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Glitter & Grit: Euphoria’s Emmy-Winning Makeup Looks

Within the past year, you’ve most likely heard about HBO’s iconic drama, Euphoria. I would describe Euphoria as the middle ground between reality and fantasy, decked out in cocaine and glitter. Since its premiere in 2019, the internet has been enamored with every single detail of this show. From its genius screenplay to the music, fashion and makeup, Euphoria plays a monumental role defining Gen Z youth culture. As a result, it received six nominations at this year’s 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards and won three of them. Euphoria has been so successful because it adds additional layers and carefully thought-out details to the show that are rarely expressed in previous teen dramas. However, Euphoria’s expressive and unique use of makeup is one of the most defining details in the show that keeps audiences addicted.

Euphoria Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziMUD0_TTg0&ab_channel=ONEMedia

The Mastermind Behind Euphoria’s Iconic Looks

Compared to the colorful, bold and whimsical looks that we have seen in Euphoria, Doniella “Donni” Davy did not always paint neon green eyeshadow or glue rhinestones in her past work. Before Euphoria, she worked on critically acclaimed films like If Beale Street Could Talk and Moonlight, striving for more realistic and natural makeup approaches. Coming into Euphoria, Davy heavily collaborated with Sam Levinson, the show’s creator. As she explains in her interview with Variety, Levinson pushed her to leave her comfort zone and explore different makeup looks. In the beginning, she explains that, due to the show’s use of extreme lighting contrasts, a lot of the original makeup looks disappeared on screen. As a result, Davy and her team came to the consensus that each look must be more intense, meaning more glitter, rhinestones and bold colors. These decisions ultimately created the iconic looks from Euphoria that we know and love today.

Through Gen Z’s Eyes: Euphoria is a Product of Gen Z Makeup Culture

With the creation of certain social media platforms, notably YouTube in the early 2000s, the makeup culture became popular in a way that has never been seen before. As a result of numerous prominent beauty gurus on YouTube, like Michelle Phan and Promise Tamang Phan, we began to see the normalization of self-expression with makeup. By the 2010s, makeup culture had exploded to every corner of the internet; there were makeup reviews, impressions and tutorials left and right. At one point or another, you’ve most likely seen some Instagram makeup trends and tutorials like graphic eyeliner or feather-like brows. Compared to the ‘90s, where many people took inspiration from celebrity makeup looks, people are now looking to online influencers and everyday people for makeup ideas, and a significant contributor to these posts are members of Gen Z.

Growing up on the internet, Gen Z is one of the most tech-savvy generations yet. As kids, we grew up watching YouTube videos, often stumbling upon the occasional Blair Fowler makeup tutorial, which assisted in opening the gateway into the early years of the YouTube beauty community. Starting at an early age, we consumed videos of various makeup techniques and looks, and we were inspired by creator after creator. Because of this cultural phenomenon, we took those ideas of makeup and made it our own. With the guiding hands of several online creators, like James Charles and Kandee Johnson, Gen Z created a different and unique level of beauty culture that does not adhere to the norms of the generations that preceded us.

Because Euphoria is based on the lives of Gen Z teens, Davy took a majority of her inspiration from young Gen Z makeup artists on Instagram. If you want to browse Davy’s inspiration for Euphoria’s looks, here are some of the young, aspiring MUAs:

  1. ??Jeremiah? (@jmdelore)
  2. ✪・゚★ ??????? ?⁎⁺˳✧༚ ⋆ ✦✪ (@georgerouxx)
  3. alicia ? (@cakefacedalicia)
  4. joel (@joellouzado)
  5. Sommer May (@makeupbysommermay)


How Makeup Can Define a Character

Along with her team, Davy collaborated with the actresses whose characters wore very distinct and striking makeup looks. As a result, they created stunning looks unique to each character, which elevated the story to a whole new level.

Rue Bennett

In the show, Rue Bennett, the teen struggling with a drug addiction, played by Zendaya Coleman, has an interesting relationship with makeup. For many of the episodes, Rue’s makeup is either very minimal or the complete opposite – sparkling with glitter. When she does not wear makeup, it’s obvious that Davy went into the look with a more natural, yet deranged approach. In her interview with Variety, she mentions that she often concealed below Zendaya’s dark shadows underneath her eye, emphasizing her skin’s natural blue tones to give her an exhausted look in an effort to reflect Rue’s low points. However, when Rue sports her glitter and striking eyeshadow, it still feels chaotic because it feels like there is no real method to the makeup’s application, creating a dream-like fantasy.

Maddy Perez

For many people, Alexa Demie’s character, Maddy Perez, the school’s it-girl with a toxic relationship, is the definition of bold beauty and unapologetic confidence. Her makeup looks frequently include sultry, yet colorful, cat eyes and the use of rhinestones. The makeup looks are structured and fierce, perfectly reflecting her character. However, even though Maddy’s makeup looks painstakingly tedious, the details impeccably match her character. She uses makeup as a finishing touch on her confidence in her suit of armor. It reminds her that she is the one in control. Davy further plays into this idea with her makeup, reflecting Maddy’s need to be in control by contrasting it with very few looks without makeup.

Jules Vaughn

Jules Vaughn, a young transgender girl with unhealthy dating habits, played by Hunter Schafer, possesses a more carefree and whimsical makeup style. For many looks, her makeup is bright, bold and non-conforming to traditional beauty standards, which perfectly reflects her character. Because even Jules’ existence challenges society’s norms, her makeup is no different. Many of the colors are bright or pastel, and Davy occasionally throws in artistic touches of graphic brightly colored or white eyeliner, creating the feeling of an abstract painting on her eyes. Davy again plays with the idea that makeup defines a character because to portray Jules’s low points, her face is void of makeup, which gives her a more vulnerable appearance.

Cassie Howard

Played by Sydney Sweeney, Cassie Howard is a beautiful, yet often confused, young girl with unhealthy relationship habits. Throughout the series, Cassie does not usually stray away from natural makeup looks. She often wears simple looks that highlight her natural beauty. However, that does not mean she cannot look stunning in a full-glam ensemble. Analyzing Euphoria’s use of bare-faced makeup to represent vulnerability, Cassie’s usual natural look reflects her character. Because she often looks for love in the wrong places, she trusts boys easily, which often leads her to unwanted situations. Although her more glam looks are on the more reserved side compared to the other characters on Euphoria, they represent the same sense of armor and beauty that Cassie wears to protect herself.

Kat Hernandez

Kat Hernandez, a young teen on her journey to discovering her identity, played by Barbie Ferreira, has a transformative relationship with makeup. At the beginning of the show, we see Kat in simple makeup looks that feel awkward and, in a sense, incomplete. However, as the show progresses, she experiments with her looks as she’s searching for her confidence, ultimately discovering it in her makeup, style and sexuality. Compared to her early looks, Kat now frequently wears bold, neon and striking colors, which proclaims to the world that this is who she is. Even though we see Kat’s transformation throughout the show, both Davy and Ferreira agree that this is not Kat’s ultimate form. This is just the start of Kat’s journey, and we cannot wait to see what’s to come in season two.

Maddy Gastador is a first-year chemistry major and Spanish minor at the University of Florida. Whenever she's not writing, you can catch her binge-watching Netflix, baking cookies, painting, attempting to be a plant mom, or obsessing over BTS. You can get to know her more through Instagram @mxdeleine.c
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