This diva looked divine– tight, faded jeans, hand-painted denim jacket and that wild hair!-for our interview at The Carlyle in New York.

How did M.A.C charm you into this job?
This was a dream come true! Some years ago, I was thinking about doing a cosmetics line with Estée Lauder. It’s funny how things come around. I would have done my own line, but then M.A.C called me. It’s a magical universe, really.

When did your love affair with makeup begin?
As a kid, I always loved make-believe. Maybe that’s why I became an actress. I would go to the five-and-dime and buy a Maybelline black eyebrow pencil. My dad would ask me, “Why do you have to wear that around your eyes?” My mom and dad were churchgoing people, and they just didn’t like makeup. But I loved it! By the time I was 16, I was going to beauty school on weekends. I learned a lot about hairstyling, manicures and pedicures. When The Supremes went on the road, I did everyone’s hair-you know, the hot iron and rollers. I wanted to learn everything about beauty to make people more attractive.

Francesco Scavullo [the late fashion photographer] once said, “Beauty is power.”
That’s a man saying that. I never like to think of myself as beautiful. I like to think of myself as healthy; beauty comes from being healthy. I don’t know what he means by “Beauty is power.”

What does beauty mean to you?
It means being a good person, having integrity and loyalty and being true to your work. There’s power in that! Walking around being self-indulgent about prettiness — that’s not important.

How do you prepare yourself for being photographed?
Once I walk in front of the camera or onstage, I try to forget if my dress is okay, forget about the makeup, the hair, if I’ve made the phone calls I was supposed to and all of that. I just want to have a good time and feel that my spirit is connected and that I’m happy. It’s hard sometimes because I am a perfectionist– like the little girl who wants to make everyone happy.

What’s the best piece of beauty advice you were ever given?
Keep your face clean, use sunscreen and wear a hat– it gives an air of mystery.

When you’re putting on makeup, what do you start with?
My eyes. I can’t even do a custom fitting until I have some eye makeup on. I just can’t tell what the costumes are going to look like-I’ve got to have my eyes done first. Every woman has something about her face that she loves. She has to get that ready and then she can do her stuff.

Your eyes are your favourite feature. What’s your least favourite? Lately, it’s my teeth. I cracked a tooth this morning and I hate going to the dentist. I’m trying not to smile too much until I get it fixed!

You love makeup, but you’ve also got a great eye for fashion.
I used to work as a busgirl in the basement cafeteria of Hudson’s department store in Detroit. I tried to copy the mannequins’ outfits. In the beginning, I made all the clothes for The Supremes too. Our first manager was actually a pimp, and his girls dressed very well; we tried to copy some of their clothes.You must have an amazing collection of clothes.
Yes, I do! I hang on to them for different reasons. My daughter Rhonda wears dreadlocks and a lot of African things, so she doesn’t wear my stuff. She’ll say, “Mom, you know all those Louis Vuitton bags with your name on them? You don’t use them anymore. Do you think I could take them to my house?” I’m like, “No, I want to keep those bags!”

If you had to go on a desert island, what would you pack in one of those Louis Vuitton cases?
My eyeliner, some music and some spiritual books. I don’t read a lot of fiction, but I like spiritual books that can help me work through things. And I never go out anywhere without my Franklin organizer [day planner]– that’s where I write down my ideas and future projects.

What do you think about the style of some of the singers today?
I like girls who stay nice and classy. I think Beyoncé does that.

Who are your favourite fashion designers?
Bob Mackie, of course. I love Tom Ford and Vivienne Westwood. I like casual clothes too. In California, I walk up and down Melrose Avenue and go into the funky stores. I don’t like to spend money unnecessarily. I think clothes are very expensive today.

What’s your idea of the perfect night out?
Going out to dinner and the theatre with my daughters.