When your cover model is Rihanna and she’s adorned in zillions of dollars worth of Cartier jewels, how can the makeup possibly reach an equally apocalyptic level? You call in the team at Pat McGrath Labs 004, that’s how. Though McGrath wasn't on set for the shoot itself, she acted as overseer for her army of artists who brought Rihanna's look to life.

The Covers

"Rihanna: Baddest Bitch of the Post-Apocalypse on W's September Cover"
Photographs by Steven Klein, styled by Edward Enninful; W Magazine September 2016.

“Three-dimensional pieces were pieced together to make the eye mask,” explained McGrath, who oversaw the creation of these looks in her labs. “Three sets of hands were required and it took at least a week.” Mind you, this wasn’t one elaborate piece that was transported from the lab to the studio and placed over Rihanna’s eye. “It was put together from scratch, but then it had to be disassembled,” McGrath continued. “They brought all of the elements of it to the set, then each was placed on her, piece by piece. It was like an elaborate puzzle.”

Cartier tiara, earrings, and necklace. Rihanna’s hair by Yusef for Leonor Greyl Hair Care at Factory Downtown; male models’ hair by Amy Farid for Bumble and bumble at Kate Ryan Inc.; makeup and tattoos by Pat McGrath Labs; manicures by Maria Salandra for Chanel at Fr8me.com. Set design by Stefan Beckman at Exposure NY. Models: Deion Smith at Red model management; Chucky (aka Byron), Hirakish, and Sunny. Producers: Anastasia Suchkov and Marcus Ward for North Six Productions; Digital Technician: Tadaaki Shibuya; Photography Assistants: Alex Lockett, Mark Luckasavage, Austin Kennedy, Tim Shin, Willy Ward, Adam Kaniowski; Fashion Assistants: Ryann Foulke, Dena Giannini; Hair Assistant: Naphia White; Set Design Assistants: Michael O’Connor, Yoni Zonszein, Nick Kozmin, Jamen Whitelock; Production Assistants: Manuel Somoza, Ryan Blythe, Stephen Hutchinson; special thanks to pier 59 Studios.
Photographs by Steven Klein, Styled by Edward Enninful

“It was also about the nudity of the face,” said McGrath. “Simple shaping to the face, before all of these extreme pieces go on.” Rihanna’s supernatural glow comes courtesy of a liberal application of McGrath Labs Skin Fetish 003.

The Gold Sun Crown

Rihanna wears a Gareth Pugh coat and headpiece; Bordelle bra, harness, and briefs; Mugler Archive arm piece; Lynn Ban rings (right hand, throughout); Manolo Blahnik boots. On models, from left (throughout): Craig Green trousers; Chrishabana mouthpiece; Patrick Ian Hartley collar; Una Burke Leather arm brace. Hood by Air pants; Ben-Amun by Isaac Manevitz necklaces; model’s own sunglasses and ring. Hood by Air shorts; Falconiere mask; (from top) Jennifer Fisher necklace, Chrome Hearts necklace; Rob Goodwin shoulder harness; Una Burke Leather arm brace. Rothco boots (on all models).
Photographs by Steven Klein, styled by Edward Enninful; W Magazine September 2016.

“Lip color, glitter, jewels.” That was the layering process that McGrath’s team laid down on RiRi’s pout here. And those gold teardrops? “Pigments with 3-dimensional materials and metal eyeliner,” McGrath confirmed. But look closely: “There are actually metal pieces on top of the eye, as well as underneath it.” Gawd, it must have felt extremely uncomfortable!? ”You saw the video! I saw the video! She was walking around! She looked completely comfortable.”

Pailette Red Lip

Maison Margiela Haute Couture created by John Galliano especially for Rihanna cape; Jennifer Fisher earrings; Rachel Freire neck piece; Fannie Schiavoni bustier; Prada belt, Key chains, agenda, and boots; (left hand) Fallon rings; her own harness.
Photographs by Steven Klein, Styled by Edward Enninful

This confetti-esque 3D lip was made from paillettes that were placed over red lipstick. “Makeup is her shield,” McGrath said of Rihanna’s character here. “But it is also her crown, her scepter.”

Prada jacket, corsets, belt, key chains, keys, charms, agenda, tights, backpack, bag, furs, and boots; Cartier necklace; Jennifer Fisher hoop earring (worn as belt charm, top right); Jovana Djuric pendant necklace (worn as belt charm, bottom, middle). Beauty note: Make a bold statement with givenchy Le rouge lipstick in heroic red.
Photographs by Steven Klein, Styled by Edward Enninful

“The makeup is almost like war paint,” says McGrath. “But it’s done in the most modern way. She’s a survivor.”

The Masks

Loewe dress, corset, and cuffs (left wrist); Jennifer Fisher earrings; Jennifer Fisher x Net-A-Porter choker; (right wrist, from top) Nina Runsdorf bracelet, Loewe cuffs; (left hand) Jovana Djuric rings; Christopher Kane mesh sack.
Photographs by Steven Klein, Styled by Edward Enninful

“I’ve been doing masks and 3D makeup for 20 years,” McGrath said. “My team created these masks inspired by all the shows and all of my history. They made so many for this; I can’t even remember the number.”

Fenty Puma by Rihanna jacket, corset, and pants; Cartier necklace; Maison Margiela boots. On model, left: Hood by Air pants; General Eyewear goggles; Alexander Wang belt (around neck); Lost Art necklaces (on arm); Rachel Freire belt; models’s own earrings.
Photographs by Steven Klein, Styled by Edward Enninful

“Everyone said, ‘Do anything you want. Your wildest dreams.’ My team loved that,” McGrath said.

Hood by Air Atelier dress; E.L.F Zhou London bodysuit; Jennifer Fisher body chain; (left hand) Chrishabana rings; David Samuel Menkes Custom Leatherwear vintage boots.
Photographs by Steven Klein, Styled by Edward Enninful

“This one was mostly made of jeweled pieces glued on,” McGrath explained. “The team added tattoos to her face as well as body casts. Plus, jewelry and Rihanna's own tattoos.”

Rihanna wears Proenza Schouler dress; Jennifer Fisher earrings; Manuel Albarran face plate, bra, and leg pieces; Lynn Ban finger rings. On model: Hood by Air shorts; Falconiere mask; (from top) Jennifer Fishernecklace, Chrome Hearts necklace; Una Burke Leather arm brace; Rothko boots.

Producers: Anastasia Suchkov and Marcus Ward for North Six Productions; Digital Technician: Tadaaki Shibuya; Photography Assistants: Alex Lockett, Mark Luckasavage, Austin Kennedy, Tim Shin, Willy Ward, Adam Kaniowski; Fashion Assistants: Ryann Foulke, Dena Giannini; Hair Assistant: Naphia White; Set Design Assistants: Michael O’Connor, Yoni Zonszein, Nick Kozmin, Jamen Whitelock; Production Assistants: Manuel Somoza, Ryan Blythe, Stephen Hutchinson; special thanks to pier 59 studios

Photographs by Steven Klein, Styled by Edward Enninful

McGrath’s team took the best fabric from wardrobe, which they then shaped and placed under her eyes. “All of these looks were about texture taken to the extreme,” said McGrath. “Taking beauty to extreme places for the last woman on earth.”

See Rihanna's best hair and makeup looks here: