Euphoria made waves this summer for its controversial storylines and its stunning visuals, including the characters’ looks — notably some amazing makeup — that gave the show a style all its own.
Much of that is the work of head makeup artist Doniella Davy, who was responsible for everything from the iconic glitter eyeshadow to the much-buzzed-about prosthetic penises.
Davy has worked in the industry since 2012 and become known for her photo-realistic makeup style and her tendency to make the subjects of her makeup glow. She credits her ingenuity to her time working on the film Kicks, saying it provided her the opportunity to work with actors of different skin types and skin colors. From there, it was her work on Moonlight which led her to recurring collaborations with production company A24 and ultimately Euphoria.
Since Euphoria’s very first episode, the show has garnered an incredible amount of praise thanks to Davy’s boundary-pushing use of makeup, expanding what cosmetics can do in storytelling, and encouraging fans to be more creative with their own makeup. Davy shared with EW what inspired specific looks for certain characters, how she considered going darker for Jules, and the process of giving an actor a fake micropenis.
Davy says she had mood boards for all the girls that she put images on and worked off of. There was a famous inspiration for one memorable look on the Maddy (Alexa Demie) board. “There’s a specific photograph of Nina Simone where she has rhinestones in her eyebrows. She was an inspiration pick for one of Maddy’s looks. She also says Ghost World was a reference for Kat (Barbie Ferreira) that came up early on in the makeup department.
Jules (Hunter Schafer) is rarely shown without bright, sparkling eyeshadow, but Davy explains that wasn’t the initial vision for the character. “My makeup testing for Jules was a little darker. I was even trying some darker lip colors and stuff and we ended up scrapping those and doing more neon and pastel kind of looks.” Davy says Jules’ look is more concentrated on her eyes and less on her lips. “Doing a kind of more expressive avantgarde darker look on her eyes just felt like it would be distracting. Like the makeup needs to be propelling the story forward and making a positive impact and not being too distracting.”
Davy has a simple answer for the inspiration behind her iconic approach to makeup: Generation Z.
While other outlets have credited Davy for starting the Gen Z makeup movement, she makes clear that the movement already existed. “I’ve admired the Instagram accounts of many Gen Z artists, not just makeup artists, but just like people that just, I don’t know, are just doing makeup on their [accounts],” Davy says. No better example of this [makeup] exists out there other than what Generation Z is doing right now. I think, specifically to their faces.”
“The Euphoria style of makeup I really believe already existed. And it was just a matter of myself gathering it all up and putting my own aesthetic twist on it as an artist and then pushing it forward into the limelight so to speak. So it could be admired by thousands or millions more people.”
Beyond aesthetics inspired by the convention-defying Generation Z, what makes it so that the show’s makeup has as much of an impact as its characters, plot, and even resounding themes?
“I kind of look at the makeup similar to music. Like on a film or TV, the music [can] emotionally elevate a scene [or] can make a scene go from like zero to sixty in terms of emotion, whether it’s like a big, sad, scary, or serious or whatever,” Davy says. “And my impression is I need the makeup aim, I aim to do something really similar. If the makeup I’m doing is not enhancing the story then it’s not doing its job.”
Davy also notes that the makeup of Euphoria is specifically designed to follow the trajectory of the story. “Sam [Levinson] asked me to use makeup to portray the evolution of the Euphoria characters. And he encouraged me to do this while also pushing the boundaries of typical TV makeup. He was like ‘You can use color! It can be loud color! You can use shapes! Glitter! Stone!’ He’s like, ‘I want cat eyes! I want like K-Pop inspired looks!'”
“I think Sam and I had pretty much the same goal, which was to inspire self-expression in the audience and to also to challenge some of those existing [beauty and makeup norms].”
But Davy didn’t just oversee the show’s whimsical eye makeup looks. She also handled more serious makeup work, like prosthetics — yes, that includes the penises — and the makeup used to illustrate the violence of Nate (Jacob Elordi) attacking Tyler (Lukas Gage) after accusing him of assaulting Maddy.
“Euphoria [has been] such a wonderful opportunity to work on because it offered such a range of makeup, [including] serious moments of gore. There was a lot of like kind of more gritty character stuff,” Davy says, describing the process of creating a prosthetic penis: “There were several prosthetics, [like] Eric Dane’s penis prosthetic that he wore in the first episode and the guy that Kat chats with who has a micropenis. The director wanted me to make a penis that was two and a half inches, tall or long, while erect. So, I employed this special effects makeup company in LA called Autonomous FX.”
And she had to get detailed: “I told them what the measurements should be, what it should look like, what the pubic hair should look like, and all that. And they sculpted it and made it for me. And it’s essentially like a strap on set. It goes on top of the actor’s actual penis and then visual effects remove the actual strap.”
Davy also detailed just how much went into that intense scene of Nate’s violent outburst against Tyler. “[That scene] was about showing the torture of this kid and there were a couple of details that I wanted to convey. I knew there’d be an up-close shot, so I had some contact lenses made that were blood hemorrhage contact lenses and then I had a fake tooth appliance made for his front teeth where it would look like his front teeth had been cracked. I also had the same company that made the micropenis, Autonomous FX, work with me and [we] made some ten facial wound pieces and then we applied them together. So that was a collaborative makeup [process], with a different company making the contact lenses.”
“Nate hits him so many times. And I thought, ‘OK. Tyler’s face is going to be more effed up. Like his nose is going to be sideways. But Sam [Levinson] wanted to keep it just a little more subtle, so it didn’t become like comical because I think sometimes that can happen. And that’s not really the point. The point is how psychotic Nate is.”