It's easy to dismiss makeup as superficial and silly, especially in the midst of a cultural obsession with all things sparkly unicorn and Kylie Cosmetics.
As Celeste on Big Little Lies, Nicole Kidman delivered one of the realest, most heartbreaking portrayals of an abused woman, in love with the man who hurts her, who picks herself up and buries the emotional and physical mess day after day — through denial, long sleeves, and strong concealer.
And the bruises we saw on Celeste's arms, thighs, and back weren't all fake, either. Kidman told Vogue in an interview, "I would go home at night sometimes and be in a lot of pain, and I had to take things like Advil because I was being thrown around physically. I was really bruised." Seeing the marks "devastated" husband Keith Urban, she added.
But that's not the only way the actress empathized with her character. She told Time that the role forced her to become "so skilled at covering bruises" in real life: "The makeup artist taught me how to do it, and I would do it on camera. [Perry] is obviously very clever because he bruises the body — he doesn’t really bruise the face. And it’s devastating. The biggest word for Celeste is 'shame.' She’s so ashamed. And I think that’s a word that resonates [with] anybody who’s in some sort of addictive, abusive relationship."
So, when you re-watch the series (you know you want to) and see Celeste pulling out her concealer and meticulously covering her bruises in the car, bathroom, and at her vanity, know that’s not acting or clever editing — that's really Nicole. And it's one of those little details that makes her character so gut-wrenchingly believable.
At the end of the day, playing an abuse survivor and being one are two entirely different things. Hopefully Kidman’s portrayal will inspire others to get the help they need. If you are experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224 for confidential support.