2004_09_lanagersman_small.jpgBagel or Donut?

Bagel.

Taxi or Walk?
Walk... oftentimes skip.

Starbucks or Vendor Coffee?
Neither. Instant from South Africa.

Lana, tell the fine audience of Gothamist how we met.
We worked together on a shoot. I was doing make-up and you were doing wardrobe styling. I was told I would be working with an inexperienced fashion stylist and I wondered if you had any taste. Much to my surprise, I met a stunning, intelligent friend who I totally looked forward to seeing each time we got to shoot together.

That's nice Lana, but what about my taste? Ha. You grew up in South Africa. What brought you to New York and how did you get started in your industry?
I was always interested in print and film since they had no television when I was a kid in South Africa. I was a relatively successful child model from the age of six. I enjoyed my mum picking me up after school, changing in the car, grabbing a sandwich and going to work.

When I was fourteen or fifteen, I fell in love with a boy who was Cape Malay (of Malaysian heritage). He was a musician in a band called the Flames. This was of course when the apartheid government was still in control. The Flames had been playing at a club for several years, when the government decided to wreak havoc with their lives by creating one of their infamous petty apartheid laws... this one stating that if a club is serving drinks to whites, blacks (or any color other than white) could not be there entertaining... although busboys and people in incidental positions could still work. How convenient. This prompted a group of us to raise enough money to put the band on a boat headed for Europe. As luck would have it they were introduced to the Beach Boys and signed to Brother Records.

After years spent with these guys, pretending to be Cape Coloured (mulatto) I became pretty good at darkening my skin with make-up and it gave me the opportunity to recognize the direction to become a make-up artist. We used to laugh because wherever the makeup stopped, say just above where my sleeve, the inside of my sleeves would be covered in makeup.

I moved to New York when I was nineteen, knowing I had gone as far as I could over there and I have never looked back.

Wow. What a story! Since moving to New York you have made quite a name for yourself and have done makeup for a number of famous New York celebrities. Name the top five that you enjoyed most and why.
I might have to mention seven or eight:

Tina Brown, because she is always pre-occupied and at the same time very present and generous.

Paula Zahn, we called her Super P since she really is that dynamic woman who juggles so many things and multi-tasks while still being kind, thoughtful and gracious.

Gregory Hines, because he was so playful and fun to be around. Not attitude whatsoever.

Rosanne Cash, a real cool lady with a fabulous voice.

Whoopi Goldberg, because she is her own person. I remember once we were doing a show with three other women. She piped up, "you all look like the same person". And they did. All carefully put together in the appropriate labels. Not Whoopi.

Suze Orman, because she follows her spiritual nature, and believes we limit ourselves and goes about sharing how to be a bigger and better person by just being herself.

Isaac Mizrahi, because he has a naturally hilarious personality and is completely irreverent.

Nora Ephron, because you know she is asking you focus group questions for her next movie.

What qualities do you possess that make you feel like a real New Yorker?
I am very sociable, but like my home to be my respite. I also enjoy a long walk. Yesterday I started at the corner of 16th Street and Fifth Avenue and marched all the way up to Columbia. One hundred blocks is equal to five miles when going north/south. The lights are so damn powerful in Times Square these days it has the pigeons flying around and believing it's still daylight. The next morning, it looks like they have a hangover from staying up so late.

Everyone knows makeup artists get all the dirt. Can you share any with us?
It's true, but my lips are sealed!

What are the normal working hours for a makeup artist? What person have you worked on that we might know that looks fantastic no matter what the hour?
No such thing. That's what makes it so interesting. Often I have to jump in a cab because of a sudden late breaking story... adrenalin pumping, full steam ahead. When I was Paula Zahn's makeup artist at CNN, my alarm went off at 4am and I was done by 10:30am. My job often requires flying by the seat of my pants.

How much is your makeup case worth?
Thousands.

Is it heavy? Have you ever left it in a cab?
It can be. At times it has weighed in at 30lbs. I pack for each gig and have found that a few basics are better then all the "current" favorites. No, I never left it in a cab however I did leave my cell phone in one once. It was returned to me when I called and the cab driver answered. He drove over to return it to me.

What kind of money does a make-up artist of your stature make?
It depends on the gig. My rate is $250 an hour for a three hour minimum.

What celebrity do you wish you could get your hands on for a makeover? And while we're at it what do you think of my eyebrows?
I'm not as interested in celebrities as I am everyday people. They are so much more appreciative. As far as your eyebrows, now that I've cleaned them up, just fabulous darling!

Where do you buy your makeup in New York?
I seldom buy. I recommend the makeup I use and get it into the hands of many celebrities. Therefore I put in a request to these companies who are nice enough to send me what I need. Some of the larger companies play their cards very close to their chests. Not generous at all.

Can you share a little makeup secret for New York women on the go?
A good bronzer all over your face and neck that will brighten up New York women in an instant. We tend to be quite pale in le grand pomme. Bronzer lets you keep your skin healthy while giving you the look of a light healthy tan.

Where was your last celebrity sighting and in your opinion how did they look?
Diana Krall and Elvis Costello walking along University Place on a Sunday night stroll. Fantastic.

What kind of men hit on you in New York?
Smart men!!!

What scares you most about living in New York?
The chain stores taking over the charming mom and pop stores that make New York, New York. Everything looks alike. When I first came to America I thought this was a place where you could be unique. Now everyone wants the same, or so the chain stores think.

Where do you live and what does your apartment look like?
I have a loft downtown with barrel vaulted ceilings overlooking a garden. Lots of color on my walls, original wooden floors from circa 1898, flowers. It's so quiet. The street is tree lined, and I wake up to birds chirping.

What are the top five web sites you go to on a daily basis?
Media Bistro, Daily Candy, Astrologyzone.com. I'm always conscious about keeping my life simple so less time spent on the computer or in front of the television set the better.

You are also a writer. Can we expect a tell-all juicy gossip book from you in the near future?
During my last trip to South Africa, I found myself in the middle of a truly remarkable situation. Although it was tragic, I saw the hilarity of it as well and I'm in the midst of turning it into a caper.

How do you find quiet time in the city. Where do you go and what do you do to relax?
My home, or the home of my best girlfriend Val. We are partners in writing. We tend to spend time in Central Park, walking through museums talking about our plans. Watching old black and white movies, making tea or having wine with friends. Nothing in particular since New York provides a backdrop for performance art, which as any New Yorker knows, comes to you by way of just walking down the street.


Interview by Kristen Duncan Williams