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The Inspiration Behind Writing Glitter & Glam

While running the makeup for Dancing With The Stars, I always had a ton of editorial magazines to refer to as well as Kevin Aucoin Makeup books and David LaChapell Coffee Table Books in the makeup trailer for inspiration. I was obsessed with those books, and I guess that's when the dream of potentially having my own makeup book started. Honestly, I thought it was way over my head and wasn't sure how to bring the vision to life.

I met photographer David Ally through my friend Cynthia Romo. We would all hung out at Lucy's, a local bar in Toluca Lake where Cynthia would often perform. David is an amazing musician and photographer. We instantly bonded, and I loved his work. I shared with him my dreams, and he said, "Hey, if you can pull together the talent and everything that goes with producing these productions, I'll be happy to help you shoot the whole book!" which gave me the fire I needed to get some concepts into action.

The first thing we did was shoot with friend and pro dancer, Anna Trebunskaya. Anna was one of my favorite faces to paint. We decided to go for a sexy Vargas-inspired pin-up look. My biggest inspiration was Anna's red hair and pale skin, already quite classic and vintage. I wanted a baby blue sky background so her skin and hair would pop. I brought a few props from my house and pretty flowers for her hair, and the magic of David's photography, along with Anna's personality, was all we needed.

While shooting this look, the blue background inspired me to think of the artist Nagel's work. I then switched up the makeup to be bold with purples and golds with an angled graphic edge. It all quickly came together and was a stunning ode to Nagel. Some of the shoots were very thought out, whereas others happened just like that.

Glitter & Glam Book

Once I had these shots to show off, the other pro dancers and celebrities were on board, wanting to shoot too. I did the most with everything that went into these productions not skimping on production value. I rented stages and locations when needed, hired a professional draper/set decorator that also came up with great props, and we hired a gaffer to help David light the big sets. I had Aubrey Loots run the hair with an amazing team and had assistants help with keeping me together. I made sure to have an excellent seamstress & costumer; many outfits were handmade. I also had the opportunity to shop and rent from Hollywood costume houses.

While working with Brandi Norwood, who I loved so much. I was like, "Girl, I can see you as the stunning queen Nefertiti." I told her how I had traveled to Egypt and was inspired by Nefertiti's tomb. I knew I had to do something in her honor. Brandy has such a gorgeous long neck and inspired me of the paintings I had seen on the walls in the tomb. She was like, "Mel, let's do it!"

I am an avid vintage print collector and have four pieces from artist Rene Gruau that I walk by every day in my hall. My head went spinning when I was shown a costume with an authentic rhinestoned caged headpiece, halter top, and skirt from Paris & the famous Moulin Rouge. It reminded me of Renee Gruau’s art. Needing a second look, I pictured Brandy as Josephine Baker in the costume. I bought gorgeous ostrich white plumes and had them sewn to the rhinestoned pieces as they would have been then. It was a very uncomfortable outfit, but Brandy was down, and the image is iconic.


Another favorite was with Liz Gillies. While working with her on Nickelodeon's Victorious, I always told her she reminded me of Snow White and Liz Taylor. When she saw the images we were producing, she said, "Mel, let's do it!" I had a cool and edgy handmade Snow White dress made from leather and silk. We created a darker modern Snow White and threw her in my garden with a dripping candied apple.

Of course, the other girls from The cast of “Victorious” wanted in on it too. One day Ariana Grande was singing somewhere over the rainbow and I said “Ok, we should do you up as Dorthy from the Wizard Of Oz”.

One of the bigger shoots was with Erin Andrews. While working with Erin, she was going through a scandal at the time which she handled so well. She’s such an incredibly strong woman and also has a great sense of humor. When thinking of a concept shoot, I was struck with Amelia Earhart; they both stood out to me as these powerful modern women in a man's world. I actually rented a hanger and a plane for this shoot! Because she is a sportscaster I had to do a football theme for the second look. I knew there was a lot of grass around the runways and with a borrowed football outfit right before we lost the light we got a sexy grungy game look.

For the cover, I had an epic fantasy idea. Anna Trebunskaya, Kym Johnson, and Karina Smirnoff were excited to be a part of the concept. They were to be nude, painted in all gold up to their necks with gorgeous long hair covering the intimate bits to appear as if they were in a magical modern garden ala Botticelli. An artist with her muses, we would have glitter blown all over them while they laughed and frolicked. It was a stunning shot but didn't make the cover as we were so busy with production that we forgot to get them to sign off on the releases. We didn't realize this until the book was getting picked up by Penguin Publishing. When I got back in touch with the girls to sign off, only Anna signed off. I couldn't afford what the other girls wanted, so that gorgeous shot did not make it. That was a big expensive lesson learned. After that experience, we always made sure to have the releases signed first. Here is an idea of the concept as this solo shot of Anna made the book.

Anna Trebunskaya in Gold

While manifesting a publisher, I always envisioned Penguin Publishing. I was over the moon when I got picked up by Penguin. It was a pretty big deal. Having a publisher meant having more guidelines and deadlines. I'm a great visionary and producer, but I found myself procrastinating when it came to the writing. That part was definitely not easy.

The book would not be here if not for my husband Nick; he's a writer. In the beginning, I kind of believed in my head that he'd be able to help write it, but when he did write some exerts I'd say, "well, that doesn't sound like me," and he would say, "that's because it's not you"! I was so behind on the writing deadlines. I had 4 weeks left during the holidays to finish writing the book. Nick would sit with me for almost 8 hours a day. I would write, and he would read it out loud and help edit. It was intense, but I'm so glad it was him there to help me.

This book is not just about celebrities and fantasy shoots. Many friends and models were shot, and I'm especially proud of my "Faces Around the World" section, where I highlight three girls of the same ethnicity in three different looks celebrating a beautiful array of skin tones. Also, the "Color Wheel" section is so fun, celebrating one of my favorite things: color! I take you through 10 different color themes with three different models, all showcasing various makeup styles.

Color Wheel

Glitter & Glam was a passion project that I poured my heart into, and it's my pleasure to share it all with you. There are 100 images and 50 looks detailed with what I used to create the looks. I also included plenty of behind the scenes stories of the vision for the fantasies created, as well as a bit of what inspired me to make the book! The book is available for purchase on the website. It's an excellent gift for those that want to be inspired with makeup.

There are 2 comments

  • Nadege | published at: November 30, 2021

    What a fabulous book and the videos are so wonderful! So fun to see Ariana, Liz,

    With new colors, brushes, setting spray… a second book should be in the works!
    Nobody can do it like Mel! Go Gleam!!!!!!

  • Eva Denst | published at: November 30, 2021

    Beautiful work – nice hearing about how it all came together – thanks for sharing!
    : )

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