How Kiki DeVille became Elizabeth Taylor

Kiki DeVille

One of the most inspiring makeup books I’ve ever owned is the late Kevyn Aucoin’s Face Forward which contains page after page of carefully and artfully reconstructed iconic movie star images with other famous faces stepping in to be transformed. There is a stunning image of Gwyneth Paltrow as James Dean for example. The collection shows how skilled Aucoin was as a makeup artist, but it also inspires, as the potential for temporary transformation opens up amazing possibilities. Our work with Vintage Hair Lounge to launch a new relationship between Bésame Cosmetics and award winning Burlesque singer, Kiki DeVille, was greatly influenced by Aucoin’s ideas and so the challenge was on – to transform Kiki into Elizabeth Taylor, specifically during her role as Maggie, along side Paul Newman, in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof  in 1958.



But let us take a few steps back to tell the story of how Bésame and Kiki hooked up in the first place. Kiki has a long and impressive career as a singer and performer. Known as ‘Australia’s Sweetheart’, we are now very lucky to have Kiki in the UK, and we enjoyed millions more discovering her outstanding voice and engaging personality as she faced the judges in the BBC television The Voice UK show early in 2014. There I was, glued to the television screen and on came Kiki DeVille, with such a powerful voice that she was snapped up by Will-I-Am as a secret weapon for ‘Team Will’.

Here is a chance to relive the moment, when Will-I-Am turned round for Kiki DeVille on BBC The Voice.


Well that was a WOW moment, and by means of twitter, we were very soon talking excitedly with Kiki about making her our new Bésame Cosmetics model. With Goodwood Revival looming and a campaign to launch, it soon became inevitable that we would be embracing the vintage Hollywood theme – especially as Gabriela Hernandez was joining us in the UK this time – and what better icon to pay tribute to than the hugely talented and very feisty, Elizabeth Taylor.

We began researching, and planning, and ultimately building a small set in our Southampton based photographic studio, with brass bed and white sheets, ready for photographer Scott Chalmers to start lighting for a Hollywood movie feel. In the meantime, we’d had the opportunity to meet up with Kiki in London to do her hair and makeup for the final night of the BBC The Voice UK show, and got even more excited about the upcoming Elizabeth Taylor shoot.

Now as some of you will have immediately spotted, Elizabeth Taylor wears her hair in the 1958 film in a highly fashionable short layered set style. In other words, Kiki’s hair was nothing like it, save perhaps for the colour. Kiki’s hair was long, and there was no question of either cutting it, or using a wig. So the first step in the Elizabeth Taylor transformation was to recreate the hair…

Vintage Hair Lounge hair maestro, Gloria Holloway, began by setting Kiki’s hair in a traditional 1950s set in rollers, and then put her under the dryer. The dress out was complicated by the problem of how to get the right shape to mirror Elizabeth Taylor’s hairstyle, when Kiki’s hair was so much longer.

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Hair is dressed out by Gloria Holloway at Vintage Hair Lounge. Photo by Scott Chalmers

Gloria’s answer was to work Kiki’s hair from the nape and bring it upwards to the crown, securing it in position with hair combs. The remaining long hair on the crown was then backbrushed and crafted over the secured hair.

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Creating the 1950s hair shape. Photo by Scott Chalmers

The front of the hair was styled in the traditional ‘shampoo and set’ technique, typical of the period, and pinned into place to create the illusion that the hair was much shorter.

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Backbrushing the hair into shape. Photo by Scott Chalmers

Finally, the shape began to appear…

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Hair begins to take on the 1950s shape. Photo by Scott Chalmers

Meanwhile I had been working on Kiki’s makeup, painstakingly referring back to photographs of Elizabeth Taylor at every stage to shape and contour the face that would offer up a likeness to Elizabeth Taylor.

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Finishing touches to the Elizabeth Taylor makeup. Photo by Scott Chalmers

Due to so much highlighting and shading that would be required to subtly change the shape of Kiki’s face, I used a combination of the Bésame Soufflé foundations, mainly in Bisque, Honey and Yellow Cameo. Combining foundation tones allowed me to get more depth in to Kiki’s skin tone in the areas where it was needed, whilst maintaining a flawless complexion over all.

Before setting the makeup with powder, I used Bésame Apricot Cream Rouge to both shape and colour the cheekbones and apples of Kiki’s cheeks, which blended in beautifully and added some more warmth that would be necessary under the studio lights for photographs. More contouring was possible with combining the Cashmere Powders, using Porcelain to highlight, Medium and Dark to shade, and Light for an all over finish. Added highlight was created by using the Brightening Violet Powder under the eyes and on the very top of the cheekbones. The powder refills have magnetic bases and I use mine from a magnetic makeup palette that allows me easy access to all the colours at once. Look out for our own version of powder pro-palettes in 2015!

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Final contouring and powdering before Kiki takes to the studio floor. Photo by Scott Chalmers


I will let you in on another secret – Kiki has eyebrows so fine, that they are barely noticeable unless shaped and shaded. So when you are confronted with images of Elizabeth Taylor whose brows in themselves were iconic, it takes some ingenuity and patience to build brows worthy of an Elizabeth Taylor comparison. Step up, Bésame Cake Mascara, the best brow product I have used in over a decade of professional makeup artistry. This multi-use water activated product which replicates the Maybelline original launched in 1932, has become my must have for all professional makeups. Kiki has very dark hair so I mainly used the Black Cake Mascara, with just a hint of Brown Cake Mascara mixed in, to paint the eyebrows on little by little to match the shape favoured by Elizabeth Taylor. Once the brows were on, it began to feel a little more that Hollywood was in the room. Using the Cake Mascara to line and shape the eyes was also part of the process of getting the Elizabeth Taylor style. Although Bésame do not currently stock eyeshadows, Gabriela has been continually working on formulations and colours, and it was a joy for this shoot to be able to experiment with the vintage greens and browns that are in development.

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Experimenting with lip colours. Photo by Scott Chalmers

The hardest part of the makeup was actually the lips, because although Bésame’s range of lip stick shades are sublime, every picture of Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof  I looked at had a different colour tone to it, making getting the lip colour right quite an elusive pursuit! In the end, we decided to experiment with Tango Red and Carmine, depending on how the lighting on set was shaping up. That experience has most certainly left us with some new ideas for 1950s lip colours!

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Double take. Is that Elizabeth Taylor in the makeup chair? Photo by Scott Chalmers

And so on to the set Kiki went, which was actually the bed, meaning that after 4 hours in the hair and makeup chair, we could at least offer her a lie down. A true diva paying tribute to a true icon. As Scott Chalmers’ wonderful photographs show, Bésame most certainly played its part in turning Kiki DeVille into Elizabeth Taylor. Thankyou to everyone involved, and thankyou to the greatly missed Kevyn Aucoin for his inspiration.


Kiki DeVille as Elizabeth Taylor. Photo by Scott Chalmers

kiki by Scott

Kiki DeVille as Elizabeth Taylor by Scott Chalmers

Featured image by Scott Chalmers

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