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Readying the Canvas: How Celebrity Facialist Lord Gavin Gets His Clients Met Gala-Ready

Forget praying for good skin; this is the Lord’s work.

​Phoebe Dynevor at the 2024 Met Gala

Phoebe Dynevor at the 2024 Met Gala

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While we typically judge a celebrity’s red carpet beauty on familiar criteria of makeup, hairstyling, or the degree to which c*nt was or was not served, we often neglect the importance of the canvas. Celebrity facialists are similar to film editors in that their job is done best when it goes unnoticed. I’ve ignorantly thought red carpet skincare would fall into the quotidian routines of getting your beauty sleep, washing your face, slapping on some under-eye masks, and some degree of prayer. As it turns out, a seasoned celebrity facialist will show up with a grab bag of microcurrents, radio frequencies, LED lights, cold lasers, and fascial sculpting tools—enough technology to turn your face into a pirate radio station. When it comes to the best in showbiz, beauty products are nothing short of the finest quality available. In this case, that means exclusively using Augustinus Bader, a line of beauty products so deluxe that they may be singularly responsible for the “you’re not ugly, you’re just poor” internet punchline.

If you happen to be the Hemsworth hosting the Met Gala, the legend Naomi Campell, or any other A-list celebrity, you might have the privilege of working with the top celebrity facialist Lord Gavin McLeod-Valentine. Forget praying for good skin; this is the Lord’s work. McLeod-Valentine is an LA-based beauty expert who has gained widespread recognition due to his unparalleled expertise and unique facial massage techniques. Ahead of the Met Gala, we caught up with McLeon-Valentine to review his red carpet run of show, how he developed his method, and techniques you can use at home.

For this year’s Met Gala, his list of clients includes Chris Hemsworth, Elsa Pataky, Naomi Campbell, Zoe Saldana, Lily Gladstone, Jonathan Bailey, Kelsea Ballerini, Phoebe Dynevor, Sienna Miller, Law Roach, Francesco Risso, Willy Chavarria, LaQuan Smith, and Conner Ives.

Jonathan Bailey at the 2024 Met Gala

Jonathan Bailey at the 2024 Met Gala

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Coveteur: How many clients do you take on for an event like the Met, and how many days ahead of the red carpet do you start preparing your clients?

Lord Gavin McLeod-Valentine: “It really depends on who is attending the Met, as it determines how many clients I’ll work with. If they are long-standing clients, I’ll always try to squeeze them in the day of Met or the evening before. Now, based on timing and getting ready with glam, that is going to limit how many people you can see on the actual Met Gala Monday. Usually, the top end of that would be four people, starting super early. Ideally, eight people the day before, and eight people the day before that on Saturday. It really depends on who is going, the status and caliber of the client in terms of their position within the industry, or whether they are long-tenured clients of my own.”

How does preparation for the Met Gala differ from other events?

LGMV: “Met Gala preparation follows a very specific system, one that I really worked to develop for the red carpet and for the camera. This is going to be very much how I address all of the needs of the client for something like the Oscars, the Golden Globes, and now, the Met Gala. The point is that we want to minimize any risk of agitation or sensitivity to the skin. My job is to sculpt, hydrate, blur imperfections, and give the skin a sense of healthy, vital, energized radiance.”

How does a typical Met Gala day start for you? What does the run of show entail?

LGMV: “Met Gala Monday is always fraught with time constraints and pressure. It really depends on the setup, and this year, I will be having a suite at The Mark Hotel, so if a client is coming to the suite, that is obviously a much more relaxing environment, however as time has shown me many times over and over, it’s often going from one hotel to the other.

I’ll ideally start to see a client around 7 a.m. on that day, and it’s a case of taking all the right equipment like Augustinus Bader skincare, making sure that I have my microcurrents, my radio frequencies, my LEDs, my cold lasers, my cupping, and my hands… let's not forget those, as it’s all about the facial sculpting! It really is a day full of energy, but you have to be prepared by making sure everything is in the kit and having two ready to go: one stationary and one on the road.”

You work with a method of facial massage called “slapping? How do you employ these techniques for an event like this, and what result does it achieve?

LGMV: “It’s fair to say that I did not invent a technique called 'slapping.' It has become colloquialism for this form of tapotement and effleurage. What I specialize in is an ancient art of kobido, specifically as it was used in the geisha community and Kyoto. This is used to strike the skin and the fascia at certain intensities and depths to really trigger the stem cell communication within the skin. This also helps to enliven microcirculation, to engage collagen fibers and fibroblasts elastins so that you have the ability to mold the skin and the complexion, and to redrape the architecture and high points of the face as it pertains to the cheeks, and stretch and strengthen the jawline in a very natural, toned way.”

Naomi Campbell at the 2024 Met Gala\u200b

Naomi Campbell at the 2024 Met Gala

Getty Image

When you see red carpet photos coming in, what do you notice about the attendees skin?

LGMV: “If I compare the clients that I’ve treated to maybe others on the carpet, I can definitely see that there is more architectural lift, and there is more of a sense of energy and vitality and light play on the skin, but it is a collaboration between myself and the makeup artist. It really is so incredible when a makeup artist understands the work that myself and other facialists have brought to their clients; the skin preparation and really readying the canvas. I love when I see clients who are sculpted that are ebullient, are radiant, are energized, and haven't been overly powdered or overly contoured, and they just allow the natural architecture of the face and the healthy vibrancy of the complexion shine through.”

In combining products, facial massage, and radiofrequency, you can “amplify the connectivity of the skin tissue,” which accelerates results. Can you describe what happens in the skin when amplifying connectivity?

LGMV: “Radiofrequency essentially channels deep vibrations and rhythms into the collagen fibers to the main frame of the connective tissue of the epidermal layer. Now the combination of facial massage, which is engaging and enlivening those fibers and then made malleable with the technology, allows, as I mentioned previously, to get much more of a lift, to almost, like fabric, drape the skin in higher points to tighten and tone the appearance of the skin. Nothing looks overly manipulated or forced. It’s a dance between hand and technology.”

Are there at-home techniques to achieve this non-professionally?

LGMV: “You can absolutely replicate this at home with a home radiofrequency device. They are very costly, but the next best thing would be to get comfortable with facial massage. Get a cleansing balm, get a cleansing oil, get something that you like that gives you enough slip and playtime so you can really move your skin in an up, diagonal, and outward way so you’re really lifting everything up as to where it once was.”

You finish the preparation with a guided mediation. ow much of skincare is related to your state of mind?

LGMV: “Skincare might not be linked to state of mind but one's relationship with skin absolutely is. When we are anxious, when we have stress and pressure, are underslept, have had too much alcohol or caffeine, too much travel, too much central heating and air conditioning, all of those things take a toll on the skin and its reparative process and how it sheds the cells and congests in the pores.

Much of it is really about taking anxiety and stress and converting that into excitement. Anxiety is introverted excitement, so if you change the mental psychological framing of that, it changes the outcome. When I do a meditation it is always to ground my client in their inherent deservingness to be where they are at, and then also to elevate and pick up their energy to meet the expectation of the event. Clients are going to many events, particularly if it’s award season of promoting a movie or what have you, and it takes its toll. If you can reframe the experience, you calm the central nervous system, and everything works more synergistically together.”

How do you alter your method depending on the unique skin types of your clients?

LGMV: “My approach stays pretty consistent for all skin types. I’ve really got it down to a fine art, and I select and curate the finest quality skincare products, which is why I really rely on Augustinus Bader to be my tool of choice and to be the science in the room with me. What I love about Augustinus Bader is that it is completely clean, science-backed, and suitable for all skin types. Knowing that I’ve already removed anything that could be agitative to the skin, such as acids, exfoliation, or anything that will be harsh to the skin or that would create any inflammation… so when we look at nourishment, communication, hydration, and energy. Pretty much regardless of hair, gender, or skin type, it is a system that we have down. This is what The Method has become: a universal approach to addressing the needs of the skin when you need to look your ultimate best and it matters most.”

\u200bLaQuan Smith at the 2024 Met Gala

LaQuan Smith at the 2024 Met Gala

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Why is Augustinus Bader your product line of choice?

LGMV: “Augustinus Bader is my skincare of choice for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I can’t take anything into the room where there is even a chance of sensitivity, inflammation, or allergic response. Because Augustinus Bader is clean and is formulated without alcohol, sulfates, parabens, or fragrance, and is vegan and gluten-free, I know that the risk or the likelihood of the reaction is slim to none. Also, because the science of the TFC8® is designed to enhance communication within the skin to generate repair, rather than traditional skincare that often promotes inflammation to have wound to heal process, I know that my clients are not going to be swollen or put in a situation where we’re addressing some problem that the skincare has created. The second reason is that anytime you use the product one time on the skin, it transforms the appearance, and then, in the long term, it has accumulative change. If you’re looking for an instant wow, nothing beats the cascade of light and vibrancy generated by a product like The Rich Cream.

Do you have any products that you consider to be a “secret weapon”?

LGMV: “I always think ‘secret weapon’ is a funny phrase because I share everything. It’s not so much a product, but one thing that will really change your skin is cold temperatures. It is a very quick, simple hack if you have teaspoons at home. If you want to buy a crystick or a gua sha, that is great too. Keep them in the refrigerator, the freezer, or in a bucket of ice, and use that on top of a facial oil or cleansing balm to really tighten and energize the skin and reduce the puffiness and inflammation that we carry around with ourselves.”

Do you have any red-carpet horror stories that happened day-of?

LGMV: “I have had no horror stories, but I’ve had a couple of situations when I wasn’t using Augustinus Bader exclusively where I had tried and tested products, and a client would go a bit rosy. Sometimes being very clear with the client about what their skin is doing helps to reduce any anxiety or fear that they’re having a sensitivity or allergic response. I think so many people think redness is a sign of something bad happening, but actually, when we’re applying skincare and doing facial massage, we want to have the skin become a little rosy. I always say if you don’t go red, you might be dead. It’s a natural process, bringing that microcirculation to address the vibrancy of the skin, but it also helps to expeditiously use those skincare ingredients to the advantage.”

In your expert opinion, what can readers do at home to best prepare their skin for a big event?

LGMV: “To prepare your skin for a big day, I always think about pairing things back, getting really gentle, and being extremely thorough in your cleansing process. Do a double cleanse at night. Use a balm cleanser in the beginning to help emulsify and remove any SPF or makeup, and then use more of a treatment cleanser.. something with salicylic acid, or glycolic or lactic, so you’re really going to move out the debris within the pore and really freshen up the skin so you will have full optimal penetration of the product. I would then say be gentle, also add consistency of Vitamin C in the daytime, up your oral Vitamin C and your topical Vitamin C, and at night time, use a rich nourishing reparative cream that is going to allow the skin to reset and rest.

If you have time to prepare six weeks out, you can do a chemical peel. If you are someone who is using a retinoid or retinol, then stay the course with that, but don’t throw yourself into really active ingredients. Don’t start your Vitamin A journey or your acid exfoliation journey right before an event. Proceed with caution and be gentle.”

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