Beyond the accepted: alternative iconic beauty looks

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We all know that classic beauty styles revolve around icons like Marilyn Monroe, Twiggy, Brigitte Bardot and Kate Moss. Monroe in particular is especially famous for having pioneered the peroxide blonde hair and red lipstick trend. Many people, from Gwen Stefani to Christina Aguilera and Scarlett Johansson, have sought to replicate Monroe’s signature style, emulating the old school glamour her simple but stunning beauty style exuded. Over the years, however, there have emerged other significant and culturally important makeup styles that have shaken popular culture and become prolific in their own right, making them every bit as iconic as the established beauty icons. Some of these looks help us to negotiate beauty with gender and sexuality, some emphasise natural features whilst others purposefully obscure them. Whatever you think of these looks, they are powerful and dramatic, setting those sporting them apart from the rest.

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  1. Priscilla Presley

The sixties saw the sexual revolution and young women, like British model Twiggy and New York socialite Edie Sedgewick, sporting striking boyish looks. Priscilla Presley, however, went in the exact opposite direction, looking to sky-high bouffants and heavy cartoon character makeup to complete her ultra-feminine looks. Lip liner, heavily pencilled eyebrows, heavily lidded eyes with false lashes, kohl and lashings of mascara were all used to accentuate her facial features and became a Priscilla signature during the sixties, most famously seen when she tied the knot with her husband Elvis Presley. This look was a key source of inspiration for modern style and music icon Lana Del Rey, who effortlessly replicated Presley’s look during her Born to Die period. There is something timelessly endearing about Presley: her makeup portrays her as a young girl, on the cusp of adulthood and sexual maturity but still clinging to the innocence and coyness of childhood. It is nothing if not high maintenance and doll-like; but when done properly, it imparts instant drama and helps to create an aura of enigma and mystique that endures today.


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  1. David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust

David Bowie broke the mould in many ways over his career thanks to his mind-bending music and because of his fluid gender identification. He adopted the persona of Ziggy Stardust, with bright red hair, a painted face and eye patches, to manipulate what we classically thought about rock iconography, taking story-telling and musical execution to great new levels. The cover of his album Aladdin Sane became iconic, which sees Bowie looking down whilst a bright painted lightning bolt stretches across his face. His cheeks and jawline are heavily contoured to create an alien look that doesn’t necessarily prescribe to either gender. This makeup was replicated by Dakota Fanning playing The Runaways’ lead singer Cherie Currie in the 2010 biopic. Currie famously cut her hair to look like David Bowie, proving that his hair and makeup style appealed to women just as much as it did to his legions of male fans.


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  1. Grace Jones

Grace Jones is an icon of modern culture, breaking the boundaries of fashion in a unique and inimitable way. Starting out as a model, Jones effectively carved out a career in music throughout the eighties and then went on to appear in James Bond film A View to a Kill. Jones is famous for her androgynous beauty style, keeping her hair short and angular, using metallic makeup and frantic eyebrow lines to create a striking and arresting look. In many ways, Jones took David Bowie’s androgynous makeup style from the seventies through to the next decade, embracing her statuesque physique and her unique facial structure to reject traditional femininity for something altogether more edgy. Her makeup style is inherently futuristic: for a woman to consciously look so sever was a move ahead of its time, inspiring many female stars to adopt a similar androgynous style in the process, from Annie Lennox to Rihanna and Roisin Murphy.


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