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12 Sep

Make-up artist Leo Chaparro’s daring beauty looks will captivate

Dopamine beauty at its best

From digital artists to photographers, body sculptors and hair stylists to make-up and nail artists, in our Highlight series, we profile the creatives tearing up the rulebook of their respective industries.

Rhinestones, color, drama – we’re going all out with our make-up in the mean time, embracing maximalist beauty and full-throttle glamour. In the event you are in search of inspiration, then there’s nobody higher than Leo Chaparro: a make-up artist who has never shied away from a daring splash of color or statement look. 

Merging fantasy and sweetness, Chaparro’s work is stuffed with show-stopping eyes, neon shades and pink blush Grace Jones could be happy with. It’s make-up that pays tribute to the decadent disco looks of the 70s and 80s, while remaining fresh and relevant to our modern sensibilities. “I’m often captivated by the eyes and the way graphic and playful it might be when creating. I sometimes visualise a mask, like Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy in Batman,” Chaparro says. “Some days I express something daring and loud and at other times it’s soft and delicate.”

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Chaparro was influenced by his culture and surroundings while growing up. “Spending a few years at my grandparents’ farms in Mexico allowed me to see the sweetness within the natural world around me and value reference to all living things,” he says. It’s nature that always provides the inspiration for his larger-than-life looks today, still mesmerised as he’s by the colors and transformative points of the natural world. “I have a look at rocks, insects, butterflies, monkeys, flowers and foods to create something fun and vibrant.”  

Chaparro brings this spirit of vibrancy and transformation to all his projects, whether working on Savage x Fenty campaigns, with Alessandro Michele for the Met Gala 2022, or with stars like Alexa Demie, Gabbriette and Caroline Polachek. A recent favourite was collaborating with Violet Chachki for the music video for Visage’s “Fade to Grey”. “We created daring and visually striking looks,” he says. “There was trust and synergy amongst all of the artists present. We had a lot fun.” 

We caught up with Chaparro to learn more about his inspirations, creative process and dealing with Alessandro Michele.

Do you remember the primary time you were conscious of your appearance?

Leo Chaparro: Sometime in elementary school. Being surrounded by different faces and personalities led me to find my very own appearance. My journey towards self-acceptance empowered me to embrace myself and give attention to what comes from inside. That led me to recognise people for who they’re internally; how they love, how they feel, etc.

Growing up, what informed your understanding of beauty and the way in which you presented yourself visually?

Leo Chaparro: Fantasy. Movies like Howl’s Moving Castle, directed by Hiyao Miyazaki, and shows like Sailor Moon. Also characters like The Diva from The Fifth Element. It’s a dive into an alternate universe and dimension. I used to be drawn to the style, hair, make-up and accessories. These are all different types of inspiration that I aim to emulate in every aspect of my life.

Why are you a make-up artist? What made you should turn out to be one?

Leo Chaparro: Make-up is one in all the varied mediums I exploit to create. I connect with my inner child that way. I even have a drive to precise and shape different characters I’ve envisioned. I aim to honour my whole self throughout the creative process.

Where did you hone your craft? Is it something you learned or is it more instinctual?

Leo Chaparro: I first worked with make-up after I was studying theatre and film. I learned easy methods to work with lighting and make-up, and easy methods to do my very own for the stage. When I made a decision to give attention to beauty, I created various looks for myself: fooling around with color, shapes, and technique. This evolved into what I create today.

How did you break into the industry?

Leo Chaparro: It’s been a gradual progression. Sharing my work has provided a chance to attach, create and collaborate with many artists. Each moment is as vital as the following, it’s all an element of my journey on this industry.

What’s your creative process? How do you translate someone’s initial creative vision right into a final look?

Leo Chaparro: Taking in all elements of every project as a complete allows me to translate where I’d prefer to take the direction. I have a look at colors, textures, the unique features of talent, etc. I’ll make a picture board with my inspiration and where I’m taking the vision. All of those pieces work as a puzzle I soak up to create a final look.

Is “beauty” (whatever that word means to you) something you are attempting to capture in your work or something that you simply reject?

Leo Chaparro: I really like to capture the whole essence of beauty beyond the physical form.

You lately worked with Alessandro Michele for the Met Gala – how was that have? 

Leo Chaparro: Beautiful and exciting. Alessandro created a warm experience. I love his work and distinct vision. It’s all the time a pleasure to collaborate with other artists for events, just like the Met Gala. I intend to have the same experience in the longer term.

What should make-up bring to a shoot or runway show?

Leo Chaparro: Make-up brings completion to the story, the fantasy, the world, the character, and the vision.

What’s probably the most significant thing you’ve learnt over the course of your profession?

Leo Chaparro: To precise my authentic vision, I’ve learned to trust myself. Be present and aim to have joy in every moment because at the tip of the day we’re all creating, which is all meant to be playful and fun!

What’s your dream project to work on?

Leo Chaparro: The plain: a beauty and fashion campaign. It could even be a dream to merge two passions of mine, acting and make-up. I’m very inspired by Debi Mazar who was a make-up artist in the beginning of her profession, amongst many other things, and later moved into the world of acting.

What advice would you give to young artists hoping to get into the industry?

Leo Chaparro: You might be unique and have a special story to inform. Trust your heart and consider in yourself.

Who would you prefer to shine a highlight on next?

Leo Chaparro: Intersectional Environmentalist, here to “empower + instil joy in people of color and historically excluded communities by amplifying the incredible legacies of diverse people within the environmental space.” Done for the “protection of each people + the planet.”

Million Dollar Vegan, they’re a “global nonprofit dedicated to educating people concerning the environmental, ethical, personal, and public health advantages of adopting a plant-based lifestyle.” They supply free dietary guidance and free vegan meals for communities in need.

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