M.A.C's Amber D on her dream job with Lorde

By Janetta Mackay

Lorde, in signature dark lip, at the 2014 Much Music Video Awards in Toronto. Picture / AP Images
Lorde, in signature dark lip, at the 2014 Much Music Video Awards in Toronto. Picture / AP Images

"It's a great ride. It's been the most fun thing ever," says Lorde's makeup artist Amber D. It's been nine months since she first did makeup for the then 16-year-old singer songwriter Ella Yelich-O-Connor and ever since, life has been a series of plane rides, hotel stays, award shows and photo shoots.

"Seeing her go from those little shows I started doing with her and then suddenly we're in Brazil and she's playing to 50,000 people and she's at Coachella and every single person is singing along, it's so surreal. I got a bit teary eyed when she was on stage with Nirvana [for a hall of fame induction tribute]. It was like, what the hell is this ... so amazing. What an achievement for a teenager from Auckland, it's just the most incredible thing."

Lorde with makeup artist Amber D, at the New York launch of the M.A.C makeup collaboration. Picture / Viva Instagram
Lorde with makeup artist Amber D, at the New York launch of the M.A.C makeup collaboration. Picture / Viva Instagram


The pair clicked when Amber D, a veteran of working backstage at international fashion weeks, was called in to help with a publicity shoot last September. She was called back straight after to help with the launch of Ella's first album Pure Heroine.

"Then I never left," she jokes.

Apart from a few snatched weeks here and there, that's pretty much true, with the Sydney-based New Zealander and M.A.C senior artist for Oceania on secondment to project Lorde. This week she is back home in Auckland for the local launch of the Lorde M.A.C makeup collaboration and to take a masterclass on the Lorde look she has had such a hand in shaping.

"My career was great before, I was doing the shows, but this opened up a really different path," Amber D says. "I think what I can bring to it, is less of the celebrity makeup and more of what we learn at the shows. I've got so much experience with teenage skin 'cos when you do the shows, the girls are the same age as Ella."

The pair squeeze in shopping trips when on the road, but not as most tourists know them. "We will be working with designers and she will be meeting with different people, which is really cool, really fun."

Amber D has a well-honed passion for fashion, but says Ella is very much in charge of her own look. "She has such a great vision, not just for her makeup, but for the overall look of everything. It's so inspiring to start to see things through her eyes."

As part of the tight team that travels with 17-year-old, she says she feels both "protective" and "proud." Although she has done celebrity makeups before, being on tour gives her a different insight into the business and its remorseless pace.

"I said to her the other day, remember that time at your album launch when we were using Heroine lipstick and here we are not even a year later with your very own [Pure Heroine]."

In between times the Lorde album with hit single Royals has charted worldwide. For M.A.C, which supports a number of emerging entertainers with product or artistry skills, the early investment has paid big dividends. "It's amazing where it can end up," says Amber D. "The year started with the Grammys, which was a great way to start, and we've been pretty much on the road ever since."

The favourite looks she has crafted have been at the Billboard awards and on the video for Team. While Lorde is known for her dark lips, Amber D says the makeup is subtly evolving. "Obviously the lip is her focus and it really suits her. Sometimes it's more red - like for the Billboards it was much more of a red deep lip rather than purple - and sometimes we're in the mood for it to be almost black." By varying the colour of lip pencil underneath, shades can be manipulated for variety.

"She also looks really great with a fresh-faced makeup as well, so we can go to that, but when we don't do the lip we're like, 'we should have done the lip', it looks so great."

The other less obvious, but equally important elements to the Lorde look are the attention paid to making the skin look luminous and youthful, yet with enough coverage for concerts. "We tend to try to keep the makeup quite lightweight, we always have highlights in there, it's not super matte."

Amber D - with speed skills picked up working with a lineup of models running late backstage - can do the basic Lorde look in as little as 10 minutes. Ella has also picked up enough tricks of the trade to confidently do her own makeup for everyday sometimes.

"She likes to just do it herself, and run out and not feel overdone," says her mentor.

• For Amber D's tips on how to get the Lorde look, see viva.co.nz tomorrow.

- VIVA

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