Donald Simrock is at the forefront of the beauty industry creating looks for style bible Flaunt in addition to showcasing his work in publications such as Rolling Stone, Interview, Harper’s Bazaar and VOGUE. His unique vision has given him the opportunity to work with celebrity clients that include Madonna, Britney Spears and Lady Gaga. His work is seen in numerous music videos and has been nominated for best makeup at the Mtv Video Music Awards. Simrock’s wide artistic range has led him to collaborate with renowned directors and photographers alike, from Hype Williams to David LaChapelle. Donald took time out of his busy schedule to talk to me and Emily Sandberg about his creative process, creating Lady Gaga’s Bowie inspired look for The Fame and how he defines beauty.
You work across various platforms: magazines, music video, runway and the red carpet. What is your preferred platform and why?
I think one of the perks to this occupation is that you have the ability to slide in and out of all of these different environments: A constantly morphing “office”, with new faces, and different experiences to take on each time. Really, they all have great qualities. Rather than having a preferred platform it’s more about a preferred situation for me. That would be any time there is creative freedom involved.
What does your job as the Beauty Editor of Flaunt Magazine entail?
I produce one or more shoots for each issue based on its content. I keep a finger on the pulse of the beauty trends and follow beauty companies with their newest creations. It’s a lot of fun!
Your work has been nominated for best makeup at the Mtv Video Music Awards. Do you have aspirations to branch out into film like your former mentor, Pat McGrath, who created Rooney Mara’s look for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?
While I’m not mapping out a plan to blaze into the film industry, I would be willing to take on the challenge. It’s a completely different machine. Pat did, as she always does, an incredible job leaving her mark in history yet again.
When you worked with Lady Gaga did you have carte blanche when creating her look or was the effort collaborative?
I was brought on initially by her management to establish a solid look for Gaga. Sort of a “polishing” to get the ball rolling. We worked together and she was always very trusting. It was a lot of fun to talk about the game plan with her before each project. She has worked very hard to get where she is now. It’s pretty amazing actually.
What is your beauty philosophy?
Honesty, confidence, compassion and diligence reveal true beauty for me.
Advertisers are slowly acknowledging the economic power of older women and catering their advertising as such. What do you think about the West’s preoccupation with youth?
Advertising plays a major role in creating the ideals of beauty. We live in a world where breast impants and botox injections are common among teenagers and plastic surgeons have payment plans. I would say that advertisers are fully aware of who has the greater economic power [women] and advertise accordingly. A younger, successful looking woman in an advert appeals to both a younger market as well as the more mature market for different reasons. Kind of killing two birds with one stone, if you will.
What are your influences and how do you incorporate them into your work?
I tend to be influenced by all kinds of things: art, nature, history, architecture, culture, you name it. The fun part is figuring out ways to translate them into another context like make up. The possibilities are endless.
How have you evolved as an artist over your career?
You learn the mechanics of your industry, you become more efficient, more informed and continue to grow throughout. It’s a constant state of evolution, a work in progress.
You’re known for your flawless finish and perfecting skin. What are a few tricks you can share with our readers to achieve that effect at home?
It all starts with what you put in your body. Eat clean and drink lots of water. Keep it simple. Moisturize well before putting any product on. Make sure to match your foundation and concealor properly. Work in thin layers rather than coating your face all at once. Some of my absolute favorite companies are M.A.C, Tom Ford, Temptu, Lancome, Urban Decay, Yves St. Laurent and Embryolisse.
You’ve been known to take everyday objects and transform them into makeup. Can you tell us about your process and how you translate the world to the face.
It’s fun to use unconventional items for make up. A jar of poppy seeds, a piece of string, or a sheet of plastic definitely have the possibility of becoming “makeup”. The challenge comes in finding the best way to apply these kinds of items and how to display them effectively. Sometimes the intent is to make the item blend in; to actually belong there. Sometimes you want to make a statement and be more bold. Variety is the spice of life.
Follow him at @DSimrock