Traditionally, the "B-side" refers to the flip-side of a record. The A-side contains the more front-facing hits; the singles—but on the B-side, you can get in a bit deeper with the artist. And quite honestly, there's no better metaphor I can think of for the creative team behind a beauty look. They pull the references, scour the archives, and paint the picture you see on the big screen. The celebrity, model, or actor is the single with the most air time. But the glam team? They're the producers, conductors, friends, and family. For lack of a less ubiquitous phrase, they make it work.
It has always been our mission to shine a light on the BTS of beauty, as the artistry of hair and makeup is an intricate, detailed exploration at the cross-section of aesthetics and culture. Why? Because the origin of a look is just as important as the look itself. The backstory deserves its own hard-earned glory.
This time around, we're introducing you to Martin-Christopher Harper (or Marty, to those in the know)—the mastermind behind the hair looks for Byrdie's winter issue, New Beginnings, featuring Halsey. In fact, Halsey did her own makeup for the shoot. Below, join us in taking a peek behind the curtain with Halsey and Harper, as their advice and beauty musings are poetic and humbling in equal measure.
Hair: Martin-Christopher Harper
"I started working with Halsey a little over a year ago," Harper says. "We really connected—and it's been a journey since. It's a nice little marriage and it's very beautiful to work with and collaborate with such an amazing artist." In fact, Harper says the most fascinating and lovable thing about working with Halsey—though he calls her by her given name, Ashley—is her ability to collaborate. "She's amazing artist—not only as a singer, but in poetry, painting, and makeup. Her creativity is very well-rounded." It's that reason they click so well, as Harper doesn't only focus on hair. It's the whole thing; the many facets of creation they're both interested in. "There's such beautiful inertia between us," Harper explains. "Together, we've been able to push her look and create her signatures."
The shoot's first hairstyle was meant to complement the makeup. It's an ashy-lavender shade with dimension; catch it from a different angle and it'll look pink, gray, or blonde. "We wanted something quite mute to align with the makeup, but not take away from it," Harper says. "When you look at it, it makes sense as a whole," he says. "If you were to do hair that was really bright, long, or big, it would take the focus away from the makeup."
The second hairstyle, the one so beautifully displayed on the cover of the digital issue, is Halsey's simple buzz cut. Not much is needed to style it (a plus every morning, I can imagine) and it offers a look no matter what. It feels like Halsey; raw and beautiful at once.
In fact, it reminds Harper of his favorite memory with Halsey. "It was a torrential downpour," he tells me. "We had to try to find a way to create a look that would actually withstand the weather." With all the challenges of the day, Harper has one stand-out association—the beautiful experience of watching Halsey "sing it out, work through the weather, and stun everyone." "She did it, and she always bodies it," he says with palpable admiration.
Halsey first began doing her own makeup out of necessity. "When I first started out, I was signed to a boutique label out of New York City that didn’t have budget for me to get glammed up," she explains. "It was primarily male DJs and dance artists signed to the label, and I came along with my hands in the air wondering, 'Where is my makeup budget?' And they didn’t have one. So, I went around collecting all of my favorite products from drugstores and learned how to do a full face of stage-ready makeup when I was 19 years old."
As she became more cemented in her career, Halsey began working with incredible makeup artists in the industry. "We had so much in common and we loved talking about makeup," she explains, "but I felt like my face didn’t look like my face unless I was doing the makeup myself." So, while she was promoting her second album, she started doing her own makeup again.
"I did red carpets, music videos, magazine cover shoots, and even special effects for some things—whether it was blood, cuts, or bruises," she says. In fact, she loved it so much it became meditative, almost necessary, for her before hitting the stage. "It was the only time before a show when I got to be alone," she tells me. "I could sit in the dressing room—just me and the mirror—and decide what I wanted my face to look like that night." The time allowed her to hone her craft, yes, but it also offered reprieve for her to think about what she wanted to accomplish on stage and what she might say to the audience. "I really just got to be in my element and alone with myself, which I needed more than anything. I could pump myself up if I was having a hard day. I could get myself in the mood with some crazy music and try a new look because I was feeling brave," she explains.
"Makeup became tangential to some of the greatest loves of her life," she declares. She notes that she uses it in tandem with all of her favorite things, whether it’s acting, music, or performing. "It helps me prepare to be the best version of myself," she says. "I love it because even though Halsey gets to be in front of the whole world, Ashley is the makeup artist in private." Halsey considers herself as a full-fledged professional makeup artist, which includes the not-so-glamorous side of makeup artistry. "I show up to all of my shoots, and I set up my kit. I wash my brushes late at night at 1 in the morning when I get home, and I’m tired from being on my feet all day. And pack it up and send it on the plane," she says.
She credits this quiet alone time for keeping her grounded. "It makes it so I get to keep a little piece of myself every day, even when I show up to work," she explains in a way that makes me get it. The person I am at work isn't always the same as the one I am behind closed doors. We end our interview and I can finally see Halsey as a multidimensional person. Someone who needs to feel normal as much as she needs the rush of the crowd. Celebrity is confusing, but it seems she has it figured out.