Emmy-nominated Michelle Radow talks makeup and working on Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies Season 2: Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern.photo: Jennifer Clasen/HBO
Big Little Lies Season 2: Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern.photo: Jennifer Clasen/HBO /

We spoke with Emmy-nominated makeup artist Michelle Radow about her work on Big Little Lies and more.

We all know that there are a lot of people involved in bringing a production to life. And one of those people is Michelle Radow, a makeup artist who was actually the head of the department on sets such as Big Little Lies, Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story, and Sharp Objects to name a few.

Luckily for us, we had the opportunity to speak with Radow about her work, what it was like to be nominated for an Emmy this year, and who her inspiration is. And, of course, we had to ask for a tip or two as well.

Radow Talk Big Little Lies and More

The big news is that Radow and Big Little Lies were nominated for an Emmy for their work on the series, so we had to start the conversation there. After we congratulated Radow for the nomination, she said, “It’s definitely a bright light, some good news, in the middle of all these 2020 shenanigans.” And that makes perfect sense, since this is a bit of positivity for the team as a whole, and it was something that felt a bit different for everyone with everything going on in the world.

With everything Michelle Radow and her team did to help bring the looks on Big Little Lies to life, we had to ask what it was like to work on this project. And it is exactly the reaction we would have as she shared that, “When you work on a show of this caliber, every so often I would pinch myself and ask is this really happening. It is just such an incredible experience. I felt the same way before as I was lucky enough to work on season one as well.”

Of course, as the head of the makeup department for the series, Radow is in charge of a team and working with the other artists on set closely. And she was quick to mention them alongside the cast when saying, “to have the crew was just the top of the top, and everybody was just so talented. And then the star power that you’re working with in the cast was really an incredible experience.”

Even when asking her about her favorite makeup look she created on the set, she mentioned her team and the “incredible job” they did every day. However, she did let us know that she really liked the looks she was able to create on the children in season two of Big Little Lies. And in particular, she was really into the “disco episode” and the work they did on those looks.

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According to Radow, “We just really poured everything we had into that, and the organization and designing the looks. The kids were so up for anything. So I was really proud of the disco party.”

Of course, we couldn’t just stop with Big Little Lies, as we also wanted to hear if there were any other looks she has done that she would consider a favorite. And she went with the look they created in Sharp Objects for Amma who was being poisoned by her mother. The looks that she created, especially the “end result” are something that Michelle Radow is definitely proud of.

In terms of inspiration, Radow said it is the things that catch her attention when she is out — things like “a glimpse of a certain arrangement of flowers or something.” It’s the things that “just pop up that’s different from what I know in my normal routine or my normal day.”

And when it comes to who inspired her to be a makeup artist, it has a lot to do with her grandmother. Talking about her grandmother, she explained that:

"“My grandmother was a big inspiration when I was a little girl. My grandma had this incredible life; she had 12 brothers and sisters and they were Italian. And then she moved to Japan, and my mom was born in Japan. My grandfather was in the military and every week, I would go over to her house, and I would spend the night, and she would tell me stories about these different people, in different cultures around the world. And I think that got into my head about different characters and different people.”"

Finally, we had to ask if she had any tips or tricks for us in regard to makeup and beauty right now. And she reminded us that “people should, at this time, do whatever makes them feel good.” But in terms of tips, she did recommend keeping things “light” and staying “oil-free” when possible. Obviously, these tips makes sense since so many of us are dealing with hot weather and wearing masks.

Last but not least, she offered this bit of wisdom: “Maybe just obviously play up the eyes. It’s a chance to be a little mysterious with the mask.”

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When it comes to speaking with the people who work behind the scenes, it is always fun chatting with the people who help create the makeup and looks we see on our screens. And Michelle Radow and her team on Big Little Lies have definitely worked hard to create flawless looks that pop, no matter what the scene is.