Meet The Makeup Artist Behind Your Fav Nineties Fashion Shoots
Behind every great fashion shoot is an even greater makeup artist—and that makeup artist is, more often than not, Frank B. Raised by hardcore New Yorkers—his dad casually worked as Judy Garland’s hair stylist—Frank, born Frank Buscarello, split his childhood between Arizona and New York City, before moving to NYC for good at 15 years old.
Frank B. isn’t a very public person; the interviews he’s done over the course of his career are scant, and he possesses an ilk of modesty that’s rarely found in the fashion industry today, and even rarer for someone who’s worked with all the greats—from Daft Punk, Kate Moss, and Miley Cyrus, to Mario Sorrenti, and pretty much any other fashion photographer who matters. If it weren’t practically a prerequisite for working in this particular industry, Frank B. probably wouldn’t even have an Instagram. But he does, and for that we are all incredibly thankful. A catalog of both his storied career and his proud fatherhood, his Instagram gives us a rare glimpse into his life, and is a veritable goldmine for any documentary filmmaker.
Firmly rooted in the older school of fashion, Frank B.’s legacy is at once unshakable and integral to the trajectory of the industry. He’s trained in the golden era that we still look to for inspiration—one we still aspire to, pine for in #TBTs, and constantly measure the current fashion scene against. #Goals, essentially.
Last week I was able to sit down with Frank B. as he recounted some of the most indelible moments of his career. Read about it below, and then leaf through some of his career highlights (along with his commentary) above.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever used to make makeup, or as a tool to apply makeup?
Years ago in Paris, somebody gave me—it was like a clay. And I kind of built prosthetic-y molds on the face. I don’t even know what it was for; they were using it for hair, but I kind of just built the girl’s face in odd ways and stuff like that. [And] I’ve done shoots with Mario Sorrenti where we’ve used candy and all kinds of crazy things.
What’s the most fun or most memorable shoot you’ve been on?
I would still probably say my most memorable shoot was my first shoot with Paolo Roversi. That’s really where I started; that was one of my first jobs—[it was] for Italian Vogue. [Roversi] was like my hero photographer. It was only three months after I started doing makeup, it was in Paris—it was like a dream come true. We actually thought when they called and put the option on that somebody had prank called my agent as a joke—like, one of our friends—because we just didn’t think it could be possible after doing makeup for three months. But it was real and I worked with him for like three years, pretty much on every job, after that. It was awesome.
Is there someone who you just really enjoy putting makeup on?
From a creative [standpoint], there have been many models over the years whom I love working with. They’re usually the ones who are more open to building characters, and they get into that, and that’s always fun. It’s always harder to work with a girl who doesn’t want to see herself much more beyond herself, and then there are some that just really get into the whole hair and makeup and everything, and have fun with it! It’s a character; it’s play.
[In terms of] celebrities, I guess I would probably have to say Miley [Cyrus] is the most fun to work with. She’s just really cool—but like truly cool. Just awesome to everybody, no entourage, just walks in the door, and like hangs out. She grabbed my phone and was like, “Give me your password!” And I gave her my password and she made a video for my daughter. I didn’t even ask her. She was like, “Hey Bo, I’m here with your dad!” Yeah, she’s really amazing.
Did you like growing up in the city?
I did. I feel always super lucky that I got to grow up sort of on both sides; as a child, living in Arizona was amazing. And then I got to come back to New York every summer. When my parents decided to move back to New York, I was ready. I was 15, I was super into punk—which, actually, the day I got to New York, I dropped.
I sat next to like this girl in class my very first day of school, and she became my friend and taught me graffiti. It was like ’85, hip-hop was just taking off and stuff, and the Beastie Boys were hanging out in front of our school every day. Yeah, it was a pretty rad time. It was cool, it was hard, it was the ‘80s, this whole neighborhood was crazy, I lived in Chelsea, my dad told me it was going to be fancy one day, I was like, “When?” So, yeah.
Ha! Your dad wasn’t wrong. Do you have a pet peeve when it comes to makeup or how people do their makeup?
Whenever anyone would interview me backstage at shows and be like, “So what’s the trend this season?” I would always say, “You know, I don’t believe in that.” [It should depend on] how you feel that day. Or how you feel that hour. You know? So how you go to work in the morning may not be how you want your makeup to look at five.
Do you have a favorite makeup look of all time?
I’ve evolved a lot, so I would say the look that I do has changed a lot. As I said, I started working after three months of doing this, for Italian Vogue, and at that time it was really just crazy, artistic stuff. And from that, what piqued my interest was to challenge myself to do a more traditional makeup look. So I went to that [refined] kind of look—more of a smoky eye and a red lip.
My favorite is when I go to work and they don’t tell me already what they think. Years ago, we used to walk into the studio, the stylist would show us the clothes, and then, as a collaboration, I would say, “I think this should be the makeup” and the hairdresser would say, “I think this should be the hair,” and the photographer, we’d all talk about it. And what happens unfortunately now is, because we don’t have as many days to shoot, people aren’t willing to take those kinds of risks anymore. Hair and makeup people are not willing because they don’t want to make a mistake—they see it as wasting time—so you don’t get the same incredible moments that we used to get back in the day.
How did you first get into makeup?
Ok, well I wore it a bit as a kid because I was into punk. But then I was a photo assistant, and I was living in London. I assisted Mario Sorrenti.
Well we grew up together—we went to the same high school. So I assisted him and moved to London, and I had started a casting company. So I thought I was going to go from photo assisting to casting. And I did only two castings—they were for Avedon and Meisel—so they were going pretty well. And Mario was always like, “No I don’t see you doing that for some reason.” At night, for fun, I was kind of putting makeup on myself, just for fun, we were taking pictures and being creative, we were like 24. And then it just kind of clicked—I thought, “Well, then maybe I’ll do makeup because I enjoy putting it on everybody,” and he really was super supportive, and his agent Kim Sion were just like, “That’s what you should do.” And so I started testing, and things like that, and that was it.
“I love all those girls from back in the day…Bridget Hall, Angela Lindvall, Carolyn Murphy…They’d totally rage—and not pretentious at all or caught up [in things].”
One of my favorite shoots ever is one you actually worked on with Mario Sorrenti. Angela’s Secrets?
Angela Lindvall, yeah, she was so young, that was a great shoot, those were great times. I love all those girls from back in the day. They were really great, they were so cool, they were so gorgeous but tomboy in a way, all those girls of the ‘90s—Bridget Hall, Angela Lindvall, Carolyn Murphy, they were all like skater kids kind-of-vibe. They were fun to hang out with at night, they’d totally rage—and not pretentious at all or caught up [in things]. No one was on social media then. Now everybody’s very guarded and stuff.
I feel like I barely ever see makeup on guys—whether it’s in editorials or advertisements. And I’d just like to see more of it?
Well that’s what’s really interesting is that we have Thistle in our campaign, which was really important to us, and it was something that came so naturally.
I’ve also been working a lot with Michael Bailey-Gates, and I love Michael because he’s so inspiring; [with him,] it feels really natural and not trying to be somebody else. It’s just a guy wearing makeup because he wants to, you know? And I feel like, on Thistle, it looks like that too.
I did a shoot with Michael down in Atlantic City, and it was cool, we did makeup on him. A little eyeliner never hurt—at all. But I’m so glad that we have Thistle, and I’m so glad that we’re going to be okay with that kind of vibe in the brand. The kids today, they’re not about hiding anything anymore, it’s about self-expression and stuff like that. And it doesn’t mean you’re gay, you know what I mean? I’m not and I always like to wear it. My dad was gay and he never wore a stitch of makeup ever.
Do you think the beauty industry is missing anything? And if so, what?
I don’t want to sound like this is the way I’m supposed to answer, because in no way do I mean it that way. But what the beauty industry was missing was something like Milk Makeup. And I say that because I had been having thoughts about a company like [this] before I even joined [the team]. What’s missing from the industry is letting the kids represent the brand.
We’re not telling anybody what to do, you know what I mean? It’s about a community. We just want everybody to be one big group and to inspire each other. So taking the trends from the youth culture out there and not telling them what the trend is, but more learning from them and putting it into a form that they can use.
“The contouring that we’ve seen today? No. To me, they’ve taken it too far.”
It definitely feels more accessible. On a different note, I wanted to ask you about the Daft Punk shoot that you worked on. Did you actually put makeup on them underneath their helmets? Did you see their faces?
No, I did makeup for Gisele on that shoot. But no, they walked around without their helmets all day—I was totally shocked. It was at Milk Studios LA, and they were going to the bathroom without their helmets. I thought they were going to be much more precious about that whole thing. I mean obviously they asked for respect with the camera phones and stuff but there was no, like, you have to put tape on your phone—I was on a shoot the other day and we had to put tape on our phones. There was none of that. They were really cool about it; they came with their kids. What I did think was interesting is they each have a person who travels with their helmet and just takes care of it. But they were really cool about the whole thing. Super laid back about the whole thing. I almost didn’t want to see them without [the helmets]!
What do you think about contouring and the whole Kylie Jenner thing? Do you care?
It’s interesting because I’ve always done a little bit of contouring—a little bit of contouring. So there’s nothing wrong with putting like a little bit of contour on your cheeks or something like that. We are talking about makeup at the end of the day. And it can be beautiful, it does an effect, it gives you cheekbones and all that stuff. Now the contouring that we’ve seen today? No. To me, they’ve taken it too far and it becomes you trying to turn yourself into somebody that you’re not.
Although I do love it when they put it on, but they haven’t blended it yet. We just did a video with Sam, and we were like, “Let’s do one look with just the contour lines—it’s like war paint!” Yeah, we got all into it. But the whole [contouring] thing is [about] trying to transform yourself into someone you’re not and we are definitely not that. [Milk Makeup] is all about adding to who you are and letting you be who you are.
I also noticed you don’t have many interviews online, is that intentional?
I guess I bring that punk rock aesthetic with me all the time. The self-promotion thing is super hard for me—I’m not into that. But yeah, I’m kind of different. I have a strong personality. I’m true to myself and to how I feel.
Check out more of Frank B.’s work here.
Stay tuned to Milk for more makeup madness.