If you’re counting down the hours until the season two premiere of Empire tonight, you are not alone—we’re right there with you. The one bright spot in our torturous wait has been the chance to interview Karen Lynn Accattato, one of the lead makeup artists on the show. We asked her to spoil on the story lines, give us details about what the characters are going to look like this season, and break down how Cookie manages to pull off all that makeup without looking ridiculous. Warning: If you haven’t finished the first season, spoilers are coming your way.
You do makeup for all of the men on the show. What’s their routine like?
“The most important thing for me is skin because if you don’t have good-looking skin, then no makeup is really going to help you. So I always start with a good face cleanser. I use Dove Men + Care Hydrate Face Wash [Accattato is a spokesperson for Dove Men + Care]. A lot of the male actors on the show have oily skin, and this helps maintain it. Then I always finish with Dove Men + Care Ultra Hydrating Cream. It leaves the skin with a matte finish. I think a lot of men don’t use moisturizer because they think its going to leave them shiny, especially a lot of ethnic men because they have oily skin. What they don’t realize is that their skin is dehydrated because they are not using anything to replenish the moisture.”
Any makeup on the men?
“If the moisturizer is giving me enough of a matte finish, I just leave it at that. If I need a little bit of help, I’ll use a mattifier, which seals the skin and deflects the light so it’s not bouncing off their skin. Then we groom their eyebrows, nose hairs, and ear hairs and put a lip balm on them. Since the male characters on the show are very wealthy, they care very much about their looks.”
How will the men of the Lyon family change in the second second?
“You’ll see Andre and Jamal Lyon with facial hair. Andre, who is being groomed to become CEO of Empire Records, has a full beard this season. And Jamal, who is becoming more successful as an artist, will also have a beard. But since Lucious is in jail this season, he will have no hair, and that’s a big change for him. At the beginning of the show, he always had beautiful hair, and now he’s shaved his head.”
There’s a lot of plot and character development in that hair.
“Since they’re in the music industry, staying on top of trends and fashion is important to these characters. It’s a way to distinguish them and give them a unique look. They don’t necessarily have the ability, like women, to use makeup to change their look. This is one thing they can do to empower themselves.”
Speaking of makeup on women, you do the makeup for Grace Gaeley, who plays Anika Calhoun. Can you talk about her look?
“Since Anika comes from a well-off family, Lee Daniels [Empire‘s creator] wanted her to always look flawless. My design on her is very classic and sexy. You always see her totally on point. Her signature look is superclean foundation, supergroomed eyebrows, a cat eye, and a strong red lip. Her lip look says sex, power, and confidence.”
What do you use to create Anika’s signature look?
“To create Anika’s cat eye, I use M.A.C. Fluidline Eye-liner Gel in Blacktrack with a very thin brush from the art store. I start at the end of the lash line, then draw straight up inside the corner of her eye. I then go back over my line and build up certain areas to do more of a triangle at the end to get the retro cat eye. For her brows, I use Kevyn Aucoin The Precision Brow Pencil, which allows me to draw in one hair at a time to get the perfect brow. For her red lips, I use M.A.C. Lipstick in Ruby Woo with a matching lip liner.”
Will Anika’s look change at all this season?
“Oh, yes. Anika is going to go through quite a dramatic arc. You will see everything reflected from that in her hair, makeup, and clothes. You’re going to see a whole different side of the Anika that you know. I can’t say too much without giving everything away. But all I can say is she is going to go through severe emotional and physical trauma. Just trauma on every level.”
What’s the one thing, makeup-wise, that all the women in Empire have in common?
“All the girls wear strong lashes. We really like to pop the eyes, and a lot of the acting comes from their eyes, so it’s very important that we’re emphasizing that. Plus, we’re a glamorous, rich, fabulous show. The characters would have their lashes and nails done. I mean, their nails are always off the chain. They have new designs and new colors every episode.”
Speaking of off-the-chain style: Cookie. How does she pull off so much look?
“You have to remember that Cookie comes from the hood. She comes from absolutely nothing, but she’s always had a certain flamboyance about her. So now that she has evolved and gotten out of jail, it’s her time to shine. We want to reflect that in her hair, makeup, and clothing. Only she can pull off the crazy leopard print and the crazy jeweled top. You’ll see a lot of color in her wigs this season; her hair is always changing. She’s the most colorful character in the show. She wants to walk in the room and stop the room. That’s her power. The more outrageous, the more she’s going to own it. And who doesn’t want to be that girl who talks and dresses unfiltered? Everyone wants to be an uninhibited and unconventional woman.”
What has been your favorite makeup moment on the show so far?
“Most of the time when women sit in my makeup chair, I’m there to put their best face forward and make them look beautiful. But this season with Anika, I had to figure out how to destroy her look. I think the true test of somebody’s strength is when they are at their most vulnerable. So if I can destroy you and still make your beauty come forth, I’ve succeeded as a makeup artist.”
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