Monday Muse: Marilyn Monroe Inspires MAC

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe famously sang that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but according to Gregory Arlt, MAC’s Director of Makeup Artistry,  a girl’s other, more affordable best friend is the perfect red lipstick. During a launch event at South Coast Plaza for MAC’s new fall collection, he explained how Monroe’s iconic beauty inspired the new line, which brings the  star’s instantly recognizable signatures from her heyday into the modern day.

At the Marilyn Monroe Collection event, visitors had a chance to see archival Marilyn photos and receive a preview of the collection, which launches nationwide October 4. (The South Coast Plaza store has it in stores now.) We chatted with Arlt, who helped create the products and colors as well as the looks to go along with the collection.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe

“With Marilyn, there’s so many unearthed shots coming to light,” said Arlt. “She’s more of a chameleon than we think. There’s so many different elements to her look that it’s not hard to make things fresh.”

So while most people know Marilyn for her signature red lip and kitten-flick eyeliner, Arlt explained to the group of editors and bloggers at a special press event that the collection that bears her name and image explores three separate phases of Marilyn’s life. During her more toned down Norma Jean beginnings, Arlt drew inspiration from Monroe’s clean skin and light washes of color on her lips and cheeks. The blushes he created for the collection — including the universal shade the Perfect Cheek — create a flush that’s natural and not too over-the-top.

“Red lipstick is the little black dress of your makeup bag,” said Arlt. So for the collection, he created five colors that range from a nude pink to a vibrant fuchsia red. Why so many? Artl offered that Marilyn’s makeup artist, Whitey, would often use up to six shades to shape Marilyn’s signature pout. Darker shades were used along the perimeter (which was overdrawn for extra sex appeal) and lighter shades near the center for added dimension. The strong, bold lip is a Marilyn trademark that Arlt believes anyone can master.

MAC Marilyn Monroe Collection

MAC Marilyn Monroe Collection

Artlt suggested using MAC’s lip liners in Redd and Cherry to create a shape around your lips. Tip: A lip brush can give you the precision you need if you don’t have a steady hand. “Don’t try to do your red lipstick after a double cappuccino,” Arlt joked. Topped off with the shimmering glosses in the collection, Marilyn’s multidimensional look is just a few products away.

Later in her career, Marilyn’s look took on a more smoky look, but to modernize Marilyn’s eyes, Arlt used a technique he dubbe the “see-through smoky,” a softer, more gently approach to the boudoir staple. Think of it as less Kardashian and more carefree. The soft shadows in the collection are sheer and filled with a fine shimmer, giving a nod to Marilyn’s signature bedroom eyes.

MAC and Marilyn Monroe event at South Coast Plaza

Models at the MAC and Marilyn Monroe event at South Coast Plaza

Part of Marilyn’s appeal was her ability to embody a larger-than-life persona. Blonder, sexier, curvier, she was excess personified, which gives everyone from fashion designers to makeup artist something to take from. MAC’s collection has already been used by a modern Marilyn, burlesque superstar Dita Von Teese, who happens to be one of Arlt’s clients. “Dita knows makeup,” said Arlt. “She does it better than anyone can do it for her because she knows what she’s doing.”

Now you do, too.

The Marilyn Monroe MAC Collection is available at

Photos courtesy MAC and

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Author:Christopher Luu for Fashion Trends Daily

Christopher Luu is a Fashion Trends Daily Senior Writer and Menswear Editor.