“She’s settled in France now, but she’s still an American, and we don’t have to forget that,” make-up artist Aurélie Payen says of Emily Cooper, the titular character of Emily in Paris, played by Lily Collins. Ahead of the new season, out on Netflix now, the pro is discussing her onscreen French girl make-up tricks for storytelling, like how a Parisian red lip exudes Emily’s new sense of confidence. “Emily knows what she wants, and she has to make choices in her profession and her personal life, so she’s wearing bold lips,” says Payen.
Of course, crafting each character’s make-up look hinges on telling a larger story about who they are. Take Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu’s breakout character, Sylvie (Emily’s boss-but-not-boss who viewers dream of starring in a spinoff), for example. Payen views her as “the perfect elegant Parisian woman — someone who can live by herself, she doesn’t need anyone, she has her own rules,” says Payen. Make-up-wise, this translates to “simple, natural, classy” rosewood tones, balmy skin, and imperceptible faux lashes. But for Ashley Park’s character Mindy Chen, a performer who’s perpetually ready for the spotlight, it’s more extreme, colourful beauty codes that infiltrate scenes. “It’s really a balance,” says Payen of mixing up her Parisian instincts and keeping a finger on the pulse of new products, like Face Lace decals and high-wattage eye paints. “Everything is good; it’s just a question of how you use it,” she says.
Here, 5 French-girl make-up tricks to steal from the Emily in Paris set.
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Beautiful skin is always the priority
“Taking care of skin is my number one priority before make-up,” says Payen, who prioritises skincare for actors of all genders on the Emily in Paris set. Skin prep always consists of the same “ritual,” as Payen calls it: Start with a Currentbody LED Light Therapy mask, which also appears on Emily in the opening scene of the new season, to tone down any redness (“It works, I love it!” says Payen), followed by hydrating Talika eye patches and a dose of Payot face mist and Augustinus Bader’s cult-favourite cream. Payen’s primary lesson in Parisian beauty is that a natural, seemingly bare complexion is the ultimate goal — even when it’s enhanced with cosmetics. “On Sylvie, for example, we want to see the skin; we want to see her face,” says Payen. “Then, we can [enhance]the tiny parts that she needs to be more done — and that’s it.”
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A bold mouth (and bangs) need little else
“It’s really French to have very red lips,” says Payen. Each day on set, she and Collins, a Lancôme ambassador, would choose a lipstick hue together to represent Emily’s immersion in the culture. “When you’re doing a really beautiful red mouth as a French make-up artist does, the eyes should be less done,” Payen suggests. And for Emily, whose ’70s fringe takes over the third season, the combination demanded a light hand everywhere else. “If she has bangs and bold lips and then something strong in the eyes, her face would get lost,” says Payen. So instead, a more natural gaze enhanced with black mascara brought a level of French-girl balance.
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Embrace French nudes
Payen points out that the key to French girl beauty is finding and wearing tones that don’t look overtly cosmetic. “In France, our real specificity is the nude — we love nudes because it’s not that common to have a lot of make-up on,” she explains of enhancing rather than disguising unique features. “We are very aware of how to best represent ourselves. For the French look, it’s more like minimal make-up — natural skin, light foundation, and light concealer — just to hide tiny things, not to contour.” Camille, played by Camille Razat, is a character who embodies this look. “For me, she really represents the Parisian girl, so her make-up is really about the Je ne sais quoi cool attitude,” says Payen. A French nude isn’t necessarily a shade of tan or brown as one might think, but a shade that appears naturally on the face, like a pinky hue of Chanel’s lip and cheek balm dotted onto cheekbones.
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Parisian faux lashes are imperceptible
Unlike the heavy lash extensions and strips that we’ve come to associate with American television stars, the Parisian faux lash is nearly imperceptible. For Sylvie’s portrayal of a powerful, “perfect elegant Parisian woman,” Payen’s application technique proves as much. “We wanted to elevate her natural beauty, so on the eyes I would just apply a thin line of brown or black pencil and single eyelashes in different lengths,” she says. “Take singles one by one and mix the longest one with the tiniest one.” The result is an optical illusion that dramatically enhances the length and thickness of natural lashes. “When you see her, you can’t imagine that she has fake eyelashes on,” says Payen, who used Lash Lash’s range of believable individuals (and plenty of mascara) on set. And a bit of balm or a nude lip is enough to finish the effect since “with lashes, the mouth should be more quiet.”
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There’s always room to play
Even with the traditional guidelines of subtlety and balance, French girls take cues from global trends and relish statement beauty moments. “It’s also very elegant to be extreme; we have to remember that,” says Payen. “In terms of make-up, we love everything.” Mindy’s role as a performer let Payen explore more experimental looks. “She’s the one where you can have the most fun in terms of make-up — she always has really crazy colourful and graphic eyeliners — she’s ready for the stage.” Onscreen in season 3, Payen and Jeremy O. Harris, who plays fashion designer Grégory Elliot Duprée, collaborated on make-up, and even Camille has a YSL-inspired disco eye moment. It’s a reminder that French-girl make-up doesn’t always shy away from colour (remember Anna Karina’s blue eyeshadow in A Woman Is A Woman, for example), and according to Payen, “we can all play with make-up and be elegant and fashionable.”
This story originally appeared on British Vogue.