A sk make-up artist d.d. (of d.d.Nickel) about her favorite era, and she’ll answer in a heartbeat: the 1940s. “That’s when women looked like women and men looked like men,” she says with a twinkle. A look around her little shop on State Street bears out her love of the long-ago: vintage pictures of elegant women, white lace at the windows, old perfume bottles, a wee pair of side-button shoes and embroidered gloves all whisper of the past. But the nostalgia vaporizes at the sight of several glossy photos featuring Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, the stars of TLC’s popular make-over show, “What Not To Wear.” D.d. worked behind the scenes as a make-up artist on that program, and also did the faces for the duo’s two books on the same subject.
The list of d.d.’s celebrity clients is impressive, and includes such household names as Lisa Marie Presley, Derek Jeter and Cynthia Rowley. She’s done distinctive looks for the red carpet, the runway and numerous t.v. shows and commercials; she created the on-stage look for Broadway star Donna Murphy in “Wonderful Town”; she’s also got an impressive portfolio of glossy editorial spreads, many from bridal magazines, including Martha Stewart Weddings. Indeed, d.d. travels the world with her make-up kit in tow, and has recently returned from Mexico, where she styled a shoot at a resort to promote
d.d.Nickel Makeup Studio
972 State Street, New Haven (map)
203-777-4161 | email@example.com
“by appointment or chance”
destination weddings, and from London, where she powdered the brows of corporate heads for Bain Capital.
D.d.’s bread and butter, however, is right here in New Haven. Her tiny storefront is where she prettifies brides for their big day and where she sells a line of her own beauty products. At the center of the business are her famous $150, two-hour makeovers, for which she invites women (and a few men) to bring their own make-up from home – “even the scary stuff you bought in the eighth grade,” urges her web site. (“I had a client who brought an entire drawer,” she laughs.) Then, she teaches them what to use and how to use it. “Most women are confused,” she says. “They’ve never had a lesson. Make-up counters are about selling, not teaching the customer. Many women keep buying the same products over and over again, but they don’t use them because they don’t know what to do with them.” D.d. compares her make-over sessions to what’s seen on “What Not To Wear”; she even has an oversized trash can to toss orange lipsticks, purple eye shadows and whatever else she deems unfit for her client’s beauty kit. Once
the look has been crafted and completed, she removes all the makeup and coaches her client through the process of recreating it herself.
I myself took a ride in d.d.’s make-up chair. I’m a big fan of making up, nearly never leaving the house without my beauty armor: foundation, lipstick, mascara, eyeliner, eye shadow and blush. However, as a woman who has seen 50 come and go, I have to use a light hand in order to avoid looking like a crazy old broad attempting to hang on to the last shreds of her youth. So, my challenge to d.d.: Can you make me look fabulously glamorous, yet sane?
As d.d. worked her magic, she shared some beauty tips that took me by surprise. “Don’t put shimmer on the brow bone,” she says. “It diverts attention from your eyes.” Oops. “Many women put too much color in the crease of their eyelids – you’re making a frame for your eyes, so the action should be around the lash line, and your colors should contrast with your eye color.” Oops again. “Go ahead and use concealer as your make-up primer, and put your foundation on last.” Why didn’t I think of that?
She went on to tell me that the make-up industry’s dirty little secret is that many, many products are made in the same place and are packaged under different brand names and at terribly varied price points. “The one thing to splurge on is foundation,” she advises, “although I think most women look best in a tinted moisturizer.”
At last the job was done, and there was the new me: smoky eyes, false eyelashes, redefined eyebrows, deep fuscia lips. No doubt about it, I looked like a 1940s film star (now in technicolor).
Written by Todd Lyon. Lead photo by Steve Depino. Other photos courtesy of d.d.Nickel.