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Interview with Nicki Ledermann, Makeup Artist for HBO Vinyl

Take one glimpse at the trailer for the HBO original series Vinyl and you can see it’s loaded with tons of amazing looks from the ‘70s. The reason behind that? Nicki Ledermann. As the show’s official makeup artist, she researched the hell out of the 1970s rock-and-roll scene, and did a killer job in recreating the iconic looks from that time.

We had a one-on-one with Nicki to find out what inspired her work on Vinyl. (She even told us about some of the cool stuff that went on behind the scenes.)

Don’t forget: You can steal three looks inspired by some of the gorgeous makeup Nicki did for Vinyl. Get all the steps here.

Where did you draw inspiration from to create each look for the show?

Initially I went to bookstores and got books on ‘70s rock and roll, like books by Mick Rock and Bob Gruen; Max’s Kansas City: Art, Glamour, Rock and Roll; and Blood and Glitter. Searching for Playboy magazines from the time period was part of my favorite research work, as well as watching movies from the ‘70s, like Mean Streets and Klute. Of course the internet is an amazing resource. We literally gathered hundreds of pictures. And so did the hair and wardrobe departments. Thanks to technology, we were able to share all of our research and come up with an incredible library of research to create inspiration boards.

The ‘70s time period is famously known for its wild and creative beauty trends—what are your favorites?

My favorite makeup trends were the experimental and bold statements of the rock-and-roll/pre-punk underground looks. Like straight men doing women’s makeup, drag queens going all crazy with glitter—artsy and expressive rather than trying to look like a pretty woman. I loved all the bold colors on everyone; people used makeup as an expression rather than doing corrective makeup. And I love how the skin on the ladies was always dewy and shiny; to me there is nothing more beautiful and sexy than clean skin on a woman’s face—that it’s not hidden with caked-on makeup.

What were some of the most exciting moments on set?

I got excited like a little kid whenever we were filming a concert. Although these were very hard days for us work-wise, they were so, so AMAZING. The music is so good. The clothes, hair and makeup were so fun. I felt like I was in a time warp, being at the coolest concerts in the ‘70s. This made all the hard work pay off. This was our time to shine (literally, with so much glitter, haha) and do fun makeup. There was no such thing as getting carried away of course, given our ‘70s guideline. Makeup, makeup, makeup.

What were some of the most challenging moments on set?

Large crowded scenes are always a challenge. At times we had 20 or more makeup artists handling crowds of 200-plus background actors who all had to have a specific look—from mainstream corporate parties to funk and hip-hop crowds to punk rock. They all had to be different and yet be true to the ‘70s. Another challenge was turning actors into actual historical figures, like Alice Cooper, Elvis, Andy Warhol and David Bowie. There was no time for prosthetic appliances to get their facial features to match exactly, so by painting the face through highlighting and shadowing, we managed to make the actors resemble their character. This captured the style and feel of that person through portrait painting techniques rather than using prosthetics. That felt more honest and real.

Some trends can feel a bit out there for the average woman. What are some ways to rock a ‘70s look that won’t take her too far out of her comfort zone?

Forget about powder; let your skin glow—especially your cheekbones. Add any fun, shimmery color or bold hues on the lids without eyeliner, but with lots and lots of mascara on top and bottom. Eyebrows are groomed, rather round (but not too arched) or just natural. Finish off with a sheer gloss in clear or a pretty orange-red, and a shimmery, warm-toned blush. One thing that was very important for me, no matter what style we went for, was that we made the skin look clean, beautiful and dewy; I wanted to see skin and not a covered-up face.


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