For some, a lipstick is just a lipstick. But for others, it's a source of strength, creativity, and expression. In our series Power Faces, we'll explore the relationship between strong women and the makeup they choose to wear — or not. Our latest subject is model and breakout actress Barbie Ferreira, who plays Kat Hernandez, a teenager who’s exploring her sexuality and personal power on the hit HBO series Euphoria. This story was told to Rachel Lubitz and edited for length and clarity.
I grew up in Queens and moved to Maywood, New Jersey when I was 12. Those places informed how I did makeup in that I did the exact opposite of everyone else. In the suburbs, I felt weird for the first time. I was like, Why is no one wearing dark-red lipstick?
But I always like to stand out and be different, and I was so experimental. I was doing one eye one color and the other eye another color. I felt amazing and realized, This is who I am.
My first memory of makeup is from when I was 10 years old. I used my mom’s eyeliner to draw a giant circle around my eye. My inspiration at the time was Panic! At The Disco. All I wanted to do was be emo with black eyeliner, but I showed up to school and they were like, ‘No makeup allowed.’ I was so ashamed. My mom approved it, but they made me take it off.
I taught myself how to do makeup by watching YouTube tutorials from people like Michelle Phan. I'd use any money I would get to either buy a brush or eyeshadow from MAC. I was honestly more skilled with makeup at 12 than I am now. I had a table set up in my room with brushes, and I would do my mom’s makeup before she went out. I’d go to school and the kids who teased me before were amazed at my little 12-year-old skills with blue eyeshadow.
I’ve always been a makeup girl, and I idolize the makeup that I wore in middle school. I wore lipstick every day for a year; my favorite was Rebel by MAC. The best thing in the world as a kid was cutting my hair and dyeing it weird colors. I’d be serving a different look every few weeks.
I never looked at my skin at all when I was younger; I was too obsessed with my other insecurities to really care about acne. I dressed strange. I had a Harry Potter obsession, and an odd family that didn’t really look like everyone else in the neighborhood. I was insecure about my personality because everyone always told me that I was weird. And then there was my body.
When I was 16, I started modeling and got sick of wearing so much stuff on my face. I didn’t have skin problems for a really long time, but with traveling and having my makeup done, it started flaring up a lot. So, when I wasn't modeling, I started to let my skin breathe. For a while, I was going for a real natural look. Now, I don’t have to wear makeup to feel okay. I like my freckles being out, and it makes me sad to cover them up. Sometimes it’s even more powerful for me to not wear a lot of makeup.
I didn’t have much control over the way that I looked when I was modeling; I was at the mercy of my clients. Now I can let that go and enjoy makeup more as an actress. I have more time to explore, and I feel no pressure to look sexy. I don’t have to conform to what the industry likes. It’s been very liberating.
On Euphoria, Kat’s makeup transforms from not really putting much effort into it — and obviously that’s me half the time in my real life — to really dramatic, colorful, not-trying-to-be-pretty makeup after she loses her virginity. It was interesting to transition from Kat, who wasn’t playing to her looks, to Kat post-makeover. I still had to carry the same energy, just with crazy makeup and lipstick on.
Doniella Davy [Euphoria’s makeup department head] is a genius. I knew people were going to watch the show and want to recreate the looks at home. I expected for it to be revolutionary, but I did not expect all the incredible love. There’s actually a drag queen who did one of Kat’s looks; it really did look like me. Barbie drag is the one thing I never knew I needed.
Euphoria makeup inspired me so much: the glitter, the structure of it, the lashes. It’s green eyeshadow and purple lipstick. It’s honestly not that far from the makeup that I wore in middle school. The show definitely sparked more inspiration for me to go full-out with my makeup and go back to being more experimental. I know that there are no limits.