Naomi Donne talks creating the look for the highly-anticipated film.
Lily James, Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham-Carter bring classic fairytale characters to life in the new live-action remake of Cinderella, hitting theaters today. Below, makeup designer Naomi Donne walks us through how she injected the Victorian era with a little 1940s glamour, turning James into Disney’s most iconic princess and her trick for achieving that perfect rosy glow:
Harper’s BAZAAR: How did the original Disney cartoon influence your work on the new film?
Naomi Donne: When we were all deciding on the look of the film—when I say “we,” I mean Carol Hemming, the hair designer, and Sandy Powell, the costume designer—we all watched individually, did our research and I personally kept going back to the cartoon, even though it’s set sort of loosely in 1840, which is Victorian, which is ringlets, and they didn’t wear makeup then. So then I thought it would be really good to do a take on the film as if the film was made in the 1940s and set in Victorian times. If you look at Gone With the Wind or films of that ilk, they’re set in that similar period. Everyone’s got their 1940s makeup on—they wouldn’t go out without it. We wanted to echo the cartoon, so for instance, when you look at the wicked stepmother, she looks quite like Joan Crawford, even though that movie was made much later than her in the 1950s. We all came together and said, “how about we make it look like a film that was set in the 40s,’ so Sandy Powell’s costumes have that sense—they’re so incredible. And we asked Cate Blanchett’s hair and makeup people to do the same thing and they went with it and she looks amazing. It gives you a chance to really liven up the faces because if we did Victorian makeup, it would just look boring, particularly with Sandy’s costumes and those sets which are so elaborate.
HB: Can you walk me through the concept for each character? What was on your mood boards?
ND: I did huge amounts of tear sheets and research and went through all different magazines, conventional fashion magazines, I went through a lot of edgy, weird European fashion magazines and got lots of ideas about Cinderella. But when we decided to do this look, which is a very heightened ’40s look, I wanted Cinderella’s face to look as if she has nothing on, because then that’s the big contrast with everybody else—she’s the only one with nothing on her face, where as everyone else is overly made-up. She’s very fresh and open and so was her mother and they come from a different world of honesty and music and culture and simplicity, as opposed to the complications of her wicked stepmother, her stepsisters and life at the palace. She’s in a very simple place in a nice way. She contrasts really well. When she comes down into the ball, she does have a little bit more, but basically her face—and body—looks much simpler than everyone else. She sort of glows with that simplicity and that’s why she stands out from everybody else, I think.
HB: How much collaboration did you do with the hair team?
ND: We were all sharing a massive trailer so we were all working side by side and we’re all very good friends; a lot of the hair team did makeup as well. We all know each other very well so it’s easy to collaborate, it’s easy to say, “Oh, I’m putting crystals in her hair,” and I’ll go, “Oh that’s a good idea, I’ll chuck some on her chest.” Things like that work together.
HB: Tell me about the the stepsisters.
ND: The stepsisters came from a still that we saw from Pride and Prejudice from the ’40s and that was a huge collaboration with Sandy. We had samples of all the costumes from Sandy and we had a copy of the designs and the fabric and then you’d pick out your colors from that. The stepsisters are actually very beautiful; they are not ugly at all. I actually had teeth made for them to make their teeth a bit quirky but that didn’t fly with the studio. They actually look very beautiful and the ugliness comes from within. They look beautiful but in a slightly comic way, things are not quite right. There’s a few too many bows in their hair or the colors in the costumes are really strong. It’s a bit off but they ended up looking absolutely stunning. So I would pick out the fuchsia or the acid yellow from their costumes and use it somewhere on their face or the nails. One stepsister, Anastasia, had fuchsia lipstick (a mix of MAC Candy Yum Yum and Impassioned) most of the time and the other one, Drizella, had orange lipstick (MAC Morange and Peachstock). Things like that we’d switch it around from the costumes. The colors on their faces came straight from Sandy’s work.
HB: And the Fairy Godmother?
ND: The Fairy Godmother makeup came from an old photo from the ’20s that Helena [Bonham Carter] brought in. It was a hand-tinted photo with the big dark eyes and peachy look. I wanted it to be a mix of that and something from the ’60s. We had these big perfect teeth made for Helena which changed her look quite drastically. We wanted everything to be perfect.
HB: Did you sit down with all the actors individually to get feedback about their looks?
ND: Yeah, you always do that with actors because they have to wear it, they have to portray that person. If they don’t feel their face works for the person they’re trying to portray, they’re not going to feel comfortable. You have to collaborate with actors and you have to make sure you’re in the same direction as them. That’s what we do. I couldn’t say “Oh, I’m slamming fuchsia lipstick and lime green eyeshadow on you, hope that’s OK!” But all these actors were completely up for anything I wanted to hurl at them, they were just fantastic and they got what we were trying to do.
HB: How early did you start working on this film?
ND: We had the luxury, on this film, of starting the process very early, way before we started shooting. Carol and I were involved in the screen testing for Cinderella so we started creating the look on the people that we were screen testing. We actually made them up to look like Cinderella, so we were cementing the look as we went. We cemented it on Lily in her screen test; Carol dyed her hair blonde, she’s actually really dark—she took some big leaps.
HB: Walk me through the makeup look for each character.
Lily’s face was Armani Maestro foundation, she had MAC cream blush—a pinky cream—and a pale Chanel pressed powder. When we did her for the ball, I used MAC Antique Gold pigment on her eyelids and Armani Fluid Sheer in 6 on her cheeks. Then on her body I mixed MAC Strobe Cream with a silver glitter and then I brushed it all on with a big round duo makeup brush. That gave her such a kick when she came down the stairs and the light hit—her skin glowed. And then on top of that I stuck Swarovski crystals [on her chest]. And then I did much stronger blush, but I still didn’t do a lot, I don’t even think I put mascara on her.
HB: Were there key features you wanted to highlight on each character, such as Cinderella’s accentuated cheeks?
ND: You’re right about the cheeks because when you don’t have much makeup on someone, you can’t use the makeup to create too much of a shift in a situation. For instance, the prince is coming but she can’t put more makeup on [as the character] because she doesn’t wear any. So I used her cheeks to express certain feelings she might be having. So she falls in love with the prince and she gets a heightened color because she’s got that flush of love going on and the flush of excitement when she goes to to the ball. And after she fell in love I heightened her cheek color because she has a lot going on emotionally and at the end she becomes a lot more womanly and we did more makeup on her when she gets married. That was the key for her because there wasn’t much else to use.
HB: Do you have any tips for applying blush? How do you make it look like you’re not wearing makeup, like you just have a really healthy, rosy glow?
ND: I put it on the apples of the cheeks and, if you really want a healthy, rosy glow, use colors that are brighter. Take a risk with some brighter colors and maybe use less of it. And then I put it on the apples of the cheeks and I blend it and blend it. That way, it doesn’t look like it’s on your cheeks, it looks like part of your skin tone. Then, if you’re wearing a low-cut dress, put it all across your chest.
Do you use a brush? Do you use your hand?
ND: It depends what kind of blush it is. Right now I’m using an Armani liquid blush and I’m actually using a brush. I’m moving the brush really fast as I apply it. It’s like a small, thin version a blush brush. It’s rounded at the top but a bit thinner than a blush brush. I want to be quite specific about where I put the blush. I build it up very slowly but I move the brush really fast. It’s almost like an airbrushed effect. My favorite brush for applying cream blus is that MAC brush, the duo fiber—it comes in all sizes and I use the smaller size for blush because there’s more control with it and because the hairs on the brush are quite soft on the top—it keeps your finish really nice. I take a bit and build.
What was your strategy for the Fairy Godmother?
ND: For the Fairy Godmother, the foundation I used was a very pale foundation and I took it all over her body so she had this flawless finish, but I didn’t glitter her up the way I did Cinderella because her dress was lighting up and there was so much going on with the dress and she had a huge wig so the amount of flesh showing was quite restricted. So I just wanted to keep it very clean and very pure-looking and open and lovely. She plays the Fairy Godmother in sort of a kooky way and I wanted you to love her the minute you saw her transform from an old lady. I wanted her to have a timeless quality. Somewhere in your mind I wanted you to think, ‘she’s been around for a long time.’
HB: Were you involved with the MAC collection at all?
ND: MAC did the whole range of Cinderella makeup and a lot of them are based on the actual colors that I used on people. I went in and gave them all the colors that I used on all the people. The packaging is so stunning on them.