Slave of New York

John William dusts off his teenage makeup in an ode to The Velvet Underground and Stargazer pressed powder eyeshadow in Royal Blue.

Words & Photography JOHN WILLIAM

First thing, pop on The Supremes ‘Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart’ (or The Velvet Underground and Nico.) Take a cotton bud from your pencil case (that is shaped like a can of 7 Up pop) and blow off the loose glitter and fluff. Try to ascertain that it’s not been in your ear. Fish out the flat little patina covered compact of Stargazer pressed powder eyeshadow in ‘Royal Blue.’ Roll the cotton bud on your tongue, or dab in the nearest cup of coffee, and then twizzle it on the blue cake of pigment (like you are drilling for liquid liner.) Once the cotton turns an Yves Klein shade, drag it across the top and bottom of your eyes. No need for a mirror.

Grace Coddington says the sky is always blue in New York. I’m not exactly sure how but as a teenager blue eyeshadow became synonymous with the city. With escape. To something more dangerous and glamorous than the grey little industrial armpit of the North I grew up in. Widnes is a damp grey place. In Spike Island there were thick mud pools swirling with abandoned Tesco trolleys and crisp packets from the now defunct Golden Wonder crisp factory. Lou Reed sings it best in ‘Songs For Drella’: “When you’re growing up in a small town / Bad skin, bad eyes, gay and fatty / People look at you funny / When you’re in a small town.” A streak of blue eyeshadow became my Curriculum Vitae.There’s only one good use for a small town / You hate it and you’ll know you have to leave.”

A streak of blue eyeshadow became my Curriculum Vitae. Lou Reed sings it best - "There's only one good use for a small town... You hate it and you'll know you have to leave."

I remember wearing my teenage uniform of a torn old banana festooned Velvets t-shirt watching Anhoni (of Antony and the Johnsons) look straight into my streaming blue stained eyes – singing her cover of ‘Candy Says.’ Going to help backstage at my first fashion show (Katharine Hamnett – Use a Condom!) and having a St Martins student 5 years my senior telling me I should only ever wear a subtle purple shadow to bring out my green eyes. She was wearing bobbly tights, sensible shoes and terribly applied greasy peach lipstick. She didn’t get it. 

The cult of blue shadow has many devotees. Look at Bowie’s Life on Mars eyes. Chrstina Ricci in Buffalo 66. PJ Harvey. Bob Fosse’s Posse. Dorothy Vallens. Elizabeth Taylor piling it on in The Driver’s Seat. Edie Sedgwick. Kay Thompson’s Mrs Prescott in Funny Face. The unholy trinity of Endora, Ursula and Divine. Blue sky eye shadow daydreaming. Anoint thyself misfit!

Photography John William
Beauty Gareth Harris
Model Tal at First Model Management