Mary Greenwell has had an impressive career working with the world’s most iconic and influential women. Her influence on the beauty industry is undisputed. A legend of her time. If there is anyone to talk beauty with, it’s Mary Greenwell. Welcome our new contributing beauty Editor.
Something about Mary…
At 17, Mary waved goodbye to her parents in New York at the end of a family trip. ‘I travelled to Denver with some friends, in a bid to get to L.A. I hated this first leg of my adventure. I cried every day. I called a friend in L.A., who knew the President of the MGM hotel, Denver. She organised a room there for me for three nights to get myself together and make a grand plan.’
Mary placed a notice in a local health store, in a bid to find a ride to L.A. ‘I got a response from a sweet enough guy with a VERY COOL white VW van. I was innocently ignorant, he was charming and just like that we set off, picking up holy-joes along the way and living out my ultimate hippie dream.’
The trip to L.A. included a few memorable events, ‘We were on the road, spliffs flowing freely. It was my turn to drive and all of a sudden, blue flashing lights, the police! I only had a provisional license which I hoped the policemen wouldn’t recognise. Sadly they did. I was driving illegally. They wanted to keep me back for the weekend to face the judge on Monday. I cried dramatically and said – please, you can’t arrest me, I need to get to LA…’
Mary was spared a weekend in a cell and instead the police escorted Mary and her friends straight to the judges house, where she relayed her tale to the judge and his wife. The couple took sympathy and they decided to let Mary head off giving her $500 to get to California quickly and safely. ‘The world was a gentler place in the 70s, but that was an act of pure kindness that has always stuck with me.’
In L.A., Mary waited tables and worked ‘the door’, mingling with Hollywood royalty. A friend invited Mary to work at the infamous department store Fiorucci for Il Makiage, the make-up line of respected make-up artist Ilanna Harkavi. ‘I knew nothing about make-up, I never wore a scrap.’
After just three weeks, Ilanna asked Mary to assist her on a shoot. ‘On the shoot, Ilana asked me to do the make-up (on Brooke Shields). I was so nervous, I didn’t know what I was doing. Ilana had given me my only lesson in make-up.’ Ilana loved Mary’s work and as they say, the rest is history.
During her career Mary has worked with the world’s most noted photographers of the time, including Patrick Demarchelier, Paolo Roversi and Peter Lindbergh; travelling between the fashion capitals for editorial shoots. ‘The industry was small, we all worked so hard and we partied too. We’d flit from Tokyo, Milan, Paris, London, L.A., New York. It was the time of the supermodel and there was a real intimacy between us all, we all grew up together, everything was fresh and new and exciting.’
Mary has worked with fashion’s great tastemakers, Grace Coddington and Liz Tilberis and on some of the most memorable magazine covers for Vogue (Italia, UK, USA). Vogue Editor and Stylist Anna Harvey introduced Mary to Diana, Princess of Wales.‘I feel so blessed to have been in her company for so many years. Diana was a wonderfully kind, sensitive and generous person, she literally lit up a room’.
Mary has continued to be the ‘must-have’ make-up artist for celebrities and she continues to travel the world for clients such as Amanda Seyfried, Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth Debbicki, Jessica Chastain, Lily James, defining the essence of a celebrity make-up artist.
MG on life:
Love thy neighbour, be true to yourself and be opinionated as you like as long as it comes with a place of heart. I think it’s really important to share; whether it is your time, your finances or your knowledge – just share it all.
MG on make-up:
The best way to apply make-up is with your hands. The warmth of the fingertips smooths the foundation evenly on to the face.
Good make-up starts with good skin. One of the most important things to do is to still wear your sunblock – I love La Roche-Posay. Dermatologists say UV skin protection is a year-round commitment, even your phone and office lighting providing harmful UV rays.
The technology behind every brand today is quite extraordinary. Every brand is doing something amazing, but if you look after your skin you’re going to look gorgeous.
MG on trends for spring:
I don’t believe in trends, looks come and go, but I am enjoying the vibrant phase we are in right now. You can have fun. You can do whatever you want… there is nothing stopping you! HAVE FUN.