Behind House of Gucci's Beauty Looks: Tattoo Cover-Ups, Prosthetics, and Perms, Perms, Perms
On one particular day, when Lady Gaga spun her makeup chair around, she caught a glimpse in the mirror. It had been two, maybe three hours, and she looked intentionally tired. It wasn't just her lips, thinned out with concealer, or the wrinkles drawn on with precision. Earlier, her many tattoos had been covered up, and a wig — one of 10 she wore throughout the film — had been laid. She was ready. "Oh my god," she said to her hairstylist Frederic Aspiras. "This is almost . . . creepy."
It was during those nine months of filming the newly released House of Gucci that Lady Gaga became Patrizia Reggiani, the glamorous socialite charged with arranging the murder of her husband and Gucci fashion heir Maurizio Gucci, in 1997. "She transformed before my eyes," Aspiras told POPSUGAR. "As soon as we put on that wig, it was like hitting the play button."
"As soon as we put on that wig, it was like hitting the play button."
The film, by nature of most biopics, required meticulous planning and research deep into the archives — of wedding photos, past interviews, documentaries — by the cast and crew to ensure each character's most accurate portrayal. Lady Gaga, for example, had "over 50 different looks in the movie," said her makeup artist Sarah Tanno, that followed her character from the 70s through the 90s. "The prep work started way before the film," she added. "She would do fittings with [the film's stylist], and Frederic and I would be trying on [wigs] or throwing on makeup with her looks and taking notes."
Yet, Lady Gaga served only one piece of the transformation pie in the amalgamation of House of Gucci beauty looks. In fact, the movie's hair and makeup team put in countless hours to transform the entire cast into the real-life Gucci family and acquaintances, including a decidedly unrecognizable Jared Leto. There were tattoo cover-ups! Chin prosthetics! Enough perms to fill a marble bathtub in (one of) their Italian mansion!
Keep reading as Aspiras, Tanno, and makeup department head Jana Carboni break down the behind-the-scenes beauty secrets — from all the bronzing products they went through on set to the hidden detail to look out for with Lady Gaga's hair color — ahead. Just be forewarned: unlike the story's fateful ending, these secrets are dangerously good.
The Strategy Behind Lady Gaga's House of Gucci's Wardrobe Tests
As Tanno put it, doing the prep work before filming was "really a masterclass in accuracy" — especially when it came to the inevitable tattoo cover-up required for Lady Gaga's transformation.
"Because she has so many tattoos, during the fitting, I would make note of what part of her skin would show [for each] outfit so then that way I don't waste time sitting in the makeup chair before filming," she said. "[Director Ridley Scott] shoots very fast, and sometimes completely out of order depending on the location — in any given day, she would be 40 years old in the morning, and then have to go back to being 25 — so we had to be prepared. Figuring out what tattoos were necessary to cover up and which weren't was really an art to making the schedule work."
This, as you can imagine, was no easy feat considering the sheer volume of body art. To help, the makeup team relied on the pro-favorite Skin Illustrator FX Palette ($76) to conceal all that ink, which is alcohol-based and heavily pigmented for easy cover-up.
"You start by canceling out the tattoos with an orange base all over the body, and then I would go in with something called Jordane ($55), a tattoo cover-up that you'd stipple that on," she said. "Then you have to use powder to seal it, and then spray a sealer on it. And she has so many. Then you're touching it up, and it has to look perfectly smooth, but then it rubs against the clothes. It's such a thing. I said to her, 'Your next role, I hope you're Catwoman or something, where you're in a cat suit the whole time. Because . . ."
How the Film's Makeup Evolution Told a Powerful Story
As art imitates life, so does the makeup in House of Gucci. "With Gucci, because of the matter of the movie, we went quite big," said Carboni. "The makeup was very bold, because so much of the times was all about bold makeup, and also this is Gucci. We pushed our boundaries."
Yet, it also told a story. For Lady Gaga, Patrizia Reggiani's makeup evolved with the decades as her status within the Gucci family pulsed. "We had to take her character through multiple decades," said Tanno. "There was graduation of the type of makeup and the style, whether it was the shape of the eye that reflected the era or the lipstick. Something that was difficult to find with modern textures was the finish. All of the makeup back then had a velvet finish without a heavy pearl. It was really important to mimic these textures."
That's where the new Haus Labs Casa Gaga Italian Glam Collection came in. The entire lineup is a love letter to Italian culture — as Lady Gaga said in a press release, "There's glam, then there's Italian Glam" — which was used throughout the movie.
Carboni also focused on textures for the rest of the cast. "In the 70s, I used a lot of gloss because it was all about dewy skin and shiny lips. Then in the 80s, we went for more matte effect, so it was less translucent. In the 2000s, it was that sun-kissed look with messy, shaggy hair and nude lips." (They used a handful of neutral shades from Charlotte Tilbury's Matte Revolution Super Nudes Lipstick Collection ($34 each).)
What Went Into Jared Leto's Transformation Into Paolo Gucci
One of the film's biggest transformations goes to Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci — and, if you've seen the actor in Dallas Buyer's Club or Little Things, you know he's not afraid to fully commit to a look — which was indisputably the character that spent the longest in the makeup chair.
"Between everything, from the costume to the prosthetics to the makeup, it would take anywhere from three to five hours, depending on the day," said Carboni. "We realized he would need a lot of prosthetics work for Jared early on, so decided to bring in [prosthetics designer] Göran Lundström who was just dedicated to him. He worked endless hours with his team to make him look as similar to the real Paolo, who was older and more round. He designed all the things — a bald cap, prosthetics to create a thicker nose, cheeks, even his neck — so it's full-on prosthetic, but the amazing thing is you really couldn't tell. It looked very realistic."
The Many Wigs of Patrizia Reggiani
As you could probably glean from Lady Gaga's most recent red carpet appearances, she didn't dye her hair in real life; rather, the wide range of styles and deep brunette color came in the form of many wigs — the byproduct of Aspiras's creativity.
"I spent six months doing the forensics of hairstyles for 10 wigs," he said. "Then, before filming, when we were doing all the screen tests and whatnot, I came prepared with all 10 hero wigs — a new hairstyle for every major scene — and Ridley [Scott] said, 'Oh, you know what? We only need two wigs.' We move too fast, it's hard to pace them."
In the end, Scott changed his mind (although Aspiras did have to convince him before every scene and check in on how each style translated on screen) and as such, Lady Gaga wore all 10 wigs throughout the movie — and it ended up being the finishing touch that helped get her into character, and "the most gratifying thing as a hairdresser" to see.
"Do you know how nail-biting that was? In the early '80s when she had that big perm moment, when she says, 'Father, son, and the House of Gucci,' that almost didn't happen. But I am truly honored that [Scott] respected and he trusted me to live out my hairstyling fantasies."
The 1 Product the Makeup Team Went Through the Fastest: Bronzer
According to Carboni, there was one unifying goal with the makeup that reflected what she calls the "Gucci mood," and that was creating a "sun-kissed Italian look that was bronzed and tan." It's why they zipped through warm and glow-y base makeup, fast, and self-tanner on set.
"For the men, I used a lot of the Chanel Boy de Chanel Foundation ($55) as a makeup base, and of course we used the warmest color. Then, my favorite product to give that subtle tan is the Tom Ford Bronzing Gel ($57). I use that on top of the makeup and it gives a kind of sheer and translucent effect, so it's not cake-y, because making someone look tanned without making it look [fake] is the key."
Carboni rotated between a handful of other bronzing products — from NARS Bronzer Powder in Laguna or Casino ($38) to Surratt Beauty Dew Drop Foundation ($75) to Trish McEvoy's Beauty Balm ($87) — depending on each cast member's skin type and undertone, layered meticulously for the most natural-unnatural-looking effect.
Why Lady Gaga's Hair Color Changed Throughout House of Gucci
While Lady Gaga's makeup evolved through each era in the film, her hair color played a crucial role in indicating her status at any given moment. In the beginning, for example, it was meant to look like she could have done it herself.
"For her as a young woman, she was not yet part of the Gucci dynasty, so she wouldn't be able to afford to go to a very high-end salon or have a hairstylist and we wanted the color to reflect that," said Aspiras. "Most likely, she would have done her own hair at home, because she lived at home. And she worked for her family, so it had to be a color that was pretty rich and natural, without any highlights or any type of color services. Back then, there was no balayage and whatnot, so we had to stay just almost beautiful virgin brown hair."
As the years went on, and as Patrizia gained access to money and power, her hair color would eventually go on to become indicative of the trends at the time — all created with Joico pro hair color. (Aspiras is an ambassador for the brand.)
"These were all subtle [hair color] changes that contributed to the character, her emotional state, where she was in her life, her status."
"For instance, the 80s was when she moved into more of a power look because she was now married into the Gucci dynasty. Back then they got their hair colored in this really rich, shiny, near-black color. These were all subtle changes that contributed to the character, her emotional state, where she was in her life, her status. We went from beautiful, shiny brown, well-kept hair, to by the end of the movie, it was dry and fried, short, and she looked like she gelled it back herself, showing her almost unhinged state."
(It's worth noting that in the aforementioned era, it wasn't just the color that screamed "power" — it was also Lady Gaga's perm. That, "Father, son, and the House of Gucci" perm. "The look wasn't about having the ringlets, but rather the frizz and curls," he said. "We would style with mousse and water to change the integrity of the curl, then brush it out. [Lady Gaga] kept saying, 'Ugh! This is ugly,' and I would say, 'Oh, it's tragic, but that was the look.'"
House of Gucci officially hit theaters Nov. 24.