It's gonna get sappy up in here.
When it comes to my beauty inspirations, David Bowie is right up there at the top. Innovative, theatrical, and always glamorous, he's always inspired me and given me the courage to be exactly who I am.
So when I learned that the MCA in Chicago was hosting the INCREDIBLE V&A exhibition, "David Bowie Is...," I about lost my mind. I've been waiting feverishly for this for well over a year, and YOU GUYS, IT IS AMAZING. PLEASE GOD GO SEE IT IF YOU CAN.
While I daydream about going back to the MCA every day for the rest of the run, I've put together a list of David Bowie's best beauty moments. Let's fall in love, all right, as a rock n roll star.
1. The Eyes
OK, let’s settle this once and for all: David Bowie does not have heterochromia. Both of his eyes are blue, but one of the pupils was permanently blown in a fight when he was 15.
Some of his recent album art has referenced his apparent odd-colored eyes, but I think this is more savvy marketing than anything else. Mismatched eyes for the Starman--what could be more alien than that?
2. Life on Mars?
Hunky Dory is my favorite Bowie album, and Life on Mars is one of my favorite songs. But more than that: The look he’s serving in the video is PERFECTION.
The blue eye shadow! The coral lips! The contouring! It’s all so perfect! And even though this album predates Ziggy by a few years, you can already see that persona’s look taking shape.
The whole album feels like that--like it’s the root of all Bowie. It’s partially why I love it.
3. Ziggy Stardust
Any man who gets rid of his eyebrows and dedicates himself to painting his face this much is alright with me.
Ziggy Stardust remains the most famous Bowie persona, probably because the album is perfect, and also because of Ziggy’s singular look.
4. The Eyepatch
There are a lot of apocryphal stories about why Bowie/Ziggy wore an eyepatch in 1974, but the truth is that he had a terrible case of conjunctivitis that gunked up his eye.
Rather than cancel shows, he just stuck an eyepatch over that sucker and went on with his life as a glamorous space pirate. Plus, it inspired one of my favorite Flight of the Conchords episodes. “Wear the eyepatch, Bret!”
This is my favorite album cover of all time. My dad is a BIG Bowie fan, and I remember obsessing over Pin-ups as a kid--the masklike makeup was the best thing I had ever seen.
Something I didn’t learn until much later is that the woman on this cover is Twiggy. The photo was meant to be used for Vogue, but wisely, David Bowie wanted it instead.
6. Aladdin Sane
People get Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane confused, and I’m the pedant who busts through the door like the Kool-Aid Man and is like, “ACTUALLY THERE ARE MAJOR STYLISTIC DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO PERSONAS IN BOTH APPEARANCE AND MUSICAL STYLE.”
This is one of the most iconic album covers of all time. The lightning bolt--and the entire album itself--represents Bowie’s conflicted feelings about making music and performing (which he loved) and being very, very famous (which he felt weird about). It’s a striking, powerful visual, and one that is still referenced today.
7. The Thin White Duke
Visually, The Thin White Duke is striking: tall, pale, and gaunt, grey eye shadow up to the eyebrows, red hair slicked severely back, existing in a cloud of cigarette smoke.
In every other way, though, this persona is really unpleasant: cold and unfeeling, fueled by a lot of drugs. Like, A LOT of drugs. Station to Station is a great album but it’s quite minimalist and hollow, which is reflected in the Duke’s stark look.
8. The Man Who Fell To Earth
Lotta bold looks in this movie.
If you haven’t seen it, you should--it’s super weird, and not at ALL safe for work. Most notably, David Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton rocks some Ginger Spice hair 20 years before Geri Halliwell did it herself.
9. Ashes to Ashes
Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) was a return to massive theatricality for Bowie, and at the time Ashes to Ashes was the most expensive music video ever made.
I’m living for the creepy Pierrot look he’s serving. Something about the expressiveness of his face combined with the implied rigidity of the makeup just works so well.
I admit: I have only seen Labyrinth once. But if you’re going to cast someone as a baby-stealing Goblin King, David Bowie is the perfect choice.
The long, frosted mullet is perfect. The Spock brows compliment the upswept eye shadow. And of course, there’s the bulge situation.
Not strictly beauty, but how could I NOT mention it?
11. David Bowie and Tilda Swinton
The Stars (Are Out Tonight) is the video that forever answered the question “Are Tilda Swinton and David Bowie from Cheekbone Planet?” The answer is that I don’t think so, but whatever their home world is, it’s very close to mine.
Every look in this video is amazing: Bowie’s dad drag and Tilda’s blonde poofy hair and blue eye shadow. Plus: Andreja Pejic is in the video abd is PERFECT in every way.
BONUS 12: Alle As David Bowie
There have been many, many Bowie-themed events in Chicago leading up to the opening of "David Bowie Is…" at the MCA, and last Sunday I got dressed up and went to one.
I wanted to look like the offspring of The Thin White Duke and Annie Lennox, and I think I succeeded!
GLAMDROGYNY FOREVER. And for all the people who didn't "get" my look?
Solid beauty--and life--advice right there. PREACH.
What's your favorite David Bowie look, album, or era? How has the gospel of Bowie shaped your life? Have you seen "David Bowie Is..."? Let's talk about everything in the comments!