Men running for high office spend a lot more time — and money — than they'd like you to think on their makeup.
All of them, at least, other than Joe Biden, a makeup skeptic who has only one rule, according to a makeup artist who worked with him: Don't touch the hair.
A review of campaign filings and public reporting on how exactly American politicians put their faces on before television interviews and debates offers a glimpse of a part of the process most public figures (the men in particular) would prefer to keep secret. In a profession where the president shows off his basketball skills to Vanity Fair and where a leaked video of Senator John Edwards fixing his hair was a major political blow, they are less than eager to talk about their personal grooming routines.
The campaign of Rep. Paul Ryan, for instance, described $525 spent at at About Face, a salon in Winter, Fla., August 18 as "media production consulting."
A staffer at the salon said Ashlynn Hughes, a makeup artist there, had an "exciting experience" preparing him for an event at the giant retirement complex at The Villages.
Ryan may be better prepared, in this way at least, for this week's debate than his Democratic counterpart, Vice President Joe Biden, who appears to disdain the beauty brouhaha. Makeup artist Jill Oscar, who has worked with him, said Biden “doesn’t like to wear a lot of makeup. Like most men!”
For a March 23rd appearance at the Wynmoor Village retirement complex in Coconut Creek, FL, the Vice President only allowed Oscar to apply concealer and a little powder, and “didn’t want [her] to touch his hair," she said.
Biden, who “was really sweet and personable,” hired Oscar to come to him from where she was based in Boca Raton. Because of Secret Service clearance regulations, she “could only bring in what she needed.” The expense was listed on the Obama campaign's Federal Election Commission report under "Decorations," and totaled $250.
Oscar was going to attend a Bruce Springsteen concert on March 23rd, 2012, but decided to cancel in order to do Biden's makeup.
Campaigns have grown expert at disguising beauty expenses in their filings since Edwards (again!) endured months of mockery for spending $400 on a haircut. The campaign finance filings did not reveal makeup artists either for President Barack Obama or for Governor Mitt Romney.
But one Romney makeup artists did make a political cameo after the governor appeared unusually tan in a debate hosted by the Spanish-language television network Univision.
"When he walked in, I remember thinking, 'Wow this is tanner than I thought he was,' but I think he's just been outside a lot lately for his campaign," makeup artist Lazz Rodriguez was quoted as saying. "It was definitely a real tan."
"But Romney was a lot darker than I expected," he said.
Prior to Wednesday's debate, NPR offered some advice to the candidates from experts in various fields, including tips on makeup application; Michele Probst of Menaji Skincare suggested a “nice matte” for President Obama’s foundation, and Romney “needs to go maybe a half-shade warmer than his natural skin tone.”
And while the subject may seem frivolous, bad makeup has had broad consequence: The 1960 Nixon-Kennedy debate pivoted on some foundation and a hint of powder; a tan, made-up Kennedy looked far more confident and presidential than pallid Nixon, who refused makeup application. Viewers declared Kennedy the winner of the first-ever televised debate, while people who listened on the radio believed that Nixon had won.
And while makeup application for male politicians may still be under the radar, it’s not exactly a secret. According to a 2007 Politico article, Romney spent $300 on makeup applications that year (listed on the FEC reports as "communications consulting"). And in the spirit of “People” covers the world over, there’s even a Facebook group called “See UNSEEN Photos of Barack Obama WITHOUT Makeup ON!”.