I was already in a weird headspace when I went to see Mary Lambert perform at the Mint in Los Angeles back in December. (When am I not?) I rolled in solo, not quite knowing what to expect, and wedged myself in between a couple of strangers near the bar in the back of the tiny venue.
I knew she collaborated with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis to write and perform the double-platinum song "Same Love." I knew that she had a beautiful voice, and that she used it to spread some powerful messages. I really didn't expect to get all blubbery, though.
Later I found out that tearing up -- and maybe even sobbing -- is sort of par for the course at her live shows.
Despite the popularity of "Same Love," when she wasn't touring to perform the song with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Mary was working at a bar and singing at weddings before getting signed with Capitol Records this past October. Her EP, Welcome to the Age of My Body, dropped a couple of months later.
"Same Love" was re-released on the album, as well as some revamped tracks that provoke many feelings. Just watch:
Now imagine seeing this on repeat for a little under an hour in a dark bar by yourself. I was all numbed-out on anti-anxiety medicine, post-bf moving out, and still needed to do that thing where you covertly wipe the sparkles of tear drops and drips of snot coming out of your face with the side of your hand.
But it wasn't an upsetting show -- because between some super-heavy songs and spoken-word poems (and a pretty rad cover of "Teenage Dirtbag"), Mary was delightful. She was funny and charming and bubbly and talked about her various sparkly dresses and shoes.
She seemed to already understand that she needed to balance her intense material with some lightness to keep her audience engaged. And I didn't even realize this was a conscious effort until I talked to her a month later. That morbid/happy person just came off as genuinely Mary.
"I'm clinically bipolar, so that's kind of like my brain pattern: to really delve into these dark places, and then come up for air," Mary says. "That balance is important for me. If you have the capacity to experience extreme lows, you also have the capacity for extreme joy -- which I guess is inherently clinically bipolar," she laughs. "So, yeah, I really try to screw people up at my shows."
We're sitting on a couch in the Capitol Records Building on Vine in L.A. Mary lives in Seattle, but is in town on the heels of her Grammy nominations for Song of the Year and Album of the Year (!!) for "Same Love," on top of promoting her new EP.
I really wanted to talk to her about makeup and clothes (which, duh, we eventually did). Since I have no filter, ask too many questions, and Mary is incredibly open and honest, we ended up talking about a slew of stuff.
Video snippets time!
ON BODY ACCEPTANCE, PERFORMANCE AS CATHARSIS, AND TRAUMA:
Note that I lead with wanting to talk about clothes and makeup and then Mary -- who's 24, by the way -- says a bunch of smart things instead.
(YAH, I SAY "YAH" A LOT LIKE A VALLEY STONER AND I'M TOTALLY FROM THE MIDWEST SO DEAL WITH IT.)
ON OPENING A BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE WITH A SWORD:
And here, note that I was completely unaware that sabering a bottle of champagne was a thing -- and that my assistant Allison has tried to do it unsuccessfully "two or three times." (That's her talking off-camera.)
AND NOW CLOTHES AND HAIR AND MAKEUP, HOORAY
Mary certain has a LOOK that pulls her strong, confident persona together. She's a big fan of plus-size clothing brands Torrid and City Chic -- her jacket with spike-lined sleeves and tank that she's wearing during our lady-chat are from the latter brand.
For makeup, I asked her newly appointed makeup artist Christina Guerra for a run-down of Mary's routine. Here are the highlights. (Go Christina, GO:)
"Mary has a signature retro-inspired 'modern vintage' makeup look. Beautiful skin, cat eyes and a matte-as-hell red lip. This is a girl after my own heart because I’ve loved this look ever since I saw Traci Lords slink throughout John Waters’ Cry-Baby as ultimate babe Wanda Woodward.
"For Mary’s skin: I prep with Embryolisse 24-Hour Miracle Cream ($16). It’s a combination moisturizer and primer and is the industry standard. Every makeup artist worth their salt uses it.
"I then use a small dab of Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer ($48) as foundation and concealer. You barely need anything and Mary honestly has amazing skin so a ton isn't necessary. I actually use it myself.
"I apply her foundation using the ALL TIME BEST FOUNDATION BRUSH (seriously, it is tops, I don’t know what witchery Billy used to create this brush but I’m happy he did): Billy B Beauty Paint Brush Two ($30).
"I then powder her down with MAKE UP FOR EVER Pro Finish Powder Foundation ($36). Mary loves to look matte and flawless and this product does the trick.
"For cheek color, I use a little of MAC Cosmetics Bronzing Powder in Matte Bronze ($25) and then hit the apples of her cheeks with a touch of MAC Cosmetics Powder Blush in Melba ($21), a peachy, coral color that looks great on almost everyone. This is only to add a little warmth to her face, Mary’s look is more about eyes and lips.
"I shade Mary’s eyes very lightly with three lighter shades from the legendary Urban Decay Naked Palette ($52) (Virgin-beige shimmer, Sin-champagne shimmer and Naked-nude matte). I proceed to stop breathing for the next 2 minutes so I can perfectly apply her signature cat eye with MAKE UP FOR EVER Aqua Black with a teeny angled brush. I then curl her lashes and use a truckload of Benefit’s Bad Gal Mascara ($19). [Me again: I use all those products too, POW POW!]
"I line and fill in Mary’s lips with MAKE UP FOR EVER Aqua Lip Liner ($19) in 19c, which is a pink-based red shade and fill in with either MAC Cosmetics Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo 9 ($15) (the ultimate retro matte red lipstick), MAKE UP FOR EVER Rouge Artist Intense #8 ($20) or my new favorite, Lime Crime’s Velvetine in Red Velvet ($20).
"On a more casual day for her hair, I spray her entire head with Batiste Dry Shampoo ($6-8, my fave is the cherry scent), wrap large sections around a 1 1/4” Hot Tools Curling Iron, and finish off with L’Oreal Elnett Hairspray ($15).
"When we have a more glam night planned, I take the time to do a standing pin curl set and brush it out for a Rita Hayworth/Veronica Lake-inspired style. There’s no easy way to explain how to do it in a blurb, but there’s a great book called Vintage Hairstyling that really breaks it down step-by-step."
SPEAKING OF GLAM NIGHTS: Mary told me she was "talking to" designer Helen Castillo, formally known as that cool tattooed contestant on "Project Runway," to design her Grammys dress. The two met at the GLAAD Gala in NYC last fall.
But we shall need to tune in to the Grammys on Sunday night to see it -- and hopefully cheer on Mary as she snags some awards for "Same Love."