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Netflix GLOW Makeup Artist Lana Grossman on the Show’s OTT ’80s Beauty Looks

To say we’re obsessed with Netflix’s GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) is an understatement. The comedy series, which is inspired by the 1986 television program of the same name, is not only wildly entertaining and wonderfully campy, but it also brings us ’80s-loving ladies so much joy with its over-the-top Flashdance-level worthy fashion and beauty looks. Beyond the big hair, bold eye shadow and glitter, there were also nods to 80’s beauty with a scene involving the trick of using a cigarette lighter to soften up an eyeliner, as well as glimpses of iconic products like Aqua Net hairspray and Dep gel.

So who’s the mastermind behind all the glitz and glam (at least, makeup-wise)? Lana Grossman, the woman also responsible for the ’60s looks seen on Mad Men (which, interestingly enough, also starred GLOW‘s Alison Brie). And while Grossman admits working with ’80s-style looks was much easier than the ’60s, GLOW‘s beauty department still had its own challenges, particularly creating looks that paid homage to the era’s aesthetic, while still appearing somewhat DIY.

We caught up with Grossman via telephone to chat about the inspiration behind the looks, the collaborative process and how to channel GLOW makeup IRL. Read on for our interview below:

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Alison Brie as Ruth Betty Gilpin as Debbie. (Photography by Erica Parise/Netflix.)

FASHION Magazine: You have experience with period makeup, specifically the ’60s because of Mad Men. What was it like transitioning to the ’80s for GLOW?
Lana Grossman: I have to say, it was actually way easier. Even though there were so many girls [on GLOW], the ’80s, I lived through it, I remember it, I knew it well, so I didn’t have to do much research or anything like that, I just sorta remember!

Did you take inspiration from people you looked up to growing up?
LG: Oh, totally! And also, I was very familiar with the show, the original GLOW, because I watched it when I was a kid and loved it. It was way easier, in a way, for me to just transition into that. The ’80s was my time! [Doing this show] was the happiest three months of my life.

Were there specific wrestlers from the original show that you looked to?
LG: We definitely looked to the pictures of the ladies, but we tried hard to create our own look for each of them. The basis from the show that we took was that it was all very homemade, they all did it themselves so everything was kind of imperfect. We definitely looked at [the original], but then we wanted to design our own thing …[for the girls] to be their own wrestling characters. They were loosely based [on the original].

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Photography by Erica Parise/Netflix

How did you translate that “homemade” style onto the actual looks for these characters?
LG: That was the hardest part, truthfully. It’s our instinct to come in and we wanna make them perfect. We would do our initial look and then we were just like, “Okay. Now smear a little bit here, maybe make one eye a little bit uneven.” This is what we struggled with, especially for the last scene. Everything we would show, they were like “Too editorial, it’s too perfect,” which is obviously our instinct. So we just had to make the lines not so straight, the eyeliner not as perfect, just take it down and maybe smudge it a little. Other than that, we would talk to the girls and be like, “Do you think you could do it yourself?” We definitely let each girl sort of feel off of what felt they could do and what they were just like, “Oh, no way.”

I read that Allison Brie had the idea to give her character that ’80s-style perm like Ripley in Alien. Did she have ideas for her makeup too?
LG: Oh, definitely! It was a definitely a collaboration and I knew her well, because I knew her from Mad Men. It was so easy to talk to her. I would show her the colour scheme that I would wanna do and I would just show her pictures and she definitely weighed in. And I was like, “You know, you’re going to be married to this wrestling character” so I wanted her to be happy with it and I wanted her to feel good in it, so we definitely worked together on the colours. But she’s so easy! Every girl loves to be covered in glitter! Literally, once all the glitter came out they were like “AHHH!!” (Laughs.)

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Allison Brie as Ruth. (Photography by Erica Parise/Netflix.)

Brie’s Ruth character is so different from Zoya the Destroyer, so how did you manage to portray those differences in her beauty look…even the look she created in that first episode when she was going back to the audition and she did her own makeup with that war paint?
LG: That was so ridiculous. (Laughs.) As soon as she had that weird cape on and the weird headband, we were just like, “Okay, what would you have done? If you had neon paint and you bought it at a drugstore, what would you do?” And she just took her finger and just wiped it on her face and I was like, “Yeah. Let’s just do it. Just smear it on and cover it with glitter and call it a day!” It was amazing and ridiculous. Every time I would touch her up I was just like, “I can’t even look at you, get away from me.” (Laughs.) She LOVED it.

Since each person’s wrestling persona is so distinct, how were you able to differ each look while still maintaining that ’80s aesthetic?
LG: It was so hard. I’m not gonna lie, just because there’s so many of them and we wanted them all to feel special. You know, they’re going in there, they’re wrestling — something that they’re already not used to doing — so we just wanted them to feel like they looked as badass as they could. We spent so much time with Beth [Morgan], the costume designer, Theraesa [Rivers], who did hair. We really collaborated so much and sent each other pictures and had meeting after meeting just to inspire each other. It really helped once we started seeing the costumes.

We had influences for each one — Jackie [Tohn], Melrose, she was kind of a Madonna ripoff, so we looked at a bunch of old Madonna [photos] and once that pink hair came in and she had these glittery tights I was just like “Oh my gosh, she needs rhinestones all over her face.” So we just pulled a bunch of references. Everything sort of developed… the costumes would be done, the hair… we sort of built on each one each time and by the time we got to the actual day, everything was totally ironed out and everybody had their look. We wanted the girls to all weigh in and let us know what they thought they would have, so they would bring pictures… it was a very collaborative experience, which is the way I love to work, honestly. It took a village, and we were so happy at the end when we saw them all up there all lined up in their look. We were just like, “YES!!”

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Jackie Tohn as Melrose. (Photography by Erica Parise/Netflix.)

This is probably hard to answer, but which look was the most fun for you to create?
LG: God, that is hard to say. The excitement we felt when each one was finalized was just more exciting than the next. For me, I loved doing Allie [Brie], because everyday she would come in as Ruth and all we really did was make her eyebrows thicker. Other than that it was pretty much nothing. So to take her from that to her transition, that was so different, that was super fun.

Debbie [Betty Gilpin]’s character, she was just fun every day. We didn’t actually get to do a wrestling look on her because it was a reveal, which kind of sucked, but the wrestling she did in the first episode… I just wanted her to look like she was dipped in gold. So we did all this stuff and we were like, “What are we missing? We need something.” So I took off her fake eyelashes, and I just sprayed them with glue and I just dipped them into a vat of glitter and I glued them back on and I was like, “That’s what you needed. Gold glitter eyelashes.” And the glitter was just hanging off. It was so awesome. I don’t even know if it read that well, but I was like, “Why don’t we have glitter lashes for everything?”

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Betty Gilpin as Debbie. (Photography by Erica Parise/Netflix.)

Which look was the most challenging?
LG: I think all in, probably the She-Wolf [Gayle Rankin], because we saw her like that from the beginning to the end. Especially with myself and Theraesa, it was really tricky because she basically made that wig. She just took a regular wig and she made those dreadlocks and she made everything by herself. She put it on her and she was like, “This looks so ridiculous. I don’t know how we’re going to sell this, it just looks like a joke and it makes us look like we don’t know how to do hair.” That one was challenging, and we knew [Gayle] was going to have to do it herself at one point so we had to keep it looking like something she could do. And to keep it from looking too smoky eyed, or too modern, or too cool, we just wanted it to feel kind of dirty and feral, but at the same time, she had to live in that look everyday.

It was really challenging to come up with something that we could live with for the whole season, with Gayle and just all together. But once that corset was put on her and when the hair and that makeup, I was like, “I think we did it.” I feel like at first people were probably like, “What is that?” but then I think as it went on… it sort of all makes sense. We really ended up loving the way she looked. And then we get to throw the glitter on at the end!

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Gayle Rankin as Sheila the She-Wolf. (Photography by Erica Parise/Netflix/)

How much glitter do you think you guys went through?
LG: Oh my gosh. We bought so much…and trying different kinds of glitter… I can’t even tell you. But I still come home covered in glitter. You’re married to it for life. You find it everywhere. I went on to do a 1930s show right after and my first day on set I touched up an actor and he had glitter on him and I was like “OH NO! Here we are!” (Laughs.)

Was there a specific kind of glitter that worked best?
LG: We used a bunch of the MAC glitters in the pots, and then I can’t remember the name of the brand, Violet something [ed. note: Violet Voss]. We found these glitter eyeshadows that were pressed glitter that you actually saw in a scene where Chris Lowell puts it on himself. Those were so easy to use and go on, but what we could not figure out was how to get it off! They looked amazing on, but the removal… we had to do it on Fridays so they could have the weekends [glitter-free]!

Let’s talk about Chris [Lowell], because his character Bash’s look is so distinct when he’s all dressed up.
LG: That was more his hair. That hair is everything. Every time he came on screen it made me laugh, those little baby bangs. We didn’t do much, makeup-wise, until the end when he put that glitter on and then we had to keep putting glitter on. And to put glitter on a boy, it’s so funny because he was just like, “I hate it!” And it was getting in his eyes. Other than that, he’s so handsome, we didn’t really have to do anything. We made him a little tan, we gave him a little spray tan, but other than that, he’s just so cute on his own.

What is one way we can incorporate these looks from GLOW in our everyday looks without being too over-the-top?
LG: I don’t even know that you really can! (Laughs.) Listen, I’m stuck in the ’80s and I would rock it. But I think it’s totally fun to do a colour pop. Maybe the shape of the eyeshadow is super weird, that really weird hard angle on the outside, but maybe soften that, and throw on a bright colour and then a nude lip. I always think it looks pretty badass.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.