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Beth Ditto, Musician

Beth Ditto
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Beth Ditto
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Beth Ditto
Beth Ditto
Beth Ditto
Beth Ditto
Beth Ditto
Beth Ditto
Beth Ditto
Beth Ditto
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“Drawing on the Madonna mole with my mom’s mascara was my introduction to beauty—trying to make it look really perfect and not too big. I fucking love makeup; it’s not even a joke. When I get in a room with Andrew [Gallimore], my makeup artist, watch out. I grew up around big-haired, smoking women—that was the South—but my mother wasn’t one of them. She always had really simple hair, really natural. She never wore makeup—I think that’s where I get it. We don’t really wear foundation on our face. We’ve both been really lucky with our skin. I just use Yon-Ka toner; it’s the best thing you’ll ever use in your life. But I love a lot of eye makeup, just a lot of gaudy shit on my eyes. Eyeliner, I think, is my forte: black, cat-eye, under-the-eye. For everyday I’ll do Diorshow mascara, and I always line my eyebrows with MAC Stud pencil.

I really enjoyed the whole Southern beauty thing—I probably had big bangs for way too long because I loved doing it so much, huge bangs. Sometimes I would put Sun-In in. And then the Kool-Aid thing came along. I tell you what—I was really good at doing Kool-Aid in my hair, ‘cause other kids were actually trying to pour it in their hair when it was watered down, but I would mix it with Noxzema so it was really concentrated, and then put it on. I would Sun-In my hair first, and then I would put two packets of red Kool-Aid into a little thing of Noxzema and put that on my hair and let it dry. I got mildly made fun of, but not as much as my bandmates did. [Our guitarist] Nathan [Howdeshell] would wear three-piece suits in the middle of August in Arkansas. Like, it would be 110 degrees, and—no shit—he’d be wearing a full-on polyester suit with dog chains around his neck and really thick Buddy Holly glasses. He stuck out like a sore thumb. My bandmates would do races to out-gross each other, to be the punkest one. Jocks would spit food at them, and then they would pick the food up off the ground and eat it.

In high school, I hardly ever wore makeup, ever. I had black hair—or, I’d have orange roots and black hair, ‘cause it was so hard to bleach your hair out—and just jeans and a T-shirt. I wore the same hoodie everyday my senior year—every single day. I was a self-identified feminist, but I didn’t understand the varying degrees of feminism...how you could be girly and love makeup but still be a ‘feminist.’ I was always really good at eyeliner and loved makeup, even if I didn’t wear it myself. Popular girls would be like, ‘Could you come over and do my hair for prom?’ And then at school we didn’t talk at all. [Laughs] Even my sister would say, ‘Teach me how to do that French Twist thing!’ Remember in the nineties, the pre- Friends era, the French Twist with the little tendril thing? I brought that to Gibsonia [Arkansas]. I was that girl who’d be like, ‘Can I please do your hair?’

And then I learned that I was a femme lesbian, and I thought, ‘Oh, actually…’ It’s been more empowering for me to be this way, because back then, I was really denying myself the things that I loved. I was learning about different genders, too. It’s not just binary, not just ‘boy’ or ‘girl.’ I hope I’m always changing; I hope I’m always getting inspired and learning, and trying different things out, giving things a chance.

For my MAC collection, I basically created all the things I’ve wanted over the years. When I had orange hair, all I wanted was a really nice orange lip pencil, so I made [the color] Entertain Me. This is my favorite: Shade & Smoke shadow liner, which has a different color on each end. Naming everything was the funnest part, to be honest. Lots of Beth puns—Beth and death, Beth and breath—so there was a lot of that, but it’s just like writing words to songs. I’m touring now, and I think the people in London look amazing all the time. You can tell you’re in a store in London: things are just a little brighter, a little crazier. It’s just different style, so much different than America, or Germany, or France—even Japan. And I love mod. I love bouffants, bobs—I don’t think you can ever go wrong ever with a bob. My friend Lyndell [Mansfield] taught me to never do retro to a T; you should always do it in your own way. Remember before the word retro? No one said that when I was a kid. My dream look is flats, pedal pushers, a nice top, and a black bob—I think that is the best thing in the world, for me.

Being a big person—being a fat girl in this world—is really awesome. It feels good to be myself. I think it’s a special position to be in, and it’s given me a lot of perspective into people’s opinions and how they interpret things. I know when something is my problem or someone else’s. It’s this whole element of therapy that you get for free where you’re like, ‘Is this a social problem or is this my problem? Is this a social epidemic or is this my epidemic?’ You learn a lot about yourself. Words don’t bother me; intentions do. Now there’s this weird thing with Karl Lagerfeld, which I literally just learned about an hour ago—people are like, ‘So you called him old and skinny?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, what is he? Young and fat? He’s not.’ [Laughs] I have no desire to stay super-thin, super-perfect. And when I grow up, I want to look like Patti Smith, that’s how I feel exactly. Mustache and everything, that sounds great.”

Beth Ditto photographed by Emily Weiss pre-performance at MADE, Berlin on June 5th 2012. Ditto's makeup collection is available online and in-store now. Travel and accommodations provided by MAC.