Got milk? On your face? Wearing a milk mustache has become something of a fashion statement, thanks to the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board's $112-million advertising campaign featuring celebrities from Lauren Bacall to Denver Bronco John Elway with foamy white upper lips. The ads are photographed by Annie Leibovitz, but those capricious, creamy mustaches are the work of L.A. food stylist Norman Stewart.
How does he do it? The puckish Stewart, 40, takes a swig from a mug of cappuccino; when he sets it down, he is wearing a picture-perfect, cinnamon-flecked milk mustache. No one walking past our outdoor table at Caffe Luna bats an eye. "It's all done with dairy products," says Stewart, wiping away the froth with a napkin. He won't reveal his recipe, but confides it contains whole milk and heavy cream. "The celebrities don't actually have to drink it," he assures me. A good thing, because it is reapplied many times.
The trick to wearing a milk mustache, for anyone trying this at home, is facial hair. "Even women and children have natural peach fuzz, like a little down comforter, above their lips that the milk clings to," Stewart says. "If a woman waxes her lip, it's very hard to get a mustache to stick. I won't name names, but it's been a problem with a few of the celebrities."
Before the British-born Stewart became a mustache maven, he made his living as a classically trained French chef, cooking on a private yacht. After discovering a dearth of job opportunities for personal French chefs in L.A., he turned to food styling. His whimsical work for such clients as Bon Appetit and the California Avocado Board made him a natural for the droll milk campaign.
Stewart says he's never encountered a star with an attitude problem--it's apparently hard to be haughty with milk on your face. Dennis Rodman hardly said two words during his shoot. What about Oscar De La Hoya? (I ask, because a girlfriend is obsessed.) "He's adoooorable," Stewart coos. Yasmine Bleeth, photographed in the now-legendary clingy white tank? Most remarkable for the amount of time spent in hair and makeup--more than two hours, Stewart says. Martha Stewart? "We're on location in New England. Nothing but fields for miles. She makes a grand entrance carrying a giant pana cotta on a silver tray."
The campaign continues for 2 1/2 years more, but Stewart isn't worried about things turning sour. "Everyone's mouth is unique," he says. "That's why there's something special about kissing that favorite pair of lips."