Lily Collins has always had the air of someone from another era. Maybe it's those signature thick, Victorian-esque arches, the uncanny resemblance to Audrey Hepburn, or the actress's undeniable poise on screen and off—probably all the above. Either way, it seems rather fitting that Collins's latest role lands her in the Hollywood of a bygone era. Amazon's newest series, The Last Tycoon, takes place in 1930s Los Angeles and stars the recent redhead as a go-getter named Celia with behind-the-camera aspirations.
"She knows that she wants to be in this industry behind the scenes and work her way up and become a mogul of sorts of her own," Collins tells us. "But she's a female, and women in the 1930s normally were not known to do that. I think she was so ahead of her time."
She might play someone on the cutting edge of her own era, but Collins says the role called for a bit of a crash course in retro beauty. Keep reading to see her thoughts on dark lipstick, the perfect cat eye, and the surprising story behind her bold new hair colour. Plus, keep scrolling for a two-part video tutorial on the Jazz Age–inspired look seen here.
BYRDIE: What did you learn about the beauty of that era while sitting in the makeup chair for this project?
Lily Collins: The shape of the lip was much rounder, so the way to apply lipstick was different, going above the edges and smoothing out different areas. The way blush went on was very different. It wasn't about contouring; it was about flushed faces. And I love the black eyeliner with the flick—it's so beautiful. I love a good cat eye, and that can really go with any generation. And the hair itself! It's that hours and hours of prep to have it actually last a couple of days. The amount of spray and hot tools they used back then kept in the heat so much more. Maybe they were damaging, but you can have that look for days on end afterwards!
BYRDIE: Your current hair colour is for another project you're working on. Are you going to keep it after filming wraps?
LC: It's funny—in the beginning, I was apprehensive and didn't want to do it, because I had other commitments, and then I just dove in. The woman who did the colour did an incredible job because it changes colour in the light. It goes purple to watermelon to pink to red. So I would love to keep it as long as I can because I think it's really fun. And the more you wash it, the brighter it gets, so it starts changing colour even more.
BYRDIE: You wear a dark lip so well! Do you have a favourite shade right now?
LC: Thank you! Well, now with my hair I haven't experimented at all, but I love the colour I have on today. I used to love dark orchid colours. I'm really pale-skinned, so I guess dark really works. It's funny—I used to mute my own colour because it's so bright, and now I've gone the exact opposite. I like the contrast of the skin tone and having it be bold.
BYRDIE: What's your best tip for pulling off the look?
LC: Eat really carefully. Use a straw. Believe me—when I'm putting makeup on and I do a dark lip myself, I'm the first to admit how long it takes me. It's a process, but you feel accomplished when it's done. I guess just being more aware that you have it on.
BYRDIE: You were just filming in Korea. Did you pick up any amazing beauty tips/tricks?
LC: Well, I'm a big face mask person—I love Lancôme's face masks—and it was just so interesting to walk around and see all the different ones they have in Korea. They have animal-shaped ones, superhero ones, and the names are hilarious. Skincare is such a huge part of their daily life there. They have eight or nine processes of putting on different products, so I was just fascinated with walking around and seeing all of them. I was filming, so I was a little nervous to try anything new, but the fashion there is so cool too. Same with Tokyo—anything goes. I love the little schoolgirl look. They do it so well. Nothing is odd there. I mean, self-expression in fashion and beauty is whatever you want it to be, and I appreciate that, and they have such an acceptance of differences. You'll see a lot of barely there makeup and a bold red lip, and that's it. It is quite striking. It was interesting to immerse myself in that world.
Get the tutorial for Collins's retro beauty look below.
Talent: Lily Collins; Director: Blair Waters; Director of Photography: Harrison Sanborn; Hair: Mara Roszak; Makeup: Pati Dubroff; Wardrobe: Dani + Emma.
Head over to Who What Wear to see Collins's thoughts on her ever-evolving style, the career she'd be pursuing if it weren't for acting, and more.