Marc Jacobs Beauty Ambassador Sarah Tanno Reflects on Her Work With Lady Gaga

Sarah Tanno

Lady Gaga’s long list of legendary beauty looks could have only been helmed by an artist who meets her soaring standards of creativity⁠—enter Sarah Tanno. Discovering her niche for makeup during high school, Tanno has gone on to receive numerous awards as a makeup artist, including an Emmy for her work on American Horror Story and a Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Award for A Star Is Born. Aside from her work with Lady Gaga, Tanno is entering her third year at Marc Jacobs Beauty, serving as a Global Artistry Ambassador. Below, Tanno reflects on her prosperous career, reveals her most cherished products, and shares the beauty trends she’s predicting for fall and winter.

How did your love for beauty and makeup start?

“I always loved to be inventive and dramatic when I was really young, but it wasn’t until high school that I really got into makeup. I used to be obsessed with runway TV in the ’90s—I used to watch it religiously, like every single day. That’s how I found Kevyn Aucoin and how I found out that makeup could be a career choice. Growing up in Cleveland, I knew people who worked at makeup counters, but I didn’t know there was a huge career you could have. This is where I got obsessed with makeup and learning the power of transformation within it. I enjoyed having time for myself to get ready in the morning—I really took the time to do that and found different ways to change my face with only a few products. I only had one little Covergirl palette and a black liner and was trying to do my makeup a million different ways. When people started commenting, I figured that I really had something, and I went on to work at makeup counters and practiced on my friends. When I went to school, I started working freelance and editorials, and from there, it just kept spiralling.”

Can you describe some of your favourite makeup looks you’ve created with Lady Gaga?

“I have lots of favourites, but I really love the Superbowl and the Countess for American Horror Story. Something else I really loved was doing the work for A Star Is Born because that was an evolution for her. It was really more about her acting this time and her beauty was the forefront in a different way. It was much cleaner and evolved, like a Hollywood star. It was very fun to take her from a pop star to an actress—she’s such a chameleon in beauty in so many ways. I felt like this was something we haven’t really done together and I had a lot of fun doing it.”

Can you elaborate on her Met Gala look? What were your initial thoughts after hearing this year’s theme?

“I can’t tell you how excited I was because there is nobody in the world that better embodies ‘camp’ than Lady Gaga. Also, I knew the pressure was on for me. I knew I had to create something memorable and show-stopping, but I still wanted it to feel very ‘fashion’. I was looking back at old Alexander McQueen shows trying to get inspired—there was something really ethereal and other-worldly about the makeup during those days. I knew I wanted to attach something to the face that was really dramatic, and that’s where I came up with doing the foil lashes. Everything was exaggerated and everything had to be over-dramatized. What if I had came to the party with just a smokey eye? I would’ve gotten hate mail!”

Can you tell us about your work with Marc Jacobs Beauty?

“I’ve been a Global Artistry Ambassador now for three years. It’s every makeup artist’s dream to be a part of a brand, because once you achieve that, you know you’re the one representing a brand with your style of makeup. Marc Jacobs found me through my work on American Horror Story because he loved the look of the Countess so much. He was enamoured with her makeup and had to find out who did it, and that’s how we met! I was already a huge fan of the brand—I had been using its product forever—so it was a very natural progression. I had been a fan of Marc and the grunge era growing up, I always followed his work, even all the way back to Perry Ellis. I loved how he was so bold in pushing boundaries and it made me feel brave. It helped shaped me into the artist I am—I’m always trying to break boundaries and not sit on the cookie-cutter of what’s on trend, and Marc’s always been fearless about that. I feel like him and I make a really great team.”

What are your favourite products from the brand?

“I cannot live without my Velvet Noir mascara, and it’s kind of a joke because I have to call and bother them for so many. Every time I work with someone new, I get to introduce it and they love it. You can build it, it doesn’t flake, and it’s amazing for volume and length. Sometimes before discovering this mascara, I would use three to four different kinds because I really like what different mascaras do, but you really get an all-in-one with this product. You’ll also find that you can achieve the look of false lashes by using the primer—it really helps the mascara secure to the lash to make them even longer and thicker.

You also have to check out the eyeliner from Marc Jacobs—it’s a really beautiful gel liner. They’re long wearing, but you can also blend them. A lot of people know me for the way that I use them because I don’t just use it as a liner—often I’ll blend it into the eyeshadow without using a lot because it’s really pigmented. Then you have about 15 seconds to work with them before they set.

Another product is the accomplice concealer, it’s great because it’s also a touch-up stick. You can use it for full coverage—I’ve actually been using it recently as a foundation—you can blend it all over the skin with a beauty blender or a brush, and it’s great for under the eye because they don’t crease. It gives you a creamy, satiny-glow finish—it’s beautiful!”

What has been the most major career-defining moment for you thus far?

“Genuinely, I feel like it was the day I got the call to be an ambassador for this brand. It’s something I’ve dreamed of since I started doing makeup. I remember Pat McGrath and how she used to do Covergirl and MAC. I mean, how cool would it be to be that great of a makeup artist to have someone want you to represent their brand? I think that’s the highest honour, so I’m glad to be able to achieve that.”

What are your biggest sources of inspiration?

“A lot of things inspire me but with makeup, it’s the person who is in front of me. Whoever I’m working with is where my inspiration starts, either something that they’re wearing, something they say, or how their skin looks naturally—it doesn’t matter. It also depends on the moment—if I have to create something particular, I really do my research. I love my book collection, I’m an avid book collector, I’m kind of old school in the way where I love to turn a page and smell a book—it’s a weird thing. It’s not the same when you’re looking online. If I’m making a mood board for a client, then I’ll dive online after I’m done with my books to see what direction the job is going, but if it’s for somebody and they’re going somewhere for an event, it really starts with the person.”

What makeup trends are you predicting for Fall/ Winter?

“I see creamy skin and glossy lips with a winged liquid liner. I see reflective cheeks and vinyl lips. I feel like everything is going to be really glossy, shiny, and magnetic!”