On her new series, Painted with Raven, debuting on Thursday, November 25 on WOW Presents Plus, makeup artists from across the country will compete from the comfort of their own homes in a series of mini-challenges, main challenges, and weekly faceoffs. The artist that emerges on top at the end of the season will be crowned the winner and receive a cash prize of $25,000.
Raven has been RuPaul’s makeup artist since Drag Race‘s 9th season and has since become a Creative Producer for both Drag Race and All Stars. For her makeup work on Drag Race, she has received 3 Primetime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Makeup for a Multi-Camera Series and took the award home in 2020. We had the chance to catch up with Raven to talk about the new series as well as her makeup inspiration and how she creates such show-stopping looks for Mama Ru.
I’ve never gotten to congratulate someone on winning an Emmy, so let me do that right now and congratulate you.
Well, thank you. It’s funny that you say that because I remember the very first Emmy Ru won in 2016. He won it on a Sunday and we were back on set on a Monday. And I remember walking in and he had it in the room, sitting there. And I remember him looking at me and I looked at him and I grabbed him and gave him a hug. And I said, “Where is she?” So, he grabbed it. And I said, “Congratulations” because I’ve never, I had never congratulated anyone on winning an Emmy.
Now we both have something in common. So, let’s talk about the show. I was very delighted to see the trailer come up when I was watching Drag Race UK. So how did Painted with Raven come about?
Well, we were talking actually last year during our summer run of production and Ru, Randy Barbato, Fenton Bailey and Tom Campbell (with World of Wonder) all said, “Hey, we have something we want to talk to you about – and it wasn’t like, they all sat me down. I guess we kind of do a fly-by type of deal when we’re running past each other on set. And they said, “Hey, we have an idea for a show for you. We want to run it past you.” And I said, “Do tell, I’m listening.”
And so, they told me the premise of the show, it was going to be a make-up competition, but they are going to be competing from home on Zoom. And I said, “What? You’re going to need to explain this more to me.” So then, they actually told me the idea for it. And I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is crazy, but let’s do it. I’m intrigued.” And at the time I was still filming at home on “Fashion Photo Ruview”, which also airs on WOW Presents Plus with Raja. So, I thought that’s what I was going to do. I was going to sit at home and I was going to Zoom call the contestants and do it that way. And they said, “No, there’s going to be a studio and you’re going to go in” and they got it all worked out. So I said, “Okay. I’ll trust you.” So, when I walked into the studio, I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is real. This is a real thing.” It’s an actual show and I’m hosting it and my name is in it. And Ru was very adamant that my name be in the title – because he’s a branding genius, you know, always knowing how to go out there and put his stamp on something. So I, remember filming and thinking back to that day, when they kind of ran it past me and going, “Okay, well, this is real.”
And, it was in the middle of a bunch of other things. So, we had filmed here. We went over and filmed in New Zealand. We filmed in the UK. We were gone for almost four months and they said, “Oh, by the way, when we get home, before we start filming at home, you’re going to squeeze in a couple of weeks filming your show.” So, I went from New Zealand to the UK, to my show, then to filming all of our stuff here. I went non-stop.
How does it feel to be on the other side of the judges panel and being the host of your show?
You know, it’s not something I really wanted to do. When I really think about it and when it came time for the first day of filming, I realized, “Oh, I have to eliminate someone”, and that was when I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to judge. I wanted to give my input or my critiques, but I didn’t want to have to send someone home. I didn’t want to have to say, “Okay, well, sorry, you didn’t make it this time” because I know what it’s like to be in that position. So, that was the hardest part for me.
But, for the last six years now I’ve been in and out of studios watching RuPaul work from the judges’ table, watching the judges come in and watching how they work. Some guest judges just know, oh, this is this, they know the beats and how it runs. Especially this last year, I was really studying to understand how it worked and it was still not easy
You’ve been working in makeup for so long. Did you learn anything working on this show that surprised you?
Oh gosh. Well, I did learn that not everyone who follows a tutorial is going to follow it exactly. The thing with tutorials is you see a lot of people who follow them and they stick with that. That’s the only face you ever see them in. And I know I noticed that a couple of the artists on the show, they do tutorials, but they were kind of making them more accessible for the everyday person who doesn’t really do makeup because when they went in and redoing their own, uh, I thought just, I think I thought that a tutorial meant it was just one way in that was it.
Where did you develop your passion for makeup?
As a child watching my mom. I thought I had two moms. I had the mom who tucked me in that had wet hair and smelled like Oil of Olay, wearing, a nightgown and no makeup. Then I had the mom in the morning who had eyebrows, lashes, lipstick. She smelled great. Her hair was coiffed. She was dressed and ready to go. And I never saw the transition. I never saw her shower and take it off. I never saw her get ready and put it on. So, when I did actually see my mom’s makeup and I saw her put it on, I understood the magnitude of it. And I was very young. I was like four or five years old. And I remember thinking, oh, this is, this is what she puts on. That’s why I see two different moms.
I’ve got the mom who tucks me in and the mom who wakes me up. But that was where I really started to love makeup was watching her do makeup and wanting to do it myself. But of course, at that age, back in the eighties, you thought this is just for women – and when you did see a man in it, they were either a rock star or a drag queen.
When you are putting together, say for example, a look for RuPaul, what is your process?
Well, we really create the face the day of. When I get all of the gowns and I’m sent all of the pictures of the gowns. I start to go through like a little Rolodex in my head of things I may have seen, like ideas, colors I may want to use, angles, and shapes I may feel like we should do. And you know, it’s the morning when we will say, “Okay, I’m going to do this dress.” And then that’s when I say, “Okay, this is what I was thinking of doing with that.”
And when I first started, I would talk RuPaul through the process and he’d sit down and he’d say, “Okay. I love it.” And now he just sits down and I just go. And then he opens his eyes and says, “Oh my gosh, this is gorgeous. I love it. It’s beautiful.” And sometimes he’ll say, “Hmm, let’s do a darker lip”, or “I want a little extra eyelash today” but it really comes on at the moment. But it’s all about beauty. I like to really, really highlight and really, really contour where the contrast is so different that you can see, you know, lines on the sides of cheeks and down to the nose, as to where [Ru] wants them blended a little more and wants it to be a little softer. So, it was fine-tuning that was hard.
What can viewers expect from Painted with Raven?
They can expect to see at least one artist in themselves, every single one of these artists is Someone who represents every single person in the world. And of course, right now, we’re only doing this in the United States, but you will see these artists and each one of them puts their heart and soul on their face.
Every time they do their makeup, you can tell they love makeup with a passion, and you’re going to see that. You’re going to see each one of them going at it. You’ll see some tears. You’ll see a lot of excitement. And you’re going to see several different looks, but you will not expect any of it, but you are going to see heart and soul. Definitely.