Before there was a universally-beloved blush called Orgasm, well before that inky black cult-favorite mascara known as Climax landed on the lashes of It girls, a young Francois Nars frolicked on a beach in Biarritz among breathtaking beauty.
This is just one of many telling, captivating scenes in the new documentary Unknown Beauty: Francois Nars that takes viewers directly inside the mind of the legendary makeup artist, photographer and cinephile.
The film, lovingly directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, is a non-linear compilation of scenes that dreamily bring to life — and clarity — Nars’ very singular vision as inspired by moments, images, film, art and, above all, strong women including his mother, Claudette, grandmother, iconic models Lauren Hutton, Isabella Rossellini and starlets Catherine Denueve, Josephine Baker, Lauren Bacall and more.
Clips of over 50 of the movies that sparked Nars’ curiosity can be seen in the film as well as a peek behind-the-scenes of the high fashion photo shoots he creatively directed. There is a certain vibe to Nars Cosmetics makeup products and this vibe can be felt throughout the film, which is narrated by another muse, Charlotte Rampling.
The film just dropped and is available for purchase to download on Apple TV, Amazon and Google Play. But before its release, Us Weekly sat down with Nars to chat about his love for film, his favorite decade and exactly how Orgasm got its name.
Us Weekly: Who was your first major beauty icon?
Francois Nars: My mother, for sure. I had all these beauty icons on the celluloid screen, but she was the first one I could touch, and express myself with makeup. She was the first one, for sure.
UW: The ‘70s part of the film is just magical. I could really feel the brand come through.
FN: That was really a fun chapter to create because it was really the time I grew up, I was a teenager at the time. I started watching movies when I was eight years old, but the seventies for me was a wake-up call, an eye-opener to the dream life that I wanted to have and I wanted to get into. That was really a dream world that I wanted so bad. That was my obsession. It became an obsession. So the fashion world, the seventies, really. And in a way, I’m thanking the people in the movie by featuring them. It’s an homage. I honored them and said, “Thank you for being so fabulous.” I don’t know if they really knew how fabulous they were. Did Jerry Hall know she was really that fabulous? Probably she did, especially Jerry.
UW: When I think of your products, and the lens through which you see things, it’s that Studio 54 vibe, with bronzer and pops of color — it’s bigger than life, super glamorous, but effortless. What did beauty say in the ‘70s?
FN: The sophistication level was very high in the ‘70s, but there was a lot of freedom. It’s linked, of course, to the Sexual Revolution. In France, we had Brigitte Bardot who did all those scandalous movies at the time. That was the liberation of women.
UW: Then there was the ‘90s, the models were bigger than life, too. Cindy, Christy, Naomi…
FN: I’m glad because I arrived at the right moment. I had just started at the end of the seventies, but then I came into the ‘90s and the supermodels were born. The word supermodel, I guess they always say it was created because of Cindy, Christy and Linda. It’s not really true, because in the seventies, Jerry Hall was a supermodel already. Lauren Hutton was a supermodel. I think the money came along with the term ‘supermodel.’ Before, they were not willing to pay that much but in the ‘90s, they started making millions and millions of dollars.
UW: Who do you think are the big models of right now? Are there any young actresses you want to work with?
FN: There’s nobody that will compare to the stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood. No, nobody. It’s a different thing today. They’re great actors, they’re very good-looking people, but it’s a whole different bargain, so we can’t compare. Today the models I love, usually are all the models that I work with in the campaign for Nars, you know? I think they’re amazing. We, I’m very selective, so I usually always pick people that, first of all, I fall in love visually. That I love their face. And hopefully the personality goes with it. That’s important.
UW: So, what does it mean to be a star today? How has stardom changed?
FN: It’s a totally different thing. It’s a different world, a different planet. I think, what it means to be a star today, I guess we should ask people like Tom Cruise or Nicole Kidman. I think, to me, a great star is the one that takes risk. No matter what. Yesterday, today, tomorrow, if you don’t take any risk, I don’t consider you a great actor or an actor at all.
UW: One last question. We have to talk about Orgasm.
FN: Nothing inspired me specifically. It’s funny because everybody wants the magic secret. How did you create that name? What happened was, the blushes had names of emotions and one was called Passion. I always think in America, and in a lot of places in the world, sex sells. I think people love sexy images. Everybody wants to be sexy in their own way. It can be in an androgynous way, it can be a very feminine way. There are many ways, but everybody wants to feel sexy. So I feel like giving names, sexy names. And definitely Orgasm was a very good, sexy name, word. But I never limited it to the sex part. I felt like, “Oh, Orgasm is a great name for an ‘orgasm for life’.” And you can have an orgasm by having a great dinner, meeting friends, looking at the sunset, you know, you elevate it to a different level. But again, to create the product, I felt it was very spontaneous. You can’t explain how you create some stuff. It just happens. I picked this peach color, I picked this pink. Threw some shimmer on it and I don’t know, it felt like, “Okay, feels like Orgasm.” I don’t know why. And then it got picked up by the rest of the world and everybody fell in love with the name.