PAUL STARR--the makeup artist who powders, pencils and primps Paula Abdul, Sinead O'Connor and Sherilyn Fenn--is making a face. But not with mascara, blush or crow's-feet concealer.
It's the middle of lunch at a Hollywood restaurant, and he's wincing because the woman at the next table is wearing a no-no shade of lipstick: hot pink.
"She should be wearing a warmer shade, a paler pink," Starr says. "She's got this bright pink on, and I'm sure it's because she's read that bright pink is what's happening. But my advice to women is to stick with what works best for them."
Starr, who has made up rockers from Debbie Harry to Debbie Gibson, knows whereof he speaks. Over the last decade, his makeup has turned up on MTV, on the covers of Elle, Mirabella and Harper's Bazaar, at the Emmys, in commercials for Levis, Oil of Olay and Kodak and on the runways of London and Paris.
Born in Nice, France, Starr--who guards his age as well as his technique--studied painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Art Institute but later switched to a career in makeup. "I grew tired of being a struggling artist," he explains.
After moving to Los Angeles in 1982, he took lessons in makeup application from established Hollywood professionals. Then came his break in television, doing makeup for a photographer who shot stills for young ingenues at ABC and CBS. "Sometimes I'd do 10 women a day," Starr recalls. "It was like a factory."
But the job opened the door to other opportunities, including his first music video: Donna Summer's "She Works Hard for the Money" in 1983. Since then, he's worked with a host of other recording stars: the Bee Gees, David Lee Roth, Annie Lennox, Belinda Carlisle, the Bangles, Jody Watley, Neneh Cherry, Bonnie Raitt, Boy George, INXS and Sting.
Demand for Starr--who once earned $10 an hour and now charges at least $100 an hour--has grown so much that he has hired an assistant. One week earlier this fall, Starr was busy with three different projects: a fashion spread for O'Connor and rock videos for Gibson and INXS.
His work with O'Connor will appear in the January issue of Italian Vogue. Starr says the magazine photos will feature the singer in her trademark no-hair, no-makeup look as well as "a total Hollywood glamour queen look"--black eye liner and a blond Lady Godiva wig.
For Gibson, Starr created a whole new grown-up image using crimson lipstick, false eyelashes and reddish-brown eye liner. "We wanted to start changing her look for a much older, sophisticated crowd," he says.
For the average woman who wants to look her best--and up-to-date--Starr suggests that moderation is the key.
"I think that what's happening for the '90s is a blend of the kind of makeup we saw in the '60s and '80s," he says, noting that runway models are wearing noticeably more makeup. "You want to look like you are wearing makeup, but you don't want to look like a hooker either."
The current look can be carried off with a little bit more eyebrow and a little bit more lip. Still, the most important thing, Starr says, is a foundation that's not too heavy yet provides good coverage. "I find that Clinique or Prescriptives foundations are very good because they custom blend to a person's skin. Follow that up with a nice mascara and really nice eyebrows."
Starr, who prefers arched eyebrows, says, "Sherilyn Fenn has a natural arch, but we pluck it to make it more extreme because I find that's a good trademark."
If you don't have a natural arch, get out the tweezers. But don't get carried away. "I wouldn't advise people to pluck on their own unless they know what they are doing," he says. "I would advise them to have a professional do it."
As for emphasizing lips, Starr says women don't necessarily have to undergo collagen injections because full lips can be achieved with any shade of lipstick, including his favorite red, by "penciling-in your mouth to incorporate the entire shape of your mouth."
Faces, he says, are not walking canvases for wild works of art. "Makeup is an expression of who you are or of who you want to portray yourself to be. So try not to go for (eye shadow, mascara or lipstick) colors that are going to attract attention because you can do that much better with clothing."