A-list makeup artist Mary Greenwell began working with Princess Diana in 1990 for Vogue's December issue, photographed by Patrick Demarchelier. She was booked to work alongside hairstylist Sam McKnight. 


From there, the two women forged a close working relationship and Mary helped create the signature beauty look that the world will always remember. "She was just coming into her own when we first met. Her marriage seemed solid and she was just the most divine, sweet kind lady. It was a huge privilege to work with our then future Queen. And she was pre-celebrity, alongside Mother Theresa, she was out there doing her thing," she said. 


About her first encounter with the then 29-year-old princess at the photo shoot in Demarchelier's London studio, Mary said: "I didn't know that I would be working with the princess until I arrived for the shoot. She came in and we were all like Wow! What a gorgeous secret this has been. She walked into the studio and she was so easygoing, so natural, so lovely and so charming. We were like a little family really. So, she felt comfortable with us. She was very young, down to earth and seemed very innocent."


"When she sat down in my makeup chair, I asked her what she wanted, she replied: 'Whatever you want. Just make me look fresh and new. Just do something different on me.' I thought how lovely. Off I go. And the results were so great. It was groundbreaking. And she was so easy. She was so excited and happy to be on the cover of Vogue because she was such a normal person. Even though she was the future Queen of England, to be on the cover of Vogue meant so much," she said.


Mary managed to coax Princess Diana away from using blue eyeliner. She said: "The first shoot we did with her, where she was sat in the floor with her arms folded, that was the first time we got her out of blue eyeliner and she loved the change. I moved her away from the blue liner because it was very aging for her. I wanted to have her with a very soft eye, a very workable eye but never too much. It made such a difference. From that moment on, she was open minded about trying new looks and colours. I think as soon as we worked together she realised the power of hair and makeup and that is something that should never be underestimated by anyone. She was pure magic and she has the most incredible skin, which frankly at the end of the day also can come down to family genes."


Mary explained that there were no secrets to Princess Diana's beauty, no crazy formulas or magic ingredients, just good care and attention. She said: "Princess Diana was very sensible when it came to her skin and took good care of her visage by always removing her makeup at the end of the day, and making sure she always had a clean face before applying makeup. She was very aware of her beauty regime, cleansing, toning and moisturising twice a day, and using sun block every day. After I started working with her, she did everything in moderation. She cut back on drinking, so her skin was 100 per cent."


Remembering her visits to work with the princess, Mary said: "When we were one-to-one, she was always giggling. We'd talk about everything. She loved being able to talk freely and I think with everyone in the limelight, you don't know who to trust. I think that just to be able to relax around people, for her, was really nice. It was always very cheery to be around her. She loved having people around. She'd be very kind and generous and always say: 'Stay for lunch.' It might be just her team or really important guests, whoever was around."


Mary also worked with Princess Diana at Highgrove for a formal portrait with the Prince of Wales and their young sons Princes William and Harry. Royal photographer Lord Snowdon captured them in relaxed mode sitting under a tree in the grounds. On the same day, he also took a stunning black and white shot of Princess Diana laughing, her wet hair pulled off her face, that has also become one of the definitive images of her. On applying the princess's makeup, Mary would start with a moisturiser on her skin, followed by a foundation that matched her skintone exactly. She would use concealer to lift the eye area and finish the look with a slick of mascara, ensuring to cover the roots of the lashes too, and a light sweep of blusher and lipsick to "suit her mood that day".


She said: "I'm an enhancement makeup artist. I did the same with her as I did with anyone. I always start off with the skin and build up from there, then eyes, blush and bronzer, and lips last. I didn't want to be experimental with her, it was all about enhancing her looks. Depending on what she was doing and where she was going, whether it was day or night, that would dictate how much makeup she wore. She was equally happy to head out to the gym wearing no makeup. She wasn't vain at all. She wasn't precious. Her timeless beauty was completely natural and real. She knew her best features and her strengths. She had no cosmetic surgery or Botox. However, she loved her facials, skincare and all of that. She just wanted to look her best. I don't think she realised how beautiful she was."


The Princess used to call Mary up and invited her over to discuss beauty products. She said: "It was lovely with Princess Diana because she really was so relaxed. She would call up and say: 'Hi Mary, can you come and see me?' Or I'd get a call from her assistant saying: 'Can you come over this week sometime?' Going to the palace was amazing. The barriers that are now in place weren't there then. It was much more laid back. You just drove up, parked the car, and the butler used to meet you at the door, that was it. It was so easy and there were always the kids running around. It was a very relaxing time." Mary worked with the princess until her death in 1997. She said: "She became more confident as she got older, as most people do. Once she and Prince Charles separated, she had more freedom to do what she wanted."


In a career spanning more than 30 years, Mary has worked with some of the most captivating beauties, from supermodels Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford and Christy Turlington, to Hollywood stars Cate Blanchett and Uma Thurman. But Princess Diana's powerful allure stands out.


She said: "She was jaw-dropping in her appeal. She was very attractive, so beautiful and every man was in love with her. She was very magnetic. There was something incredibly appealing about her, not just men, but to all of us. Her smile completely lit up a room. I think she was born that way. Either you are a gifted communicator or you are not. She had an innate skill to be able to communicate. I was blessed to know this lady, this beautiful woman and I will always hold a very special place for her in the core of my being."


  • The Celebrated Makeup Artist On Her Friend Diana's Natural Appeal, Written By Emily Nash For Hello Magazine's Issue 1475. First Published In 03 April 2017

  • Diana's Beauty Secrets, Written By Leigh Alexandra Purves For Stylist Magazine. First Published In 11 August 2014

Princess Diana With Makeup Artist Mary Greenwell and Hairstylist Sam McKnight In 1991

Princess Diana On The Cover Of Vogue Magazine