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Lady Gaga & Cardi B: Are They The Beauty Icons Of Our Time?

By Renée Batchelor

In the 1970s, Cher — with her Armenian and Cherokee heritage — flew the flag for beauty diversity.
 
Everett Collection
In the 1970s, Cher — with her Armenian and Cherokee heritage — flew the flag for beauty diversity.

In the beginning there was Cher, or was it David Bowie, or perhaps Madonna? Ever since the birth of the modern pop star circa the 1950s — when the idea of popular or ‘pop’ music was first born — the vision has closely been entwined with the sound. And the artists who make that leap from entertainers to icons seem to understand the impact of cultivating a strong beauty image.

David Bowie started out simply as David Robert Jones in the 1960s, but it was his various personas, from the glam rock of Ziggy Stardust in 1972 to the coked-out Thin White Duke that followed years later, that have seared into the public’s consciousness. Here was a man who was not afraid to don costumery, outrageous hairstyles, and yes, makeup, to create those larger-than-life personas, slipping in an out of these characters like a seasoned method actor.

In the 1970s, Cher — with her Armenian and Cherokee heritage
— flew the flag for beauty diversity way before the Kardashians and Beyoncés of today. With her impossibly long and silky black hair, toned physique and gravity-defying false lashes, she was (and still is) a force of nature.

Another major icon at that time was singer Diana Ross. Breaking 
free from the packaged homogeneity of The Supremes and their signature wigs, Ross’s voluminous afro was a sign of free-spirited
 rebellion — a precursor to the natural hair movement of late. Madonna was the next to make a blip on the radar in the ’80s with her platinum 
hair, thick contrasting brows and fairly aggressively applied makeup 
there was almost no nuance to her look. She was deliberately channelling a trashy Marilyn Monroe — and the public lapped it up.

Since then, there has been a bit of a dearth of genuine beauty icons in the pop kingdom. Sure, arguments can be made for
 the late Amy Winehouse’s matted beehive and
 cat-eye liner or even perhaps, for Ariana Grande’s Lolita-esque ponytail. But the transcendence to beauty icon status is one that requires a certain dedication and a willingness to experiment fearlessly, and occasionally go overboard.

GivenchyLady Gaga in a custom Givenchy haute couture outfit at the ‘A Star is Born’ premiere in Los Angeles.
Lady Gaga in a custom Givenchy haute couture outfit at the ‘A Star is Born’ premiere in Los Angeles.

Mention Lady Gaga, and her dress and boots ensemble made up completely from raw meat, as well as the egg pod vessel, would immediately come to mind. These days, the pop icon has moved from the outrageous to a more pared-down version of herself. For her recent press trail for “A Star Is Born” the singer sported a more polished, natural look. Scraped-back platinum hair, dark brows and a flawlessly sculpted face — done by long-time makeup collaborator Sarah Tanno — signalled a new Gaga who was not just a pop star but a serious actress. Lady Gaga has also applied for a patent to start a new cosmetics brand, Haus Beauty, earlier this year, which would explain her focus on creating a beauty signature.

For singer Sia, her shyness has led to her donning her inimitable blonde wig with an oversized fringe. Literally shielding the star from public view (and recognition), the clever ploy also made her one
 of the pop stars we’ve actually sat
 up and taken notice of. It has also 
allowed her to build her own
 army of Sia lookalikes, like dancer
 Maddie Ziegler, who acts as her stand-ins in videos and some live performances.

Finally, rapper Cardi B made waves at the recent Paris Fashion Week in a series of outfits that made it impossible to miss or ignore her. She wore colourful wigs that coordinated with her clothes: Think a mint lob with a lime green, leather coat by Saks Potts and pale violet hair with her Christian Cowan purple pantsuit. She also sported a pixie wig as a sort of ’90s throwback. Coupled with the exaggerated glamour of her makeup — all cut crease eyes and drugstore falsies — and a look was born. A modern Rainbow Brite character brought to life, we applaud her audacity and derring-do. Love them or hate them, these pop stars are here to claim their places in beauty history.