Going backstage at, say, the Ralph Lauren show sounds fancy, right? You probably picture models lounging on plush leather couches with plaid throw blankets, men who look like Nacho Figueras serving espresso, maybe some Bruce Springsteen playing from the speakers…

But you are wrong. Fashion Week backstage is about as far as it gets from Mariah Carey backstage. It’s packed to the brim, there are extension cords people are tripping over everywhere, and the coffee is cold.

However, that’s not to say there’s no magic or glamour. I mean, where else but the hair-and-makeup room could you spot Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, and Adriana Lima all mingling with the iconic François Nars? Witness Diane von Furstenberg dancing with Naomi Campbell before the supermodel steps out and closes the show? Pick the brains of the most innovative beauty pros in the business?

Backstage is a strange behind-the-scenes universe that the average person doesn’t get to see, which is why we’ve rounded up 10 surprising facts, alongside some throwback scenes from Fashion Weeks past, ahead.

The assistants to the big-name artists are ones to watch.
Makeup artists Troy Surratt and Nick Barose got their starts assisting Kevyn Aucoin, pictured here with Linda Evangelista in 1995. Daniel Martin and Yadim trained under Pat McGrath. A cut with Guido’s main assistant, Sandy Hullett, goes for around $250. All this is to say: Always pay attention to the lead artist’s right-hand person. Most likely, he or she is about to blow up.

1

The biggest models usually show up last, and the lead artist works on their hair and makeup.
The tardiness isn’t because they’re divas; it’s because they’re in such high demand that they’re running across town (okay, or getting shuttled by their driver) between walking all the runways. But as soon as they walk in the door, they’re whisked away to the chair of Guido or Pat McGrath.

2

The backstage area is the least glamorous place in the world.
It’s located in either a dark, freezing warehouse or a tiny, stuffy room you can’t move in for fear you’ll bump a makeup artist’s elbow and send a mascara wand flying into a model’s eye. Oh, and the bathrooms are Porta Potties.

3

Some models have contracts that don’t allow them to cut their hair — but almost all of them get their brows bleached.
And they usually aren’t too happy about it. Earlier this year, Kendall Jenner called the bleaching process one of the worst parts of modeling, saying, “It always freaks me out, because every time they do it, I lose them. They literally fall OUT! It’s bad — I really hate getting a bleach.”

4

Models get full pedicures — even if just one toe is peeking out of a shoe.
It sounds pampering, but the rushed backstage pedi service doesn’t include the leg massage or hot soak those blistered feet desperately need.

1

The hair products wrapped in duct tape are the ones the artists really use for everything.

When a hair-care brand sponsors a show, you can guarantee its products will be on as many surfaces as possible, but if you look closely, you’ll also find a whole bunch of bottles wrapped in tape. Those are not by the sponsor — but hairstylists just can’t give ’em up. (Always under wraps? L’Oréal Elnett hairspray and Tigi Bed Head Superstar Queen for a Day Thickening Spray.)

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