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The word icon gets tossed around a lot these days, but if there’s someone truly worthy of the title, it’s Cher. The legendary singer and actor has been one of our premier entertainers since the ’60s, and has been considered a beauty icon for just as long. There’s no denying that her signature jet black hair and glittering eye makeup are just as influential as her pioneering use of Auto-Tune.
We currently appreciate Cher’s beauty looks for her boldness and glamour, but that hasn’t always been the case. According to Cher, her makeup and outfits were misunderstood for years, and people looked at her like she was crazy. The one place where she always felt understood was the MAC makeup counter.
“I’ve had a very, very long relationship with MAC,” Cher tells Glamour. “The first time I ever saw MAC, I just remember looking at everything because it’s a lot, it’s an eye-full. And I thought, This is like a candy store for makeup. I was fascinated, too, by the range of colors because it was very difficult to find at the time. I mean, I remember in the ’60s, I was making eye makeup on a double boiler. So, I guess for people who were into makeup, it was like paint by the numbers.”
It only makes sense that she’s partnered with the brand for a new campaign, alongside Gen Z icon Saweetie. In honor of the campaign, we caught up with Cher for a round of Glamour’s Big Beauty Questions. Read on for her must-have products, her thoughts on beauty standards, and why her mom will always be her biggest inspiration.
Glamour: What’s one beauty rule you swear by?
Cher: I don’t swear by any rules, because think that it cuts down on the creativity. When I started, everyone thought that my makeup was crazy. And I thought it was beautiful. I think that you just limit yourself when you think about rules. I don’t think girls do today, because there’s such a wide range of what we now think of this beauty. Limitations don’t seem to go anymore.
Is there a beauty rule that you think is B.S.?
I think all of them are. You know why? Because there should not be…when you’re trying to be creative, if you’re writing a song or you’re acting, or whatever, you don’t put rules on creativity. It doesn’t work.
What is the best beauty advice you’ve ever gotten?
I didn’t get advice. I lived in a house full of women who were models, and all I did was watch them. I watched my mother and her friends put on makeup every day. They each had a mirror; they all had a spot in the dining room, which had no table. Everyone would put their mirror up, so they were facing the light, and put their makeup on. That’s basically how I started. And then I did this thing that I thought was beautiful, which was not accepted at the time. But sometimes you’re ahead of it. When I started, people were nervous about following certain rules. Like, if you were a certain age, you had to cut your hair and pick cotton leather shoes. A bunch of bullshit rules that I never understood.
How did you get the confidence to break those rules?
I didn’t know how not to. I didn’t think of them. What I thought was, These things don’t apply to me. Because dressing differently, Sonny and I looked crazy to a lot of people. They didn’t like us. They had a visceral reaction because we looked so different. You have to go back and look at our early pictures because no one looked like us.
I’ve seen them. They’re iconic. Well, now you’re on every mood board. So it just goes to show that you always knew.
Well, I didn’t always know. I always tried.
Let’s say you can only use three beauty products for the rest of your life—what are they and why?
Well, that’s not going to happen. I need four, okay? If we’re going to continue this relationship, you need to give me four.
I will bend the rules for you.
So, I need eyebrow pencil. Oh, God, I could have used so many more. All right, I need an eyebrow pencil, I need blush, I need lipstick, and an eyelash curler. Because I think that, first of all, you have to frame your face with your eyebrows. And my mom always said, “If you were on a desert island, make sure you have an eyelash curler.” I mean, lipstick I think is a necessity. Even if you blot your lipstick so it’s faint, you still need that color.
What’s your favorite way to take a moment for yourself?
I have very few moments. I like listening to audio books, and I like doing my meditation. But, I like hanging down and just listening to these books. And I used to read like crazy, but I enjoy being read to. The best book I’ve listened to lately is a book about Clementine Churchill. And it just shows that without her, we probably would all be speaking German.
If you could change one thing about beauty standards, what would you want to change?
I don’t feel there should be beauty standards. I just don’t like it. I remember when there were really harsh ones. Richard Alleman [the actor], who I love, told me, “You’ll never be on the cover of Vogue,” And I said, “Well, why?” He said, “Because you have to have blonde hair and blue eyes. Blonde hair and brown eyes. Dark hair and blue eyes. If you have black hair and brown eyes, you’ll never be on the cover.” And then one day, I was. It was by accident.
Who are the women who are inspiring you the most right now?
Well, I’m O.G. My mom still inspires me because she’s 95, and she’s still really beautiful. All my girlfriends hate her because she has this perfect skin and a mane of hair. My mom has a mane and it’s ridiculous. We all just look at her. She’s my go-to. And you know what? I do think Saweetie’s beautiful. I was so fascinated by her fingernails. But she is absolutely beautiful, and a positive young girl. I think she would be an inspiration to me.
This interview has been edited and condescend for clarity.
Bella Cacciatore is the beauty writer at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @bellacacciatore_.