Makeup artist Doniella Davy's background isn't in cosmetics, but art. You wouldn't know it from her work on the current HBO series Euphoria—or maybe, actually, you would. The gritty teen drama, which is based off an Israeli miniseries of the same name and stars Zendaya as drug-addicted 17-year-old Rue Bennett and Hunter Schafer as the ethereal, transgender Jules Vaughn, is a veritable smorgasbord of fantastical beauty looks, mostly involving glitter and neon (and sometimes, neon-colored glitter). "This show was the ultimate fantasy for me," Davy tells CR, adding that although she had previously done the beauty for hit films like Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, working on Euphoria was like "learning a whole new beauty language." This was, she explains, mostly due to creator Sam Levinson's unabashed and unapologetic love for all things makeup. "Sam watches a lot of makeup tutorials," she says. "I always try to feel out directors and see if they’re going want more of a natural vibe, but from the minute I met with him, he was like, 'To be clear, I want to see makeup on everyone. I want to see glitter and pastels on everyone.' After that, I understood that I was going to get to play in a serious way."
And play she did. From Rue's grunge-y, under-eye glitter and the dominatrix look seen on Kat (played by Barbie Ferreira) to the rhinestone-studded eyelids of Maddy (played by Alexa Demie) and the bright, doodle-like eyeliner favored by Jules, Euphoria is a makeup lover's dream made all the more enticing in its remarkable ability to enhance the characters rather than eclipse them. With two episodes left of season one (the show was just renewed for a second season), CR catches up with Davy to talk her inspiration, her favorite makeup scenes thus far, and how she pulled off some of the most elaborate beauty looks on the show.
It seems like every single look mirrors what's going on each character's life. Was that intentional?
“Every look was extremely deliberate. The trickiest part of the show was managing all of the different character arcs. I needed to be careful not to make everyone’s makeup accidentally purple or blue, because that’ll happen sometimes. For Kat’s makeup, when she was first starting to use it, she was using a lot of greens, so I wanted to be careful that I wasn’t making all of her makeup green. I was jotting everything down in a notebook with no real format—just trying to envision all the episodes, trying to create the flow of makeup of each character, thinking about scenes when all the girls are together, and figuring out how to make them all look interesting together. I was visually designing it from an artist’s point of view."
The looks are really artsy. How did your background in art bleed into the show?
"Each character has a color theme. Maddy and Jules both use a lot of pastels and neon, but in totally different ways. Jules is much more painterly and free and expressive. Maddy’s eye makeup is meant to be a well-thought out and polished accessory to her outfits. There are different vibes there, but I'm really attracted to the use of pastels and neons together, which is kind of funny because that’s definitely something I used to do back in the day when I painted. Now that I’m reflecting on everything, I realize I used to make paintings kind of like that. It’s like this little rebirth of that old creativity."
Aside from your paintings, where else did you source your inspiration for some of the more elaborate looks?
"A lot of the inspiration came from real kids I found on Instagram. They’re doing these amazing looks and wearing them out, and I believe they’re creating a new makeup language that defines the beauty and makeup standards that have been around. After I search one thing—I don’t know, 'neon eyeliner' or something—all these other things come up and I’ll embark down a rabbit hole. I have millions of saved images, and the whole idea there is taking what I see and then figuring out how to conceptualize and emanate it, but doing it in a way that felt authentic to my own ideas and my own aesthetic as an artist."
Rue seems to oscillate between looking really tired and puffy to having this cool, moody, glitter vibe going on, especially in the scenes when she's tripping. What was the thinking behind her having those two extreme looks?
“At first, for Rue, I was thinking more along those stereotypical lines like, yeah, she’s a drug addict. Is she really putting makeup on? And Sam was like, 'Yes! Don’t question it. Why not?' It’s interesting because her bedroom is really crazy and has all this weird, colorful, neon stuff in it. There is a makeup vanity table in her bedroom with random pencils and glitters. Everything’s a total mess. So I was thinking if she does have makeup at all, it’s probably just a few things. It’s not like the rainbow range of colors that Jules has, and it’s definitely not going to be applied with precision like Maddy or Jules. The idea was to keep it really expressive on her and to always do a little bit of a 'sad vibe' on her, which you see in her carnival look in episode four ['Shook Ones Pt. II']. It’s almost like a sad clown version with the upside down triangles, and the placement of glitter under her eyes always looks kind of like tears. Sam and I felt that having this reflective glitter around her eyes had this heartbreaking vibe to it. And we also felt it was believable that someone like her would smudge some stuff around her eyes and not get too into perfect placement or designing out a finished look. It’s meant to be kind of rough and smudgy.”
When she’s going through relapse, she really does appear as if she’s been on a bender and really hasn’t slept in weeks. How did you achieve that?
“The lighting mixed with holding back on any makeup and accentuating any visible flaws or imperfections, like veins. To keep her shiny and reflective in certain spots, I used a lot of shimmer sticks, like Glossier's Haloscope. The lighting in Euphoria is extremely moody, so that would always work in our favor in grim ways."
Talk to me about Maddy's look. On Instagram, you explained that you wanted her eyeliner to look precise, like a knife "cutting through everyone’s bullshit."
“Maddy's been doing that since her pageant days. She’s the character who knows how to do her makeup; she watches beauty tutorials. It’s her passion. Her mom works at a nail salon, so growing up she’s seen women beautifying themselves. Her parents are in a loveless relationship, so I think she’s trying to do the opposite of what she views her parents doing. She uses her makeup as a fierce armor for her to feel her most confident and badass self. She idolizes Sharon Stone—she wants to be the strongest, baddest bitch she can possibly be at all times, and she uses makeup to help her express that. When it all falls away in episode five ['03 Bonnie and Clyde'], I was really excited for viewers to be able to see Maddy completely broken down and not in her makeup looks because you start to understand why she is the way she is."
Out of all the characters, it seems like Jules' looks are by far the most put-together and precise, even if she's experiencing serious inner turmoil.
“For someone who gets themselves into a lot of situations that are questionable and painful and nuanced and strange—for example, the hotel scene with Nate's father, which was basically statutory rape—she knows exactly what she's doing and is always in control. She is so self-actualized and self-realized and has the most confidence out of all the characters, which allows for her makeup to literally be anything at any time. Her school makeup looks are supposed to be cheeky and playful. She doesn't give one extra thought to them—she’d pick up her brushes and her colors at home and do whatever to her face. It could be as minimal or as expressive as she wants; there’s no rhyme or reason. But there are definitely emotional secret messages in all of her looks and they correspond to what she’s going through in that moment."
With so many different beauty looks being shot in one day, how did you prevent the cast's skin from becoming irritated?
“I used Bioderma Sensibio H20 and soft cotton pads. We tried to avoid stripping their entire face—like, we only changed their eye makeup and didn't take off their foundation. If we needed to start from scratch, we'd just use a nice, hot towel. As much as these looks are planned out and designed in advance, if there's a change and we’re on set and we have to do something really quick, new looks will have to happen on the fly. That’s how some of the coolest makeup looks turned out. It’s nice to have a range of beauty that's just done intuitively and creatively on the spot, while others are well-thought out. It's this cool rhythm.”
There are two episodes left. Can you share what your favorite beauty look has been thus far?
“Jules' and Kat's makeup in the Halloween episode ['The Next Episode']. Kat's costume is this nun from an old film who goes out and murders a bunch of people. Her makeup is this really fierce, shadowy red eye with upside-down, sparkly crosses underneath. I meant to offend when I did that—not in a negative way, but definitely in a way that pushed the envelope and made some people uncomfortable. It’s supposed to be controversial; it’s what that kind of makeup is designed to do. Jules is Claire Danes from Romeo + Juliet, but a totally artistically, modern version. She has this ethereal, painterly, angelic makeup that incorporated gold foil. It was extremely expensive and took me a long time to apply each time. There’s also the time she goes underwater, so we’d have to go back and forth between the neat version and the messed-up version, which was a nightmare. So much work went into those two looks, specifically."
What was it like creating the gory, bloody look on Tyler after Nate beats him up in episode two ["Stuntin' Like My Daddy"]?
"I had someone from a special effects makeup company produce some prosthetics for me to use in that scene and we applied them together. I also had contact lenses made that looked like bloody eyes and fake teeth that were cracked. The tension was really high on set for that scene, but there it was a nice balance of beauty and experimental beauty. I also designed the micro-penis on the guy Kat chats with on the internet. It's basically a silicone strap-on. There were a lot of firsts for me on this show, to say the least."