By Bryan Goh

Róisín Murphy on Róisín Murphy

"He took out a frozen lobster from the freezer and placed it on my head!"
Roisin Murphy on Roisin Murphy Beauty
Photo Credit: Nik Pate

For Róisín Murphy’s latest single titled ‘Coocool’, the cover album art is unlike anything we’ve ever seen the pop star do before. Her fiery mane has been subdued to a subtle shade of brown, three-quarters of her face looks like it’s covered in latex, and yes, it’s kooky. But kooky, has always been her modus operandi since her debut solo in 2005 with her hit album ‘Ruby Blue’.

The album art of Murphy’s single, ‘CooCool’

Besides Murphy’s list of hits that clash disco, house, and punk like Ramalama, Let Me Know, and Incapable, the singer is perhaps the fashion world’s most underrated style icon. Frequently sporting the most outrageously outlandish outfits courtesy of brands like Viktor & Rolf and Oden Wilson before Lady Gaga emerged onto the scene, what could be more interesting than the extra appendages, faces, or heads that frequently sprout from her bodice?

Well, the answer to that is her own point of view of beauty. Specifically, how she constantly reinvents herself as she enters each era. Here, Róisín Murphy herself takes us through several of her beauty looks.

Roisin Murphy on Roisin Murphy Beauty

A young Murphy, 1986
This is me, aged 12, little Roisin. I believe this picture was a school photo taken just before I left to move to Manchester. My look here was quite thought out actually. I had just begun a routine of scrunch drying my hair every day, which was a bit of a pain actually.

That involved lots of mousse, which was a new product in 1mousses986. I would literally scrunch dry it every day to make it look voluminous, and of course, I somehow got a hold of some pearlised lipstick, especially for the school photograph day.

So I’m here with a natural hair colour, which is what my hair should look like. A few little freckles and a little bit of pearl lipstick and the job is done. 

Ruby Blue, 2005
This is me during my first solo record and era, Ruby Blue, and I had red hair at the time which was always done at Daniel Galvin with a dear friend, Patrick, who is the most fantastic colourist. He did my blonde previously and turned me red for this campaign. I went for this ruby colour because the record was called Ruby Blue.

And this night in particular, was a wonderful night, I was singing at the Royal Albert Hall, to raise money and awareness for a charity. I actually sang that night with the full Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the hair, as I said, was red, dyed by my wonderful Patrick at Daniel Galvin and the makeup I did myself.

I think that night was special and wearing that wonderful Vivienne Westwood gown made me feel lovely. 

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Roisin Murphy on Roisin Murphy Beauty

Roisin Murphy by Karl Giant, 2008
This is one of those ones where you’re collected at the airport, taken directly to Manhattan, to the Lower East Side and when you ring the doorbell, you’re allowed in and up small steps for a long way before coming into a very small apartment where you meet a very big personality. His name was Karl Giant.

Inside the apartment was full of props, crazy stuff, and an unbelievable amount of makeup that was being hoarded in there. Every kind of conceivable makeup idea would’ve been at hand that day. But I asked him what he had in mind, and he said, “I’d love to put a lobster on your head.” I said, “Oh, that’s lovely,” imagining that perhaps he had a hat for me or something, but no, he took out a frozen lobster from the freezer and placed it on my head before giving me a beautiful French plait in my hair, and simple makeup.

He plonked this frozen lobster on my head, and then a veil over the lobster, which really made it look like a hat. And of course, I was totally up for this but I had no idea what it was going to look like so I had no clue that he was going to do so much work after the photo had been taken.

So for all I knew I was in this Manhattan apartment with a lobster on my head, but I got the images back and I was delighted to see that he was one of the early adopters of really manipulating his photography and taking it almost into graphic design. These images became the posters for my show in New York, and they did the job extremely well. I loved the picture. 

Murphy walking the Alexandre Vauthier couture show, 2009
I’m proud to say that I walked in the first ever Alexandre Vauthier couture show in 2009. He asked me to do it and I was absolutely blown over to think that somebody would make a couture gown for me, and I would walk on the catwalk.

The hair here is a variation of the sort of hairstyle that I was doing on myself a lot at the time. I was doing these updos with these quite boyish quiffs at the front, and this is a very slick version of that. And the makeup is simple so as not to compete with the incredible dress.

This is a very together look, with the clothes and the hair and the makeup, and it’s one that I love. 

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Murphy in Comme de Garçons, 2009
I was lucky enough in 2009 to see an incredible Comme de Garçons runway show in Paris, and the whole idea and concept behind the show were that of protection. We were kind of presented with these soft layers of protective shells over the models, and this was in the aftermath of the 2008 collapse of the banking system, and it was a response to that.

So being there and being quite pregnant at the time, I was thinking, “Gosh, I’d really love to wear these pieces now, because they speak of a kind of soft, gentle, protective kind of maternal feeling. And then when I was asked to make a photo shoot with Zoo Magazine, this immediately came to mind and I asked if we could just do that look they did in the show with those clothes.

And so we did. We also took the whole hair and makeup look from the show, going for hair like a kind of Geisha, Rococo, almost like a wig. In fact, it’s not a wig, it’s my hair which is rolled up in little spongy things. We sprayed the colour, and we actually changed it throughout the shoot using these hair sprays. The makeup is also referencing that sort of Geisha or kind Rococo white powdered face.

We did play with that across the shoot, like in this picture with the colour on the side of the face. It’s an incredible look. I’m so glad I did these photographs. I really treasure them, and of course, they’re very special to me because I’m not the only person in this picture. 

Roisin Murphy on Roisin Murphy Beauty

Murphy in the Hairless Toys album campaign, 2015
I was projecting myself as a kind of housewife out on the edge of time. I went for this sort of strange, uncanny, vintage look. The hair, of course, is by Eamonn Hughes, my favourite hairdresser. It’s sort of nodding to mod, but it’s also got that sort of suburban feeling to it as well.

I worked with a photographer, John Ross, on this album cover and campaign, and I think it’s worth mentioning the retoucher here who had a very particular style, and he was in India, so we had to send the images out to him to retouch me.

He wasn’t able to do the background, so we had to have a separate retoucher in the UK do that, to create the background. But what he was bringing out was creating this sort of very, almost like an avatar of myself. It’s beyond fake. It’s super real. And he almost made me into a product, a beautiful, shiny, expensive product. And there’s still darkness there with something more going on than just an innate product.

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Roisin Murphy on Roisin Murphy Beauty

Roisin Machine, 2020
The Roisin Machine visuals were really a character. I certainly took a lot of influence from Poison Ivy and Siouxsie Siou and I was really imagining a kind of rebellious spirit. I was trying to channel that sense of clash between a kind of punk sensibility and glam rock sensibility, crossed over with this disco-leftover hard dance like an industrialised disco.

There was a lot of that in the ‘80s and I did in-depth research so when it came to doing that shoot, I had a lot of references already collected for everyone. I was sure I wanted to have a perm so I immediately went to my dear Eammon Hughes to design it which we put together in his studio first. It’s mostly my own hair so we added some hair pieces and a fake fringe, and then it was the case of mad, tiny, little tongs which took a long time to curl. That’s how we got that incredible face.

It’s actually my dream hair that I wanted in the ‘80s when I was doing the scrunch-dry but I was never able to achieve it. I did actually have a disastrous and real perm years ago. The amazing makeup artist, Vassilis Theotokis, did this. He actually came in on the day with an iPad and had taken a picture of me from the internet. He had designed the makeup look onto the picture where he had given me many, many flavours of Siouxsie Sioux options to choose from, and I could literally see it like it was already done on the iPad.

And so we were able to choose one or two looks from that and it turned out exactly like that. As soon as I got into all the getup, I really got into the character with the chains and all the shiny rubber. It was so much fun to shoot.