We've heard that laughter is the best medicine — and boy, do we believe that, after hanging out with actress Carisa Barreca from The Second City. The self-professed "happy, wine-drinking baker" says being funny is simply a part of her personality, which makes her job as a comedian a breeze. Also simple? Her beauty routine, which she shared with us backstage at the famous theater in Piper's Alley.
As if we needed another reason to love her, the down-to-earth stunner claims that 98% of all her skin-care products and makeup (including her signature red lipstick) come from Walgreens. She also dishes on the at-home beauty remedy that all the actresses are using, the three tricks guaranteed to make you feel gorgeous, and her one hair regret. Did we mention she exudes pinup-girl confidence? Yep, we've officially met our latest girl crush — now, it's your turn.
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Photographed by Heather Talbert
Did you always want to be an actress, or was it something you fell into by accident?
"I’ve always wanted to be an actress. When I was a little kid, I would put on shows with all the neighborhood kids. These would be strange little productions about talking animals, cupcakes with costumes, songs, and, of course, audiences. The captive kind made up of frightened family members."
So, somewhere along the line you must have realized you were a pretty funny gal. Would you say that's your personality or part of the job?
"I would say that’s my personality. As a kid, I’d always try to get my parents and sister to laugh. It’s a part of me, so my job never feels like a job. I get to be surrounded by the funniest people in the business and perform on the best comedy stage in the world. I’m in love with what I do."
In three words, who is Carisa when she's not on stage?
"Happy. Wine-drinking. Baker."
Carisa is wearing a vintage Dorothy Hubbs dress and Nevermind shoes.
Did you grow up in the Chicago area?
"I grew up in Arlington Heights, a suburb of Chicago."
Which neighborhood do you live in now and where do you like to hang out?
"I live in Lincoln Square/Ravenswood. It’s the cutest little neighborhood in the world. There are bars, festivals, restaurants, parks, and a movie theater all within walking distance from my house. It’s also a food mecca!"
"My go-to spots are as follows: Rockwell's
for burgers and brunch; Fork
for its outstanding small plates and dreamy sticky toffee pudding; Tiny Lounge
for a Gin Sipper; Tank
for amazing sushi; and Bistro Campagne
— it has a great outside patio that is simply enchanting in the summer. I could go on but this is not an article about my obsession with food!"
Do you deal with any skin issues due to all that extra makeup and the hot lights?
"Oh my god, yes! My skin is already not great, and we can have up to eight shows a week with makeup, stage lights, and late nights. All of that can really take its toll on skin. Mine is prone to breakouts and oily patches, so I have to take extra care on heavy show weeks. Usually, I do a good deep-cleanse and then exfoliate with a wash cloth. On tough weeks, I use Lumene Face Mask
What was one of the most challenging roles you've ever done?
"This past year, I was asked to understudy the Main Stage at The Second City, which is a real honor. Normally, you would understudy one role, but through a series of coincidences and mishaps, within one week, I had to learn and perform each of the three female roles. It was challenging but, at the end, one of the proudest achievements of my career."
"Recently, I was honored to perform at Lyric Opera with The Second City in 'The Second City Guide to the Opera.' It was an amazing experience. We had the opportunity to perform with world-renowned soprano Renée Fleming as well as Shakespearean actor and sci-fi star Sir Patrick Stewart. Performing with that level of talent for a sold-out crowd in a historic opera house is an experience I will never forget."
What type of preparation do you do (physically and mentally) to get ready for each performance?
"I usually get to the dressing room early and just sit and goof around with the cast. It helps me to reconnect to them and get my energy up for the show. It’s really the best thing I can do to prepare."
What's your skin-care routine like?
"Before I start in on my beauty regimen, you should know that I buy 98% of all my makeup, cleansers, and lotions from Walgreens. I have a few select items from Benefit
that I insist on buying (Brow Zings
, Erase Paste
, etc.) but otherwise I like it cheap and easy — like my Revlon ColorStay lipstick in Top Tomato.
Morning: I wash with a gentle cleanser (L’Oréal Youth Code Foaming Cleanser
) and then throw on a light moisturizer (Olay Complete
). Then I use Too Faced Primer
to get my face ready for makeup and to keep it matte throughout the day.
Nighttime: It really matters how late it is and what I just got home from. Sometimes, I'm coming home at 3 a.m. from a two-show night and I am exhausted. Those are the nights I am bad. It’s a Ponds Cleansing Cloth
kind of night. I keep them next to my bed. A quick wipe and then pass out! However, if I actually have my wits about me, I use L’Oréal Youth Code Foaming Cleanser with a wash cloth to exfoliate. Then, I use It’s Potent! Eye Cream from Benefit
and L’Oréal Revitalift Night Cream
Do you use homemade beauty remedies?
"Yes. Recently I just found a great home beauty remedy: olive oil! I use it for body lotion. Some of my female castmates told me that tip! I thought they were messing with me until I tried it and fell in love. It absorbs quickly, and there is no weird smell. It’s perfect! I also use it as eye-makeup remover. It’s really gentle and very moisturizing."
"Although once my boyfriend walked in on me basically marinating in olive oil. It was difficult to explain what I was doing."
Carisa is wearing Old Navy jeans and an H&M shirt.
Do you have any advice for aspiring actresses out there?
"The best advice I have for aspiring actresses is not about being on stage. It’s about what you are doing while you are waiting to do what you want to do.
1. Get a day job and work there until you don’t need it anymore. It may suck, but you aren’t gonna make it right away. So, save your money and use that health insurance while you got it!
2. Don’t give up! Do what you love at night. And when it gets tough, keep doing what you love. You can do this!
3. Most importantly: Be nice to everyone! You never know who you will work with down the line. People will remember you and how you treat them on and off stage."
Carisa is wearing a small bentwood chair necklace with a very small Second City logo on the seat.
Let's talk accessories. What are some of your go-to pieces?
"I love pearls. They are classy and they go with everything. I am also a huge fan of fun, 'fake-out' jewelry (a.k.a. CHEAP!). I rock colored tights with all my dresses (they add a pop of color!), and I also love hair accessories and fascinators! I don’t think ladies wear them enough because they think they are 'too much.' All you need is a little confidence, and you can wear anything, anywhere!"
Tell us about the dance company you cofounded, Matter Dance. Have you always been a dancer?
"I was actually not a huge dancer until I was in high school. By the time I got to college, I had made it my minor. I founded Matter Dance Company with one of my best friends, Gail Adduci-Gogliotti. We then brought in one of our best dancers and friend Niki Wilk-Mahon as another director.
"Matter Dance Company is an amazing company full of talented, creative dancers who are game for anything. We think people have a misconception of what dance is. It doesn’t have to be a stuffy or hard to understand. We make dance accessible to the masses with concerts that thrill and surprise audiences through interactive, joy-filled pieces. What I really love about dance is that it can be used to communicate in new and unexpected ways. I love comedy too, obviously, so I use it in almost all of my choreography."
You have gorgeous blond locks! Where do you go to maintain your tresses?
"I go to Sonia Vella at Sine Qua Non Salon
. She is amazing. I even hesitate to give out her name because I don’t want everyone knowing about the absolute best stylist in Chicago. You would be absolutely mad not to go to her...wait...never mind...don’t...I’m selfish."
"Here are the tips from the master, Sonia, herself:
Always see a professional stylist. They will only put the color on the new growth to ensure the integrity of the hair.
Don't go longer than four weeks between root touchups. The longer the roots, the harder it is for the outgrowth to lift evenly.
A good toner is key! It neutralizes any warmth and adds shine back to the hair."
What's the craziest hair trend you've ever tried?
"I used to rock a bright red streak in the front of my hair. I got rid of it when I started working for The Second City on NCL Cruise Lines. It was a bit much for the outside world."
How long does it take you (on average) to get ready for a show?
"From wet hair to curled hair and bare face to red lips and fake eyelashes, about 40 minutes. But most of the time is taken up by drying my hair. It has to be dried at a low heat because it is so delicate and processed. I use Organix Argan Oil
shampoo, conditioner, and then the pure oil. I use a curling iron on show days to get my hair full and bouncy. Otherwise, I try not to put too much heat on it."
Part of Carisa's shoe collection from Charlotte Russe and Nevermind .
Have you ever tried a beauty or style trend that you've regretted?
"Regretted? One word: Perm. Four words: Perm in high school. More Words: I had a perm in high school. Why did I do it? Well, I wanted to look like Madonna in Dick Tracy, but ended up looking like a young acne-prone Golden Girl. So, yeah, I was that cool and good-looking. I also rocked a retainer. Come and get it, boys!"
Carisa is wearing a Target coat, Columbian Emerald necklace, and a vintage fascinator.
What's the best beauty advice you've ever received and who gave it to you?
“'Anything can be fixed with a nice set of pearls, a good red lipstick, and a glass of wine' —my Aunt Gina."
Carisa is wearing a Forever 21 ring.
What's your ultimate career goal?
"My goals are ever-changing. My main goal is to do what I love and get paid for it. I am already doing that. Bigger goals are always out there (SNL, sitcoms, The Second City stages, writer, become a unicorn...you know, the usual), but for now, I have to remember that I am doing exactly what I want to be doing. I have wanted to work for The Second City all my life, and right now, I am living my dream."
Carisa is wearing a Stop Staring dress and vintage shoes.