The People Who Get Stars Red-Carpet Ready Brace for an Unusual Awards Season

The red carpet, with its legions of glam squads, has become a multimillion-dollar industry. What happens when trophies are doled out remotely?
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With awards season looming, thousands of hairdressers, manicurists, makeup artists, and fashion stylists are scrambling to figure out how they’ll make their high-wattage clients shine at unconventional ceremonies during the COVID-19 pandemic. September’s Emmys will be a virtual affair, taped over multiple nights in various locations instead of streaming live from one big event. Other shows are likely to follow suit, while the Oscars have been pushed back from February to April in the hope that a traditional ceremony will be possible by then. Those in the beauty and fashion business are eager to get back to work primping stars to accept trophies. After all, the red-carpet hoopla of awards season brings in $130 million in revenue per year.

But getting glam will be decidedly less glamorous these days. “Celebrities will still get dressed. They will still need to wear a dress and jewelry and all that, so it will happen in some capacity,” says jewelry designer Deborah Pagani, who has lent her gems to Rihanna, Anne Hathaway, and Shailene Woodley. “There’s just too much at stake and too much money that’s derived from these events.” Hair teams and self-tanning professionals each rake in upward of $10,000 per person, per event. The average day rate for a stylist’s service is $6,000 per client.

While the shows will go on, prepping for them will be vastly different. Nail artist Mazz Hanna, who has worked with Emma Roberts, Julia Roberts, and Greta Gerwig, notes that a staggered schedule—rather than a chaotic all-hands-on-deck setup with hair, makeup, and nail pros working on a star simultaneously—will become the new norm. She now plans to do a client’s nails the night before a big event, since manis and pedis, unlike a face full of makeup, look the same even after a night’s sleep. “It’s not what we’re used to,” laments Hanna, “but you sort of adapt.”

“There’s just too much at stake and too much money that’s derived from these events.”

Alternating schedules will also mean that stylists have less time to work on their clients—a glamour team typically gets two hours, but if everyone is working separately, they’ll have to work much faster and opt for lower-maintenance looks. “I don’t want to be doing full weaves,” says Kee Taylor, a top hairstylist whose clients include Tiffany Haddish, Tika Sumpter, Nafessa Williams, and Amber Riley. Instead, Taylor says, she’ll opt for “something quick, like a really good snatched ponytail.”

Virtual awards shows like the Emmys will feature taped segments from stars’ homes, which could be a plus. Beauty experts anticipate that they’ll have more control over how their work looks onscreen. Adam Breuchaud, a makeup artist whose clients include Sarah Paulson, Natalie Dormer, and Winona Ryder, notes that with in-home tapings he’ll be able to perform quick touch-ups and make sure the lighting is flattering. “On a red carpet, we don’t know what that lighting is gonna be like,” he says. “We kind of just send them out there. So there’s a bit more trial and error involved.”

The more intimate nature of virtual shows may allow more discreet elements (nails, earrings) to get more attention than they used to. “This could actually showcase jewelry better than before,” says Colette Steckel, a jewelry designer who has accessorized awards- show outfits for Brie Larson and Naomi Watts.

Cleanliness has always been a priority for beauty pros, but they’re taking it to the next level now. Nail artist Hanna says her agency, Nailing Hollywood, created new safety guidelines in June. Not only are face shields, masks, and gloves required, but entirely new tools will be used for each client. “I’ll start using disposable files and buffers,” she says. “I’ll have a very organized system: if I touch a bottle of polish in my kit with a gloved hand, that will go into a separate pile, and everything will be sanitized, wiped down with Barbicide before going back into my kit, for that extra level of caution.”

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Groomer Simone Frajnd, who works with Jordan Peele, Mahershala Ali, Quentin Tarantino, and Billy Porter, began regularly disinfecting her already-pristine kit the very day L.A.’s stay-at-home order began. She also created personalized DIY kits for clients to use, with her remote guidance, for virtual events, though she worries that her male clients may struggle with applying their own makeup. “With men, I feel like less is more,” Frajnd says. “It’s hard to have a man apply [a product], especially concealer or foundation.”

Beyond the skin deep, the pandemic, along with the Black Lives Matter movement, will have a big effect on what stars wear. Fashion stylist Erin Walsh says she expects to see style statements about the toll of COVID-19 and racial injustice as well as more representation of Black designers and Black-led brands.

“Actors and their publicists, agents, stylists, hair, makeup, the whole team will be looking at ‘How does what I wear really represent what I want to say? How does it bring attention to designers who need attention? How does it reflect how I want the world to look?’ ” says Walsh, who counts Thandie Newton, Anne Hathaway, Beanie Feldstein, Alison Brie, and Zoe Lister-Jones among her clients. “If you’re not paying attention to how what you put on your body is made, you’re contributing to the problem, especially in a public space.” She adds, “During awards season, it’s going to be more important that people are conscious of all the details of what they’re wearing, not just the designer label.”

Walsh says that past preoccupations will now seem trivial as we cope with the pandemic and its economic aftermath.“The expectation that nobody wears the same thing again? The idea that two actors couldn’t represent a designer in two very different ways in the same look? It’s just so silly,” she says. “I don’t want to put that kind of message out there, especially when I think of how people are going to be shopping after all this craziness is over.”


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