Updated: Sep 1, 2020
With so many iconic images of David Bowie applying his own makeup, it's easy to assume he designed the makeup himself. In fact he had a few prominent makeup masterminds behind his most memorable faces. Today we will be diving into the work of one of those artist's, Algerian-born Makeup Artist Pierre LaRoche.
Pierre LaRoche made a mark for himself in the glam rock scene during the 70's. His signature black kohl liner looks were inspired by the Arab women from his hometown, it was this that ignited his interest in makeup.
LaRoche first played a big role in developing Bowie's famous Ziggy Stardust persona. The makeup featured a celestial gold circle, created using a German gold cake makeup bought at New York’s Makeup Center, and LaRoche's signature heavy handed black kohl liner. The lip would fluctuate between a gold lip using the same cake and a red and black Kabuki inspired lip. Bowie was heavily inspired by traditional Kabuki makeup. He would often powder his face with Japanese rice flour which he would buy in Tokyo to create the pale white base he loved. Whilst on the Ziggy Stardust tour in Japan, Bowie even gifted LaRoche with a vintage book on Japanese Kabuki masks. The book likely played a role in how LaRoche evolved that legendary makeup during the Ziggy Stardust tour.
“He has the perfect face for makeup," LaRoche said about Bowie. "He has even features, high cheekbones and a very good mouth. I have to be careful, though, because his skin is very fine and some of the base powders I use are very strong. They can make that face quite soft."
LaRoche began his career in makeup in the 60's, after moving from France to England to work for Elizabeth Arden. It was whilst working at Elizabeth Arden that LaRoche first began working with Bowie. Bowie was a fan of the cult product Eight Hour Cream which he would often slather over his lids and mouth for high shine effect. After 5 years at Arden, the brand insisted LaRoche become more conservative, he took that as his cue to leave and move on.
Possibly one of the most iconic makeup's ever, let alone for LaRoche himself, is the red and blue lightening bolt on the cover of the album "Aladdin Sane". Bowie described the look as 'Ziggy Stardust goes to America'. The bolt represented the split personality of the Aladdin Sane character combined with Bowie's conflicting feelings about his US tour and stardom.
The cover was shot in January 1973, the photographer Ryan Duffy claimed that LaRoche copied the lightening bolt straight off a National Panasonic rice-cooker which was in his London studio at the time. Following the success of the album cover La Roche went on tour with Bowie full time.
After the tour ended in July 1973, the cover for the album "Pin Ups" followed. The cover featured sixties supermodel Twiggy. The image is one of the rare moments where we get to see LaRoche's work on a fashion model since he spent most of his career working in music. He made her up with a similar futuristic porcelain pink, powdered skin as the one he did on Bowie for the cover of "Aladdin Sane". The image was shot in Paris and was actually originally intended for Vogue magazine, but after Bowie's request it was used for the album cover instead.
The "Life on Mars" music video was another major makeup moment. La Roche painted a bold blue eye on Bowie to match the famous icy turquoise blue suit he wore by designer Freddi Buretti.
Unsurprisingly, demand for LaRoche soon increased. Mick Jagger hired him to go on tour with The Rolling Stones as his personal Makeup Artist.
In 1975 he landed the role of lead Makeup Artist for the cast of the cult classic film 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show". It was here he designed the innovative makeup for Dr. Frank N. Furter, played by Tim Curry. The look was in fact inspired by Alice Cooper's heavy black stage makeup in 1973. Tim Curry described LaRoche's interpretation of Dr. Frank N. Furtners makeup as "a very kind of high fashion version." The makeup reportedly took LaRoche 4 hours to complete including the famous tattoos he also painted on Curry's arms.
Although LaRoche's career was sadly very short lived since he passed away in the '80s from AIDS complications, it's important to remember just how influential his work was. Not only did he strongly impact the look of glam rock, he was the mastermind behind arguably two of the most fashion makeups in history.
Head over to our Pinterest page to see more of Pierre LaRoche's work.