Beauty Test with Rose Byrne
The actress discusses the art of comedy and the hazards of body glitter.
- Photography By
- NAJ JAMAÏ
- Written By
- THESSALY LA FORCE
- Hair By
- CERVANDO MALDONADO
- Makeup By
- KATE LEE
- Styled By
- PENNY LOVELL
- Nails By
- STEPHANIE STONE
Do you remember the first time you saw Rose Byrne? Perhaps it was on Damages, where she appeared on screen, equal parts magnetic and fragile, opposite the great Glenn Close. Or perhaps it was in Bridesmaids, where her character Helen ran circles around Kristin Wiig’s Annie in the great competition that is the contemporary wedding party. Byrne, who moved to the U.S. from her native Sydney, Australia, over 15 years ago, is memorable for her doll-like beauty, with her wide eyes and tiny nose. But she’s also wickedly funny, full of zingers and withering glares, an accomplished “straight man” who can hold her own with Melissa McCarthy and then run off with your heart.
Over the years, Byrne’s evolved into an actress to watch both on and off the screen. She’s a style icon for chic smart girls, as comfortable in glittering Chanel as she is in sleek Calvin Klein. Her look is youthful but still tasteful, proper but not prim. “There is something very classical in her beauty, but then there is also something very unique to her and the proportions of her face,” says makeup artist Kate Lee, creative director for this month’s Beauty Test and frequent collaborator with the actress. “A little bit like Jean Shrimpton. She’s incredibly easy to imagine transitioning genres and decades. I think her beauty is truly very versatile.”
Of course, like most beautiful women, actresses perhaps in particular, Byrne has a complicated relationship with her looks. “Beauty comes from within. It’s a cliché, but I think it’s true,” says the 35-year-old. “However, in this business, it’s hard to reconcile that when you’re constantly being told things about your appearance, whether it’s that you are too pretty or too plain or too brunette or whatever the problem is.” This thinking is partly what inspired Byrne to co-found an all-female film and theater production company called The Dollhouse Collective, which aims to tell stories that feature strong female leads. “We are developing a script called Seriously Red about a woman who dreams of becoming a Dolly Parton impersonator,” she reveals. Byrne’s own film career, meanwhile, continues to gain momentum. Opening tomorrow, she appears again with Melissa McCarthy in the comedy Spy playing a villainous Bulgarian arms dealer whose iciness off-sets McCarthy’s CIA agent bluster. Further down the pipeline are The Meddler (in which she stars opposite Susan Sarandon) and the latest film in the X-Men franchise, X-Men: Apocalypse. “We're shooting now,” says Byrne, who will reprise her role as scientist Moira MacTaggert. “So lots of mutants in my summer plans.”
Below, Byrne takes a break from her sci-fi escapades to discuss more prosaic subjects like her makeup essentials, the definition of glamour and why she envies boyfriend Bobby Cannavale’s skin.
VIOLET GREY: LET’S TALK ABOUT THE VIOLET GREY SHOOT — YOU LOOK INCREDIBLE.
ROSE BYRNE: Oh, thank you. It was very collaborative. I work with Kate Lee a lot, but I hadn’t done something that creative for a while.
V.G.: HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE GLAMOUR?
R.B.: It's like a James Bond film. It’s European. It’s international. Glamour is like that. It’s the Hotel du Cap. That’s glamorous. I stayed there when I went to Cannes a hundred years ago, and it was the most beautiful hotel in the most beautiful corner of the world. It was outrageously glamorous.
V.G.: WHAT IS YOUR MAKEUP REGIMEN?
R.B.: Well, goodness me. Growing up, my mum never wore a lot of makeup, she was very natural. However, it’s important to take care of yourself, and it doesn’t hurt to put on a bit of lipstick. I discovered I was allergic to all these chemicals, and we put together a very strict bible of all the products I could use. I actually wear makeup every day. I use a NARS tinted moisturizer. I love those Fresh lip stains. I wear them religiously. They are terrific in a berry color. I try to put on a hat if I can.
V.G.: WHAT ABOUT SKIN CARE?
R.B.: In Australia, there is such a high rate of skin cancer that it’s really beaten into us at an early age to be careful about our skin. Although, you know, my boyfriend smokes cigarettes and doesn’t drink water and has better skin than anybody that I know! He’s half-Cuban and half-Italian. He’s like, “Dios mío! It’s genetic, it doesn’t matter.” So why am I trying?
V.G.: DO YOU THINK THAT WOMEN, WHETHER THEY’RE LAWYERS OR ACTRESSES, FEEL MORE SCRUTINIZED BY THEIR LOOKS THAN MEN DO?
R.B.: Absolutely! Increasingly! Look at Hillary Clinton. She has to spend time getting her hair and makeup done whereas a male candidate doesn’t have to do that as much. Or at least as much grooming. It really is this very old concept that we are valued for putting ourselves together and presenting ourselves.
V.G.: WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT DOING COMEDY?
R.B.: Comedy is hard. Talk about trying to make something look effortless! Better to be scared about the work than to feel as if it is too familiar territory.
V.G.: WHAT IS SOMETHING PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT YOU?
R.B.: I have very small ears!
V.G.: ARE THERE ANY BEAUTY LOOKS THAT YOU KNOW NOT TO TRY?
R.B.: Brown lipstick. The ’90s may be back, but I’m still recovering from that look.
Makeup artist Kate Lee shares the inspiration and techniques behind Byrne’s hypnotic beauty looks.
On THE CALLIGRAPHY EYE...
The idea was simple: “I wanted to do an anti-beauty beauty shoot,” says Lee. “I didn’t want Rose overly made-up because I love her beauty marks and also the texture of her skin. I wanted her hair wet and slicked back or stuck to the face. Basically, it’s all about raw and bold statement looks.”
About that eyeliner: “It was very instinctual,” says Lee of the exuberant zigzag she drew using Laura Mercier Caviar liner across Byrne’s left eyelid. “There are a lot of rules in beauty that make women feel as though things should look a certain way. I want to encourage people to have fun, try a different technique and not be afraid of going wrong. Makeup comes off.”
On THE SPARKLE EFFECT...
Why Lee “stashed the shimmer”: I bought six pounds of gold and silver glitter in a shop in Covent Garden and shipped it back to L.A. probably nine years ago. I was waiting for the right moment to use it. When VIOLET GREY gave me creative input on this story, I knew the time had come.
A nod to the ’70s: “As a reference for this look, I pulled an image of Iggy Pop covered head to toe in glitter,” says Lee. “There’s a bit of that rough, 1970s punk element to it. I wanted Rose to be like a rock star who was okay with looking exposed and gritty in the beauty sense.”
How Byrne left the shoot: “We went kind of nuts right at the end,” admits the actress. “There was glitter in my hair and between my toes for days afterward. But it was fine, it was such a fun shoot.”
I wanted to do an anti-BEAUTY beauty shoot. It’s all about RAW and bold STATEMENT looks.
KATE LEE, MAKEUP ARTIST
ORIGINAL LOOK THE CALLIGRAPHY EYE
Kate Lee provides instruction on how to achieve the rule-breaking look.