Editor’s note: In Issue 104 of Make-Up Artist magazine we profiled Oprah Winfrey’s personal make-up artist, Derrick Rutledge, and featured an article on the prosthetic make-up designs of Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Here, Rutledge talks to Make-Up Artist about the beauty looks he created for Winfrey’s role as Gloria Gaines.
“Once I read the script, I said this is very much a project I want to be part of. It’s a love story between husband and wife and the toils and traumas between father and son,” said Derrick Rutledge about serving as Oprah Winfrey’s personal make-up artist on Lee Daniels’ The Butler.
Rutledge worked in the heat and humidity of Louisiana during the summer of 2012 and had to walk down dirt roads while carrying a cane in one hand (due to a debilitated knee), a make-up bag in the other and a chair on his back. Although it was difficult, Rutledge said he would work on period film again.
“Because you get to learn what different trends were for different periods. I didn’t mind [the long hours] once I got into it. Seeing it on the screen I felt the rewards paid off,” he said.
What had to be translated to screen was Winfrey (who’s in her 50s) as a housewife who ages from her late 30s to her 90s. Rutledge did his homework to make sure Winfrey’s looks would be accurate to the decades portrayed, starting in the 1950s. He discovered that women during that time only had a choice of black or brown eye pencils, so, for Winfrey’s at-home look, he gave her dark-brown eyebrows. To create the effect of younger looking skin, Rutledge used five different shades of foundation from his Ü (Ooh) Lifestyle line to highlight and contour her face, keeping the skin “tight.”
Rutledge described Winfrey’s character, Gloria Gaines, as a woman who loved doing her nails, having her hair done and making her own clothes to be more dolled up when she was out of the house. This character profile came about during the test shots for the film.
“I would make her up according to the outfit and what I thought she should look like in the scene and he [director Lee Daniels] was happy. During the course of when the movie started he said to bring the make-up down. Lee said, ‘If Gloria is too glamorous it won’t be believable.’ Lee wanted people to identify with the character; he thought it would be more realistic without make-up. We discussed that in order for her to be believable at the young age, I have to apply make-up. In order to see that she’s different when you first see her, you have to see the progression of age with the make-up. Lee and I [discussed] about how I’d transition her from when we first see her all the way to age 90, using prosthetics, so not too much that the character would be unbelievable.”
Rutledge said that because of the span of time in the film, it was something spectacular to be a part of and a great history lesson for him. He discovered the limited lip shades for women of color in the 1950s.
“Back then not many lip color choices, it was either a deep-matte, orangey-red lipstick or deep-matte, blue-red paint. Every now and then pink. To create the lip, especially when you apply red lipstick to brown skin, if you don’t use the right shade and gradate it, it can make you look old. I used brown-red to line, blue-red to go over the brown-red and go to the center. Orange-red to fill in the center. So it gave dimension. Those are the only colors you’d see. When she was at home I’d do some moisture on her lips,” he said. “During the 1970s, I wanted to make it more fun. I gave her dark eyes, blue frosty eye shadow because that was the style at the time, a heavier lash and a pink lip.”
As Winfrey’s character aged, Rutledge used only three foundations. The prosthetics team, led by Matthew Mungle, came in to age her from her 60s on up, and Rutledge then lightened the eyebrows, used lipstick with more gloss and changed to foundations specifically for prosthetics. He said he usually uses oil-based make-up for beauty looks and had to transition to water-based make-up for the prosthetics. Instead of applying it with a paint brush he very softly stippled the make-up over the prosthetics, so as not to tug on them and loosen them.
“I’m a beauty make-up artist so I transform them to look the most beautiful they can possibly be,” he said. “Movies are a different medium: more exact, more precise, hi-def.”
Before all of that, he said, the make-up teams discussed what the looks were going to be and made sure each complemented the wardrobe. Rutledge said he would talk with the prosthetics team about what was going to be shot, and he would arrive on set an hour before they finished so he could be ready to apply the make-up. Winfrey and costar Forest Whitaker shared a make-up and hair trailer with Rutledge and hairstylist Debra Brown while the prosthetics team had their own trailer.
Rutledge’s life hasn’t slowed down after the long production days. He recently attended several New York fashion week shows and is steadily working with Winfrey on shoots for the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) and O, The Oprah Magazine; they’ll soon travel to South Africa for a graduation at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. Rutledge is also working on his Ü (Ooh) Lifestyle make-up and hair care lines.
For more on the make-up in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, purchase Issue 104 of Make-Up Artist magazine.