WHEN BLACK MAGAZINE AUSTRALIAN EDITOR, MELBOURNE, JUSTIN HENRY SHOWED US HIS BOX OF POLAROIDS LAST YEAR, WE KNEW WE HAD TO NOT ONLY SHARE SOME OF THE IMAGES BUT ALSO THE STORY, A STORY OF SOMEHOW ALWAYS BEING AHEAD OF THE CURVE, FALLING ON YOUR FEET, OVERCOMING ADVERSITY AND BASICALLY LIVING A PRETTY DAMN FABULOUS LIFE. IT'S A STORY THAT STEFAN KNIGHT UNDERSTANDS WELL. RIBAL & GIL CAPTURE JUSTIN 2014, ALL OTHER IMAGES FROM JUSTIN'S ARCHIVE
When I sat down to interview Justin Henry I had a page of questions I couldn’t wait to ask, Justin has had one of those careers in the beauty industry that most make-up artists or hair stylists can only dream of. I begin by mentioning that I remember him from living in mid-90s London and we try to connect where it was we might have met. He says it was a crazy time for him, working constantly, a blur socially, his work was the total focus. “I had one of those lives that wasn’t my own, I was booked 5 months in advance and I worked, like 5000 hours a week”. I ask about his move home to Australia, his answer comes as a stream of consciousness and I realise that this chat will be less of an interview, more of an account of several major events in recent fashion and pop culture history by someone who was a part of it. I settle in and listen to wonderful stories about Justin's career and the moments that have defined him and have helped change the way we see make-up and beauty today.
Justin was very focused from an early age on his love of fashion and beauty, starting out in Sydney he was frustrated that no-one would cut him a break so he came to Auckland in 1989 to shoot for Fashion Quarterly with Derek Henderson and the other bright young things on the New Zealand scene at that time. Justin had always been very inspired by the work of Helmut Newton and made up his mind that if a fellow Australian, with mixed heritage could have that type of international success, then so too could he. He packed up and headed to Europe where he worked in Paris and Germany for magazines doing make-up and hair, which was unusual at that time, as most teams would be made up of separate hair stylists and make-up artists. During this time that he met and worked with a budding young supermodel who just happens to be the cover star of the magazine that you’re holding. Justin recalls: “Tyra was 17 or 18 and we worked together on a magazine shoot.” He must have made an impression because years later he posted the pictures on his Facebook page and Tyra had this to say in the ensuing comments; “I remember your talent. You blew me away! And you were so insanely nice. Me and my Mama were super impressed with your spirit and command of my make-up and hair. There ain’t many that can paint a face and coif a ‘do. Justin Henry is one of those rare makeup and hair brush talents!” Justin tells me; “I couldn’t believe that it was the real Tyra and that she had answered my friend request, and I never expected that reaction or that comment.” A few months after this chance Facebook reunion, Justin was due to go to America with Thom Kerr to shoot Kimbra so he decided to ask Tyra if they could shoot her for Black, saying, “I haven’t shot with you in so many years, obviously you don’t need to, but I’m just going to ask, would you be interested in shooting with me?” She said, “I would love to! Tell me when?” So after a bit of crazy schedule wrangling they made it happen. Justin tells me, “She turned up and said, ‘I’m here because I love your work, I’m your canvas, tell me what you want and I’ll do it.’ She allowed me to wax her eyebrows and pull her hair away and put all of these different wigs on her, she sat there and was just wonderfuln - no drama, no diva, no sign of a billionaire mogul, she was present, available, willing to try different outfits, she was jumping and rolling around. I was so grateful and completely in awe of her humble attitude to making a strong fashion story. We’d say; “Let’s channel Tina Turner 60s rock n roll” and she would just do it. She’s a supermodel, she understands. You give her 4 words and she interprets it straight away, she might be 20 something years in the game but she’s still got it and she’s still relevant.” He says he was nervous she might not like his work, “She looked up after I’d finished a look and said ‘I look re-touched already, awesome, let’s go!!’ Obviously, that’s the reaction you want, when she’s been made up by the best in the world and she likes what I’ve done.” Justin's humble attitude is what makes him a joy to listen to - he still remembers being that “unknown, up-and-coming make-up artist from Melbourne.” After working for a time in Europe he made the move to New York and arrived at the time that Grunge was hitting the fashion world, things were about to change in a major way. Justin's equal talent for hair and make-up was a big calling card and as the new aesthetic meant new ways of working on shoots, there were a small group of artists/stylists who were bucking the ' 2 in a team' trend at the time. “I was working with all of what were then new girls like Kristen Mcmenamy, Amber Valletta and Shalom Harlow on these grunge shoots for Vogue and Mademoiselle magazine. They really liked the fact that coming from Australia, I did both hair and make-up and they let me work on shoots doing both.” I ask him whose face epitomised that time in his career, and he tells me that Amber Valetta was that face for him. Around this time he was assisting Francois Nars, who would be making up the ‘Supers’ like Stephanie Seymour, and Tatiana Patitz and he would leave the new girls like Amber for Justin to make up. This was an amazing learning time for Justin, assisting and working on the teams of Kevyn Aucoin, Laura Mercier, Bobbi Brown, Nars and watching the way they worked, their energy and techniques.
When Jed Root first set up his agency, Justin was the baby. The original roster of talent was photographer Michael Thompson, Kevyn Aucoin, Dick Page, Rumiko and Justin Henry. “I was able to see Allure magazine evolve in the agency and see the first cover of Linda Evangelista before it was re-touched. I saw the way that Kevyn and Michael worked together to make those covers happen. It was inspiring, seeing the way that artists like Kevyn would create the look. But then part of the job is to liaise with the photographer and tell him to ‘clean up that eyebrow, fill in that lip line, tone down the shadow in the left eye it doesn’t match the right’ and just be part of the whole retouch process, this
"WHEN I DID THIS, I WAS SHOOTING WITH RANKIN, BUT I DIDN'T KNOW WHO RANKIN WAS, I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT DAZED AND CONFUSED WAS GOING TO BE AND I HAD NO IDEA WHO KATIE GRAND WAS!"
was a massive eye opener for me on how you got the end result, in the magazine.” This broadened Justin's understanding of the differences, yet similarities between a makeup artist and a creative director albeit in a time where Instant film dominated proceeedings. “It was the time of film and Polaroids. The pictures went away to be retouched, you had to understand retouching and talk to the art director and ask if they were retouching or not before the shoot? If they were: “I’ve got to do it a certain way and if they’re not retouching then I need to add more or less to get the look I want.” I ask if there is a moment that really sticks in his mind from era? “My very first shoot for Vogue I got to go to St Barts with Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele to shoot 14 pages of US Vogue with Christy Turlington for the September issue, which is the issue you want to be in. When it came out I went to the newsagent, I opened it and literally, was horrified. I hated it! She was beautiful, of course, I can look at it now, but as a make-up artist I wanted her to look more made-up, more glamorous and here she was looking completely raw, natural, and attainable. That attainability was revolutionary to other people but to me as a make-up artist I thought people would hate it - that I’d never work again. I was young, I didn’t understand the massive global change that was about to happen, I didn’t get that. I had no idea that I was a part of that, no clue and I was disappointed when I would shoot with great girls like Amber, Christy, Shalom, I worked with Linda Evangelista, but always in an edgier, harder, raw more accessible way and I sometimes thought that people didn’t validate my work, and that they couldn’t see that I could do a really good smoky eye.” Justin decided that New York wasn’t giving him what he needed, “So I moved to London and started eating tuna and sweetcorn sandwiches with Katie Grand in the East End shooting Dazed and Confused. When I did this, I was shooting with Rankin, but I didn’t know who Rankin was, I didn’t know what Dazed and Confused was going to be and I definitely had no idea who Katie Grand was!” Once again, Justin was part of a New Movement, this time in London. London being what it was, no one was willing to give a flash guy from New York, with all of this Vogue in his book, a chance, so he had to start at the beginning with the newbies and work his way up. He soon got his break in Europe, shooting for Italian Vogue in Paris with Michel Comte for Jean-paul Gaultier. At that time Justin was incorporating grunge skin and hair with black lips or black brows, or taking a black girl and doing white eyeliner on her - it was a mix of grunge and modern which at the time was pretty groundbreaking and worked with the English aesthetic. He joined Premier Agency in London and started working with pop stars like The Spice Girls, All Saints, Victoria Beckham (before she was Victoria Beckham) and Robbie Williams. He worked with Baz Luhrmann on Des’ree’s video I’m Kissing You for the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack. During this time Justin became an accidental Celebrity Makeup Artist, a time when “all magazines still had models as their cover stars, prior to the celebrity crazed culture we have now, when doing celebrities and pop stars wasn’t cool - quite unknowingly, once again, Justin was bucking a trend. Celebrity reached new levels when he was “recommended by Vogue to be the personal groomer for the Vice President of the United States, flown to the White House and grooming Al Gore in the Oval Office.” When Justin got the call from Maybelline to be their Worldwide Creative Director he had been recovering from a serious accident that could have ended his career: “It was a highlight in my career but it was at the same time, a massive personal epiphany. I’d had a very bad accident a couple of years prior where I nearly lost my right hand. I was in hospital for four months and I’d had, by that stage, two years of physical therapy. At the end of all of that Maybelline found me through my Paris agent and flew me back from Europe where I was on holiday and basically asked me if I would be their Creative Director. I told them what my reality was in relation to my injury and they said; ‘Thank you for your honesty we already knew that, we’ve done a lot of research on you and we actually want you for your creativity - we can hire a team that can work with you, what we want you to do is oversee the editorial direction of Maybelline becoming Maybelline New York globally and incorporating multicultural aesthetics.” Basically, it was my job to re-brand the company. I got to book photographers, I chose the aesthetic of the make-up. Innovative new products were brought to me before they got to market, so I was able to be on the innovative side of things. All of this gave me the self-confidence after being destroyed, you know, I thought just because I have a scar and just because my hand isn’t perfect anymore, I’m still able to do good work and more importantly I’m able to come up with concepts and make them happen as a Creative Director. Basically, that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.” So for the 3 years Justin was global Creative Director of Maybelline he changed the look and feel of the brand making it the younger, cooler, edgier brand that it has become. He was responsible for the One New York Minute TV campaigns shot on location away from the studio and made the advertising concepts more Italian Vogue than they had previously been. He booked models like Adriana Lima and Erin Wasson to be shot by Stephane Sednaoui and styled by Patti Wilson on the streets of New York.
I ask Justin which models he is inspired by at the moment, he tells me that Holly Rose Emery is his current obsession. Thom Kerr and he were covering Mercedes Benz Australian Fashion Week for Black last year and everytime she came out at each show with a different look or hair-do he would point to her and say to Thom, “Who’s That girl?!” Thom would say” That’s that same girl again J, what’s wrong with you why can’t you recognise her?” Justin would say “I don’t know but I love her!” I guess he was on trend because look at what happened.. When he first laid eyes on Holly he thought she was fabulous, in the same way he did with Amber all those years ago. He thinks that she has a “complicated but simple strong look”, she doesn’t need hair and make-up, she’s stunning and gorgeous but then she can morph into anything you want her to be, she has that amazing blank canvas that you can add to. A year after first seeing her at the shows in Australia Justin got to shoot with Holly Rose in New York for BLKONBLK and of course the images were stunning. As our Australian editor in Melbourne Justin has delivered some stunning images and important stories to Black Magazine. He tells me about how he came to be part of the team, “My agent at the time said you should check out this magazine Black, it’s quite edgy, it’s pretty cool I think you’ll like it. I bought it and I thought fuck this is awesome. I had the opportunity to bring Andrej Pejic to the magazine for a cover and that was the beginning of Rachael and Grant and myself working together. They were the first people down here to thoroughly embrace my history and appreciate the fact that I’d come from nothing and built myself up and then decided to come back home, be a normal person and still do what I do. They accept my work and like what I do and they know that I’m more than just lipstick and mascara and a side ponytail, they understand that I’ve had this amazing history.” It is an amazing history up to this point, but it’s not over yet, Justin Henry continues to use his unique visual language to create stunning work.
Justin with Linda Evangelista at Amber Valetta's wedding