Back in July, we reported on Brit makeup brand Illamasqua collaborating with a London funeral home to provide glam looks for the afterlife. Well, it’s not really as nutty a concept as it originally appeared. More magazine had a pretty fascinating article this month about women who become funeral directors. While I learned a lot about the industry, and about how you have to be a sort of chemist/social worker/hair stylist to do the job, the bits about the cosmetology really caught my attention. To further pique my curiosity, The Beheld just did an interview this week with a female mortician, with equally fascinating insights into death and beauty.
People really want their loved ones to look the way they remember them in real life. One woman in the More feature remembered that she was so upset by how her father looked at his wake that she re-did his makeup herself. Realizing what kind of makeup is appropriate for a 90-year-old vs. a 25-year-old or how to do winged liner (yes, cat eye requests happen) is actually pretty important: it’s a last statement to the world.
So what happens after you die, in a traditional western funeral parlor/wake scenario? Well, you’re embalmed, which dries the heck out of your skin, and it can also turn skin grey and ashy. Not really a good look. Darla Tripoli, featured in the More piece, swears by airbrush cosmetics, because they don’t rub off. Daniella Marcantoni tells The Beheld that she uses massage cream on everyone, then something called Glow Tint, which basically makes the skin look, erm, more alive. After that, you can pretty much do anything, from color to a “natural look.” These ladies get pretty good at figuring out how the deceased looked in real life. If she’s got tinted eyebrows and big fake nails, chances are the gal didn’t shy away from a bold eye.
Two things ran through my head as I was processing all this: first of all, I really need to pull together my death outfit and makeup look and put it all in writing, with strict instructions. If I have to rely on my family choosing that for me, I’m in big trouble. Second of all, I was pretty touched by the dedication these women have to making things easier for grieving families–appearance is a big part of this. Marcantoni, who previously did makeup for weddings and proms, said, “A girl going to senior prom can do her own makeup. But a grandma who passed away from cancer who couldn’t help herself for six months—her hair has grown out, her eyebrows are grown out, her moustache is showing. I feel like it’s my responsibility to really make her look her best, so when her family sees her they’ll be like, ‘Oh, I’m so glad my mom doesn’t look like she’s had cancer for the past six months.’” Such is the power of makeup in the right hands.