Screening Mineral Air #1: Nicki Ledermann and The Gilded Age
Meet Oscar-nominated/Emmy winning makeup artist Nicki Ledermann who talks about her work as makeup department head on The Gilded Age series premiering tonight on HBO.
Screening Mineral Air: This is first of an ongoing Q & A series where we profile renowned makeup artists in the entertainment industry.
Q: What is your makeup specialty in film and television?
I have worked on all kinds of projects but my special loves are period pieces and character work. I love looks of the past or the future on their own terms and not just through a contemporary filter.
Q: Where would we have seen your work?
As makeup department head for film, I’ve done Joker (for which I was nominated for an Oscar), The Irishman, The Many Saints of Newark, The Greatest Showman, Devil Wears Prada and more. For television series’, I worked on Vinyl, The Knick, Bored to Death and the original Sex and the City series among many others.
Q: Tell us a little about The Gilded Age.
The series story begins 1882 in New York City, which was indeed a gilded age because of the enormous fortunes there. It was created and written by Julian Fellowes who also created and wrote Downton Abbey, Gosford Park The English Game and lots of other period pieces. It’s about the societal clash of new money versus the old. There are 10 episodes in all but the premiere features the first two together. The impressive cast includes some of the biggest names in theater and on Broadway.
Q: How do you prepare for a project like this?
What makes it so exciting, and challenging, is that there are characters from all walks of life from the great hostesses to humble domestic servants. First, as makeup department head, I do a lot of research which is my favorite part. I am responsible for designing the looks for all the characters. To do this, first I actually create it the way the characters themselves would have done it; then we recreate those looks using modern products. For the ladies, we did have black and white photos but I got most of my inspiration from commissioned portraits of the era like John Singer Sargent and James Abbott McNeill Whistler because these were the images that presented them the way they wished to be portrayed. But it’s not just about society ladies and their beauty, we had to create realism for all classes. For example, if it was a working class character, we had to make sure there was dirt under the fingernails. And not to forget, there was a vast variety of men’s facial hair popular at the time that we created too.
Q: What about the shoot itself?
I supervised everyone and since many of us have worked together before, we were a well-oiled machine. In addition to myself, on The Gilded Age we had three primary makeup artists all of whom are incredibly talented. These worked with me on the principle actors on a given day. Then there were two more amazing makeup artists just whose job it was to supervise up to 20 other artists to get the background cast ready.
Q: So what was the society beauty ideal back then?
The ladies did wear makeup but pretended they didn’t because to be obviously made up meant one wasn’t ‘respectable’. For their faces, they liked their skin clean, pale, clear, smooth and not too shiny. With Mineral Air, we were able to create that smooth soft look so easily. Grand ladies and girls also liked rosy cheeks and lips that they achieved with balms, stains and rouge, all applied with a very light touch. Back in their day too, for their eyelashes they used spit mascara, something that we most definitely don’t have in our kits today.
Q: How many Mineral Air AirMist Devices did you have on set?
I’d say we had at least five and they were all put to good work. What made Mineral Air such a lifesaver for us is that it made it possible to apply the Four-in-One Foundation so quickly and smoothly and on so many people, not just the main characters.
Q: Will there be a Season Two of The Gilded Age?
A: Definitely. We start shooting in April of 2022.
What’s the difference?
Mineral Air offers two device-plus-formula categories, one for makeup, the other for skincare.
Mineral Air original (MA) includes its AirMist Device, an easy to use, everyday consumer tool that rivals professional airbrushing in its cosmetic application of our eponymous foundation, blush, or bronzer.
Mineral Air Skin (MAS) features the Renewal Serum System with its ElixerMist Device for lightweight vaporized delivery.
“As makeup department head on a film or series, I do a lot of research which is my favorite part. I am responsible for designing the looks for all the characters from every walk of life.”
Film, Fashion, Beauty and Celebrity Makeup Artist