Original article from The Toronto Star | By: Rita Zekas Special to the Star, Published on Fri May 02 2014
I am so not ready for my closeup.
I am bare-faced — not even a smidge of concealer — as I step into celebrity makeup artist Dino Dilio’s mid-town apartment. It feels like the dressing room of a Hollywood diva: specifically Diana Ross.
The back wall of his living room/makeup studio is complete with a bulb-ringed professional mirror; racks of makeup and accessories; and framed posters of Ross and The Supremes, with a sprinkling of Josephine Baker and female impersonator Craig Russell.
His apartment in the Yonge-Church corridor is one-bedroom, one bath, living room-cum-studio and is just over 700 square feet. “It was built in the mid ’50s, the first luxury apartment in Toronto,” says Dilio, who lives there with his cats Max and Sam.
He has been here over 20 years. “It is close to the subway, there is a lineup of taxis at the ready. I don’t need a car,” Dilio explains.
His celeb client list includes everyone from actress Kim Cattrall to Barbara Amiel Black, wife of disgraced former media baron Conrad Black. He has worked with singer-actress Diahann Carroll, Hollywood movie actress Rachel McAdams, home décor mogul and model India Hicks, actor Kevin Spacey, CBC broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi, Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell, and even Robin Leach, Mr. Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
Dilio has been Cityline’s makeup artist and expert for 23 years. He’s served as national makeup artist for Revlon Canada, Murale, Shoppers Drug Mart and Hudson’s Bay. He’s the former creative director and senior makeup artist and manager for the city’s seminal Mira Linder Spa. He is author of the makeup manual Let’s Face It. He has his own line of cosmetics called DDB using the same manufacturer as Chanel, Bobbi Brown and NARS. And he currently teaches makeup artistry at George Brown.
Dilio is blasé about celebs. “Half the time I didn’t know even who I was doing,” he swears. “I put powder on Justin Bieber’s nose and I didn’t know who he was. Same with Charlotte Church and Chantal Kreviazuk.”
His wish list? “Diana Ross,” he says without pause. “She is from that old school. I got booked to do Tina Turner but she likes to do her own makeup to become ‘herself.’ It is part of the process of becoming that person who hits the stage.”
Dilio comes from the give-’em-the-old-razzle-dazzle school of home décor, which he describes as “exciting and elegant. Women feel comfy and at ease here — and so do men.”
But to be at ease in his apartment, they must also love disco.
“I made the disco ball chandelier. When the sun comes down, the whole room looks like a disco. I found the chandelier at a lawn sale and pulled it apart. I changed the plastic bits into crystal.”
Disco balls hang from his terrace railings and one sits in an ashtray on the black lacquered side table, which is bordered by two Ghost chairs.
Dilio gutted the kitchen and living-room areas. “I did everything, put in a parquet floor, stripped, stained and urethaned.” He painted the walls a shade of stone because “I needed something neutral to not change the skin tones and to make the art pop more.”
The living room coffee table doubles for both dining and makeup consultation. “A client comes over for a consultation with her makeup and I usually tell her to get rid of it. Get a better foundation, simplify. People are product junkies. You don’t need 17; use seven.”
His demographic is women aged 55 to 80. “They aren’t served properly in department stores or Sephora,” he says. “They don’t have the experience there to apply makeup to the mature face.”
But he has. Dilio has been doing makeup for more than 30 years, starting in his native Montreal.
“I watched the Avon lady come over and make up my mom and grandmother. When they were asleep, I’d play with that makeup and put it on myself. I hid it because it would upset my dad,” he says. “A friend of my mom’s was a former model and she was getting ready for the evening and I volunteered to do her makeup. She was impressed. I was 17.”
Dilio eventually found what he calls a “rinky dink” school to teach him modelling and makeup courses in the evenings. It was problematic because some of the nights conflicted with his TV viewing.
“Dynasty was on,” he laughs. “I told them ‘I can’t go tonight because I get more education watching Dynasty.’ And 30 years later I’m doing one of the stars (Diahann Carroll.)”
We move to the kitchen, which also serves as his office. His desk is fashioned from a mechanic’s set of red tool drawers, opposite the fridge with its Vegas showgirl magnet complete with feathers and pasties.
The counter with the butcher block top is a Mastercraft work bench from Canadian Tire. A blackboard hangs over it with the Andy Warhol quote, “Good business is the best kind of art.” “Every week I write a new quote,” Dilio says. “When I cook, I put the menu on it.”
On a ledge over the counter is what he calls his “tchotchke corner” that features goodies like a talking moustache and pet monkey. Above it all hangs a montage of rubber duckies à la Warhol whose colours match the striped rug in front of the sink. There is a caricature of Dilio with Diana Ross by illustrator Maurice Vellekoop. The white wall tiles are original, as are the heated subway floor tiles in the bathroom.
“When I moved in, the kitchen had a pantry,” Dilio recalls. “I ripped it all out. It is a corner apartment and I opened it up so I got a cross breeze.”
“I’m going to die here; I love it.” he vows. Unless he meets someone to take him away from all this.
“I have a dream to have a little house but I’ll keep this place as a pied à terre,” he muses.
And the shrine to Diana Ross will travel between both.