MAC has always held makeup to an art form, and the brand showcased the magic it could make by celebrating one of New York’s legendary nightlife performers, Joey Arias. Irving Plaza was packed Wednesday night with the chic set, including Katie Gallagher, David and Phillipe Blond, Isabel and Ruben Toldeo, and more for the exhibition. Glam got to step backstage to sit with the iconic artist.
How did you relationship with MAC blossom?
Well it starts with Christian Mitchell, who I’ve known for many years. I was introduced to him by my friend Constance aka Robert Sherman, and we just became friends.
Years later, I got involved with Cirque du Soleil, and he really wanted to have a MAC involved with Cirque, but they were doing Make Up For Ever for years. So, every time I was doing my makeup, I was using MAC, and they were like, “You cannot use those colors.” I said, “But I’m using the right color for my face. Your red is not the red I need.” And [Manfred Thierry] Mugler,who was the director of the show, agreed with me. Eventually, Christian got involved, and they bought into it.
I got involved to do a couple of shows here and there with MAC–I did something for Antonio Lopez’s book. All the [MAC executives] were there, and they loved what I did for the event. The brand then brought me to Toronto to do the David Bowie bit also, so I did the performance there. And for years, Christian kept saying he was going to do a big project. Finally this past November, he called me and said “We’re going to have a meeting with everybody.” [At the meeting,] I was like, “I’ve been working at Mugler, and we’ve been talking about this new character and how I get disassembled from the past…” As I’m talking, I’m using the words like the past, the present, the future…and they were like, “Oh my God we love these ideas!” And then it just developed into this thing, and I had millions of ideas, but they actually honed everything into what you see tonight.
Like I said, my life is all about art, music, and fashion, makeup too–MAC has been great to me. Christian gave me MAC wipes all the time, and I’d use them at Cirque, throw them on the table–I had this beautiful dressing table–and I’d just rub and put them on. When I’d leave and come back the next morning and see [the wipes look like] beautiful masks, I was like “This is interesting.” My husband [Juano Diaz] had an art show, and he actually framed ten masks of the MAC wipes. And I was like, “Wow those are incredible!” I think someone from MAC came and saw them so MAC got involved. I always believe in recycling, and I was like why wipe something and toss it when you can make art out of it? Why not recycle what MAC gives you and create art with it?
What was the first MAC product you ever used?
It was blush. I don’t remember what shade–it was like a brown that I still use. I’ve never used blush. So all of a sudden, Christian said, “You should try this.”
What is the number one beauty essential in your kit?
The most essential is–seriously you’re going to laugh–the [Fluidline] pot eyeliner. If I don’t have that I’m off. Christian turned me on to that because you can really do more with it. I love the freedom of a brush in the pot and moving with your hand. It’s like an artists palette.
What's your favorite song to sing live?
Well, I have too many songs, but I’m going to say my favorite song tonight was “Z Chromosome.” Because that’s my new song–we’re going to the future. The show's based on the past, present, and future–that’s where I’m going. I don’t like to look back at the past too much, so it wasn’t really about looking back. It was all about bringing it all together.
What was the inspiration behind the "Z Chromosome" concept?
I did a show with Basil Twist called “Arias With a Twist, “ and right before I make my entrance, there’s a big story going on about a flying enchantress and there’s the X and Y chromosome, and I’m Z, the new chromosome. So [Mugler] always remembered that because we were getting ready to do a new show, and it was called “Keepin' It Real,” and it was like a two week process. One day he said, “You know what? I know what you want to do, but I think the show should be called Z Chromosome." And I was like, “Yes, I could buy it.” It’s all about moving ahead and being who you are and dropping the pretense and just keeping it real and sharing love. It’s almost the end of the world sometimes, the way the world is going. This is about being happy and partying with your friends. Party with your makeup, party with your food, just enjoy your life. Drop all the madness that’s going on and forget about that!
You have some incredible costumes! What has been your number one favorite from your archive?
All my Mugler costumes.
Given your love of couture, who are some of your favorite designers of the moment?
As far as fashion designers, I’d say Isabel Toledo, Zac Posen, Charles James, Halston, but of course, I’m going to say again, Mugler. He’s not a fashion designer anymore, he’s moved into directing because he’s a creature. So it’s always Mugler, and someone said he’s a very strange director, and another person said, “No, he’s not. He’s the most amazing director for Joey Arias.” I’m like clay to him.