Throughout the span of her 20-year career, Lady Gaga has been a vessel of countless visual transformations. Her many stunning looks onscreen, as well as her memorable and meaningful sartorial choices (including the meat dress), are what make her famous. ), to the characters she’s played in American Horror Story and A Star Is Born. None of these roles have needed a metamorphosis like her role in Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci.
To become Patrizia Regigiani, the exwife of Maurizio Guicci, Gaga went to extreme lengths to create her character. She was unable to connect with reality and it became “psychologically difficult at one point”, as Gaga stated to British Vogue. She also spoke in an Italian accent for nine long months. Gaga’s makeup artist Sarah Tanno says that even when they were not on camera, the accent didn’t break. “So that was amazing.”
It was also a huge undertaking to create the look of Patrizia. This involved a creative collaboration between Gaga and Tanno. In The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed, Sara Gay Forden’s 2001 book that the film is based upon, Patrizia’s style is described as “artificial and overdone,” detailing her heavy use of mascara, “false lashes,” and “teased hair.” Gaga made the decision not to read the book, which she said was “filled with opinions,” nor did she meet with Patrizia in order to avoid being influenced by her agenda, as she explained to the New York Times.
Photos of Reggiani, also known as “The Black Widow”, were not as extensive as those of other recent movie subjects, like Princess Diana or Tammy Faye Bakker. Tanno says that there was not much documentation of Reggiani in the early years. “You don’t find any photos of young Patrizia, so we worked together with Gaga to create her identity when she was younger, and to help us write our story.” Tanno, Aspiras and Aspiras looked at old Italian films and studied vintage Italian fashion using celebrities such as Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren. “Gina was a person that really hit home for us. The shape of her eyes, and the hairstyles. Tanno says that she was a major influence on younger Patrizia.”
Tanno and Aspiras met for eight hours each day via Zoom. They would go through the script and plan out each scene. Aspiras had already completed a 500-page index book that detailed the makeup and hair for each scene before they traveled to Italy to meet Ridley Scott and Janty Yates (costume designer). Aspiras says, “We would sit down in a room with Janty and Gaga and go through every dress, outfit and hairstyle, nail color and every piece of jewelry and every lip color. To maintain continuity, I would have to record every hair product used in each scene. This allowed Ridley to film the movie with a natural progression.” Gaga was seen wearing 54 different looks for Patrizia. According to Yates, they didn’t use the same item for Gaga’s costumes. Not even an earring.
Tanno and Aspiras spent a lot time studying hairstyles and makeup styles in the 1970s. This is the year Patrizia and Mauricio meet for the first time in the film. They noticed that the beauty trends in Italy were not like those popular in the USA. Tanno said that even though it was not popular in the U.S., Italian women still did a ’60s-style cat-eye.
Tanno, Aspiras and Gaga have collaborated on many looks over the past 12 years. Tanno said that it was difficult to ensure that the overall look felt like someone other than the singer. She had to step out of her comfort zone. “It was about doing a cat eye that was different in shape. One that was rounder and not snatched. Instead of giving her furry eyebrows, I would make her brows rounder so she feels different.” she said. Gaga plays Patrizia so convincingly in the film. She has just one glance to portray her calculative personality, and Tanno’s makeup frames her eyes perfectly.
Tanno said that they had to make Patrizia look “a bit rough around the edges”. Even though she was wealthy and powerful, it wasn’t possible for her to appear so flawless that it was distracting. “Frederic and I wanted to make sure that the makeup and hair look real. It didn’t feel fake. As a makeup artist, that’s a huge challenge. You want to do your best makeup. But she was a real person who didn’t have a glam squad. Aging Patrizia over a period of 30 years was another challenge. Tanno relied solely on makeup, unlike other movies that use prosthetics to make the actor look like the real-life character. She says, “We wanted not to use prosthetics. It was about slowly ageing her using different age techniques in different places and products in different locations to make it less distracting.”
Casa Gaga Collection
“It was a great idea to use cosmetics the same way women used them during that era. For example, you could apply a full-cover rouge all over your lips and use it as blush or eyeshadow. We wanted to keep the makeup authentic to those days, so I used a lot gel kohl liner in the early ’80s because Patrizia preferred a smudged look.” It looked natural and messy like she was living in it. It was hard to find modern versions for certain cosmetics they liked, so Gaga created her own cosmetics brand, Haus Laboratories. Gaga described the recently released Casa Gaga cosmetics collection as “a love story to Italy” and it was used throughout the film. It also served as the missing link to the old formulas that they needed. Tanno says, “We used all of the new collections, especially in the earlier time periods.” The formulas were very specific, so we created it, particularly the highlighter. You can see the fine glitter in the ’70s & ’80s. It was almost like a glaze. This was difficult to find in modern products, as everything has such large chunky pearls.”
Tanno used the Tutti Gel Powder highlighter on Gaga to recreate Patrizia’s obsession with a “really powerful golden highlighter” that was applied to the brows and top of the lid. She says, “We wanted products that fit the character of the character.” According to Tanno, the La Luce Lip Glaze comes in three shades that are named after Italian desserts. Tanno said that the film featured a lot of frosted lips. This was why Tanno created the La Luce Lip Glaze in three shades.
“The two most striking shades in these times were a beautiful coral, which we named Sophia [Loren] after her because she is known for wearing red lips, but you can see past images of her with it. Tanno says that we used a lot of this during the movie. “And then, in a few scenes it’s the Gina after Lollobrigida which is a little bit punchier coral because those were a lot more popular lipstick shades in Italy at the time.” Gaga wore Stefania, her namesake shade of red, for the scene when Elizabeth Taylor meets Mauricio at a party. This is the only time in the movie that she has a crimson lips. Tanno says, “That felt really iconic and we wanted to include it. It was also featured on the poster because it felt strong and powerful, as her character emulates.”
Gaga also had to immediately change her platinum blonde hair color to match her Patrizia. She wanted to be true to herself, just as she does in pop music. “Aspiras says that she embraces the creative process and that I do too.” “She was Patrizia for nine month and cultivated all she does so that when she was on camera, it was natural.” Aspiras used Joico’s Defy Damage treatment to preserve Gaga’s hair and prevent any damage. He says that the entire Defy Damage range was crucial to keep Gaga’s hair in good condition underneath her wigs, and also to bring her back to platinum blonde.
Aspiras compared the process to “more like forensics” because he assembled everything based on her demographics and spoke to people from Milan and Rome, where Patrizia was living. Aspiras said that Scott wanted only “one or two hair styles” or one wigs because it was difficult to match the continuity. He says, “It was so important that you come prepared.” Aspiras ended up with 50 hairstyles. However, he used 10 “hero” wigs that he had designed, cut and colored with Joico products. He had to change the color of the wigs slightly from the “nice, virgin hair” she had when she first started dating Mauricio. This was in order to reflect her hair’s evolution over the past 25 years. “She wanted to be a representative of the Gucci wealth and wanted to fit in. We had to change her hair from what she used to do herself to something she could get done by a stylist.”
As Tanno did with the makeup, Aspiras used hair tools and techniques that were true to the time. “I wanted to emphasize that we remained true to the times. Because it was the 1980s, a lot of my tools and techniques for styling hair were focused on perming, styling, and using mousse.” Aspiras explains that all the techniques and products of the time were available. “We did a lot wet sets. This is an old technique in which hair was set wet and dried under a dryer for 45 minutes. Then we backcombed it. Those were the things women did back then.” House of Gucci was also Aspiras’ passion project. Six months before filming began, his mother, Suzie, a hairdresser herself, passed away. “This was my love letter for my mother. Although I had to deal with the grief, this was something she wanted me to do. I have to keep going and remind myself that I love what you do.” “Almost all of the hairstyles in the movie are kind of an ode my mom’s old hairstyle.”
Aspiras’s favourite look is the ’80s-inspired perm Patrizia wears to Paolo Gucci’s house (played by Jared Leto), when Patrizia’s character, utters the iconic line “Father Son and House of Gucci.” He says that he was amazed at how Gaga put the perm on. Tanno’s favorite moment is the time Patrizia, Mauricio and their first visit to the Gucci tannery. “It’s a wonderful experience. It’s like Sophia Loren in her youth. The final scene in the courtroom is my favorite. Being able to age her in a way that she became so that character, and without prosthetics, it freaked us all out a little bit,” she laughs. “She’s amazing. She makes everything come alive.”