Classic Country Beauty Crush: June Carter Cash

Big hair, big lashes, big smile, big inspiration.

This photo of June Carter and Johnny Cash has been set as my iPhone's wallpaper for a very long time because I adore and am obsessed with them.

It’s hard to see anything but love when you look at these two. He loved her so very much for so very long, and she loved him, too, though their respective marriages and life circumstance would keep them apart for years. Once they finally got together, though, they were inseparable.

June Carter Cash is one of my favorite women, ever. A classic Appalachian country beauty, she was as funny as she was feminine, and as tough as she was saccharine.

June was born into The Carter Family, a family of traditional country musicians that she began performing with as a child. Her two sisters Helen and Anita were said to be better singers than she was, but June was a born performer: charming, talented and hilarious. A gifted songwriter, dancer, comedienne and actress, June even studied under Lee Strasberg and Sanford Meisner.

She was also pretty badass.

Although June seemed gentle as a lamb, she could hold her own with any musician, throw down with comedians, and be one of the boys while on the road with the likes of Johnny Cash (long before they were together), Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley, to whom she is distantly related.

She guest starred on Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman in the '90s with Johnny. Are you judging me for watching that show? Whatever. June was great on it even though she played a bit of a crazy Christian who was at odds with Dr. Quinn and her modern-medicine-loving ways. In real life, June was wholesome without being naïve, and very religious, but unlike her Dr. Quinn character, she seemed to be an embodiment of the best of uncorrupted Christian values.

I love June because she loved making people smile and laugh. I love her because, despite her modesty, she was a fine musician and songwriter who wrote "Ring Of Fire," one of her husband's best songs. I love her because she was a kind and generous humanitarian.

I also love her because of how much she loved Johnny Cash.

She was a stand-by-your-man kind of woman, and although I once tried to do that with the wrong guy and it all went to hell, I'm forever moved to see it done right. She was not only a great friend to him long before they got together, but she also helped get him through some of his darkest days when he was battling drug addiction. She wasn't as famous as Cash, but she was never a wallflower, and they remained equals in their marriage until the end.

Of her career and marriage, she said: "I was never looking back in regret. I never thought, 'Oh, why didn't I become an actress?' or 'Why did I just go paddling along after John?' I've always walked along right by his side, and he's always supported everything I do."

Looking at their pictures together, you can feel their bond. They were never shy about it, and I don't think they could hide it if they wanted to. They just plainly loved each other. Until the end, and even after. In 2003, June died at age 73 of heart surgery complications, and Johnny, heartbroken, followed her four months later.

Watch June perform "Jackson" with Johnny, and tell me you don’t want to have lemonade with that woman on her front porch on a warm summer day. She made Johnny, and many others, happy. Her very presence elevated people.

Although June had amazing hair, cheekbones, teeth and eyes, her true beauty was of that rare inner quality. You almost don't see her when you see her because she's so ethereal.

Obviously, this seemed like a pretty easy thing for me to recreate with a dress and some makeup (sarcasm).

Doing myself up June Carter Cash style was the most fun I've had in a long time. I totally recommend it. I listened to the sweet sounds of her unsullied, honest music as I made my hair big, loaded on the mascara and dressed. What I ended up loving the most about the whole process, though, was the smiling.

I mean, I smile pretty often, but probably not as much as I should, and not enough in my xoVain photos. But for June, smiling is as much a part of her beauty as her killer cheekbones that no amount of blush contouring could ever help me replicate.

So I smiled like a teenager who had eaten one too many special brownies. I smiled until my cheeks hurt. I smiled so much I started to feel lighter, more empyreal, more like June.

June's eyes were gorgeous, a watery, soulful blue--and Junie loved her mascara and false eyelashes. After applying MAC’s Brule, a light beige eyeshadow, as a base on my eyelids, I used my finger to blend Sumptuous Olive, a shimmery olive green, into the crease. The eyeshadow is meant to be light and barely noticeable.

In place of falsies, I applied three coats Benefit's They’re Real! mascara, waiting about 30 seconds in between coats, to get her heavy-lashed look. I also put a little bit on my bottom lashes for extra drama.

June had lovely, thick eyebrows that weren’t overly-groomed or tamed so I didn't worry about making mine perfectly arched or shaped when I filled them in using an angle brush and Leather, a medium-brown long-wear eyeshadow by Mattese Elite. I actually forgot to pack my clear eyebrow mascara, which I wear every day, so after filling them in, I kept my brows in place by putting a touch, like barely half a squirt, of extra-hold hairspray on my fingers and gently patting it on my brows.

To get June’s light pinky peach grin, I used MAC's Shy Girl lipstick. Kind of ironic because June was anything but shy on stage, but her playful smile does have a stunningly shy quality to it in photographs.

I finished my face by sweeping MAC Powder Blush in Tenderling, another light peachy pink, on my cheeks; then I dotted Benefit High Beam above my cheekbones for some glow.

Try as I might, I knew that I could never completely capture the essence of June Carter Cash. Glance at a photo of her and you'll see it: pure grace. A true and sweet soul. It’s untouchable, and not easily portrayed.

I don’t mean to Cheese Wheeze all over this beauty party, but if you can't get sappy when talking about one of country music's sweetest stars, when can you?

Although we all might not have pure, radiant souls, at the very least we can achieve June's hair if we own a small comb and some extra hold hairspray.

June's hair was thick, long and lovely. Mine’s just kind of long, and although there’s a lot of it, it’s not thick. I sprayed Bumble and bumble's Thickening Hairspray on my roots before drying them to give my hair volume, but I left the ends damp so they would get little wavy, and even a little frizzy, because June rocked her frizz like it was a fuzzy hair halo.

Then it was time to get some '60s volume. There’s really nothing as gratifying as backcombing your hair and watching it grow. Big hair is addictive!

I started at the front, holding up a small section of hair and pushing down about four inches of it at a time with a fine-tooth comb until it was a complete rat's nest. When I "got it up" high enough, I sprayed my hair with some extra-hold hairspray, combed it every so lightly, and clipped it half-back loosely with a couple of bobby pins before spraying it again.

It was windy when my friend Cassandra and I went out to take my June pictures, but you’d never know it by looking at them because my hair DID NOT MOVE.

June and Johnny’s love story is portrayed magnificently in Walk The Line, which is why I watch that movie at least once a year. Hollywood love stories are irresistible to a sucker like me, but June and Johnny’s was especially so because it was true.

They really loved each other that much. They struggled for each other. They hurt each other. And when they were finally able to be together, they never left each other's sides.

As much as I may front as a cold-hearted woman, I’m actually a squishy, soft baby duck when it comes to romance. I'm just... not so good at it.

The other day, this guy I was sort of dating and I watched a pretty bad movie based on the Jack and the Beanstalk story (and why were you in that movie, beautiful Ewan McGregor?). We joked around about the fact that it wasn't a great flick, and the next day, I texted him: "How's your beanstalk?" Aaaaand... nothing. Not even a "Ha." Maybe he didn't find it funny? Whatever. June would have.

June had two failed marriages before falling into that burning ring of fire with Johnny Cash. This gives me hope. No matter how icy my heart has gotten thanks to the protective layer of frost that forms after heartbreak, I still believe that love, the good kind, has the power to melt it away.

Beauty muses are as much about emulating a mood or essence as they are about getting the hair and makeup right, which is why you gotta pick 'em carefully. Like Johnny, I picked darn well with June Carter Cash. It was a blast doing myself up like that kind, happy, country smokeshow, and I think she'd be smiling to hear it.