With the renewed focus on inclusivity over the past year and mission-driven initiatives like Pull Up For Change advocating for accountability, there are no more excuses for beauty brands to do the least. Camila Mendes thinks it's about time. "You've got to show the world how you're taking responsibility," the Riverdale star tells Refinery29. "The beauty industry can be very superficial, so you have to ask, 'Okay, what is this all for? What can we do through beauty?'" There are always people who will be quick to write beauty off as "just beauty," but Mendes believes that beauty can ignite change, from starting important conversations to passing hair-discrimination laws. "There's so much you can say through beauty, and that needs to be acknowledged," she says.
For her part, Mendes only teams up with beauty brands whose ethos she actually aligns with — like Urban Decay, of which she's a spokesperson and the star of the new Naked Wild West Eyeshadow Palette campaign video. Mendes says she holds her partnerships to the same standard she does her acting gigs: How am I making the world a better place with what I do? What she found in Urban Decay is not only a brand that celebrates individuality, but one that also takes responsibility, as exemplified by its support for the Minnesota Freedom Fund and Black Lives Matter following the protests against racial injustice last year.
In addition to being a catalyst for cultural change, beauty also allows for self-expression, which Mendes — who typically prefers a natural look — says she's learned to value during these times of social distancing when we tend to wear makeup less. "I miss being able to play with fun colors and doing bolder looks, having that moment of inspiration and excitement for the opportunity to express a different facet of my personality," she says. "I appreciate those moments so much more now." Currently, Mendes will find any excuse to swipe on some eyeshadow, whether that's meeting up with the Riverdale cast or just for kicks. "I'm embracing the fact that you don't need an excuse to have fun with makeup," she says. "It doesn't need to be the perfect occasion; you can do it whenever you want."
With that said, Mendes is adamant that makeup is a tool, and should never be used as a crutch for confidence. "The important thing is just knowing that you don't need makeup to be beautiful," she says. She credits her Brazilian culture and its emphasis on beauty from within for teaching her these lessons at a young age: From the particular products used to the traditional rituals, every act of beauty is done with intention. "Brazilian women are big advocates for self-care — at least, that's what I saw with the women in my family," Mendes says of a culture that's often inaccurately depicted as the epicenter of full-body waxing and Victoria's Secret models. "It's such an experience; the act of getting ready or going to the hair or nail salon. It's all about indulging in yourself."
As much as she's enjoyed indulging in her creative side with makeup at home, Mendes says you probably won't see her experimenting with hair color like the rest of Hollywood in quarantine, or her Riverdale character Veronica Lodge, who went blonde — but she isn't closing out the possibility entirely. "I don't know who I'm going to be by the end of Riverdale when I'm allowed to dye my hair," she says, looking to the blue hues of the Naked Wild West palette as inspiration. "I feel like maybe I'm going to be a completely different woman than I am now. And perhaps I'll dye my hair blue to reinvent myself."
For now, Mendes will leave her moments of bold self-expression to speaking out on the things she cares about — a quality that her fans admire, but she admits she still questions. "At times, I will walk away from the situation, being like, 'Did I just say too much? Did I open up too much?' But then I have to try to rework my mind to appreciate that part of myself," she says. "Being able to be vulnerable is a really powerful thing, especially if you're sending a positive message." For Mendes, that positive message could be standing up for an important cause, or perhaps urging people to ask themselves deeper questions — something like, How am I making the world a better place with what I do?
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