunity to attract a new customer to their brand. “She’s an icon,” said MAC president John Demsey. “She’s as famous for her legendary past and talent as for her makeup look. MAC’s mantra is all ages, all races, all sexes, and Liza is a woman who’s older, has survived a lot, but is still standing, with a strong personal style. It’s a great inspiration for the collection.”
While MAC has had its share of in-your-face poster children in the past, including Shirley Manson, Lil’ Kim and Mary J. Blige, Minnelli is only the second for whom new makeup items have actually been created. The first color collaboration was with Sandra Bernhard in May 2002, called Sandy B, for which Bernhard posed as a pinup girl. While Bernhard participated in creating a few of the products developed for the Sandy B promotion, Minnelli’s been involved with the development of practically every item in the line.
“This was much more of a collaborative effort,” said Demsey of Minnelli’s role. “It involved going to Liza’s home, spending time with her in her bathroom [as she went through her makeup routine], understanding her techniques, her usage in terms of lashes and mascara and the tricks she’s learned over the years from Way Bandy and Kevyn Aucoin. We really got to know in depth how she does her makeup.
“The idea of the Liza promotion is to establish a beauty icon so that, from a time-to-time basis, MAC can celebrate icons of beauty in a collaborative manner,” continued Demsey. “It’s sort of like in the old days when French Vogue did the Salvador Dali issue or the Picasso issue. It’s the idea of establishing a collection and collaboration with someone who we think is a beauty legend. We collaborate with fashion designers, we work in film and theater, but I thought it would be interesting to work with someone who is iconic in terms of her makeup. After all, before there was the smoky eye, there was Liza.”
“She’s very interested in this project,” added James Gager, MAC’s creative director. “So much so that she wants to show our customers how to get the cheekbones if you don’t have the cheekbones. She has such a significant thing going on with the eyes and the lips. I admire people like her who’ve stayed the course of what they like versus changing their look every 10 minutes. All women should feel totally secure about makeup. It’s time for the beauty industry to celebrate the icons of beauty like her. She’s always looked modern.”
Minnelli’s vast knowledge of makeup tricks and tips comes from a lifetime spent on stage and in front of the cameras, be it the movie or paparazzi kinds. This knowledge meant coming to the table with specific ideas and opinions about what items should and should not be in her line. The false lashes, for instance, had to meet the Minnelli mandates.
“They need to be light,” Minnelli stressed as she expertly displayed them between thumb and forefinger. “If they’re light enough, they’re so easy to put on.” Minnelli, by the way, keeps hers wrapped around wooden dowels to retain their shape when not in use. Other mandates included red cheeks and shadows that gave dramatic shading and shape to eyes.
The promotion visual, shot by Michael Thompson, features the softer side of Minnelli as well as the softer a.m. shades, including pale pink eye shadow and lip gloss.
Liza for MAC will land in most of MAC’s 660 points of distribution worldwide on Oct. 2 and stay on counter through December. While Demsey wouldn’t give specifics, plans are in the works for three personal appearances in the U.S., as well as some in Europe. Industry sources estimate sales of approximately $3 million.
“She’s a 57-year-old living legend who has lived the life with all the good and all the bad, and she’s still as iconic as she ever was,” said Demsey. “To me, her artistic sense of self and self expression has captured part of the spirit that is MAC.”