The former First Lady's makeup artist reveals the products and techniques he used to create her gorgeous look
The 2019 Grammys was full of jaw-dropping moments, among them, when former First Lady Michelle Obama appeared onstage alongside host Alicia Keys and Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith and Jennifer Lopez to open up about the importance of music in each of their lives.
As Obama, 55, told the audience, “From the Motown records I wore out on the South Side to the ‘who run the world’ songs that fueled me through this last decade, music has always helped me tell my story, and I know that’s true for everybody here,” she was positively aglow. But her pewter sequin pantsuit wasn’t the only reason for her gleam. The perpetually radiant former FLOTUS’s face looked lit-from-within — and her makeup artist Carl Ray is giving PEOPLE the exclusive how-to.
The duo go back a decade, when Ray received an email from the White House asking if he’d like to audition for the role of Obama’s makeup artist.
When creating a makeup look for Obama, “the stakes are always high,” admits Ray. However, now that Obama’s address isn’t 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, “we can have a little more fun with her looks and we certainly have been doing that!”
That doesn’t mean Obama will be rocking cut crease. Says Ray, “her aesthetic is still the same — she likes to look polished and pretty — but she has always had an appreciation for fashion and makeup, and now we can take her look to the next level and play with different types of glam.
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Obama and Ray have been experimenting with different looks while on her blockbuster book tour, and the Grammys provided another fun opportunity to play up her makeup.
For the surprise appearance, Ray took out his Obama makeup kit (yes, he has a makeup kit just for her) and began with her eyes. “I always start with them first, then brows, skin, cheeks, and lips,” he says.
“For this particular look, Ray blended a few shades from the Anastasia Beverly Hills Soft Glam Eyeshadow Palette, then he tapped Hourglass's Scattered Light Glitter Eye Shadow on the center of her lids “with my ring finger because it has the lightest touch,” and Becca's Highlighter in Prosecco Pop “in the inner corner of her eyes to open them up.”
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After contouring Obama’s cheekbones, the pro created her glossy lip look using Kevyn Aucoin's Hyacinth lip pencil and Marc Jacobs Beauty's soft pink nude lip gloss Moonglow.
Ray says that Obama only sometimes weighs in on her look. “Other times, I have to remind her to look at herself when I finish – which is a nice compliment,” he says.
And Ray relishes every moment he gets to spend in her presence.
“It is hard to describe the exact feeling you get when being around her. She is a bright light and a beacon of hope whose energy contagious. I feel blessed and honored to work with her and the relationship we have built.”
The 61st Annual Grammy Awards were broadcasted live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 10, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS.