Look Back on Carmen Electra’s Bombshell Evolution

Carmen Electra recently celebrated her 43rd birthday, to which we had only one reaction: “WHAT?!” If you grew up anywhere near the ’90s and 2000s, you likely remember Carmen for heating up the screen on Baywatch and Singled Out and inspiring your love of low-rise jeans, crop tops, and trucker hats.

Tabloid in long-form, Anger details the scandals of Tinseltown’s very first stars (including Rudolph Valentino, Roscoe Arbuckle, and Clara Bow) against the backdrop of a city charged by rampant debauchery and high glamour.

Whereas Hollywood Babylon deals mostly with the era’s nightlife, the workday habits of early film stars were pretty wild too. For our purposes, it’s all about the prep. Hence a little history lesson today, particularly about how one might get ready for a period moving picture.

Early movies were shot on orthochromatic film, which was not sensitive to yellow-red wavelengths (so colors on that end of the spectrum became almost black). Blue and purple tones, in turn, showed up pale and whitish. The unfortunate on-screen effects of this were myriad—actors with ruddy skin looked dirty, and blue eyes would turn blank and spooky. The latter pitfall almost foiled the ambitions of eventual Academy Award winner Norma Shearer when she was told by D.W. Griffith, The Birth of a Nation director, that her eyes were “far too blue” to have any success in cinema.

In order to create an impactful (and hopefully, natural) look under such conditions in the 1910s and ’20s, most actors were tasked with applying their own makeup (A common press photo set-up was very Top Shelf-like and featured the starlet at her vanity.), and studios would distribute guides for proper use of color. Blue-toned greasepaint was applied as a foundation and contouring shade, while lips were painted yellow. In real life, actors must have looked truly bizarre when they arrived at the studio. Early greasepaint was texturally problematic. Since it was applied with a heavy hand, the surface layer would often crack when the actor’s expression changed (not great for a medium that relied so heavily on overly dramatic, silent expression). It could also be hazardous—as was in the case of Dolores Costello (Drew Barrymore’s paternal grandmother), whose complexion and career were both damaged beyond repair by early film makeup. In 1914, Max Factor, a wig and cosmetic shop owner in Los Angeles, developed a solution in the form of Flexible Greasepaint. After its invention, he became the most sought-after makeup artist in Hollywood and the leading figure in cosmetic development for the industry.

Factor’s personalized approach to makeup artistry cemented a few specific, studio-endorsed “looks.” For Clara Bow, he drew her sharply peaked cupid’s bow; Joan Crawford’s signature “smeared” lip (extending far beyond her natural line) assuaged the actress’ thin-lipped insecurities and was all thanks to Factor. Industry standards also required actors’ eyes to look deep-set and moody by shadowing them from lash line to socket, and eyebrows were drawn straight, bold, and very, very long (think Louise Brooks).

When orthochromatic film gave way to panchromatic in the 1920s, shiny hair and eyelids captured the glow of incandescent bulbs used on-set to great effect. Factor kept pace, developing specific light-refracting hair dyes to suit this technical shift—even sprinkling gold dust on to Marlene Dietrich’s wigs when asked. He couldn’t rest on his laurels for long though—Technicolor was on the horizon, and with it came a new set of cosmetic challenges.

A final note: In the early ‘30s, still riding the panchromatic “high shine” wave, Factor created a slick lip coat for his famous clients. The formula would go on to become commercially sold as “X-Rated,” the world’s very first lip gloss. Something I think we’re all still kind of into.

—Lauren Maas

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

COME FOLLOW US ON PINTEREST
We love making crafts out of clay. It reminds us of playing with play dough when we were kids and it's just so versatile. Check out this roundup of DIY Clay Jewelry Projects and give them a try!
We love working with text in Cricut Design Space. It gives us so much flexibility to create a design that says exactly what we want it to say. It’s so easy to pair our favorite fonts and come up with a custom Cricut design that we just love!Here is a handy guide to using fonts and working with text in Design Space. From Cricut beginners to experienced pros, we’ll share our best Cricut text tips and hacks here.
What can you make from socks? It turns out you can make a lot of things from them and we’ve rounded up a bunch of great ideas for DIY Sock Craft Projects.
When you’re a Cricut beginner, it can feel overwhelming to think about using cut files in Cricut Design Space to create the designs you want. It’s really much easier than you might imagine! We’ll teach you everything you need to know about Working with Cut Files for Beginners.
You just go a new Cricut machine! Congratulations! This is the beginning of a really exciting craft journey and we’re so excited to be a part of it. These Projects for New Cricut Owners will give you some ideas for Cricut beginner projects and how to pick the best crafts to start out with.
If you’re a Cricut beginner, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of the Cricut Design Space features that are available and all of the beautiful craft projects you can make with them.We have some fantastic Cricut Design Space tips and tricks to share with you. In this Guide to Cricut Design Space, we want to show you some of the amazing things that you can do with your Cricut machine.
Do you know how to quilt? There are so many amazing quilted projects that you can make and it’s really not as hard as you might think. As with anything, it can take a little practice but these Quilting Projects for Beginners are a great starting point.
Crockpot cooking is anything but boring. We have rounded up 50 Easy Slow Cooker Recipes here to share with you. We can’t wait to start working our way through the list of yummy dinner ideas.

 

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

Join our newsletter for exclusive content, coupons, and giveaways.