Ingrid Grimes-Myles
Ingrid Grimes-Myles
Lifelong Chicagoan Ingrid Grimes-Myles lived “a fairy tale” for an intense 14 months while working as Michelle Obama’s makeup artist. She was there during the campaign, at the Democratic convention, the Election Night rally in Grant Park, at the inaugural activities, on foreign trips, for the Vogue profile, the 60 Minutes interview, and much more.

Instead of moving to Washington—her husband, David Myles, a vice president at U.S. Equities who also runs a family real estate business, could not leave Chicago—she flew there once a week, checked into the Hay-Adams Hotel (a short walk to the White House), and devoted herself to Michelle. When the First Lady traveled here or abroad, Grimes-Myles, 51, grabbed her brushes and bottles and went with her.

Grimes-Myles also did makeup for Michelle’s mother, Marian Robinson. How about the president? “Just powder, before televised White House speeches—and very, very little; he’s not a fan of makeup, not at all, and he is blessed with really lovely skin.” On a bitterly cold Saturday in Springfield in February 2007 when then-Senator Barack Obama announced he was running for the White House, she had powdered his face because “being outside results in red ears and nose, so I was correcting for the environment.”

If anyone in Chicago noticed that Grimes-Myles’s gig was up, I missed the report. When I telephoned her at her Hyde Park townhouse on Sunday afternoon, she was reading the very story that prompted my call: a 4000-plus-word Washington Post profile published last week, about Grimes-Myles’s successor, Derrick Rutledge.

So what happened to Ingrid Grimes-Myles? Post reporter Keith Alexander notes that Rutledge, a D.C. native, won the coveted gig in spring 2009 “…after Obama’s Chicago artist got tired of commuting to Washington.” Her name appears nowhere in the story, which left me with the impression that Michelle had traded up.

Absolutely not, Grimes-Myles says. It was she who decided that she needed to be home to pay attention to her youngest, Donald, now a high-school freshman. “I do have a family. It was very, very hard on me and on them,” says the self-described “true Chicago gal” who grew up on the South Side, the daughter of a Chicago cop and a homemaker, a product of CPS schools, a graduate of UIC with a degree in psychology.

Not only was she not pushed aside, Grimes-Myles says, but in the end, it was she who called Michelle’s assistant and suggested that Rutledge was the right person for the job. “I wanted to find somebody who was really, really good who lived in the D.C. area.” 

She has never met Rutledge but says that “nobody is Michelle’s exclusive makeup artist anymore. She has a bench three or four deep.” Grimes-Myles expects that she’ll do the First Lady’s makeup as the 2012 campaign heats up. She also told me the First Lady frequently does her own makeup. “Early on, I taught her how to do a clean media face, and to this day, she is very competent in accomplishing this…. Mrs. Obama could not have a makeup artist for all of her many scheduled appearances.”

It has been about six months since she last talked to Michelle, but Grimes-Myles says their friendship—which dates to Barack’s days in the state senate—is still strong. Back then, the Obamas lived in a condo across the street from the Myleses. Obama was doing a television interview, and the newscaster called Grimes-Myles, a friend, who for more than 15 years has done the makeup for WGN-TV Morning news personalities and visiting celebs. Grimes-Myles rushed over, but the senator refused the makeup, and the artist ended up chatting with Michelle. The two women became friends. 

Grimes-Myles is now back to her old schedule of arriving at 2:30 a.m. on the WGN-TV set for a show that runs from 4 to 9 a.m. Her husband gets Donald—who is actually her nephew; Ingrid is his guardian—up and out to school. (The couple’s sons are long out of the house—one doing his residency in medicine, the other a dentist.)

And yes, she tells me, it is true that she “trained” and then "retrained" Michelle’s eyebrows. The arch was too high during the 2008 campaign, making Michelle look angry, and so Grimes-Myles reversed her own work and “retrained” the eyebrows down. (The Tribune’s Ellen Warren described Grimes-Myles as “a genius at eyebrows.”)

Over the years, Grimes-Myles has also made up the faces of such celebrities and politicians as Katie Couric, Isabella Rossellini, Caroline Kennedy, the late JFK Jr., Sarah Ferguson, Common, Tyrese, Kate Gosselin, Newt Gingrich, and Rahm Emanuel.


Photograph: Courtesy of Ingrid Grimes-Myles