A scroll through makeup artist Doniella Davy's Instagram feed yields a showcase of all the kaleidoscopic makeup looks she's created for the first season of HBO's new hit show Euphoria. There's Rue (Zendaya) with her sooty liner and glitter tears streaming down her cheeks; Jules (Hunter Schafer) with her dizzying array of Technicolor gazes; Maddy (Alexa Demie) with her glossy lips and constellations of Swarovski face crystals; and Kat (Barbie Ferreira) with her vinyl red pout and gothic smoky eyes. The funny thing is, when you tap over to Davy's "tagged photos," these same looks are being furiously recreated by her fledgling fanbase—down to every last gem and swoop of neon pigment.
To say that Davy's work on the epic teen drama has sparked a makeup movement would be an understatement. Merging teen reality with escapist fantasy, Davy is catapulting Gen Z's makeup obsession—and unbridled experimentation—into the mainstream with sparkle and nuance. "Teenagers are switching things up constantly," she explains over the phone, on the set of next project. "Gen Z uses makeup not only to portray who they are, but who they want to be that day." Ahead of Euphoria's season finale this Sunday, Davy talks about the show's unprecedented emphasis on makeup, storytelling through a hyper-visual lens, and using beauty to break barriers.
On why makeup takes center stage in Euphoria
Euphoria is a heightened reality of what teens are going through. It’s kind of meant to be a horror story. It explores the motives behind why teens are making certain decisions. The pain and reality of it! It’s a very dark, but realistic look at Gen Z. Our creator Sam [Levinson] really wanted to propel the character arcs forward by showcasing the makeup as a whole new freedom of self-expression. He brought me on to use makeup as a way of defying pre-existing beauty and makeup norms, as well as to push forward a whole new aesthetic you don’t typically see on TV—only on the Instagram accounts of Generation Z!
On "stalking" Gen Z for real-life inspiration
I’ve been stalking Gen Z for a couple of years, sort of admiring it online. [Laughs] My work in the past has been on more natural and gritty films, like Moonlight, so when I got the call for this job I thought, 'Oh my god, this is my chance!" So as an artist, I put my own twist on the Gen Z aesthetic to push it forward as a new form of makeup for the masses. Beyond that, I also drew inspiration from the late ‘60s and ‘70s. I love glam rock! So there are references in makeup history, too. There’s this photo of Nina Simone from the late ‘60s, she has these huge rhinestones on her brows. I [riffed] on that direct look for one of Maddy’s pep rally moments.
On creating hyper-individual character archetypes
I wanted every girl to be really, really different and have their own thing going on. But at the same time, I didn't want each girl to feel like a total stereotypical archetype. There needed to be a level of nuance involved with each girl's look, and it had to be unexpected at times. In those early days of using makeup on yourself, there’s this whole playing dress up element, so I definitely wanted that to shine through. Maddy, for example, has been doing her looks since her pageant days when she was five years old, so they’re more fully formed than the others. For the other girls, I wanted to show the realism by pulling back on finishing touches, not making things perfect on purpose. For every look, I questioned myself. Is this serving a purpose? Is this telling the story, or did I just do this cause I thought it was cool and it matched her sweater?
On inspiring a new generation to get experimental with makeup
I thought people would write reviews about Euphoria and be like, ‘P.S. it has cool makeup,’ at most. I’v never gotten this kind of feedback before. I’m amazed and so touched by people saying, ‘I just went to the store and bought all these glitters and colorful makeup, I'm gonna put it on, I'm going to leave the house with it on.’ To inspire that kind of bravery of self-expression is so special. And that's been the most rewarding thing—having it be inspiring to people that aren't makeup artists and who are just real people. I think they're mostly Gen Z kids who are just digging this whole new style.
On breaking boundaries with beauty
On Euphoria, all conventional beauty norms that have existed are meant to be broken. It’s absurd to think that you can't wear pink glitter out to the grocery store. People are just celebrating using color and textures on their faces. We've been adorning faces and bodies forever! This show has the strength, power, and audience to inspire young people to be true to themselves, as well as to be uncompromising in their self-expression.
Originally Appeared on Vogue