Viktor Victoria

“I’m a woman, pretending to be a man, pretending to be a woman?” Julie Andrews Makeup can transform, makeup can lie, and makeup can change how others see you. Hiding behind a mask of makeup, pretending to be someone else behind makeup or simply switching character through makeup, is about illusion. Victoria Grant became Count Victor Grezinski through more than just makeup but alongside clothes and wig, it was the focus of attention as Julie Andrew’s character adds bold, strong visuals on her face. On TikTok and Instagram in seemingly a thousand bedrooms, makeup aficionados are demonstrating how they transform. “Glow Up” the Netflix/BBC series grabs a selection of these people and roasts them under the makeup grill. But in all these instances it’s a single image, it’s a one hit bit of fakery.

Left, blazer & trousers: Tibi –  shirt: Untuckit – tie: Tom Ford –  jewelry: talents own; right, hat: Binata Millinery –  tie: Tom Ford – rings: Alice Pierre, Type, Michael M, Patcharavipa

Here, in this story, Vicky Steckel uses her skills and sense of visual narrative in images arresting enough to make you stop scrolling and wonder. To apply your own interpretation of what inspired the creative team to offer this Viktor Viktoria.

Left, bra & boxers: Calvin Klein – suspenders: stylists own – necklace: Celeste Starre – rings: Alice Pierre, Michael M; right, shirt: Tibi – rings & necklaces: Patcharavipa,Type, Michael M, State Property, Celeste Starre, Nicole Rose

It is a story about a series of ideas all coalescing into one about glamour and identity, about why a name and a visual triggers specific response, and it’s all about makeup. In the original film Viktor und Viktoria made in 1933 or indeed Fanfaren Der Liebe 1935 that Billy Wilder transformed into Some Like It Hot, gender is both serious and funny. The 1930’s saw masculine/feminine blur, celebrated, and enjoyed. Tragically it was to end shortly as can be seen in the brilliant Netflix documentary Eldorado. So, there is also a serious side to questioning sexual attraction and beauty, cosmetics and gender, makeup, and transformation. Is it truth or deception? Is it real life or pretence?

Left, dress: Aknvas – tie: Tom Ford; right, scarf: stylists own

When Blake Edwards and Julie Andrews made Viktor Viktoria in 1982 or La Cage aux Folles the musical, took to the stage in 1983 neither was the success predicted because AIDS had appeared on the newsstands, headlines, TV news. Forty years on gender, identity and how we present ourselves through makeup is viewed so differently. Jordan Roth, Miss Fame, and many others see the glamour of makeup, and once again the celebration of cosmetic’s power to transform. Vicky smiled when she first briefed me on this story, a reflection of how we’ve dealt with the transformative powers of makeup, and the ability to disconcert, discover and defuse gender in the twenty first century. To steal from the French, “Vive la Difference”!


Photographer: Greg Sorensen @grefsorensenphoto

Creative Beauty director: Vicky Steckel @vicky_steckel using Elf Cosmetics

Talent: Victoria Brito @vickatrillion

Hair: Keith Carpenter using Balmain Hair

Manicurist: Yukie Miyakawa @yukie_miyakawa_nails using Chanel Beauty

Stylist: Lizzy Rosenberg @lizzyrosenberg

Stylist Assistant: Matti Rossi @matttrossi

Digital: Eric Akashi @ericakashi 

Production: Fathead Production

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