French makeup icon Dany Sanz on beauty, drama and the art of being crazy.
"Zey want eyelashes like
zat!” says Dany Sanz in a husky French accent. Sanz, a makeup artist and the creator of the professional makeup line Make Up For Ever, is describing customers who just can’t get enough when it comes to false eyelashes. Drama is a personal passion for Sanz. She is an artist whose roots are planted firmly in dark, dusty theatres (think cabarets, the Lido and the Moulin Rouge) and venues populated with “people of the night.” Actors, dancers and drag queens: These are her people.
Flirty, funny and very French, Sanz is an eccentric who is full of stories. Her path to moguldom began by accident. After studying fine art, Sanz, a sculptor and painter, was drawn into the world of theatre. She began by painting faces and, intrigued by the idea of skin as canvas, started experimenting with body painting. “I asked one friend ‘Can you take off your dress?’” she recalls mischievously. “I said, ‘I want to paint your body—it has more space.’”
Sanz’s body paintings got noticed, and she started getting booked to do fashion shows and magazine shoots. “I didn’t know what to call what I was doing,” she says. “I said I was a painter, but they said I was a makeup artist.” She also became skilled in special effects and worked on films. “It was the best moment to do crazy things,” she recalls. “If you were doing something crazy, it became fashionable.”
Sanz was encouraged by other makeup artists to share her secrets and techniques, and in the late ’70s she opened a training centre where she taught future A-listers like Tom Pecheux and Stéphane Marais. In 2002, she launched the first Make Up For Ever Academy. “We had a very artistic atmosphere,” she says, “but there was one problem: We had no products.” So Sanz worked on new formulas in the cellar of her boutique in Paris, which opened in 1984 and soon became the go-to destination for leading makeup artists. Pure cosmetic pigments were the first products sold in the boutique, and, 26 years later, they are still bestsellers.
Even with her knack for dreaming up products that professionals covet, Sanz also knows what “real” women need. Her HD line was developed to be compatible with high-definition technology in film and television, but it also happens to be perfect for non-celebs in natural daylight. The Aqua line was created for a troupe of ballet dancers who chose the swimming pool as their stage, but nonswimmers can also apply their eyeliner without the worry of smudging and melting in even the most humid climates. Let’s face it: If makeup works on a film shoot in extreme conditions, it will certainly work for a day at the office.
Sanz doesn’t spend much time backstage anymore, but she enjoys her moments in the boutiques. She can’t help but follow her theatrical instincts and encourages her more reserved customers to break out of boring habits. “Beige!” she cries out. “Beige hair, beige lipstick, everything beige— I say you look like a caramel! I encourage you to buy something—but not beige!”