Backstage with Samantha Lau

Samantha Lau is a New York based makeup artist and the creative force behind pop sensation Dua Lipa’s most iconic beauty looks.

From her bejeweled Grammy red carpet look, to the music video for her hit single Physical, and her stellar performance on Saturday Night Live, Samantha has helped to define Dua’s style in her Future Nostalgia era.

With a background in fashion, her impressive portfolio of work also includes runway, editorial and advertising campaigns with brands such as Ralph Lauren, YSL Beauté, Celine, and Chanel.

Keep reading as we get a peak behind the curtain and find out what really goes on behind the scenes as a makeup artist to the stars!

What initially attracted you to a career as a makeup artist and how did you get your foot in the door of such a competitive industry?

When I was growing up, I was actually more interested in fashion, not knowing makeup can be a career. It was the Kevyn Aucoin books that made me realized it’s possible. After I graduated from university, I moved to New York in 2008. It was a difficult time for any career, but you have to persevere if you really want to do something that you love. I did any makeup-related jobs I could get my hands on, and you start building relationships and connections. One thing leads to another.

The trend of ‘barely there’ makeup is being replaced by bolder looks such as those seen in TV shows like Euphoria, with rhinestones and glitter galore. Why do you think people are starting to have more fun with their makeup?

Rhinestones and glitter have always been there. I think once people see it on a popular show, it becomes a reference point, it almost gives them permission to wear it on a more day to day basis or for other special events. We’re also in a visual age now. People see something that they like and they’re going to want to try it.

Alexa Demie   Hunter Schafer
Alexa Demie (left) and Hunter Schafer (right), Euphoria (2019) Photo Credit: Eddy Chen-HBO

The mix of spotlights, high energy dancing and outfit changes means an artist needs makeup which can keep up with them! How do you approach makeup for live performances vs a red-carpet look?

For live performances, my main concern is to make sure the makeup stays on (as much as possible) doing the set. Also, the makeup needs to be vibrant enough the people in the back can still see (even on the screens next to the stage). As for red carpet looks, I always think of it as more timeless look. Because of the internet, everything lives on. I want the look to still be current but timeless.

Many fans report feeling free to be bolder with their makeup at concerts compared to other events. What do you think it is about a concert that feels like such a safe space to experiment?

Concerts are fun and everyone going there is looking for a good time. So why not experiment! You can do whatever you want and there won’t be that much judgement because everyone is doing a similar thing.

How would you describe the atmosphere backstage, 10 minutes away from showtime?

It depends. It can be calm before the storm or like a fashion backstage, it can be total chaos which is also fun too. You just have to be prepared for either and adapt.

Can you tell us about your first gig, last gig, favourite gig?

My first professional show was the Marc by Marc Jacobs fashion show in 2009. My favourite shows were anything Chanel (prêt-à-porter and haute couture). My last gig the Grammys performance in March 2021.

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