Sergio López-Rivera: The Cantabrian makeup artist who owes the Oscar to his grandmother

He was born in Seville in 1967 but his parents immediately went to live in Santander. Sergio López-Rivera remembers that when he was 7 or 8 years old, what he liked most was drawing and doing makeup for his sisters. “Imagine yourself in Spain in the 70s if you told your parents that you wanted to be an artist,” he recalled in an interview. «And on top of that, a makeup artist. “They put your suitcases at the door.” His determination did not stop with age and before he was 20 he settled in Los Angeles to fulfill his dream. He made a living as best he could: he worked as a driver, in an ice cream shop, in a dry cleaner…She entered the industry as an assistant until a friend recommended that she dedicate herself to makeup professionally. Between work and work she did makeup and did photo shoots for her friends. He admits that he was hungry and asked his Cantabrian grandmother for a loan to pay his tuition at the best school in Los Angeles. where he was number one in his promotion. It wasn’t until he was 23 that he was unable to tell his father what he really did.

‘The Opposite of Sex’, a comedy with Christina Ricci from 1997, is the first film where her name appears in the credits. Twenty more works would follow, especially series such as ‘Felicity’, ‘Monk’, ‘Larry David’ and ‘How to Get Away with a Murderer’, the latter starring the most important woman of her career: Viola Davis. The actress and the Cantabrian makeup artist have forged a friendship that has made their work on ‘The Mother of the Blues’ possible, which won her the Oscar. López-Rivera has gone up to the stage to pick it up along with her team, made up of Mia Neal and Janika Wilson. The artist, who attended the gala accompanied by her husband, had expressed his nerves on the red carpet in case he had to give a speech, something that was not necessary because her partner had consumed the available time in front of the microphone. .

Video. Trailer for ‘The Mother of the Blues’.

His victory at the British BAFTAs and the award from the makeup artists’ union placed the Spanish team as a favorite. Before him, two other Spaniards, David Martí and Montse Ribó, won the makeup Oscar in 2006 for ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. Viola Davis, who was also nominated for best leading actress, wanted López-Rivera to do her makeup when she accepted the role of Ma Rainey, known as the ‘Mother of Blues’, one of the first artists to record her music accompanied by an orchestra in the Chicago in the 1920s.

The challenge was to recreate the appearance of a woman who was only portrayed in seven photographs, only one of them in close-up. “We found out that she was a very fat woman, that she sweated excessively, that she had many gold teeth and that she was considered the ugliest person in the music industry,” details the makeup artist. The actress gave her details while she was documenting herself, such as the description that Rainey was sweating so much from the heat of the spotlights that she looked like she was bathed in gold. The producer of the Netflix film, Denzel Washington, was speechless the first time he saw Davis in character. The makeup seemed “too grotesque.” “But I found out about that later,” smiles López-Rivera, who also acknowledges having been inspired by memories of photographs of how her grandmother used to wear makeup during the Civil War. Another reference was Bette Davis in ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’.

«Generally you have to take care of an actor’s vanity. But Viola insists on being specific, if she has to be ugly and fat, she wants to be the ugliest and the fattest,” says the makeup artist, who He has linked his professional future to Davis in three projects, one of which will be about former first lady Michelle Obama. He also owes the Oscar to the cancellation of filming of a series to which he was already committed. In fact, it was he who called the producers of ‘The Mother of the Blues’ again to say that he was free, in case he still had the vacant position for the happiness of Viola Davis. “That’s how fragile and easy Hollywood is.”

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