Getting Ready

Why Joan Smalls Went with Simple Makeup at the Met Gala

We hung out with the model and makeup artist Patrick Ta before the big night.

By: Samantha Sutton

It’s hard not to picture chaos when thinking about getting ready for the Met Gala: hairstylists placing strands just so, makeup artists adding their final touches, stylists fussing over the dress...all at the same time. But the vibe in Joan Smalls’ hotel room was eerily calm. As the model transformed into a bronzed goddess, courtesy of makeup artist Patrick Ta and Esteé Lauder, there was laughter and friendly hellos as someone new entered the room—not panic and pained, stressed-out faces. For most of our conversation, Joan decided to lounge on her hotel bed clad in jeans and a cozy-looking white robe—before, of course, changing into her sexy red Topshop dress, complete with silver chains and a thigh-high slit, and her Anita Ko jewelry.

Even those final moments before heading out the door, which included a bit of quick sewing by stylist Jeff Kim, were more of a rush of *excitement* rather than a rush to beat the clock. See what made Joan so pumped for the night as well as every little detail from her stunning Met Gala look.


“I feel like this is the biggest night of fashion, and it’s so iconic that it’s nerve-racking and exciting at the same time.” —Joan Smalls

“I think the Met Ball is my favorite red carpet of the year, just because it’s a chance for my clients to really dress up and wear gowns that you wouldn’t normally see on a typical red carpet. It’s a fun event for artists as well—hair, and makeup, and styling, and nails. We get to do things that are out of the norm.” —Patrick Ta

“Joan and I have been working together for a while now, and she normally loves to play with color. This time, we wanted to keep the makeup simple and let the hair and everything else shine.” —PT

“Because of her dress, this year she wanted to just keep the makeup bronzy. She shows a lot of skin, so just let the whole entire body be like a bronze goddess.” —PT

“We’ve worked together so many times, he already knows what my go-to things are. Like, a cheekbone, a highlight, contour the nose. Today, with my eyes, he was like, ‘Should we do the shadow rounder?’ And I was like, ‘No, let’s just pull it out.’ There are just certain things that [if you don’t do them], you feel your face changes. So even if I don’t have a cat eye, the shadow is always smoked out so it looks sharper and elongates the eye.” —JS

On what the vibe is usually like in the room:

“Super-chilled. Nothing that crazy.” —JS

“We play music, and it’s just all about the glam.” —PT

“You just want to make sure you ultimately look good. If you put too much pressure, it takes the fun out of it.” —JS

“We’re going to make that skin glow!” —PT

“This time I feel like I went really classic-cool and pretty simple. It’s a red dress by Topshop, and we added some cool gunmetal chains to the outline of the dress. It shows a lot of skin.” —JS

The best part of the night that we don’t get to see:

“Just seeing everybody in the same space, like friends and people who you love seeing on TV or in music. It’s just one place where everybody congregates. That’s the one thing you can’t get anywhere else. And everyone is willing to have fun and they’re very inviting.” —JS

“I follow so many different makeup artists, and I’m always on the lookout on Instagram, always trying to incorporate new looks into what I do on red carpets.” —PT

What the rest of Patrick’s night usually consists of:

“Tonight, I’m going on a flight to Miami, but [I] usually spend my time trying to find photos so I can post them!” —PT

“Make sure your plane has wifi!” —JS

The most memorable Met Gala look ever:

“When Rihanna wore that huge yellow cape. That was super cool and unexpected.” —JS

“When we’re doing a look, we, [as a style team], definitely all talk about the look prior. Joan usually sends us a photo of the dress, and we all decide what we think is best, but honestly, Joan really knows best.” —PT

A question Joan would love to ask people on the Met Gala red carpet:

“If they trip on the stairs, what would they do? Because there’s a lot of stairs at the Met, what their reaction would be. What’s their recovery? Do you roll down the steps? Do you pose when you’re at the floor? Are you going to make it a moment?” —JS

“This [powder] is one of the best things ever because when you go out, the purse is always so tiny, so small and flat, that you’re [lucky] if your phone fits. So this is actually a compact powder—with my name, of course!—and there’s a mirror. It’s perfect for when you’re super shiny in areas. So this is a must.” —JS

“I would say pack a little powder to powder around the T-zone. There’s a difference between looking oily and looking glowy. You always want to keep the perimeter of your face as dewy as possible, just so when the camera hits it you are just nice and glowing. Other than the powder, maybe pack a little bit of concealer and a lipstick.” —PT

If Joan ever channels an alter ego on the red carpet:

“I kind of zone out, and I become this different persona that’s like Joan, but I don’t think she has a name.” —JS

What it feels like once the whole look comes together:

“I feel relieved. You’re like, ‘Woo! Ok, that part is done!’ It’s like a process—you get ready, now this, now that. But it all comes together, and you’re like, it actually came out as expected, if not even better.” —JS

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