Meet the artist behind Doja Cat’s mesmerizing makeup transformations

When makeup artist Laurel Charleston first met Doja Cat, it was, like any modern celebrity connection, through technology. “We connected on social media, and the first time we worked together was for New York Fashion Week this year,” Charleston explains. “She asked me to paint her, and we succeeded with this white, webbed makeup painted all over her head!” The look was the trippy, whirlwind moment the “Woman” singer wore for Vogue World’s street-fair-meets-runway event, and it set the stage for an even bolder week in the City of Lights — with Charleston. playing the role of a Good Artist.

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“Every look we created was a deeply artistic and beautiful collaboration between her, myself, and her stylist, Brett Alan Nelson,” says Charleston, who drew inspiration from each fashion look. Thinking about conceptual sources is not unfamiliar territory for her. Charleston began recreating fine art paintings using cosmetics as a medium. “I ended up teaching myself different painting styles, techniques, and ways to express myself with makeup,” she says. After moving to New York in 2019 to work as a bandleader, Charleston began experimenting with other Brooklyn makeup artists like Nathan Sweet, Brian Vu, and Patrick Church for testing and projects. “It was also around this time that I started my journey, living my life as a transgender person,” she recalls. “The world of classical music is (still) sadly riddled with many normative gender ideals and transphobia, a successful, healthy, transgender career as a conductor was going to be harder than I thought. But while the classic world pushed me away, the makeup world embraced me with open arms!”

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