With a dab of powder and a dusting of genius, make-up artist Bobbe Joy, 75, has transformed generations of Hollywood stars for their big screen close-ups. Celebrity clients include Raquel Welch, Dolly Parton, Jane Seymour, Paul Newman, Tom Jones through to new young actresses Mila Kunis and Lily Collins.
Over the years, Bobbe has glossed away their imperfections, disguised their tired eyes after one too many parties and dealt with more than her fair share of diva behaviour. Which is probably why her memoir, Raising Eyebrows: Confessions Of A Beverly Hills Makeup Artist, detailing her five decades in the business, is causing something of a stir.
Refreshingly, Bobbe isn’t afraid to spill the beans when it comes to her famous clients and reveals that while some were a delight to make up, others were far trickier.
She recalls that a young Tom Jones was ‘unbelievably sexy’, that Raquel Welch was haughty, while our own Dame Joan Collins could be rather challenging. ‘She was spiky!’ says Bobbe.
We meet, socially distanced, in the exclusive surroundings of the Beverly Hills Tennis Club in Los Angeles, where she and her lawyer husband Mitch are members, and where 30ft high hedges offer privacy to the Hollywood bigwigs who play tennis or swim in the outdoor pool.
Past members of the club include Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx and Doris Day. Newer members include Sharon Stone and Leonardo DiCaprio.
‘It’s loaded with people in the biz,’ confides Bobbe. On cue, an amiable gentleman, casually dressed in tennis shorts and a polo shirt, comes over to congratulate Bobbe on her book.
‘He’s a big agent,’ she whispers, after accepting his good wishes with a regal flourish.
Certainly, Bobbe epitomises the transformative power of make-up and good grooming that she talks about in her memoir. With her glossy hair and expertly made-up face, she oozes the glamour of an old-style Hollywood star.
When I tell her it is hard to believe she is 75, she is delightfully forthright about how she has kept her age-defying beauty.
‘I had a facelift 16 years ago, which is still looking damn good, and I’ve had my upper and lower eyelids done,’ she says.
‘I have hair extensions. I wear them for fullness, not length. I think the rule about not having long hair past a certain age is nonsense: it depends on the person.’
A chance encounter when she was a 20-year-old secretary working in her home town of Los Angeles led to Bobbe’s beauty career.
In 1964, as Beatle-mania was sweeping America, she heard about a charismatic 19-year-old hairdresser called Jon Peters who was becoming known for his fabulous, modern haircuts.
She remembers dressing carefully for her hair appointment in hippie-chic fashion — a lacy top, bell-bottoms and beads. Jon was impressed by her look and asked if she would be the receptionist for the salon he was about to open.
Her job was to personify the salon’s ‘hip’ style. One of the looks she created was an homage to the teenage Twiggy, who had just burst on to the fashion scene with dramatic eye make-up and spikey lashes. She also copied Sophia Loren’s exotic cat-eye make-up and pale lips.
Salon customers began to notice and ask if Bobbe would do their make-up and, self-taught, she took on the challenge.
By her early 20s, she had a Bobbe’s Beauty Bar concession in all three of Jon’s hair salons, including the one in Beverly Hills.
‘Stars such as Farrah Fawcett, Ali MacGraw, Kris Kristofferson, Barbra Streisand, Ryan O’Neal and The Supremes all crowded into the salon at one time or another,’ she writes in the book.
‘Many of the clients wanted me to do their eyebrows and make-up and, before long, the word was out … I was the new and innovative choice of the Hollywood in-crowd.’
Anne Bancroft, famous for her role in The Graduate as the older woman who seduces the younger Dustin Hoffman, regularly booked Bobbe’s false eyelash treatment. Bobbe cut and fitted the lashes to order — a revolution at the time.
In 1977, sex symbol Raquel Welch approached Bobbe saying she wanted a makeover.
‘Raquel was one of the most difficult clients I ever had,’ Bobbe laughs. ‘She said she wanted something new but, as soon as I started, she became impatient and blocked me at every turn. She was stuck on one look and not open to trying anything new.’
With two young children to look after, Bobbe gave up the salon make-up business in 1978, moving on to style models, actresses and singers in adverts and photoshoots.
One of the bigger challenges she faced was the time she was hired to update country music star Dolly Parton’s harsh make-up look in 1978 for the cover of Los Angeles magazine.
Out went Dolly’s black eyeliner and rag doll rouged cheeks; in came a (slightly!) more subtle look with soft, pastel tones to enhance the singer’s blue-green eyes.
‘She’s built her look around a certain persona and it works for her,’ says Bobbe of Dolly, who once famously said, ‘It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.’
British actress Jane Seymour, best known for her performance in the James Bond film Live And Let Die, also came to Bobbe for make-up.
‘When I met Jane, she was going through a difficult time,’ says Bobbe. ‘She was divorced from her first husband and she couldn’t dance (she was a trained ballerina) because she had problems with her knee, so she was a little bit overweight and unhappy about that.
‘She has a blue eye and a brown eye, and I found colours that wouldn’t make it so obvious that she had different eyes. She was such a pretty girl.’
Bobbe also worked her magic on Priscilla Presley, after her divorce from Elvis.
‘She was a gorgeous girl with luminous skin, beautiful eyes and lovely cheekbones. Unfortunately, we know what happened because she’s talked about her botched plastic surgery. She had things done that changed her face. Living in Beverly Hills, I’ve seen some horrible things. You look at some women from the side and they look like Donald Duck because they’ve had way too much filler in their lips.
‘Everyone looks alike — blonde hair, big boobs and cheek implants that make it look like they’re squinting. There’s been too much Botox and too many facelifts.
‘I’ve seen women with pleats at the side of their face, or they’ve had to have hair transplants near their ears because their skin’s been lifted so often.
‘I’ve always opted for doctors who just want to make you look refreshed. That’s it.’
Her book is a fascinating insight into Bobbe’s conviction that looking your best is important not just for stars on screen but for women everywhere, even if they’re just popping to the supermarket.
‘I never notice make-up unless it’s bad; then I find myself staring at someone’s eyebrows and thinking they’re the wrong shape, or I’m mesmerised by someone’s mouth and wonder why she’s wearing a red lip.
‘And I hate to see women who can’t be bothered to put on any make-up. I think you can at least take five minutes to think about how you’re presenting yourself.’
And it isn’t just the female stars of Hollywood that Bobbe has groomed. Her favourite male stars she worked with were Tom Jones, Paul Newman and Muhammad Ali.
Tom Jones was then at the height of his career. ‘He was hot as a pistol and wearing leather trousers that didn’t leave anything to the imagination,’ chuckles Bobbe. The idea was to make him look hot and sexy, and I had to spray his chest with water. He had a twinkle in his eye, very flirtatious. He played it to the hilt.’
Another highlight was working with one of the world’s most celebrated sports figures. ‘Muhammad Ali loved to kid around — but not in a sexual way, just silly stuff. I evened out his complexion and put some concealer under his eyes and did his eyebrows a little bit. He didn’t need much work.’
When she worked her magic on the late Paul Newman, she shook with nerves. ‘He was unbelievably handsome and charismatic,’ she sighs. ‘He couldn’t have been nicer. He drank a beer, was very relaxed. Such a cool man.’ Men, she says, routinely had their eyebrows groomed, though not without fuss. ‘Their pain tolerance is low. They grip the arms of the seat like they’re on a rollercoaster.’
The title of her book is a reference to the fact that eyebrows are her speciality. Bobbe believes that, done properly, they can knock years off a woman’s face.
They’re an instant face lift, she insists. ‘The thicker your eyebrow, the more youthful you look,’ says the woman whose own lushly shaped brows bear testament to this conviction. It causes her pain that not all women of a certain age get their brows right.
‘Look at your Princess Anne,’ she says, referring to the official photographs released to celebrate the royal’s 70th birthday.
‘She’s a wonderful looking woman, but where are her brows? They’re practically invisible. If she shaped and coloured them, and used a bit of eyeliner and eyeshadow, she’d look ten years younger.’
What about the Queen? ‘Her eyebrows are absolutely fine for her age, and her make-up is soft and pretty, but she could use a little less powder.’
Bobbe’s dexterity with tweezers — she never threads or uses wax — and her prowess with a brow pencil has earned her not just a reputation but a nickname, too: the Eyebrow Fairy. She was shaping eyebrows long before it was commonplace.
In 1998, she opened her own make-up studio in Beverly Hills, which quickly became known as the best brow place in town.
Actress Mila Kunis — whom, she tells me, is famed for her perfect arches — was a regular client and hung out with her then boyfriend Macaulay Culkin. Another client was actress Lily Collins, daughter of Phil.
‘I begged Lily’s mother to let me do her eyebrows, and started shaping them when she was 15, because I was afraid someone else would make them too thin. I’m glad she’s kept the shape because they’re part of what makes her unique,’ says Bobbe.
Joan Collins walked in one day, looking for a specific red lipstick. ‘I don’t know what possessed me but, as we were talking, I said: ‘Some people say I look like your sister Jackie.’
‘She looked me up and down and said: ‘You don’t look anything like her!’ and stomped out. I was so embarrassed.’
She dislikes the fashion for mask-like make-up and the face-shaping and contouring so beloved of the Kardashians.
‘Young women paint on a new face and erase the old one. Make-up is there to enhance.’
Nor is she keen on celebrity make-up brands. ‘Just because a celebrity understands what make-up is good for her, it doesn’t mean she necessarily knows what’s good for you. ‘
Now semi-retired, Bobbe has a website, bobbejoycosmetics.com, where she posts beauty advice.
According to Bobbe, the correct make-up can give a woman a psychological boost.
‘Make-up gives you that little extra zing — but, remember, eyebrows are not a fashion statement,’ she says. ‘Don’t let your eyebrows walk in the room before you do.’