Hello, Dames Nation. Sophie and Margaret are off this week and I hope they are getting some REST but I bet they’re working hard and putting still more amazing work out into the world as per usual. I’m going to talk about Way Bandy, makeup artist to the stars of the ‘70s and ‘80s, for a while and I hope you’ll join me.
I’ve been thinking about Way Bandy a lot lately. I first learned about him when my mom took his books Designing Your Face: An Illustrated Guide To Using Cosmetics (1977) and Styling Your Face: An Illustrated Guide To 15 Cosmetic Face Designs For Men and Women (1982) out of the library when I was very small. (They are now both out of print and it’s a DISGRACE!) I was always into makeup and here were books that were all about makeup AND used cute, compelling illustrations to boot. It was a dream come true and I spent a long time pouring through them.
In the ‘90s, Kevyn Aucoin became all the rage and his books The Art of Makeup, Face Forward, and Making Faces thrilled me and immediately reminded me of the beloved Way Bandy books of my youth. Indeed, Way was a hero of Kevyn’s and boy does it show. Kevyn Aucoin may have brought discussions of contouring into the mainstream, which today is de rigueur for many makeup wearers, somehow, bless, but Way Bandy was the contour king. You can see for yourself, as Designing Your Face is available at the Internet Archive. It’s so good, friends. You can just disassociate and gaze at the illustrations, as I’ve been doing for a good portion of my life.
I recommend reading, too, though. Way Bandy is funny and weird and charming and extremely heightened in every way. The acknowledgements are inspirational:
“I was bored for most of my youth and because I tried to do not only what was expected of me but also many other things I did not enjoy. One day I realized that when you do something with your whole being simply because you love to do it, you experience life as it should be lived.”
Indeed, Way Bandy was born Ronald Duane Wright in Birmingham, Alabama in 1941. He loved to read, sew, play the piano, and look at pictures of stars in movie magazines. He started painting portraits of them and redoing their makeup, which grew into his interest in actual makeup. By the time he moved to New York in 1966 he had been married and separated, undergone plastic surgery, quit his job as an English teacher, and changed his name. He completely reinvented himself and became the person who wrote in the introduction of Designing Your Face: “Run to the nearest instant photo machine and take all the angles of your face. Splurge! Spend a couple of bucks and get a good harsh look—you may have more assets then you expected. Also have an enemy (not a sweet friend) take instant close-up photographs of your face from all angles.” I mean, what the actual hell, Way, but also I love it? Get your enemy to take your picture!
The world Way moved in was exciting and glamorous and fun but it was also a bit of a horror show. I just watched this fascinating clip of the 1981 documentary Beautiful, Baby, Beautiful! [I know!] in which he does a model’s makeup. The voice over refers to this as a “painful privilege” as Moog-y scifi music drones along in the background under Way purring “You’re so good, I know this hurts.” At the end, a hair stylist comes in and laughingly announces “Well, you’ve taken a perfectly pretty girl and turned her into a painted hussy!” to which Way scoffs “No, she rather likes it.” Does she?! We have no idea—she remains silent, only replying “No” when she photographer asks her if she knows what a racehorse is. At any rate, at this point Way was making $1,000 per makeup application and would eventually charge $2,000.
He also championed men wearing makeup, which was another Bandy-ism taken up by Kevyn Aucoin. Not only does Styling Your Face contain four looks for men, he wore it himself. [These are taken from my own prized copy of Styling Your Face; sorry for the wonkiness!]
A 1979 article from the Gadsden Times noted “his long black eyelashes (slightly mascaraed?) refuse to blink like other people’s but dip slowly like a butterfly’s wings to brush the lower lashes (slightly underlined?).” More importantly, this article covers how he really invented the modern version of a makeup artist. He explains to the reporter that it had been commonplace for New York models to do their own makeup for commercials and print ads before he came along and “perfected the concept and technique of makeup application.” His techniques hold up. Fifteen years ago I would have though the contouring was completely over the top, but while I don’t contour, I know how it works and so does anyone with a passing interest in makeup at this point. The only currently mainstream technique he thought was too over the top were false eyelashes for day to day where and, well, Way, lashes are WILD now.
Way Bandy died of AIDS-related pneumonia in 1986, just four days after his 45th birthday. He was a pioneer once more in that he insisted his obituary list his cause of death as AIDS. This was so unusual at the time that the Washington Post went so far as to write about his death with the headline “Death and the AIDS Disclosure.” The article includes a statement from Nancy Reagan’s press secretary, as there was “concern” about the fact that he had done the then First Lady’s makeup a few weeks prior: “Maybe he was with her 15 minutes. She uses very little makeup [LOL]… She knows there was nothing more than a handshake. And we've all been told by the medical community that you can't contract the disease that way.” Fucked up, right, particularly considering how her husband and his bullshit administration ignored AIDS as hard as they could. His friend and executor Maury Hopson noted, “We knew what Way's wishes were about disclosing the nature of your illness if it helps saves lives…His death was so wondrous and so joyous in a way. He died in a very courageous way and with great dignity. There should be no reason for anyone dying in shame because their body fell apart on them.”
You can see a bunch of his work at The Glam Squad Files by NZINGHA.
This is a good article from AnOther by Hannah Tindle.
Here’s Wayne Goss talking about Designing Your Face.
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I was just coming here to say that Wayne Goss (who is an angel) loves Way Bandy, as do I. While I am horrible with makeup application, I never tire of looking at photos of people who can do it naturally, and do it well. Your face should be enhanced, not covered up, and Way Bandy was my first introduction to that.
Loved this! Thank you for introducing me to this icon!