Image from HBO
How Euphoria's Make-Up Has Defined a Generation
Backed by an eerie and orchestral score by Labrinth, one of the most striking elements of HBO’s EMMY Nominated Euphoria is use of characters’ wardrobe and makeup to provide a kaleidoscopic and hyper realistic depiction of what it feels like to be a teenager in today’s world. In his interview with Vulture in 2019, creator Sam Levison expressed his vision for Euphoria developed from an interest in ‘emotional realism’ - in terms of using this world he created to subliminally reveal the “hopes and wishes of the characters that exist within it”.
Without a doubt, head make-up artistDoniella Davy has been instrumental in bringing Levison’s vision into fruition - using makeup to signify the emotional development of the characters and their relationships with each other. Drawing inspiration from Instagram and Pinterest, Davy created mood boards for each of the characters in collaboration with the actors that play them. In Vulture, Davy said the intention of the looks wasthat the characters created them much in the way that today’s teens are learning how to do makeup from tutorials online - they are unpolished, playful and fun - and often applied with fingers! On her Instagram, Davy often takes viewers through some of the most popular looks from the show, including what make-up was used, and how to apply it to get the same effect.
What it Says About the Characters...
Davy’s use of make-up provides yet another dimension to the ‘emotional realism’ Leivson sought to create. For example, Rue, a tom-boy and recovering drug addict, often dons gold and silver glittery eye-shadow under her eyes whenever she goes out. Also struggling with her mental health and road to recovery, the eye-shadow resembles tears. In the final episode regarding Rue's formal look, Davy revealed she relied heavily on the colour burgundy to tie into the origins of the infamous hoodie Rue always wears, in the lead up to her drug relapse. Even cooler, while showing the characters getting ready for the formal, Davy made sure to use products that Jules, who assisted Rue with her look, had previously worn - to make it more realistic.
By contrast, Jules, Rue’s love interest and the new trans girl in town, is experimental, confident and bold when it comes to her make-up. While her looks start off as playful, fun and colourful at the start of the series, they take a darker turn as the events with Nate (who Jules thought was ‘Tyler’, a kind and supportive guy she met on a dating app) unfold. For example, while she is in the ‘honeymoon’ stage of talking with ‘Tyler’ Jules is seen with clouds drawn around her eyes, playing on the idea of her ‘head being in the clouds.’
In the aftermath of finding out ‘Tyler’s’ true identity, there is a shift in Jules as she carries the burden of lying for Nate. The stress of the situation can be seen in what Davy describes as Jules’ “iridescent framed red eyes.”
Maddy arguably wears some of the most polished and elaborate looks throughout the season, with rhinestones and striking cat-eyes. However, on her Instagram, Davy describes Maddy’s looks as an “elbatore armor [as] Maddy feels the pain of crushed childhood dreams and a psychotic and abusive boyfriend.” Her make-up has a ‘fantastical’ element to it, because it represents how while Maddy is portrayed as being confident, self assured and “fierce” she is really a “diehard Romantic” wanting to transgress the “loveless marriage” of her parents.
Kat undergoes one of the biggest transformations in the series - from an introverted, avid fan-fiction writer to confident Dominatrix. Her final look at the Winter Formal represents a blend of this newfound confidence with vulnerability, after meeting genuine, nice-guy Ethan and having a bad experience with one of her online sexual encounters.
Throughout the series, Cassie’s looks tend to be inspired by the 1970’s, pastel hues and strongly defined eyes. One of my favourite looks throughout the series is what Davy describes as Cassie’s Winter Formal “clean slate” look. To signify Cassie leaving the ‘‘negative self-worth patterns behind her’’ in seeking validation from the men she wants to date, Cassie wore no make-up to the formal and is naturally glowing. It can be contrasted against the beautifully curated dreamscape ice-skating scene, signifying this transition into her new stage of life.
And how could we forget some of the iconic looks from Lexi, Rue’s childhood best friend - her Bob Ross look for Halloween, and her ‘edgier’ formal look which suggests there’s more to come from Lexi next season!
What it Says About Gen-Z...
The movement that is ‘Putting On My Euphoria Make-Up’ has in many ways transcended tv screens and Halloween costumes but become a signifier and cultural phenomena of what it means to be part of Gen-Z. In the Vulture Article , Davy explained that “Gen-Z is completely redesigning what makeup can and should be used to do” using it to “challenge beauty and makeup norms, to redefine what makeup is. They’re using it to challenge stereotypical gender identities”.
Euphoria has epitomised that eyeshadow and eyeliner no longer needs to be “between the lines” but rather used as a tool of self-expression beyond the stage of social media - infiltrating everyday life. Before Euphoria, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to wear neon orange eye-liners to work while showing support for my favourite basketball team in the Grand Final, or don pearlescent gemstones around my eyes for NYE celebrations. But now, no eye-shadow colour is off limits for any occasion - including trips to the grocery store.
But Euphoria was not the first to challenge these conventional rules of make-up. Many POC beauty influencers have been at the forefront of this trend. Sydney-based beauty influencer and creator Rowi Singh is an absolute trailblazer in this area, using instagram as a platform to challenge the rules and boundaries of conventions in the Australian beauty industry. With over 351K followers on Instagram and 3.7M likes on TikTok, Singh has used beauty and makeup as a “vehicle of self-expression,” including in exploring and embracing her Punjabi heritage.
With brands of the likes of Morphe, Colour Pop, MECCA MAX and Sportsgirl taking hold of this trend of makeup being a tool of self-expression, glittery palettes and colour-packed cream eyeshadows have never been more affordable and accessible than before.
If you want to try something bold but shimmery, look no further than Colour Pop or Mecca Max for some creme eyeshadow sticks to create your glitter under eyes like Rue (or draw your inspiration from Jules by drawing outside the lines). If eyeshadow is more your thing, Morphe has a beautiful array of palettes for all budgets, starting from just $18 (and they regularly have sales!). If you are looking for some bright and fun hues to play around with like Kat, the 35H Hot Sport Artistry Palette is one of my favourites to experiment with. If you are looking for something a bit more reserved, like Cassie’s formal look, then 35C EVERYDAY CHIC ARTISTRY or 35O NATURE GLOW might be more your thing.
One thing is for sure, the sky (and the clouds around your eyes!) are the limit!
Season two of Euphoria drops on the 10 January (AKA TODAY!) on BINGE!