Jessica Chastain knows a strong woman when she sees one. Perhaps that's why she's so deliberate in every role she takes: On the big screen, she's the formidable D.C. powerbroker, the unwavering spaceship commander, the relentless animal advocate. In real life, she refuses to remain silent on hot-button topics, like equal pay and representation for women in the film industry. Even the beauty brands she partners with have to align with her feminist ideals.
"Women are very powerful," Chastain begins when we sit down with her to discuss her new venture as the face of Ralph Lauren Woman. "Calling [the fragrance] 'Woman' empowers the word and encourages us to step forward and stop apologizing," she says. "To step out of a stereotype that society dictates for us and create our own paths; to define ourselves with all our dualities, strengths, ambitions, complexities."
Read on to find out how Chastain learned to celebrate her unique beauty, the powerful role scent plays in her work, and why she knows the future is most definitely female.
Why She Rarely Dyes Her Hair
Chastain's fiery red hair has arguably become her most identifiable feature, but it wasn't until high school that she learned to love it. "As a child, I didn't want to be different — I wanted to look the same as everyone else because I didn't want to be singled out," she says. "I was ridiculed for having red hair; for having freckles. But whatever you are ridiculed about that makes you different is what you'll celebrate in the future. If I wanted to dye my hair, I could, but I realized that's who I am, and my differences [make me] special."
Not that she doesn't understand the transformative power of hair color, but her busy schedule (she's working on three films this year alone) just doesn't leave room for constant dye jobs. "The one way to change my physicality is through wigs," Chastain says. "Wigs are amazing because they can not only change your hair color, they can also change your hairline and the texture. When I sit in a makeup chair and the hairstylist puts a wig on me, I feel the character collecting. It's not for vanity's sake that I use wigs; I see it as a tool to help transform."
When she does stray from her signature color, like in December when she dyed her hair a chocolate brown, it's almost exclusively for a role — and just as surprising to her as it is for fans.
"You know what really changes me a lot? Dark hair," she says. "I went darker for Molly's Game, Mama, and Crimson Peak. Those have been the most transformational. Things I never notice about myself, like how light my eyes are, all of a sudden show up. When any kind of transformation happens in terms of a character, your face starts to morph into that character."
Her Secret To Getting Into Character
Every actor has a different method — from reading lines in front of a mirror, listening to certain songs, or answering only to their character's name. For Chastain, she says, "I think about the time period and the energy of the character," and then she picks out a scent. Each role comes with a different, complementary fragrance.
"For Crimson Peak, my character was the villain," she says. "This was also from over 100 years ago. I wanted a perfume that smelled like something that they'd have back then, so I found a peppery perfume, which to me was an embodiment of the energy of the character but also fitting to the timing." She also picked out a special fragrance for Tree Of Life. "I used Le Labo's orange blossom perfume, because there was something very natural about it and I was playing a character that was the embodiment of grace, so it felt like the right scent for her."
She spritzes it on during rehearsal, when she's studying the script, or while she's doing research at a museum. "That way, when I go on set the next morning, I immediately have the character with me," she explains.
What It Really Means To Be A Feminist Today
Chastain stresses the importance of intersectional feminism. "In the past, [feminism] was seen as an exclusive idea... In actuality, it's inclusive. It's not based on your skin color, gender, sexual orientation, preference, or where you come from — if you believe in equality then you believe in equality for all."
She continues, "We need to hold people accountable when someone is violated, which is happening now more than ever... when we work together, support each other, and encourage each other — that's how we move forward. Try to see people divide us."