DAVID FRANK RAY : Making the Stars Shine
(Interviewer: Katherine Sloan, CS Editor for SPACES)
Born in Dearborn, Michigan with dreams of glamour and a penchant for escapism via beauty, David Frank Ray became a New York and Los Angeles fixture in hair and makeup artistry. Meeting him recently in Manhattan at a party celebrating the work of legendary photographer Bert Stern was the most elegant scenario and representation of his work and personality. Having only worked with the best, such as Jessica Lange, Liza Minnelli, Iman, Paulina Porizkova, Tammy Wynette, Brooke Shields, Priscilla Presley, Kathy Ireland, Linda Carter, Linda Evans, and Jaclyn Smith has proven indicative of Ray’s infectiously friendly, glamorous, and wonderful demeanor. Ray’s current passions include The Beauty Artists’ Hall of Fame (for which he is the founder and CEO) and The Beauty Artists’ Star Awards. One of Ray’s most important works of art is the 1986 Elite Models/Fuji Film Calendar. It was his first job as Creative Director as well as conceptual, makeup, and hair artist.
Katherine: When and where did you realize that hair and makeup artistry was what you wanted to do in order to express yourself professionally?
David: I expressed my natural talent for hairstyling and fashion at an early age. My first memory was me teasing-up my niece Linda’s long hair into a huge beehive hairdo, giving her some pink cat-eye sunglasses to wear and then parading her up and down the block where I lived so all the neighbors could see us. I must have been around fourteen years old and wanted to be a “beatnik” so I wore a black turtle neck top, black pants, and a fancy black vest with a gold lamé print. Very pointy-toed shoes and my hair in an Elvis-style quiff. Elvis Presley was one of my early heroes.
But my inspiration to get into the business of doing hair and makeup professionally came from a photo spread in Vogue magazine around 1972. The photos portrayed how the beautiful fashion photographs that I had looked at for years were created. Richard Avedon was shooting star models Lauren Hutton and Karen Graham and you could see all the light stands set up around them, makeup artist Way Bandy and the hairstylist Ara Gallant leaning toward the models as if to touch-up their hair and makeup. I had never seen this kind of behind-the-scenes look before. It so inspired me, and I knew that this is what I wanted to do. So, I looked at the masthead of Vogue to see where they were located, packed my bags, and drove from San Francisco cross-country in my little car all the way to New York City to find my fame and fortune!
Really, I didn’t know what was going to happen. But, I had a vision and was determined to make it come true.
Katherine: Having grown up in a small town in Michigan, how did you feel as a young man who longed for a life of glamour? Were you at all isolated by your peers? How did you cope with that?
David: I was always “different” than the other children, was bullied and ostracized by my peers from around the age of four years old all the way through school. I complained to my mother and father and their advice was to “punch them hard in the nose” (my father’s advice) and to just “smile and ignore them” (my mother’s idea). I chose the latter. But it wasn’t easy.
Mostly I escaped into my world of fashion magazines and the old black and white films of the 1930’s and 40’s with Ginger Rogers dancing with Fred Astaire. Also, I was very into dressing myself up in the latest styles I’d read about in British teen magazines, styles that hadn’t even made their way to the US, much less Dearborn: you know the “Mod” look and the whole London scene. And I dreamed of living in Paris, France. And that, there, I would finally be understood. Paris seemed very magical to me and I even took French in high school. That’s where I got my first exposure to French Elle magazine. Little did I know then, that one day, my work and name would appear in their beauty and fashion pages.
Katherine: Physical beauty is your profession, craft, and specialty, but how do you reconcile inner beauty with physical beauty? Do they both have to be present in order for things to gel in a fashionable setting? What about life in general?
David: When it comes to models and celebs, I’ve been blessed to work with what are considered some of the most beautiful people in the world. And fortunately for me, I can appreciate beauty in its many forms. But I have learned that the old saying “beauty comes from within” is very true. And what that means to me is that the key to being really beautiful starts with how you feel about yourself. And then how you treat other people. If you feel love in your heart for yourself and share that love with others, your face just glows. And no matter what you have been given by your gene pool: a smile and a kind gesture towards others will shine in a beautiful way. This should also give you confidence, which is very sexy. That doesn’t mean being arrogant and thinking you “are all that;” it’s just knowing who and what you are as a person. That, plus a sense of style (or some tips from a professional) makes it all happen.
Katherine: Since hair and makeup is such a transient art form (it washes away quite easily, can be mussed by a slight breeze, and will smudge at the most inopportune times): do you think this makes it even more important, since it’s (in a sense) fleeting?
David: Funny, I’ve never thought of it that way, but I see your point. I don’t know if it’s more important. I just enjoy creating beauty so much. It’s my gift, a chance for me to express myself, and it can make others feel better about themselves. And that makes me happy. Plus I have learned a few tricks to help your makeup stay put longer, too (laughs).
Katherine: You’ve collaborated with some of the most beloved stars of the screen (film or otherwise), from the pages of the glossiest fashion magazines, and in the music industry. Some names include: Jessica Lange, Liza Minnelli, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley, Shirley MacLaine, Tammy Wynette, Kathy Ireland, Jaclyn Smith, Janice Dickinson, Iman, Sharon Stone, and Natalie Wood: how have you managed to stay so grounded while working with such highly sought-after women?
David: I’m the man behind the curtain, so to speak. I’m there to help my clients to look their best. That’s my job and I love my work. I approach each person as an individual and try to meet their needs in a relaxed and professional way. And if we can have a good time and laugh a little at the same time, that’s great.
But it’s not about me. They are the star and I’m there to help them shine.
Katherine: What sort of chemistry has to take place between a makeup artist and his muse in order for sparks to go off, for the lipstick and beauty mark to be just right? What must occur in order for Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe-esque beauty to be imitated?
David: I believe everything is energy. So, when two people get together, each is giving off a certain energy vibration. It is so wonderful when that energy clicks. Everything just goes more smoothly and turns out better, even when creating hair and makeup. If each person is able to relax and let things just happen, it will show in the end results.
Now, trying to imitate a certain movie star’s look is more about playing dress-up. It can be done, but I’d only do that for fun. I prefer to bring out each individual’s unique beauty so they can look like their best self.
Katherine: Who are some of your favorite beauty icons who really inspire you to always create as much glamour and fantasy as possible?
David: My favorite beauty icons, well, you already mentioned Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, so, the current stars of today that I really admire (not only for their looks), but for their talent are Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron. Not only are they beautiful, but they have strong personalities and a point of view that make them even more interesting.
Katherine: What are the biggest differences between beauty trends in New York and Los Angeles?
David: The differences between beauty trends in New York and Los Angeles are not that great. In fact, I think they would be almost the same because of the media and the internet; there is so much beauty information available from around the world. If anything, it would be more about lifestyle. The living is easier in California and beach weather is almost year-round, so, perhaps bronze makeup, things like spray tans, colorful pedicures, and blonde hair are more popular.
Katherine: What sorts of art inspire you (other than hair and makeup)?
David: I enjoy the Pre-Raphaelite period in art with the beauties of Dante Gabriel Rossetti as well as the work of Tamara De Lempicka during the Art Deco era. Really, there are so many things that inspire me: colors in nature, travel, interior design, and vintage automobiles.
Katherine: Are there any moments in cinema that immediately come to mind when you think of a striking look in which hair and makeup came together perfectly in order to create a masterful overall look?
David: Funny, except for Elizabeth Taylor, (whom I admired so much) I’ve had the pleasure of working with all the stars in the films mentioned. I didn’t realize that until just now when you asked.
Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor: the film is a bit too long, but the makeup, wigs, and costumes are amazing. Barry Lyndon starring Marisa Berenson: again too long but wonderful makeup and hair. And then I’d say Cabaret starring Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles with the bobbed hair and green nail lacquer. “Divine decadence,” you know. And, last but not least, Blade Runner with Sean Young and Daryl Hannah. I just love a peek into what the future may hold!
Katherine: What are some of the most common makeup mistakes that women make (whether it’s caking on too much foundation, smearing lipstick, or stenciling in overwhelming eyebrows) and how can they eradicate this butchering of the beauty process?
David: For many women that I see, it’s one of two things: either they’re afraid of makeup and don’t wear any or so little that it does nothing. OR, they go overboard and get too heavy-handed while trying to paint a masterpiece on their face every day.
I believe a daytime makeup should make one feel good about themselves and maybe make one look a bit more healthy. For example: some color on the cheeks, groomed eyebrows, glossy lips, and curled lashes with a touch of mascara. And if you want to add more color by lining your eyes with a shade that picks up a color you are wearing, that’s also nice.
Then, at night, one can add some drama with more vibrant, deeper color, sparkle, and shine if you like. And add false lashes. Go all out!
The biggest problem many women struggle with are their EYE BROWS. I see many women who over tweeze into strange shapes. Your brows are not meant to be semicircles or with a hook in the front. They shouldn’t go just straight across, point down, or go flying up towards your hairline. They shouldn’t look drawn on with a Sharpie pen. They should frame your eyes with a slight arch. The classic and ideal brow shape is in every ad for makeup, so look at the model’s brows and try and get yours to resemble hers. You can use a little pencil, but powder shadow is best to darken or fill them in. And always brush them into shape afterwards to soften the products used! A little clear mascara or brow gel applied at the very end will help keep them in good shape. Plus, there are so many eyebrow specialists out there to help you. Go see one.
Now, with all that being said…your makeup also expresses your personality and the image you choose to present to the world. So, if you feel that bright red lipstick suits you day and night: wear it. If you like to look exotic with black eyeliner winging out like a retro 1950’s pinup girl: go for it. I’ve given you guidelines but I’m all for individuality. Be the you that you want to be.
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