When it comes to his role in her life, Washington makeup artist Carl Ray is a lockbox about his appointments with First Lady Michelle Obama. But while he’s discreet, others talk, so it is quietly known that he does her makeup for public appearances and special occasions, including all her appearances for the recent inauguration.
So it was interesting when an item appeared last week on a news site in Manila, proclaiming her makeup artist to be DC-based Erwin Gomez, who is a native of the Philippines. The ABS-CBN News quoted Gomez as saying that during inauguration events he was “so busy I wanted to cry.”
It was the item’s lead sentence that got attention among the fashionista set back in Washington: “US First Lady Michelle Obama is only one of the many celebrity clients of a well-known Filipino artist who recently opened a 4,000-square-foot salon in Washington.” Gomez’s representative insists the website misinterpreted comments he made in a television interview in which he reportedly said “he did the First Lady’s family” during the first term. “This has been cleared up with everyone,” the rep said.*
So what gives? Who is the First Lady’s makeup artist? According to the White House it is not Erwin Gomez. A White House official Monday morning, in a phone conversation with The Washingtonian, confirmed unequivocally, “Carl Ray is the First Lady’s makeup artist.”
Gomez was visiting in the Philippines for the past two weeks, according to his rep. The ABS-CBN report noted, “Despite his success in the US, Gomez never fails to return to his roots and makes it a point to visit the Philippines often.”
Last year Gomez opened Karma, the successor to the Erwin Gomez salon he operated in Georgetown with former partner James Packard Gomez, a relationship that ended in a legal morass that forced the closure of the salon.
Ray works out of the George at the Four Seasons salon at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown. He started doing the First Lady’s makeup early in the first term after a colleague recommended him. When we reached out to him Monday he said through a spokesperson, “The reason I’m successful is that I don’t comment when I’m asked to comment.”
*This post has been updated from a previous version.