In most industries, getting your work noticed is the first step to success. But for on-screen makeup artist Doniella Davy – who is called Donni for short – the goal was to keep her hand hidden.
“You know your job is good if it’s invisible,” Davy said over the phone. “(The makeup) should exist beautifully in the story and add to it in a way that you don’t even realize it’s there.”
Keen-eyed moviegoers may recognize moments of Davy’s handiwork in recent Oscar-winning films, such as the smooth luminosity of Trevante Rhodes’ skin in the coming-of-age tale “Moonlight,” or the cheeks perfectly red by KiKi Layne in the emotional romantic film “If Beale Street Could Talk.” But it was her involvement in HBO’s complex teen drama “Euphoria” – starring Zendaya alongside newcomers Hunter Schafer, Alexa Demie and Barbie Ferreira – that catapulted Davy to beauty industry fame. for unusual looks that were far from subtle.
Glowing skin was a defining feature of the makeup treatment in “Moonlight”. Credit: Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
When the show debuted in the summer of 2019, the spellbinding makeup from the first season particularly caught the attention of Gen Z viewers. The looks quickly spread on social media: Winged Eyeliner Made from iridescent gemstones, neon orange kohl rimmed eyes and hand painted ivory white eyeshadow in miniature clouds.
Hunter Shafer plays Jules in “Euphoria”, one of the show’s most expressive characters in terms of on-screen makeup. Credit: Courtesy of HBO
Few screen makeup artists have reached the level of notoriety Davy has in his short career. On television and in movies – unless otherwise noted in storylines – makeup is rarely daring and usually goes “under the radar,” according to Davy.
“We all secretly yearn for this recognition, for people to know and understand the amount of work, planning, thought and diligence that really goes with it,” Davy said. “So it was a really unexpected and really special thing that my work in film and television was recognized.”
The low, colorful lighting often used in “Euphoria” was a big consideration for Davy. In these scenes, she turned to products with shimmering and reflective finishes like sequins or jewelry. Credit: Courtesy of HBO
“There is definitely a pressure to do cool looks”
Fear is not very present in Davy’s vocabulary. Shortly after graduating with a photography degree from Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, Davy took a leap of faith and enrolled in a crash course in film makeup. She built her portfolio by responding to ads on Craigslists, helping with student films and low budget projects.
“I had no concerns about it,” she said. “It was an instinctive decision.”
But at the same time, Davy can’t help but feel a little intimidated as season two approaches. “It’s a little scary, because I know people are expecting something.”
The iridescent decals used on Shafer in the first season inspired Davy’s first foray into commercial makeup. Credit: Courtesy of HBO
Is it about worrying about the fall of the sophomore album? “There’s definitely a pressure to do cool looks … But there’s also this question of, well, how do I keep the conversation going with makeup?” Davy asked. “Because it doesn’t seem fair to go any louder – more neon, more bulky gold, or more rhinestones. It’s not necessarily the right direction.”
As with many teen dramas, the teenage characters face high emotional stakes, ranging from drug addiction and sex work to drug raids and run-ins with the police. And it’s essential, Davy insists, that makeup follows the fault lines of each character’s often fragmented journey.
“It’s a more grown-up ‘Euphoria’,” Davy said of the second season. “A lot of time has passed. Everyone has grown a bit. We are starting again in the same place, but the world has changed a bit. The ‘Euphoria’ world, just like our world too.”
Make-up was an integral part of Kat’s story arc demonstration, played by Barbie Ferreira, in the first season. Credit: Courtesy of HBO
Although he has to babysit his mother, Davy says makeup reacts accordingly by shifting towards minimalism. “I feel like I’m continually drawn to the modern minimalism of the 1960s,” she said. “It’s really different.”
But the loose periods, quick sketches, and abstract concepts are about as far as planning when it comes to Davy’s process, as she doesn’t get scripts for the entire season, instead working non-chronologically on one. episode by episode basis. Therefore, she relies on the intimate knowledge of the cast members of who they play as she cannot predict their character arcs.
“It’s always a super collaborative process where it’s a conversation,” she explained. “I’m going to say, ‘So the scene before, your character left the party and was crying. And that’s where I think she’s at now. And that’s the makeup I have on my mind. . What do you think about Do you think your character would still wear eyeliner at this point? Or does that sound ridiculous to you? ‘”
The gemstone eyeliner worn by Alexa Demie, who plays Maddie, was a viral sensation when season one aired. Credit: Courtesy of HBO
“I don’t think there is going back for me at this point,” she said with a laugh. “It’s like the beast has gone wild.”
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