Last year i did a make up master class for MAC cosmetics and i was asked to chose a topic. I sat down with make up genius Terry Barber and i told him about my love for this unusual woman and how surprised i was that not many people knew of her in England. I grew up in Italy and Mina was there since i was born...one of those constant presences that are with you your whole life. A bit like Michael Jackson or dirty dancing did, for people of my generation though i'm not comparing Mina to him as it'd be like comparing ice to fire.
I don't remember a day when i switched the radio on and i didn't catch one of her songs. The woman has been around from 1959! (even though she didn't make any public appearance since 1978, the year i was born.) Also, I could always remember how "weird" she was...her look was unique and her make up....OH HER MAKE UP!!! i think Mina was the first person, other than my mum, that made me realise just HOW powerful make up can be. So, i decided to do my class on Mina...and the world of the 70's "underground" make up.
I started researching and..........my love for this amazing woman grew and grew ...and grew some more.
Louis Armstrong was quoted calling her "the best white female singer of all times" and there's an interview on youtube where Liza Minnelli names Mina "her number one". Frank Sinatra was supposed to duet with her in America but Mina had a nervous breakdown that year so, that, unfortunately is a gem that we're all going to miss out on...
She recorded over 110 albums, sold over 76 million records and scored over 70 singles. She was the first italian female rocker, hehe, the first to "dance" in front of a camera (at the time singers used to sing with a hand on their heart and Domenico Modugno -the popular author of "volare" got in trouble for even raising his hands on tv!), the first to shave her eyebrows off completely in Italy which started a major fashion trend. I love that throughout my research, which lasted for a couple of months, my mum FORGOT to mention that she was with her on the day she first shaved her eyebrows!!! Mum said that she arrived in the make up room to go to her then-make up artist and said "so...what do we do today??" and he said to her "Mina! what else can i do on you!!! i've done every possible make up...the last thing left to do is to shave your eyebrows off!" and laughed at that thought. She said "OH. Ok. Let's do it." I love this about her: She wasn't pretty but she had the courage to use her un-pretty features and instead of hiding them, enhancing them to an extreme. I mean....Imagine doing a corrective make up on Greta Garbo.........pretty...but you'd KILL her glamour!!!!
I know for a fact that make up artists used to try and give Mina the fashion's liquid liner which was "à la Marilyn" and she hated it, it just wouldn't suit her. My godmother was one of the first make up artists to start drawing her eyes "downwards", something that genius make up artist Stefano Anselmo completely made into a statement for her later on.
Mina and Stefano found each other, artistically speaking. He became her loyal make up artist till the last time she appeared on stage. And Mauro Balletti her photographer of choice. There is a book i have: "Mina nelle fotografie di mauro balletti" who should NOT be missing from make up artists book case...it's expensive but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do!
In 1963 mina was banned from singing in public (???!!) because she refused to hide her pregnancy and relationship with a married actor (yes those where the times where one would have to face a trial in court if found adulterating on his/her partner...but i'm not surprised, given that one would get in trouble for dancing on telly!)
Record sales though were unaffected and the audience forced to lift the ban.
To the "bad girl image" Mina responded with her new image on live tv: dyed platinum hair, shaved eyebrows and the first cigarette to appear on screen.
Mina decided to "retire" from public appearances in 1978, never appeared again, up to date,and never commented on as to why she withdrew from public life.
In 2001 she appeared briefly on line with her new album and the website had to shut down the same night because of internet traffic...Millions had log on to see their idol and crushed the site!
I don't only love Mina for her unsurpassed voice. I love her for being true to herself, for being the emancipated woman she always has been - the tiger of Cremona - for changing italian laws and attitude towards women and marriage, for sending back a blank check to that super-dubious italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who gave it to her hoping she would sing for one of his parties (lol!), or...for some of the best make up i have ever seen and will ever see in my career: the intensity of the 1920's, the downwards lines of the 30's, the glam-rock of the 70's...all combined to make her as powerful-looking as it gets. Her eyes were leaning towards her cheekbones, not her temples, her cheeks were drawn to a straight strong cut on the face, her lips -the erotic element- annulled or darkened in an impertinent shape. All of this on a nearly white pancaked foundationed skin.
Mina IS the reference of champions, full stop.
The first photo is of her without the make up that made her a beauty icon.
"With Mina a word became.....THE word, a note became...........THE note."