The Make-up Goddess Behind Billy Porter’s Met Gala Egyptian Sun God


Billy Porter stole the pink carpet at Met Gala this year, appearing as an Egyptian Sun God and being carried in on a litter by six beefy men.  And while the original idea was Billy’s and his stylist, designer Sam Ratelle, it was Emmy-nominated make-up artist La Sonya Gunter who brought the glorious vision to life.

La Sonya is a legend in the theatrical make-up world.  She is best known for her work on Broadway (in shows like Hairspray and Kinky Boots) but her looks have also graced fashion runways, concerts and the red carpet at the Academy Awards (she made up Darlene Love when the legendary singer won the Oscar for 20 Feet from Stardom).

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 06: Billy Porter attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue)
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Next up are the Tony Awards where La Sonya and Billy promise to once again wow fans with a brand-new look.  We knew, of course, there was no way she would tell us how just yet… but we that didn’t stop us from asking.

How long have you been a makeup artist?

I have been in make-up for over twenty years.  I always had passion for makeup.  I would dabble in re-creating looks that I saw in magazines, especially looks from old movies from the 50’s and 60’s.   I paid extra special attention to how their makeup was done. 

How did you get your start in the industry? 

I started out as a performer and singer on “City Kids, The Series”, a show that ran on ABC. We had an episode where I had to be made up to sing and the makeup artist they brought in to make me up was amazing. She beat my face with such detail!  I was in awe of her work and how she was able to transform me into a new character. I remember thinking, “This is so cool! I wanna do that!”

You have had an incredible career.

Yes, so many highlights.  One of my favorites was working the Oscar De La Renta fashion show with Oscar De La Renta himself.  He was a legend.  Also, my work on Broadway.  I loved my time at Hairspray and Kinky Boots.  The best was being nominated for an Emmy last year, along with makeup designer Joe Delude and his talented team for Jesus Christ Superstar Live. I worked on Brandon Victor Dixon’s character, “Judas”. 

How long have you and Billy Porter been working together? 

Since 2012, when he was “Lola” in “Kinky Boots.” I was the makeup sub for the show until 2014, when I took of over full time.

Who came up with the idea for Billy’s Egyptian Sun God theme for MET Gala? 

It was Billy and Sam Ratelle’s (Billy’s stylist) vision, but my know-how that brought the creation to life (laughing).   I was inspired by a quote from Oscar Wilde: “One should either be a work of art or wear a work of art.” I thought to myself, “Billy is both!” I wanted his makeup to represent that.

Was it challenging? 

Only in terms of time. Each stone had to be placed on by hand which took about two and half hours.  Billy was very patient.

Who have you not worked on that you’d kill to get into your chair?

Laverne Cox.

Does everyone look better with make-up?

I think makeup is made for enhancing facial features.  It’s also fun to wear!

What’s one product women should never leave home without?

One?  I can’t name one!  Sunscreen, mascara, and lipstick are essential.  I also recommend bringing along a liquid pen eyeliner.  You can create a thick winged line for drama or a thin natural line to enhance your natural lash line.

What are your favorite cosmetic products? 

I have so many! My five favorite brands that I am passionate about this season are:

1.Pat McGrath/ liquid pen liner

2. Cozette Vinyl liquid liner

3. NYX Epic Ink liner (All of these liners have a nice fine point for precision)

4. Besame cosmetics cake mascara  (You can also use it as eyeliner!)

5. Tarte liquid Gold Chrome paint liner (It’s literally like putting liquid gold on your eyes!)

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