I adore Donald Simrock. He and I first met backstage at Dolce & Gabbana’s runway show. Donald not only had me in stitches, laughing the entire hour we worked together, my tired and dull skin, after weeks of long hours working the runways combined with poor nutrition, came back to life and radiated. He was gifted, kind and insightful, honest and hilarious. He didn’t just apply makeup, he transformed me.
You better believe I paid attention to him after that experience. It was obvious to me that Donald was not only talented, he was gifted.
When Donald moved to Los Angeles, I stayed in contact and we developed a friendship. One that I hold dear.
I’ve always wanted to interview Donald and find out more about his process. I’ve never met another makeup artist who works harder than Donald works off set. He and I have gone on countless trips to the 99 cent store and other odd markets to purchase makeup and research materials. I sit in his house and go through every book on file to see what he’s marked up and what he’s currently drawing from for inspiration. Donald simply doesn’t stop creating and coming up with concepts to execute. And, like most artists of substance, he has a generosity of spirit that is palatable when you enter the room.
Craig Palmer, The Cultural Omnivore, and I sent our questions and Donald answered…
You work across various platforms: magazines, music video, runway and the red carpet. What is your preferred platform and why?
I think one of the perks to this occupation is that you have the ability to slide in and out of all of these different environments: A constantly morphing “office”, with new faces, and different experiences to take on each time. Really, they all have great qualities. Rather than having a preferred platform it’s more about a preferred situation for me. That would be any time there is creative freedom involved.
I produce one or more shoots for each issue based on its content. I keep a finger on the pulse of the beauty trends and follow beauty companies with their newest creations. It’s a lot of fun!
Your work has been nominated for best makeup at the MTV Video Music Awards. Do you have aspirations to branch out into film like your former mentor, Pat McGrath, who created Rooney Mara’s look for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?
While I’m not mapping out a plan to blaze into the film industry, I would be willing to take on the challenge. It’s a completely different machine. Pat did, as she always does, an incredible job leaving her mark in history yet again.
I was brought on initially by her management to establish a solid look for Gaga. Sort of a “polishing” to get the ball rolling. We worked together and she was always very trusting. It was a lot of fun to talk about the game plan with her before each project. She has worked very hard to get where she is now. It’s pretty amazing actually.
Honesty, confidence, compassion and diligence reveal true beauty for me.
Advertisers are slowly acknowledging the economic power of older women and catering their advertising as such. What do you think about the West’s preoccupation with youth?
Advertising plays a major role in creating the ideals of beauty. We live in a world where breast impants and botox injections are common among teenagers and plastic surgeons have payment plans. I would say that advertisers are fully aware of who has the greater economic power [women] and advertise accordingly. A younger, successful looking woman in an advert appeals to both a younger market as well as the more mature market for different reasons. Kind of killing two birds with one stone, if you will.
What are your influences and how do you incorporate them into your work?
I tend to be influenced by all kinds of things: art, nature, history, architecture, culture, you name it. The fun part is figuring out ways to translate them into another context like make up. The possibilities are endless.
You learn the mechanics of your industry, you become more efficient, more informed and continue to grow throughout. It’s a constant state of evolution, a work in progress.
It all starts with what you put in your body. Eat clean and drink lots of water. Keep it simple. Moisturize well before putting any product on. Make sure to match your foundation and concealer properly. Work in thin layers rather than coating your face all at once. Some of my absolute favorite companies are M.A.C, Tom Ford, Temptu, Lancome, Urban Decay, Yves St. Laurent and Embryolisse.
It’s fun to use unconventional items for make up. A jar of poppy seeds, a piece of string, or a sheet of plastic definitely have the possibility of becoming “makeup”. The challenge comes in finding the best way to apply these kinds of items and how to display them effectively. Sometimes the intent is to make the item blend in; to actually belong there. Sometimes you want to make a statement and be more bold. Variety is the spice of life.