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On beauty and Victoria’s Secret



Supermodel, Armani Beauty ambassador and Victoria’s Secret Angel Barbara Palvin attended her first Fashion Awards this week, flying in to London from her home city of New York for the occasion.

Armani Eyes To Kill Eye Quattro Palette – Notorious



“I’m shockingly wearing Armani!” she jokes. “I shot in this outfit four months ago and fell in love with it, and wanted it for the Venice Film Festival, but they promised it to someone else. So, when I saw it on the rack in my fitting [for the Fashion Awards] I was like, ‘That one!’. It gives you the perfect shape.” She decided to match her beauty look to the gown’s red embellished sleeves. “I’m thinking of a smoky eye with a little glitter to it,” the Hungarian native told us in her hotel room before the event. The result smouldered, her eye make-up achieved using the Armani Eyes To Kill Eye Quattro Palette in #1, and the Eye Tint Eye Shadow in #43, a silver liquid eye shadow.

Deciding on her red carpet looks is a matter of “team work,” she told us. “I have my idea and then we collaborate.” Did she ever regret a look? “My bow!” she laughs, referring to the blush pink hairband she showcased this year in Venice. “No, not really – I wasn’t sure at the time, but then it looked great. There have been times I’ve done the red carpet and haven’t liked the photos the next day, but it wasn’t because I went so far with the look that it came out looking weird, it’s just that it wasn’t my best day.” It’s hard to believe even Palvin has less than perfect days.

'Joker' Red Carpet Arrivals - The 76th Venice Film Festival

NurPhotoGetty Images

This autumn was quieter than it would have been for the model, given that the annual Victoria’s Secret show was cancelled while the lingerie brand works on a new marketing strategy amid widespread criticism that its one-dimensional view of beauty is outdated. How did Palvin take the news? “I was very disappointed. But they know what they’re doing, and I trust the process. I feel like the world is changing around us, and everyone needs to go with it, and that’s their way of doing it.”

She’s looking forward to the brand starting a new chapter, though. “I don’t know what the future holds but I’m pretty sure there’s some very exciting stuff,” she teased. “That’s all I can say!”

Palvin says her workout techniques come from her fellow Victoria’s Secret stars, while her beauty tips come from the Armani teams and the countless glam squads she’s worked with in her 13 year (and counting) career. Below the 26-year-old shares her secrets:

My favourite products are…

“I travel with my basic make-up for the daytime. I use the Armani Luminous Silk foundation, because it’s the most perfect coverage; it’s not too much, or too heavy. It gives you a natural glow. It’s very easy to apply, I usually just put it in my hands like a moisturiser. Then I use concealer, a neutral eye palette and mascara, and the Armani Neo Nude Fusion Powder in a darker shade to my skin tone which I use as my contour – it looks more natural.

“For an event or red carpet, I would probably add a red lipstick like Mr Armani’s favourite, shade 400. It’s the most beautiful colour.”

You have to know how things will look on camera

Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation 30ml (Various Shades)

Giorgio Armani


“Sometimes the stylist won’t know how my hair works. For example, when I want to do a messy bun, I have to be careful of the placement, because around my temples I have very fair hair and the camera flash can bleach it out so you can’t see it. It looks like I have no hair there, but it’s just very blonde.

“It’s the same with the skin, if the make-up artist doesn’t use the right foundation then my skin can look very transparent and you can see all the veins and wrinkles! My skin feels very dry right now from flying.”

I mimic make-up artists techniques myself

“I mimic everything I’ve seen from make-up artists. I’m pretty damn good! I started modelling when I was 13, so everything I know is from artists. Something that changed my life is contouring, I learnt you should draw the number ‘3’ [and a back-to-front ‘3’ on the other side of the face], to shade your jawline, your cheeks, and your hairline around the forehead.”

I’m a big fan of natural beauty

“I wish people wouldn’t layer their make-up so much. Recently when you see all these make-up tutorials, it looks so thick! I like natural. You can still highlight the parts that you love about your face with very minimal make-up.”

Travelling and hormones affect my skin

“With flying my skin is not so good. And, I’m a woman, so every month it gets me… But recently I started using a volcanic mask by Armani [the Crema Nera Reviving Volcanic Mask]. You put it everywhere – on your lips and eyes too, sit for 10 minutes and it just wakes you up, and pulls everything into the right place! I do that before events, and post-flights.”

Facials don’t work for me

“My skin can breakout from facials. Sometimes I want to do facials because they feel so good, but I always breakout. I even got acne once from doing a facial two years ago! Since then I just stick with massages when I want a treatment.”

Cutting my hair made life so much easier

“I’ve got a lot of hair and it’s very heavy at the ends. I had it so long for ever, and around six months ago we cut it. It’s now so much easier. I have to worry even less about my looks! Since then I’ve cut it back so many times because it just keeps growing. I did go chin-length when I had a month off in August – I cut it and didn’t tell anyone – but by the time I came back to work it was back to normal length. You can use extensions if you need to cheat length.”

I do ‘train like an Angel’

They [Palvin’s fellow Victoria’s Secret Angels] all keep on saying that I have to find the one workout that works for my body type. Josephine [Skriver] and Jasmine [Tookes] are making videos of a lot of different workouts and I just try those and see if it works for me or not. Working out is such a huge part of my job, and they are testing it all on their bodies which is good for me, I don’t need to test it, I just see what works for them and try it myself!”

I work out up to six times a week

“Today I didn’t work out because I’m exhausted, but when I’m getting ready for an event I would work out five or six times a week, but if I’m not getting ready three times is enough. I think it’s more about the food.”

My diet is really key to staying in shape

“Eating healthy and having a balance – and not going crazy after a night out! I don’t follow anything strict, it’s an ‘80/20’ diet: 80 per cent healthy, 20 per cent whatever I want. And then you don’t guilt trip yourself, because you need to treat your soul too.”

"La Vérité" (The Truth) Premiere, Opening Ceremony 76th Venice Film Festival

Stefania D’AlessandroGetty Images

I drink whole milk every day

“It’s a Hungarian beauty ritual. My great grandma would tell me to drink a glass of milk every day to help for beautiful skin and I’ve been doing that every day since I was a little girl. Just dairy whole milk.”

Self-care rituals are also really important to me

“I read a lot, it takes me away from the real world into a magical world – or at the moment a deadly world because I’m reading a murder mystery! I go to my bedroom and sit down and read. I do love watching Netflix too, but since I was little I would always read.”


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Dianne Blell: Beauty, Archetypes, and Artifacts



Dianne Blell was surrounded in her Bridgehampton studio by photographs from her four-decade career.

Dianne Blell photographs beauty: the beauty of ideal love, the beauty of the broken and ruined, and the beauty of art history. Her iconic series “The Pursuit of Love” and “Desire for the Intimate” mine Neo-Classical art, classical mythology, Moghul miniatures, and Hindu folklore, appropriating images and characters and restaging them in elaborate photographic tableaus.

Her most recent images focus on single objects — antique chairs, a miniature tree — often worn or damaged, presented in isolation against a black background as if “in a high-end antique auction catalog.”

Ms. Blell traces the direction taken by her photographic work to a lecture given by Tom Marioni, a San Francisco artist and founder of the Museum of Conceptual Art (MOCA). She was a student at the San Francisco Art Institute in the early 1970s, and at first “I was uneducated,” she explained recently at her Bridgehampton studio. “Then I heard Tom talk about Conceptual Art and the importance of showing process, and for me it was as if the world had opened up.”

At that time happenings and performance art were figuring prominently throughout the art world. “All that was left afterward was the photographic documentation. And I thought, why not just address the camera immediately, and I started creating things for the camera alone.”

An early series from 1979, “Charmed Heads and Early Cupids,” consisted of nine photographs that referenced classical portraits of women from art history and fashion photography. Miss Blell, styled with fashions from the recent collections of New York designers, was the model for the images, which were accompanied by photo and styling credits.

In one image, “Pursuing Urban Cupid,” she is reaching toward the sky for a cherub suspended just out of her reach. Shot on the roof of her loft building in the financial district, she is set against open sky and the World Trade Center, which was less than 100 yards away. Another image, “Future Perfect,” shows Ms. Blell winged, like Cupid, with the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in the background.

“Origin of Drawing” from “The Pursuit of Love” series Dianne Blell

Ms. Blell grew up in and around Chicago. It was in Wilmette, Ill., at the Convent of the Sacred Heart — “I was a very edgy kid, that’s why they sent me to the convent” — that her interest in the classical began to take shape. Early on the students read “The Odyssey,” “Beowulf,” and memorized poetry, and she discovered mythology. “To me that was the most wonderful thing, and it was full of images.”

The family moved to La Jolla, Calif., when she was a teenager, and it was at the Art Center in La Jolla, now the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, that she was introduced to a sophisticated art world. “Artists came there to teach or have gigs, and the curators gave shows to them. I met Larry Bell there, John Altoon, Sol LeWitt, Ed Kienholz.”

While taking classes at the San Diego College for Women, her parents divorced and she was left to her own devices. She moved to Los Angeles and worked as a secretary for a year and a half before deciding she wanted to see the world and took a job as a flight attendant for Pan Am.

Four years later, in 1970, she enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute and earned a B.F.A. and an M.F.A. in three years. “I wasn’t doing photographs then, I was trying to paint. That’s what you did. I didn’t know a thing about paint.” It was there that Mr. Marioni’s lecture set her on the path toward her mature work, and, after graduation, to New York City. In 1978, while still living in San Francisco, she found the loft on Cedar Street where she still lives and works when not at her house in Bridgehampton, which she purchased in 1993.

The series “Various Fabulous Monsters” and “The Pursuit of Love” were shown at Leo Castelli Gallery in Manhattan in 1983 and 1985 respectively. The sources for those works included paintings by Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Joseph-Marie Vien, Angelica Kaufmann, and other neo-classicists.

The art critic Donald Kuspit said of those two series, “Making us focus and rethink the style and meaning of the paintings and prints by restaging them as photo-tableaus, she breathes new aesthetic life into them.” Ms. Blell recreated the paintings by making the costumes and fashioning sumptuous sets in her loft from paper, cloth, and canvas.

“The sets were rooms. When they were finished and the photographs taken, I would have dinner parties in them. It was like eating in Pompeii.” The figures in “The Pursuit of Love” series are dressed, or not, as in the source paintings. Because the images were created in real time, before digital software was available, each scene was diagramed, and the models rehearsed and were captured with hundreds of Polaroid images before the final 4-by-5 shots were taken.

“I started out with the whole idea of the female form and desire in art history and the search for the ideal and beauty. I wanted to show that the camera in this day and age can translate old values and old romance and appreciation for classical pieces and history. I’ve been accused of being sentimental and romantic, as if I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m taking a camera and reactivating it as a human being.”

She continues to shoot with 4-by-5 film to this day, but the composite images in the “Desire for the Intimate” series, created between 2000 and 2008, were made by scanning separate 4-by-5 images and combining them digitally. She posed the models for Rada and Krishna individually and, as with the earlier series, created elegant sets based on Hindu miniatures. While the models are shown in intimate and sometimes erotic poses, “They never met. The people were Photoshopped into the sets.”

“I was always interested in medieval art and Moghul miniatures, and I was very interested in the human condition and the search for the ideal in humankind. I just locked in to Rada and Krishna as the great archetypal symbols of courtship.”

Dianne Blell pursued Cupid in this photograph from her “Charmed Heads and Urban Cupids” series. Dianne Blell

The series took nearly a decade to complete because of 9/11, which destroyed the first sets and other contents of her studio. Ms. Blell photographed the aftermath of the destruction from the rooftop of her building. Some of those images are now in the collection of the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

At first glance, Ms. Blell’s “Tragic Chairs,” part of her “Artifacts of the Contemporary” series and shown last month at MM Fine Art in Southampton, seem to be a radical departure. However, “Vessel,” like the “Tragic Chairs,” consists of a single object, a cheap plaster stage prop of an urn, set against a black background.

“It’s from 1983. It was in my first show at Leo Castelli,” she said. “It has always haunted me. I had accumulated a taste for these sort of broken, fractured ormolu and fragments and things that were part of other things. They have stories to tell.”

She had been “fiddling around” with images of her six aging antique side chairs for five years. For “Tragic Chairs,” the photographs of the chairs are slightly smaller than life-sized “so they would be abstracted from reality but would still invite the viewer to sit down.”

After the chairs were photographed with a 4-by-5 camera, the images were scanned and cut out by a computer controlled process, printed in reverse on the underside of a piece of Plexiglas, and mounted on a seven-foot tall sheet of black dibond, an aluminum composite material.

As a result of the printing, cutting, and mounting process, “the photograph becomes a physical entity. . . . As such, ruinous life-sized pieces become topographic reliefs in a spatial void unconfined by their original and quotidian contexts.”

What links the most recent work to the earlier series is what Mr. Kuspit called the artist’s “positive attitude to desire,” whether the desire of lovers or Ms. Blell’s romanticization of the damaged. She pointed out that such artifacts decay and often outlive us, full of “a shared gravitas and pathos of ephemerality, mortality, and obsolescence. Perhaps they can be construed as self-portraits.”


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