THE SUNDAY TIMES
02 MARCH 2008
GUCCI WESTMAN - THE MAKE-UP ARTIST WHO MADE CAMERON DIAZ UGLY
Gucci Westman had made Cameron Diaz look bad, at least in Being John Malkovich. She's also friends with Drew Barrymore, has worked with Annie Leibovitz and consults for Lancome.
There are certain perks to being a cleaning lady. Well, there are if you are cleaning lady to Gucci Westman, 36, consultant to Lancôme and one of the world's most sought-after make-up artists.
"Oh, my God, she test-drives everything for me," Westman confides. "But then, isn't that karmically the way it should be? That cleaning ladies should have the best bathroom cabinets? You should have seen mine when I worked as an au pair in Switzerland. I had this boss who was a magazine editor, and she would bring home boxes and boxes of all these fabulous products for me. I swear, the excitement of opening them all up - it's probably what got me into this business."
It is about 1pm, and we are sitting outside Westman's local Italian in Greenwich Village, New York. It is a stone's throw from the cosy brownstone apartment she shares with her British-born husband, David Neville (of the cult fashion label Rag & Bone), and their 10-month-old son, Dashel, to whom Cameron Diaz is godmother. That's Diaz, whom Westman so brilliantly managed to mingify for Spike Jonzes's 1999 classic, Being John Malkovich. "I'll tell ya, it took a while not to make her look ugly, just normal, y'know?" says Westman, herself a kind of latterday Liv Ullmann, with deep-set doe eyes and a halo of prettily tangled hair. "Cameron's 35 now, and I swear she just keeps getting better and better. Omigod, and you should see her body - it's unbelievable."
Diaz, Drew Barrymore (whom Westman hired to front the latest Lancôme campaign), Helena Christensen (who has a boutique just round the corner) - these are just a few of Westman's closest mates. But then, everyone wants to be her BF. That's the effect she and her husband have on people. As Diaz recently told British Vogue, the couple's tiny, quirky, cabbage-rose-filled apartment is a veritable magnet for friends and family.
"Well, you know, it's easy to be just work, work, work," says Westman. "You have to carve out a family life for yourself, or you end up married to your make-up bag. Oh, it's hard juggling, though. I had to get up at 5am on Sunday to shoot the Missoni campaign, which meant using that horrible breast-pump thing again. I'm going to try feeding Dash for another month, but I don't know, I'm torn. I don't know how other women pump, I really don't."
Chelsea Westman, as she was christened, was born in Los Angeles, the daughter of academics with hippie leanings. (She was given the nickname Gucci, which is short for "she who sits at the lotus feet of the guru", during the family's two-year stint in a Hindu ashram in California.) At the age of 10, she and her three brothers moved with their parents to her father's native Stockholm. Had her parents had their way, Westman would have gone to Harvard and ended up as a translator (she speaks four languages fluently), but instead, she enrolled at make-up school in Paris, "where I had just about enough money for one baguette a day, and where I figured that if I failed, at least I'd learn to speak French".
Her big break came when Annie Leibovitz, with whom she had worked a couple of times after getting jobs on Being John Malkovich and Buffalo '66, booked her to do a cover for Vanity Fair magazine. "I got the job because the make-up artist they had booked wanted first-class tickets, and her fee was too high. Moral in that story or what?" Almost immediately, the ball started rolling. American Vogue's creative director, Grace Coddington, asked to see Westman's book. Her first job for the magazine involved working with Stella Tennant for the photographer Arthur Elgort. She has never looked back.
Well, sort of. "There was a point in 2004 when I'd go to the newsstands and I'd have done the whole issue of American Vogue, and the covers of W magazine, Harper's Bazaar and French and Italian Vogue, all in the same month. But I was lonely as hell. That's when I realised, wait a minute, I love being in love. I'm a romantic. What's the point of having all this, if I haven't got anyone to share it with?"
Enter, right on cue, the magnificently fit Neville, a dentist's son from the home counties, educated at Wellington College, who was at the time working in US equities and visiting fellow Wellingtonian (and future Rag & Bone partner) Marcus Wainwright in New York. After falling madly in love on their first date at a bowling alley, Westman and Neville married in the summer of 2006 in the idyllic French village of Cordes sur Ciel, with Diaz as a bridesmaid. Then, on their honeymoon, Westman fell pregnant.
"Y'know," she says, in her misleadingly Valley Girl way, "it would have been nice to be married a little bit longer. But women manage to have personal lives and professional lives with grace. The other thing is, like any creative person, I'm fickle. I have a short attention span, and it's great doing something different every day. In a couple of days, I'm shooting the Clintons. A couple of days after that, I'm doing Kate Hudson. I mean, think about it. To get my rocks off, to get paid for it, to have my precious baby and husband, and to have fun? How lucky is that?"