Makeup artist Sarah Tanno and hair stylist Frederic Aspiras are the masterminds behind some of Lady Gaga’s most iconic looks.
From the bubblegum pink “Rain on Me” wig and alienesque design to the “The Color of the Pomegranates”-inspired creations for Gaga’s “911” music video, Tanno and Aspiras have been working in tandem at the Haus of Gaga (the name Gaga uses to describe her creative team) for years. But “House of Gucci,” in theaters now, provided them their biggest challenge yet — they needed to strip away the public persona of Gaga and have audiences only see Patrizia Reggiani.
Director Ridley Scott initially wanted just two wigs and one makeup look to carry the story of Reggiani and the Gucci family from the ‘70s to the ‘90s, but Aspiras fought for a range of wigs, including a tight ’80s perm to help age Gaga. Aspiras says, “Ridley said, ‘Well if you can make it work…’” And they did.
For Tanno, diving into the script began with dissecting the time period and then understanding the character’s evolution from Reggiani meeting Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) in the ’70s to her trial in 1995 where she was convicted for his murder.
Tanno noticed that almost no photos of Reggiani existed before her wedding. Together with Gaga, Tanno and Aspiras took creative license to fill in the blanks, developing looks of what they thought she would look like. Tanno explains the key was that they “never wanted it to be distracting or overpowering.”
As the actress worked with her acting coach in preparation for the role, Aspiras and Tanno observed how Gaga would emote and use her body language. For example, Tanno points out when audiences are first introduced to Reggiani, she is still naïve. “I wanted to strip it down. I wanted to keep her as young and as pure as possible. That meant the littlest amount of makeup, a perfect amount so it doesn’t look like she was wearing any. I would round her eyebrows because brows back then were not blocked.”
Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida was the inspiration behind the up-do wig worn at Gaga’s wedding. Tanno did a straight eyeliner look using just eyeshadow, which explains the messy look to the eye. Tanno says, “Italian makeup was still a bit behind America back then. The women were still using makeup trends from the ‘60s and the straight line elongated the eye. Whereas usually, I’d do an up-wing on Gaga.”
By the ‘80s, Tanno was able to reference photos of Reggiani — the look was smudgy eyes and very pointed lips. “They were always overlined and she often wore frost,” Tanno says.
Aspiras and Tanno spent months building a bible to guide their looks that referenced every shade, color and hairstyle for every single scene of the movie. Aspiras had a forensics-type wall of real-life Reggiani looks that they would then copy. This meant that although Scott was shooting out of sequence, the duo could readily pull the exact makeup and hairstyle they needed.
The other challenge was how to age the actress without using prosthetics or visual effects. “It was all about using makeup techniques,” Tanno explains.
Another challenge was hiding Gaga’s 20-plus tattoos. For that, she had to work with department head Jana Carboni. Tanno says, “Jana had a team of artists who would help me with that while I worked on her face and Freddy was doing the wig.”
In creating the perfect red lip sported by Regianni in the ’80s, Tanno, the Global Artistry Director at Haus Labs (Gaga’s makeup line), developed a collection of lipsticks inspired by shades that were popular in Italy during that time. In addition to using the brand’s existing line, the newly developed lipstick shades named after Italian icons of the time were used in the movie. Says Tanno, who was finishing the development of the product and working on the final formula while testing it on and off the screen, “I created a collection of lipsticks inspired by Italian glamor. We developed a color called Stefania — named after Gaga. It’s the perfect cherry red that we tested on all skin tones. It’s perfectly bright, not too deep, not too blue. It’s just a little bit sheerer than a typical lipstick.”
Tanno and Aspiras had to age Gaga’s Reggiani rather drastically for the courtroom trial. At this point, Reggiani was ashen-faced. “We had talked about prosthetics at one point,” says Tanno. “Instead, we opted to age her using makeup.” Tanno lightened Gaga’s skin tone and used taupe colors to bring out nasal folds. She also powered areas of her face to add wrinkles. “I wanted her to look tired and like she had seen a ghost.”Aspiras adds, “I put on that big and fluffy backcombed hair, and she was 55 years old, and it scared me. She was shuffling into court in those shoes and she had the walk.”
A lot of mousse and wet-setting spray was required for the 10 wigs and 50 looks he created. Method actress Gaga lived with the character for nine months, on and off set. She dyed her platinum blonde hair to brown to fully adopt Reggiani. When Aspiras was fitting wigs, Gaga told him, she wanted them to feel like her hair. “She was so in it, it was scary,” Tanno says.
“She said, ‘I don’t want to see Gaga on screen,’” remembers Aspiras. “It sounds easy, but it wasn’t. It was ultimately about the slightest nuances.”
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