The stars of the Oscars red carpet seem the genetically-blessed epitome of flawless beauty, oozing a style that looks effortless – and in reality is anything but.
Beneath the glamor, these sought-after celebrities are the product of punishing diets, oodles of botox and an army of professionals with a huge budget to make them sparkle.
That killer dress
On perhaps the most anticipated night of the year, getting the frock right can make a career — and choosing wrongly can kill a budding starlet’s job prospects stone dead.
One dress designed specially by Prada for Lupita Nyong’o at the 2014 Oscars, at the behest of her stylist Micaela Erlanger, turned her into a fashion icon, opening the way to major advertising contracts.
On the other hand, a fashion faux pas can make you the laughing stock of online gossip forums.
Campaigning for the Hollywood awards season means appearing on television, at screenings as well as at numerous gala dinners and ceremonies.
“I’m constantly looking through collections,” says stylist Petra Flannery, who counts “Star Wars” actress Daisy Ridley and “Homeland” star Claire Danes among her clients and says a high profile nominee can get through 20 outfits a season.
“I see something and I’m ‘like that’s an exceptional dress — who does it work for?’ A lot of times it’s a lot of preparatory lead time and sometimes very last minute.”
Penny Lovell, who has worked with Rose Byrne of “X-Men” fame and Taylor Schilling from Netflix show “Orange Is The New Black” says picking the right dress is as much about actresses looking great as feeling good.
For a custom-made Oscars dress, says Lovell, discussions with the star should start in November, with a complex design requiring “anywhere between two to four fittings.”
Among her all-time favorite designs, she points to the Dior gown by John Galliano, worn by Nicole Kidman in 1997 and much praised for fusing daring chartreuse Chinese-style embroidery with timeless elegance.
“That was sensational, that changed a lot of things. At the time it was considered very risky,” Lovell tells AFP.
Dripping in exclusive jewelry and dressed by the world’s best designers, these Cinderellas of the red carpet must, of course, return their loaned finery at the end of the ball.
But being able to flaunt the perfect curves is as much about diet and exercise as the cut of your cloth, and many stars move from sensible eating to strict diets six weeks ahead of the big night.
“We must abandon starches, reduce the amounts, eating mostly protein and vegetables. Chicken salad, salmon asparagus, et cetera,” says personal trainer Valerie Waters, who coached “Dallas Buyers Club” actress Jennifer Garner.
Alcohol and desserts are strictly off limits. Stars know they will be photographed from every angle and their coaches don’t let up an inch in the gym.
“They should be sweaty and out of breath,” Waters adds.
Most stars train all year, but Waters recalls Courtney Love coming to see her when she was nominated for a Golden Globe.
“She had never trained before and we had three weeks and, eventually, she looked stunning,” said the fitness coach, who charges up to $350 an hour.
Undergoing a facelift, breast enhancement or any other procedure that might leave scars and bruises for weeks is out of the question ahead of Oscars night.
The Hollywood great and good instead opt for smaller cosmetic treatments — injections for luscious lips, wrinkle-fillers and botox.
Cosmetic surgeon Ashkan Ghavami — who charges $500 and $2,000 per injection — says he aims to give his clients a “young and refreshed” look without overdoing it to the extent that they have trouble smiling through their frozen expressions.
Peachy skin at all costs
In addition to chemical peeling for a radiant complexion on the day, the stars exfoliate and have their faces toned and plumped by expert hands.
Kate Winslet and Susan Sarandon swear by the “Red Carpet Facial”, offered by the New York-based Tracie Martyn skincare salon for the eye-watering price of around $600.
If there were an Oscar for most extravagant treatment, it surely have gone to “Black Swan” actress Mila Kunis who, according to the celebrity press, had a facial using precious stones ahead of the Golden Globes in 2011 for the princely sum of $7,000.
“An Oscars campaign lasts for the duration, like with the presidential election,” explains makeup artist Sabrina Bedrani, who has worked with Oscar nominee Felicity Jones and winner Julianne Moore.
Even on awards nights, celebs are followed by a coterie of aides and, before each appearance in front of the cameras, a makeup artist is on hand, applying concealer, powder, eyeshadow and blusher.
Author and Emmy award-winning stylist David Zyla told AFP celebrity makeup artists and hairstylists charge $1,500 to $4,000 for their part in creating “Red Carpet Wow” on the night of the Academy Awards.
“Creating Hollywood glamor is truly a difficult feat to pull off, as the look is rarely dictated by one single person,” he said.
“Besides the actor and stylist, oftentimes an agent, manager, or mother or best friend, will weigh in. There are even cases where a studio executive of a star’s nominated film will take the reins on the wardrobe, hair and makeup.”