Elle Fanning Muses On Her Relationship With Beauty

Getty / Arnold Jerocki

Elle Fanning appears on a video call from the Cannes Film Festival in France, undeniably poised yet warm and friendly. She exudes a certain sweetness that fits her famous smile, but as her name hints, her style is elegant. Fanning’s blond hair is styled into a sleek, shoulder-grazing lob, and she is wearing light, summery makeup. Only the hint of a sheer, silvery hue on her lids adds sparkle to the Fanning’s naturally beautiful daytime glam.

My initial impression of her is actually of her thoughtfulness, as I observe her connecting with her team before the interview commences. She also has a familiarity and ease with the process of being interviewed, a reminder of the fact that she has been working in the film industry for most of her life. At 26, Fanning is a seasoned professional, making her a natural choice for the L’Oréal Paris’ decision to name her the Juror for its fourth Lights On Women’s Worth initiative to highlight and empower women film directors. (She has been an ambassador for the brand for the last seven years.) As a juror, she will be presenting the award to the winning woman director selected among the official Cannes Short Films.

“I’ve worked with so many female directors starting from 11 years old, and I’ve been really lucky to have beautiful, lifelong-lasting friendships with them,” Fanning tells PS. “To see them, from such a young age, in such a powerful position [on set] showed me that maybe one day, I could do that. Obviously there’s still a long way to go with females in directing jobs, but also just jobs on a film set. It’s predominantly male-centered, and so for L’Oréal Paris to have this award and to uplift female filmmakers is so important.”

Her tactful critique of Hollywood goes beyond its professional implications and onto a topic that is universally relatable: the pressure of beauty standards perpetuated by Hollywood and the media.

“In Hollywood, but across the board – everywhere, I think, with social media these days – we’re all comparing ourselves to other people; the way they look, their lives. You’re [inevitably] comparing yourself to other people if you see these images of beauty standards, all the time, that society is shoving in your face,” Fanning says. “I definitely fall victim to that at times, where I will go down the death spiral of scrolling [on social media] and I have to stop myself. Somehow we have to block that out.”

In order to take a step back from this, she re-frames her perceived discrepancies from societal ideals as strengths. “Gosh, we’re all beautifully unique,” she says. “I’ve learned that my flaws and my uniqueness is what makes me special. But, of course, there are moments where you can’t help but go down the rabbit hole. I’m not immune. We are all different in our own way, and I love being a part of a brand that embraces everyone’s uniqueness. To show that to young girls is really important.”

She also fosters a healthy relationship with beauty in her daily life through her skin-care regimen, which she revels in as an opportunity for self-connection and self-care. “Beauty, for me, is a time in the morning or at night, that I get to take some time to myself and pamper myself a little bit,” she says. “At the end of the day, beauty is not just something on the surface; it’s really about having self-love and taking time to pamper yourself and do something for yourself. Those moments calm me. Doing my routine is my favorite part of the day.”

At the end of the day, beauty is not just something on the surface; it’s about having self-love and taking time to do something for yourself.

Beyond the grounding effects of taking care of her skin, she enjoys the creative element of applying makeup. This, she says, gives her the opportunity to explore different sides of her beauty personality. “When I’m getting ready to go out to a party at night, [makeup] is fun because you kind of create a character with each look and style,” she says, which naturally segues into the role of beauty in her professional life. In her personal life, beauty helps Fanning connect within and express her taste. But on set, beauty serves the opposite purpose; there, it is a ritual disconnect from her own psyche in order to embody the role she is playing.

“[On-set makeup and costume] makes you feel unlike yourself, and that’s what you’re trying to do in films; you want to immerse yourself into the character. One of the first [parts of the process] is about your clothes, your hair, and your makeup. All of that is on the surface, but it really helps embody the role,” she says.

One role in which she found the makeup process to be particularly impactful was for Hulu’s The Girl From Plainville, in which she starred as Michelle Carter, the real-life defendant in a highly-publicized news trial.

Image Source: Steve Dietl / Hulu / Courtesy Everett Collection

“It was one of the first times that I played a real-life person who was in the news a lot, so people really knew what she looked like. To have to emulate that was a really big transformation, and it was so interesting to work with the hair and makeup team on that,” Fanning says. “We even had a couple little prosthetics to make my forehead longer. The tiny little tweaks can make such a difference; it’s so fun.”

Fanning’s in-depth understanding of beauty’s multidimensional impact makes her an ideal ambassador for a global beauty brand. As someone that worked in one of the most visible and highly-scrutinized industries since childhood, she is aware of the importance and impact of messaging sent to girls and young women. She is in touch with the multifaceted nature of the beauty industry as she articulates how certain beauty standards can be detrimental, yet appreciates the way that her daily beauty regimens are important to her well-being.

She has a unique professional relationship with the functional elements of beauty, but sounds like any of us as she describes the way it is fun. “I’m wearing a wig right now in the movie that I’m filming; I love [wearing] a wig in a film. I love to see myself with different hair colors and hairstyles,” she says excitedly.

This statement, most of all, is the most endearing reminder of the humanity residing beneath her larger-than-life public image. Even as a globally renowned, glamorous A-list actor that has been in the public eye for the majority of her life, Fanning is as relatable as the girl-next-door, and a valuable role model to girls and women, when it comes to her relationship to beauty.

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