When we meet makeup artist Derrick Rutledge—profiled Sunday in the Washington Post—he is standing forlornly outside the locked hotel room door of temperamental R&B singer Chaka Khan: “He just flew in to do her after working on Michelle Obama in the East Wing. After New Orleans, he's scheduled to fly out to do Oprah Winfrey before returning home to Washington.”
Well, this is heady stuff. Rutledge, who earns up to $15,000 in a good day, is Mrs. Obama's main makeup artist. Rutledge seems, by the way, like a hardworking guy who has struggled with his weight and made it to the top of his profession with pluck and luck, having started out doing makeup for $25 a throw for anybody who would let him.
Since becoming First Eyebrow Archer two years ago, Rutledge has had to cut back on other one percenter clients, including Patti LaBelle. "The first lady comes first. When she doesn't need him, I get second dibs," Winfrey told the Post.
"When the White House summons," the Post reported, "[Rutledge] flies back to Washington, even for a day or two, as he did to prepare the first lady recently for promotional videos and the Congressional Black Caucus dinner."
Okay, this may seem just a touch decadent to us 99 percenters. Still, this is fine and dandy with me as long as the bill for flying Mr. Rutledge and his magic mascara brushes here, there, and yonder goes to the Obamas and not the taxpayers. I'm delighted for a guy like Rutledge to get the account. But I do wish the reporter, Keith Alexander, a Washington Post staff writer, had told us who is paying for this extravagance. That should have been in the story.
Even though Obama's makeup might come under the heading of an expense that goes with the job being first lady, we know that, if this is the case, Mrs. Obama would hire somebody far less expensive than Rutledge, don't we? Don't we? I felt that Mr. Alexander might have trimmed a few inches of copy dealing with Rutledge's battle with obesity (Mrs. Obama, have you spoken to Derrick about this?) to make this clear.
If the piece had been about a conservative first lady's makeup artist, you can bet your Maybelline lip balm that the question would have been—quite rightly—raised. It is possible that the reporter did ask and was satisfied that there is no taxpayer involvement. This reassuring bit of information belonged in the story, both for the sake of the taxpayer and the Obamas.