Pop phenomenon Lady Gaga has a complex relationship with the concept of beauty, she tells me. We're chatting over Zoom—me in London, her in LA—a meeting set in celebration of her make-up brand Haus Labs by Lady Gaga launching in the UK (exclusively at Sephora on June 6, for those eager to bookmark the date).
“Things that I might think are beautiful, someone else will see and think they’re extremely grotesque and odd or absurd,” she says. “And I've been called all those things throughout my career.” A sartorial chameleon, often presenting contrarian choices, Lady Gaga regularly reinvents herself—and her relationship with beauty has been an evolution as much as her aesthetic approach to it has.
“I don't know that I've always been beauty-obsessed. I think at times I've been beauty-adverse, actually. But I am somebody that is artistry-obsessed,” the multi-award winning singer, songwriter and actress tells me. By this, “I mean I can feel very, very inspired by the work of a make-up artist that specialises in beauty make-up, and I also can be completely floored and wowed by a make-up artist that is more editorial, and more fashion.” It’s now that Gaga is making tools for beauty—to enable artistry for others in myriad ways—that she’s “probably the most beauty-obsessed” she’s ever been.
“I do think that there's a strong mental-health component to beauty,” she elaborates. “And there was a time in my career where I know I felt tremendous pressure to look a certain way when it came to being someone that everybody thought was creative.” During this time Gaga felt compelled to “always” be experimental with her fashion and beauty choices, she shares, though experience brought with it a more nuanced approach. “I love being educated about the work that I do and so I learned all sorts of interesting ways to apply make-up that were fascinating to me.” She recalls how the first editorial photoshoot that she ever did, here in the UK, was the biggest eye-opener.
“I showed up to the shoot with a full face of make-up. I had so much—foundation, lashes, eyeliner, lipstick—and they wanted me to completely wash my face, then the make-up artist applied a very little bit of make-up. I remember thinking, ‘I have no make-up on my face! What is happening? This makes no sense—I'm here to shoot for a magazine!’. But then, over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with all these incredible people, and I learned that beauty is such a spectrum.” And that, really, is Gaga’s beauty philosophy, both as an artist and a brand founder: “You can do your make-up however you want; we just want you to feel free to be yourself.”
Indeed, Gaga wants to galvanise others to “ensure that beauty is a reflection of who you are, and not a reflection of how you think others want you to be, or standards, or trends”. That’s why Haus Labs is not here to help you look like Lady Gaga (or look like Lady Gaga circa whatever era she’s in). “I didn't want to make a company that was about me. I wanted to make a company that's about people that love make-up and giving them what they deserve.” Which is? “For me beauty is not just about the way make-up looks, or how it makes you look, but it's the artistry of how it's created”—and that’s means marrying performance with skin-kind properties, she feels.
For example, this not only means eschewing ingredients that Gaga believes “are harmful to your skin”, but formulating with those that are especially advantageous for it. Take the Triclone Skin Tech Foundation—available in 51 shades, no less—which is supercharged with fermented arnica that's proprietary to Haus Labs. “It's 860 per cent more potent than regular arnica,” she schools me. “So when you wear our foundation, it's actually reducing redness and inflammation on the skin, but you're not sacrificing performance. It's not like putting a tinted moisturiser on your face. It's like putting on a very beautiful, high-quality, luxurious foundation.” Viral videos of users stateside, where the brand has been on sale for some time, beautifully attest to that claim. And, when it comes to colour—something more synonymous with Gaga's stage make-up—pigments are rated as suitably high-impact and long-wearing.
Having become “fascinated with innovation in the space of the beauty industry, and breaking boundaries,” Sephora—whom Gaga describes as “wonderful partners”—will exclusively stock Haus Labs by Lady Gaga online and at Sephora Westfield White City from Tuesday June 6. Reaching the British market is another step in her mission “to help be a part of revolutionising the make-up industry”. No doubt she really means it.
This piece originally appeared in Harper's Bazaar UK