Screen Star Makeup: beauty, stardom, masquerade

London (14.3.2020), 10. December 2019.

Saturday 14 March 2020 – 10am-5pm
Queen Mary University of London

EXTENDED DEADLINE --- Because of the UCU strike we have extended the CFP deadline to 10 December.


Confirmed Keynote: Deborah Jermyn
Reader in Film & TV at the University of Roehampton

Makeup is a vital technical material in the construction of the on-screen image. In both film and photography makeup is used to correct skin-tones for different film stocks and make features visible under bright lights. Beyond this, makeup is also a medium of transformation and beautification and because of this it can be regarded with suspicion. Makeup’s connections with masquerade and theatricality evoke frivolity, artifice and deception; leading to the implication that makeup is worn to conceal inadequacies. James Naremore notes that although film studios have ‘always maintained huge makeup departments’ many actors disingenuously express a preference for appearing ‘natural’ on screen. This embarrassment about the wearing of makeup means that other than in the form of special effects, makeup has ‘become the most truly invisible of movie crafts’ (1988: 95-6).

This repudiation of makeup by actors belies the fact that makeup is often a visible and important component of the star image. In the early 20th century moral consternation about the provocative implications of wearing makeup was overridden by the mass popularity of screen stars and their strikingly made-up faces. These star makeup looks created a demand for products that led to the creation of still-familiar brands such as Max Factor. Stars were then recruited to endorse makeup lines and appear in advertisements, a convention that continues in the 21st century.

This symposium at QMUL will bring together academics and practitioners from a range of fields. Papers and video essays are sought on the role and effects of makeup in the creation, maintenance and dissemination of the star image with interdisciplinary approaches particularly welcome. Specific topics for papers and video essay proposals might include, but are not limited to:

- The role makeup plays in forming and consolidating particular star images
- Examinations of the work of particular makeup artists
- The makeup styles of different film studios
- Analysis of the makeup of individual stars
- Analysis of makeup in particular films
- Makeup and skin colour
- Star makeup versus historical accuracy
- The continuing influence of classical star makeups
- National makeup styles
- The no makeup movement - Makeup, stars and ageing
- Makeup for colour and/or black and white films and images
- The influence of changing fashions on star makeups
- Perceptions of beauty
- Theoretical approaches to makeup and the star image
- Imitation of star looks
- The dissemination of professional makeup products on the high street
- Stars and makeup advertising campaigns
- Makeup and fan magazines

Proposals of 250-words for 20-minute papers or video essay presentations should be sent with a 100-word biographical note to Lucy Bolton and Cathy Lomax at

Deadline for submissions is 3 December 2019. Accepted papers will be notified by 18 December 2019.