Two Stars, Camouflaged
Precious’ costumer designer and head makeup artist explain how they made Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz look ordinary.
While Oscar buzz for Precious swirls mainly around director Lee Daniels and actors Mo’Nique and Gabourey Sidibe, one delicious thing about the film is getting to see two giant pop stars transformed into utterly unglamorous creatures during cameo appearances on screen. Mariah Carey plays a social worker; Lenny Kravitz, wearing hospital scrubs, plays a nurse.
Carey’s transformation is perhaps the most dramatic, with little makeup on and a dark brown wig with bangs that cover most of her forehead. “At one point,” says the film’s costume designer Marina Draghici, “We even tried putting a fake nose on her. It was a prosthetic that was made for Mariah, but it was too much. She became completely unrecognizable and what Lee wanted was almost unrecognizable.” So they got the pop diva vintage separates that look like something out of Filene’s Basement and mission accomplished. “She has probably never worn anything less appealing in her life, but once we put it together it was clear she had the right thing on,” Draghici says.
She has probably never worn anything less appealing in her life, but once we put it together it was clear she had the right thing on,” says costume designer Marina Draghici.
For Kravitz, the costumes were simpler–after all, a nurse’s uniform is a nurse’s uniform. Still, much was done in hair and makeup to de-Rock and Roll him. For one, the famous dreads just weren’t going to work for the part. “So he had to get his hair cut,” says Toy van Lierop, who was head of the makeup department. “He also had a full beard,” van Lierop adds. “That had to go.” Kravitz has five earrings in both of his ears and when they came out, there were visible holes which had to be plugged up with makeup.
• More Daily Beast coverage of PreciousAt first, van Lierop thought she was going to have to cover up all the tattoos that run down Kravitz’s arms but the costume department saved her with a long-sleeve undershirt that they put underneath his scrubs.
She lets it slip that his nails, on the other hand, couldn’t be ignored. “They were fine after we scrubbed them,” van Lierop says. (Guitar players often wind up with long and dirty nails, in part because the length helps for picking.) “But I had to make them shorter. He’s a male nurse! He’s touching patients.”
Jacob Bernstein is a senior reporter at The Daily Beast. Previously, he was a features writer at WWD and W Magazine. He has also written for New York magazine, Paper, and The Huffington Post.