Getting Ready
karamo brown

Inside Karamo Brown’s Emmys Pre-Game and Red Carpet Makeup Routine

And Jonathan Van Ness was there!

By: Katie Becker
Photography: Emily Knecht

If you’re like us and have watched episode upon episode of Queer Eye while cozied up with a good mug of tea, some snacks, and tissues, you feel like you’ve already been in bed with Karamo Brown, the culture expert on the Emmy Award-winning makeover show. So it only felt natural to knock on the door of his suite at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Los Angeles just a few hours before he hit the Emmys red carpet in his custom suit by Canadian tailor CE Clothier and cape by Octavius Terry.

“It was one of the most extraordinary nights of my life,” Brown tells us the next morning. “Being on the red carpet and feeling empowered because the guys and I had these special looks on. Then the next big moment for us was backstage when we were about to walk out. We locked hands and looked at each other and were like, ‘We did it, guys.’ It was a really emotional moment for us, walking out onstage as five gay men with our hands locked. And then I’m hanging out with Issa Rae and Donald Glover, and I’m like, ‘I’m really proud to be black right now.’ It was all these emotions.”

We had some emotions, too. We were excited enough to spend time with Brown himself, but when Jonathan Van Ness was in the same hotel room—with Brown’s favorite house music and Childish Gambino turned up—we just about died and went to Netflix binge-fest heaven. Here, more about Brown’s getting-ready process and looking back on his night at the 2018 Emmys.

“[Getting ready] always starts with me shaving my head first; I do it myself. And then I line my beard. I’m at the point now where I can perfect my beard lying down. After that I put foundation on my face and head because even though my skin tone is even, the camera somehow with flash on red carpet can seem like it’s not. I use CoverFx 110, the concentrated drops.”

“I told my stylist Lisa Cameron, who is one of the most extraordinary stylists, that, first, I didn’t want to just go to the big labels. I think people who work in television and film have this propensity to believe that the only way you can look good is if you have a big label on, and I think about all the young designers who are out of fashion school or are established for a while and don’t have the big names.”

“We decided to go custom. I got started maybe three weeks ago. We turned this around fast.”

“I wanted something custom, and I also wanted to go with [a] pop of color and do something untraditional with the shoes, so we went with the riding boot. It was really a collaboration. It was like, I want to be unique and take certain trends from the runway and make it happen.”

“[At the awards last night,] Anthony Anderson and I were having fun downstairs, and Tina Fey and Maya Rudolph were like, hanging out. Crazy things. I haven’t had a chance to process how many crazy things were happening backstage and at the parties. It was really just extraordinary from beginning to end.”

“When I’m on the red carpet, I always carry my Carmex with me.”

“[Jonathan Van Ness] got ready in the same room. We’re family. This was a big moment for us, so we were going to share it together.”

“A lot of times at these events, only the women get to change several times, so I wanted to make sure I had an opportunity to change, so I did an all-white classic suit [by Hugo Boss and Ron Tomson] with a brooch bow tie for the Governor’s Ball, and then an all-navy with an amazing jacket [Labortoire] over it for the HBO party and Netflix party.”

“When I come to these events, you’re looking at all these big celebrities, and they all have on the same foundation, clear mascara, powder... It’s kind of the go-to guys’ thing. Every single one of the men are wearing makeup. I can’t say their names, but when I put on my white jacket at the Governor’s Ball, two men got makeup on me. Celebrity men. You would assume cause of the way society tells you, that women would get the makeup on you, but it was the men!”

“Usually [when I’m getting ready], both my sons are around, my fiance’s with me, and I'm surrounding myself with people I love. I think when you’re going to big events like this, it’s about celebrating these moments of life. Not just the Emmys, but a big birthday party or a promotion party or baby shower—you want people around you who can be like, ‘You did this, it’s amazing.’”

“After the show, we all split up and went to different parties. I went to the Governor’s Ball, had a great time there, then I went to the HBO party, then I went to the Netflix party. Just three parties, you know!"