Musicians who are unrecognizable without makeup
Makeup can be downright magical. If you’ve ever gone down the rabbit hole of makeup tutorials on YouTube, you know this, and you likely have seen just how transformative it can be when applied with a deft hand. Whether you want to camouflage scars, play down some wrinkles, glam it up, or look like another person entirely, all of that is possible with a little makeup and a lot of patience.
Of course, you can also use makeup to create a signature look, as so many rock stars and singer-songwriters often do. Whether you want to rock a bold red lip like Gwen Stefani or pile on the black eyeliner like Beth Ditto, makeup can help you distinguish yourself from the crowd. It’s one big way of expressing yourself without even having to open your mouth.
But inquiring minds want to know: what do our favorite rockers and troubadours look like when they bust out the makeup removing wipes and show their au naturel mug to the world? So without further ado, here are just some musicians who look a whole lot different without a face full of makeup on.
Shirley Manson of the band Garbage had a huge impact on what we thought was beautiful back in the 1990s. Her signature fiery red hair, scarlet lipstick, and aggro-mod fashion sensibilities were new and novel back then, and her look gave women the permission to be a little rougher around the edges if they wanted to. The self-professed “makeup addict” was also a powerhouse vocalist, and she could be heard lighting it up on hit song after hit song. Hand up if you can still sing “I’m Only Happy When It Rains” from memory!
When it comes to doing her makeup, Manson has approached it strategically from the get-go. “I’ve always worn makeup like war paint,” she shared in an interview with Billboard. “I’ve never believed in just a little slick of see-through lip gloss and a little brushing of natural color mascara. I like my makeup bold, and I wear it not to attract but repel.” We are definitely here for that unapologetic and in-your-face approach to being seen and her refusal to shrink back.
When it comes to staying power, Gwen Stefani has it in spades. The singer and fashionista became a household name in 1995, when she and her then-band No Doubt released their breakthrough album, Tragic Kingdom. After that, she launched a super successful solo career and a fashion line, and she later landed a gig on The Voice and a Las Vegas Residency, as reported by BuzzFeed News. Our girl has quite the resume, fam!
With her platinum blonde hair and her trademark bold red lip, Stefani has created a defining look for herself that has endured for over two decades. And it’s makeup, especially, that helps Stefani maintain her self-assuredness. “I’ve never not worn a ton of make-up,” she revealed in an interview with Vogue magazine. “It’s an extension of your personality and mood and it’s a confidence booster.”
Additionally, Stefani enjoys getting made up in and of itself. “I do my own make-up every time I go on stage,” she continued. “I think that the process — I wrote a song called ‘Warpaint’ about it — makes me feel like I’m ready.” Sound familiar?
When you think of Pink, what do you think of first? Is it her uber-catchy music, her unmistakably raspy voice, her Cirque du Soleil-worthy performances, or her always wild and ever-evolving hair? With a career that’s spanned over two decades and counting, the pop princess shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, so, no matter what you associate her with, she’ll be sure to represent.
In addition to her lucrative and successful career, Pink is also one of the faces of CoverGirl, with her perfect skin and creative makeup skills. As for her best makeup tips? “Well, a lot of people might know this but an eyelash curler really gives your lashes amazing lift,” she explained in an interview with Fitness magazine. “Also, a dab of concealer under the eyes is the best quick-fix for dark circles, especially for tired moms like me.” Those are some surprisingly practical hacks for someone who seems so wild.
Boy George needs no introduction. The singer and queer icon has been slaying lewks and shutting down haters before Instagram was even a twinkle in its creator’s eye. The Culture Club singer has also overcome a lot in his life, including drug addiction and the legal trouble that came with it, as noted by The Guardian. But by the same token, he has enjoyed a career renaissance, and he has an enduring popularity that ensures there’s still more we can expect from him.
Boy George started experimenting with flashy clothing and traditionally feminine makeup at a young age, something that got him unwanted attention at school. “I was different, you know. Even from about the age of six years old, I was kind of made to feel different by other kids, you know,” he recalled in an interview with NPR. “I was a quite pretty kid, and I got called girl a lot and woman and all of that.” Fortunately for the world, that didn’t hamper his innately flamboyant spirit, and he was able to flourish and become the artist we all know and love.
Singer-songwriter and body-positive icon Beth Ditto isn’t afraid to stand out. She rose to fame in the early 2000s with her band, Gossip, and has been ever-present in popular culture ever since. Unapologetically queer, Ditto is a rare bird in a heteronormative culture that values thinness as equivalent to beauty. But with her colorful fashion and her bold makeup, Ditto goes about the business of being a rock diva seemingly without effort, and we are 100 percent here for it.
Just as Ditto’s style game is totally on point, so too is her makeup, something she likes to take care of herself. “Before a show, I spend about two hours by myself doing my hair and makeup,” she shared in an interview with Refinery29. “It’s a really important, meditative time for me — for creativity and reflection, almost like painting.” We’re starting to sense a theme here, y’all.
Ditto also appreciates others who use makeup in non-traditional ways. “I love people who put on makeup not just to look pretty, but to look different, or even kind of crazy,” she added.
It’s hard to believe that the first season of American Idol was so long ago, or that there was ever a time when its first winner, Kelly Clarkson, wasn’t dominating the airwaves. The “Stronger” singer, who later became a coach on The Voice, is a force to be reckoned with, having cinched three Grammy Awards and 15 nominations on top of her many accolades and achievements.
Although you usually see Clarkson with a proper face full of makeup, she’s actually allergic to it, and honestly she just doesn’t have the love for it that many of her contemporaries do. “I just don’t like wearing it all the time,” she explained in an interview with Radio.com. “You start to feel like, I’m in total costume all the time, like I’m going to a war — I’m in my war paint.” Where have we heard that one before?
Even though Clarkson prefers going au naturel, which is the state in which she met her husband, we can’t imagine her doing so on The Voice anytime soon. But who knows?
Some artists create an album so enduring, so iconic, and so downright brilliant that it never loses its resonance, and it’s forever a part of the pop culture pantheon. That’s definitely the case with Alanis Morissette’s breakthrough album Jagged Little Pill, which was released 1995.
Morissette dealt with many themes on Jagged Little Pill, including heartbreak, anger, and femininity, the latter of which she is fluid about. “I love, on one hand, to play sports and be really masculine in a lot of ways,” she confessed in an interview with Elle magazine. “I also live for femininity and the female adventures we can have with our beauty and our aesthetics.” That, of course, includes makeup like the black eyeliner she often sports.
From the start of her career, Morissette has always done things her way, marching contentedly to the beat of her own drum. “It’s okay to be a little strange,” she continued, “because then people leave you alone.” Zero lies detected!
Like her contemporary Boy George, Annie Lennox has bucked gender norms for years, often favoring an androgynous look over a fully feminine presentation. The singer-songwriter broke out in the iconic 1980s duo Eurythmics alongside Dave Stewart, but she struck out on her own by the early 1990s. Her music videos were lush, extravagant, and often quite beautiful. “I think beauty is a special thing, but people try to turn it into something that is quantifiable and sellable,” she revealed in an interview with Interview magazine. “There’s this old adage: beauty lies within. It’s true.” Homegirl was never one to sell out, for sure, so it makes sense that her core philosophy is deeply authentic.
So, does she still like getting gussied up like she used to in her lavish music videos? “Baby, I don’t,” she said when asked about her makeup routine. “Listen, what do you do when you’re 60? You let go. You stay healthy, and you know what really counts.” Those are definitely some retirement goals, for real. Don’t ever change, Annie!
Outrage artist and shock rocker extraordinaire Brian Warner, better known by his stage name Marilyn Manson, was beloved by goth kids around the world in his heyday. He was equally scorned by concerned parents and conservative activists alike, rendering him one of the most famous rock stars in the 1990s and early 2000s. Seemingly nothing was off limits, including some pretty outrageous makeup — something he still wears today. “I’ve always done my own makeup,” he admitted in an interview with Interview magazine. “I just dip my finger in there and freestyle it.” That’s certainly one way to do it!
Warner didn’t just start wearing makeup after he got famous, either. Rather, he got into it early on in his life, thanks to his sticky fingers. “I used to always steal my makeup from a place in Florida called Albertson’s,” he continued. “Because it was open 24 hours. I would steal Max Factor pancake makeup.” We’re pretty sure he doesn’t have to shoplift his makeup anymore, thanks to his hefty net worth.
Where were you when Tuesday Night Music Club was released in 1993? The debut album from singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow was inescapable at the time, with hits like “All I Wanna Do” being played every hour on radio stations across the country. After that, Crow was a 1990s It Girl, and she has been recording music and releasing albums ever since.
Crow has evolved both musically and ideologically over the years, becoming quite outspoken about both her political views and her personal experiences. Additionally, she has a special place in her heart for female musicians who are able to make music without relying on sex appeal, such as Lorde and Adele. “There’s as much power in that if not more than there is in projecting sexual images which are fine and all, but not to be misconstrued as being about beauty or power,” she shared in an interview with Nylon. “Women are powerful for many reasons, not just their bodies.” Sounds pretty wholesome to us, fam.
Girls who grew up in the ’90s will all tell you how revolutionary Lilith Fair was. Founded by Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan, the festival was among the first of its kind to feature female musicians on stage, unlike many of the other male-dominated tours at the time.
McLachlan had to push back against a bunch of promoters who told her no one would show up if only women were playing. “It made me realize, Wow! The music industry still is really sexist,” she recalled in an interview with Lenny. “Because my label gave me complete freedom, didn’t tell me what to wear, or how to cut my hair, or ‘Can you open up those top two buttons on your shirt, please?’ I naïvely went along, thinking there was no sexism in the music industry.” Sounds like it was quite the wake-up call!
Even after Lilith Fair was a huge success, McLachlan still fielded more complaints. “Then Lilith happened,” she continued. “And there was wall after wall after wall of men saying, ‘Why do you hate men?’ I’m like, ‘What does celebrating women have to do with hating men?'” Amen, sister!
Bonnie Raitt has been giving people something to talk about since the 1970s when she released her first several albums. After that, a steady stream of music followed, including her commercial breakthrough album Nick of Time in 1989. The Grammy-winning artist was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and she continues to tour and release albums. Clearly there’s no slowing her down!
The veteran musician enjoys playing outdoor music festivals, even though the weather can have an impact on her appearance. “That’s just such a celebration, to be able to play under the open sky like that,” she gushed in an interview with the Ravinia Backstage Blog. “It can sometimes get super hot and muggy, but you just get used to it. Whatever hair style your hair gets into, at this point, at our age, we’re just glad we have hair.” Hey, nothing wrong with a little pragmatism, right?
Kiss has been helping everyone rock and roll all night and party every day for nearly half of a century. Known for the members’ bold makeup, wild costuming, and theatrical on-stage antics, Kiss has proven itself to be in a category all its own. Frontman Gene Simmons knows this, and he isn’t shy about telling the whole world about it. “Kiss is a different animal — we’re like heavy artillery. We’re armored,” he proclaimed in an interview with Guitar World. “I wear eight-inch platform heels and it takes hours to put on the makeup and the studs and all the stuff.” That’s a serious amount of commitment for a stage show, y’all.
Simmons especially takes the makeup aspect of Kiss seriously. To that end, he doesn’t allow former members to join the band on stage in their iconic makeup. “You’ve been out of the band 20 years. It’s not going to happen,” he shared in an interview with Imperium. That means that even if the OG Kiss musicians were game for a reunion, Papa Simmons is keeping the face paint to himself. Rules are rules, folks!
Enigmatic. Ethereal. Genre-defying and continually groundbreaking. Those are just a few of the adjectives that describe Björk, the musician who put Iceland on the musical map in America. Although Björk emerged as a successful solo artist back in the early 1990s, she’s continued to have a long and evolving musical career, accompanied by some of the strangest and most innovative costuming and makeup looks. She’s truly a singular artist!
Additionally, Björk was unafraid to step in front of the camera sans makeup — long before makeup-free selfies on Instagram were even a thing. She appeared on the cover of Face magazine in 1993, with her hair twisted in knots and her freckles out front. “Glenn Luchford did this photo. He’s amazing with skin,” she explained in an interview with Time magazine. “The camera was literally like this big — so you get all these details. I was 27 when this was taken.” Fascinating!
Björk does occasionally post makeup-free selfies on her Instagram page, showing just how different she looks when she’s not made up and looking like a creature from another world.
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