Los Angeles make-up artists got quite the surprise upon entering Siren Studios in Hollywood, June 1, for the M.A.C. Cosmetics Pro to Pro event. Not only was there a stunning installation in the middle of the photo studio, featuring pyramid-like mirrors, geometrically-patterned backdrops and eight models—both male and female—painted head to toe with corresponding patterns, but the models were also entirely nude.

“I didn’t even notice until I walked by and I was like, ‘Wait, that’s not safe for work!’” attendee Grace Phillips said. Make-up artist Marianne Beer concurred: “We did not expect to see that. I mean, it was a good surprise because there’s men,” she said with a laugh. “But I love the looks they created on the models. It’s something so outside of the box.”

The looks included a bold color palette of yellow, blue, black, white, orange and red, and each model was painted with a different pattern such as circles, harlequin-like diamonds, concentric squares and more.

One person who wasn’t taken aback by the full-frontal installation was Toronto-based M.A.C. senior artist Melissa Gibson, who painted one of the evening’s models, and said M.A.C.’s Chromacakes and Acrylic Paints were the hero products of the night. Her look featured yellow targets and blue amoeba-like shapes on a white base, a design that required three days of stencil-making alone. On the day of the event, Gibson and her team got to work at 9 a.m., finishing at 6:45 p.m. “It’s a lot of work, and with a body painting like this you are constantly touching up, because they need to move, they need to go to the washroom, they need to eat. It’s crazy, and then you end up with paint all over you,” she said, pointing to a white smudge on her forearm. And of course, there’s the removal at the end of the night, which involves “a ton of oil, a lot of wipes, and a lot of paper towels.”

As guests sipped complimentary cocktails (made with Plymouth gin, Avion tequila and Absolut Elyx vodka—sponsors of the event), mingled and admired the installation, they also got a healthy dose of inspiration. For some make-up artists, like Adrianne Alusha, it was specific. “I work for Dark Harbor at the Queen Mary during Halloween and the red and black look, that could be incorporated into something a little more ominous,” she said. For others it was more general. “I’ll definitely get more creative and start experimenting with colors,” said Jesse Castell, who typically goes for a more natural look.

But even beyond the mesmerizing designs, attendees appreciated the opportunity to gather, which for M.A.C. was one of the goals. “I find that make-up artists sometimes have one of the loneliest jobs, you’re just a single person traipsing around with your kit,” said Gibson. “So events like this, it’s kind of a ‘bring your people together’ thing, and people that don’t get to see each other get to be amazing and we give them a little visual fun. It’s a great way to connect.”

M.A.C. Event
Crowd at M.A.C. Event

Make-up artist Jen Fregozo agreed: “It’s not often that you get in a room filled with this much talent. And the range is incredible—you have beginner artists and then you have legends,” she said, pointing out industry icon Leonard Engelman as he passed by. “I think that’s the whole point, to get everyone who’s creative [together] and inspire the new and upcoming artists—and for the more seasoned artists to represent and show their presence. I think that’s amazing.”