Hunter Schafer on the Reverb of Euphoria’s Makeup and Her Road-Trip Beauty Essentials
Ahead of this weekend’s special episode, co-written by Schafer, the 21-year-old actor talks about fruitful rumination and the colored eyeliners she would teleport to her high school self.
It was a beatific vision: a smiling Hunter Schafer, dressed in a Yohji Yamamoto creation as if beamed in from some utopian future. “It’s a vibe,” the actor laughed over Zoom earlier this week, referring to the white fabric plumes levitating off her shoulders. After months where normal life seemingly went up in flames, the diaphanous look (courtesy of her newfound stylist, Law Roach) felt like the visual antithesis: a fresh gust of wind.
Or that was the national mood, anyway. It was the eve of Inauguration Day, and change was afoot. As much as the occasion belonged to septuagenarian Joe Biden, young leaders shared the spotlight: poet Amanda Gorman, transfixing the crowd; Ella Emhoff, wooing the fashion cognoscenti; Greta Thunberg, with her skewering tweet. The sense that the rising generation can grapple with a complex reality and do it with style might have felt familiar to fans of HBO’s darkly glamorous teen drama Euphoria, headlined by Zendaya and Schafer.
It was just four years ago that Schafer, then a 17-year-old trans student at a North Carolina arts high school, served as a plaintiff against the state, seeking to overturn its discriminatory bathroom bill. Following a high-profile start as a fashion model, Schafer landed a breakout role in 2019’s Euphoria, playing a sylphlike trans teen (Jules) with an eye for ethereal, painterly makeup. Instantly a muse for the beauty-obsessed TikTok set, the actor also caught the attention of Shiseido, becoming a face of the forward-thinking Japanese cosmetics brand late last summer.
“Shiseido rides a really specific wavelength,” said Schafer, describing a way of treating “makeup as an art project versus an attempt to appeal to some standard or something, which is exactly how I like to approach it.” The actor’s own drawings—linework and figure studies brimming with energy—slip easily from sketchpad to skin. (And currently on her fingertips: “almost a comic of cell division,” she explained, holding up the glittering handiwork of Mei Kawajiri. “I asked her to do the stages of mitosis on my nails!”) That sense of experimentation carries through to the new campaign for Shiseido’s latest foundation, which sets the actor’s crystal-studded eyelids against an otherwise unadorned face. “I’m not interested in covering up or trying to look like someone else, and I feel like the Radiant Lifting foundation really just kind of lets my face shine through,” added Schafer.
The impulse toward candor foreshadows this weekend’s special episode of Euphoria, an emotional dive into Jules’s backstory, which Schafer co-wrote with Euphoria creator Sam Levinson. Here, the actor talks about the fruits of rumination, her trick to washable face tattoos, and the beauty finds she’d share with her high school self.
Vanity Fair: Euphoria‘s makeup is so entwined with Jules. How has that use of color and sparkle reflected or influenced how you’ve approached makeup?
Hunter Schafer: I think it’s sort of falling nicely in line with my personal evolution with makeup—from how I started wearing it in high school when I was first experimenting and trying to figure out if I wanted to look pretty or to serve a certain sort of gothness. Throughout the years, I’ve been able to move into something that feels more artistic and playful, which is definitely my comfort zone. The show gave me the tools—especially working with Donni [Davy, Euphoria’s makeup department head]—to take the approach of drawing on your face or just smearing some glitter on and seeing what works. I helped design the cloud look that Jules wears in episode 3 of Season 1, and I was really happy with that one.
What have you been experimenting with lately in terms of makeup?
I’ve been playing with illustrating things near my eyes. I recently just did this Instagram post where I had done almost face tattoos, with a symbol for my community that I really love, and then a sword. I was able to get pretty precise, actually. I used this guy: the MicroLiner Ink from Shiseido. It was a lot of fun! Half-committing to a face tattoo without actually having to stick a needle in my face was good.
It’s interesting that your first Shiseido campaign is for foundation, when we’ve come to associate you with experimental looks. How does it fit in with your own aesthetic?
I think Shiseido rides a really specific wavelength in that they have the right tools and sort of vibe as far as their brand—the looks they put out into the world that fall in line with being artistic. Since partnering with them, I’m learning a lot too. I wasn’t that well versed in foundation before, but it’s something I’m actually liking because it’s a really good blank canvas. It feels like I’m literally wearing nothing, which is a major plus for me in that it feels airy and my skin can breathe. But then it’s also doing all this work with the light technology and the sort of glow that I’m going for.
This year was so much about rumination. How did that shape this Jules episode?
Ruminating was sort of consequential to the pandemic, and quarantining definitely influenced, if not brought forth, my involvement [in] the Jules episode. Being forced to kind of sit with yourself for that amount of time—whether you like it or not—starts bringing up stuff that you may have not had time or the capacity to confront before. As far as my involvement as a co-writer and a co-producer and having that deep artistic involvement in the episode, I was able to really channel the stuff that was coming up for me. It was actually really cathartic in that way.
With Jules being younger than you and less settled in herself, it’s almost like you’re rewinding in some way. How would your high school self have felt in these makeup looks?
I would love to give the younger me the possibility of exploring makeup in the way that I’m able to do now—just because it’s freeing in a lot of senses, to feel like you have that autonomy over your face. You can really do whatever you want. I don’t think younger me completely understood that.
You mentioned the fake-tattoo liner. Are there other products that you would teleport back to your high school bathroom?
I think I was stealing whatever my sister had at the time, so definitely that eyeliner. They also have several colors of the Kajal InkArtist eyeliner and multicolored mascaras. I think little old me would have a blast pairing up designs with the eyeliners and then throwing on a different color of mascara—taking a color-blocky approach.
You spent a lot of the past year on the road: buying a truck, driving cross-country, spending time in North Carolina. What were your handful of creative essentials—both for art-making and makeup?
I definitely brought my watercolor, sketchbook, and ink. I also made the intention to have a bunch of disposable cameras on me. I got really into working with film over that trip, and I kind of photographed my way across the country, which was fun. As far as makeup goes, at night after being holed up in the car all day, I just got dressed up—as a lot of us are doing during quarantine. You know, I was in my truck with my messy bun and just in a T-shirt driving, so to make myself feel a little more glamorous I had some eyeliner that I played with, some shadow. I even got into a little lipstick. I don’t have much of a skin-care routine, but the one component that I actually truly use every time after I get out of the shower, every time after I walk outside and my skin feels dry or something, is this stuff: the Shiseido Essential Energy moisturizing cream. I live by it.