I’ve worked with some great make-up artists over the years learning many invaluable beauty secrets that always come in handy. When I sit in the chair, I’m not just the artist but an excited student. The cool thing is I’ve been able to catch the best when they were up and coming and watched them go into higher demand. Paul Starr was one such make-up master.
We met as a suggestion by Liz Heller an executive back then at my former label MCA. I was in the process of choosing the beauty team (hair and make-up) for my second album and wanted to go for a more high fashion style direction.
Paul was seemingly quite shy and low-key when he walked into to Liz’s office. His “Hello, Ms. Jody Watley” oozed a grand quality though not obnoxious or Hollywood. I’ll never forget that first impression. Exotically handsome, jet black hair with his own great brows and cheekbones; Paul was striking as he handed me his portfolio for consideration. After those few first awkward moments that are natural and always dreaded in these types of meetings, we connected right away. He was surprised that we shared a love for fashion, strong eyebrows and an affinity for creating timeless and classic make-up looks. When I think back on it, though Paul was trying to land ‘the job’ – I was also being assessed no doubt from him. Did Jody Watley measure up to his up and coming stature? It’s safe to say, we both made it beyond the initial scrutiny and unspoken ‘style and beauty’ microscope.
People look at the 80’s as if everything was kooky and kitsch. Of course there was a lot of that and it was an exciting and fun time in music – but that was never my style. I sought out creative partners who were like-minded in that regard.
Paul and I talked about the legendary Way Bandy (I knew my stuff, he’d later joke with me about), our favorite models past and present as well as bonding over our love and near obsession of expensive import fashion magazines. Paul and I also talked about film stars like Joan Crawford (those brows), Bette Davis (whom he’d end up working with in her later years) actresses with loads of attitude and over the top glamour such as Joan Collins who was wearing us all out as Alexis Carrington-Colby on the hit show ‘Dynasty’ at the time. Over the years Paul shared some funny and memorable stories of these ladies…as well as one of my favorite stories about Prince. Paul Starr worked with a diverse range of talent; his dear friend Boy George, music legend Little Richard and too many A-list actresses, celebrities and supermodels to list. Always the globetrotter, Paul traveled the world on jobs for fashion layouts and advertising campaigns including L’Oreal, Lancome and Chanel to name a few. Integral to helping develop the Smash-Box cosmetics line – Paul was also the founding beauty editor for FLAUNT Magazine and the first make-up artist to work in-house at cosmetics giant Estee Lauder. I remained one of his biggest fans.
We shared a love for all types of music especially bossa nova. When working on photo sessions or video’s – he’d always have really good mix-tapes of songs he’d put together to set the vibe just right and would make sure I had one to take home at the end of the day.
Paul and I worked together on what are undoubtedly some of my most memorable looks including the video for “Real Love” – there’s a funny story there as well in one of the scenes where David Fincher flipped the frame and wanted Paul and Ernie Banales (my hair stylist for many video’s – until he passed on suddenly) to walk out of the frame together as I’m standing there giving attitude in my black custom-made suit. We had such a laugh at that scene because they’d been primping all day in the event the scene would happen. As the day turned to evening, both gave up and at that point were feeling frazzled – and that’s when Fincher called them without any time to fluff. They were mortified! We laughed so hard afterward, and that moment is forever captured on film.
We were able to showcase our appreciation of those classic black and white golden era of film era in my video to “Most Of All”, also directed by David Fincher – and go full on couture diva for my video “Friends.” Originally, I’d requested Paul to do my make-up for the album cover for “Larger Than Life”. I’d selected Steven Meisel (discovered from those fashion imports of VOGUE Italia) and he wasn’t having it; he would only work with his team of Francois Nars (make-up), and Oribe (hair). Paul recreated the album cover look as one of the beginning scenes of the “Real Love” video and when my daughter, a little girl at the time visited the set, Paul did a touch of make-up for her as well – much to her delight.
Paul would offer to come to my home strictly as a gesture of friendship always wanting me to be “flawless”. He escorted me to one of the best parties ever given by photographer Herb Ritts and introduced me to many of his clients friends like Naomi Campbell and Iman.
Paul was with me from LA to Joshua Tree, New York, London, Paris and Tokyo to Pittsburgh for the filming of my #1 “Dance To Fitness” video. I remember Paul asking why did we have to film there and my feeling a bit exasperated – but that was Paul.
Our last professional work was in 1998 for my ‘Flower’ album and video for “Off The Hook”.
A vegan and a strict macrobiotic; accommodating Paul’s meal requests became somewhat legendary every time we worked together. I learned about organic fruits and vegetables from Paul. Catering would balk because at the time it was probably not so common for people to eat vegan, gluten free and so on. My label would complain at the extra meal costs if catering sent out for food instead and say to just give him a salad..we’d laugh about that as well because it wasn’t really expensive – and would still have to be organic and not just any salad. In essence, we didn’t just work together, we became friends and shared a lot of laughs.
Paul and I hadn’t seen each other in a quite a while and had bumped into each other at the newsstand – of course – both of us there to browse and purchase the latest editions of fashion magazines from Europe at Book Soup. We were thrilled to reconnect.
I’d spoken to Paul on the phone and we’d made plans to get together to have tea in a few days. There was a very zen and serene tea garden called called Elixir that we were both fans of. I was still in the early creative planning stages for the visuals for my ‘Chameleon’ project and he was anxious to collaborate with me again.
When I received the shocking call that he’d passed away, just 3 days after we’d spoken on the phone – I couldn’t believe it. Needless to say I was deeply saddened and heartbroken.
I miss Paul and think of him often. I’m sure all of his friends and colleagues who were fortunate to know him or work with him feel the same way.
Good times and great memories never fade away.
Rest peacefully Mr. Paul Starr – Forever Young.
All Rights Reserved Jody Watley. Avid Music Inc. 2012