Right from the its opening scene, beauty plays a major role in Amazon Prime's acclaimed series "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel": The show opens with the titular character sneaking out of bed while her husband remains fast asleep to complete a daunting regimen of removing cold cream and curlers, applying a meticulous face full of makeup and then creeping back under the covers to pretend she just woke up that way. Not only does it set up the viewer to be all the more shocked when Midge Maisel becomes significantly more disheveled later on in the same episode, but it also offers a clear glimpse into the character's 1950s lifestyle — and the specific, appearance-related expectations society put on real women during that time period.
This isn't lost on Rachel Brosnahan, the actress who has now spent three seasons embodying the character (season three is set to debut in December). She's clearly spent a lot of time thinking about the lens through which we, as modern viewers, experience Midge's beauty routine, and how it relates to the current cultural consciousness. "Especially with social media, it's so easy to be judgmental about the things that make other people feel good," she told Fashionista during in a recent interview in New York City. "Midge's beauty routine is so different from mine and upon first glance, I think the immediate response from me as well and so many other people has been that, gosh, like society expected women to look a certain way — what a burden. But Midge's routine makes her feel powerful. And although mine is really different, it's what makes me feel good."
As the face of Cetaphil, Brosnahan is especially thoughtful about what beauty and self-care can do for people: "I think it's important to be able to approach beauty your own way and not necessarily feel like you have to do what other people are doing or judge what other people are doing that makes them feel good."
We got the chance to find out exactly what her approach to her own beauty routine entails, the tips she's picked up on set and how she's managed to boomerang between drastically different hair colors so seamlessly. Read on for the highlights.
Has playing Midge in "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" impacted your personal style or approach to beauty at all? Do you find yourself being more drawn to that sort of vintage aesthetic?
I think it's a little bit the opposite. I appreciate that we can now not wear so much makeup in our real lives and that's not expected that women go to the grocery store looking like that every day. Although I suppose it depends on where you live — in L.A., maybe that's not so true. But I certainly have an appreciation specifically for how much a bold lip can wake up your face. I never really wore lipstick in my everyday life, it's still not something I use very often, but I have a real appreciation now for how literally even if you do nothing else, putting on a bold lip can wake up your whole face and make you feel more awake than you feel on the inside.
How would you describe your approach to beauty?
Less is more. I feel the most beautiful when I look like myself. As someone who's kind of lazy with beauty, I like things I can put on with my fingers, I like things I can do in the back of a cab.
What's your beauty routine like?
My skin-care routine is pretty simple. I wake up in the morning, I use the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, I've used it since forever — for 10 years — in the morning. I like to use it without water because I just sort of put it on a cotton round and rub it all over. I feel like it locks in moisture. I follow it with the Vintner's Daughter Botanical Serum, and then the Cetaphil Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15. For someone as fair as I am, it's really important, especially in the winter because that's when I'm most likely to forget to like put on sunscreen throughout the day.
At night, it's almost the exact same routine, but I use the cleanser with water to kind of remove the makeup or dirt from the day. And then I use the gentle makeup remover to take off my eyes and lips. After I shower, I've been loving the [Cetaphil] Ultra Healing Lotion, especially as it gets cold. My skin gets really dry. That's one of the biggest issues that I fight in the winter, especially on my body, you know, elbows and knees. I'm absolutely obsessed with this lotion.
What about makeup? Do you have a go-to lip color?
I love Ilia's lipsticks. My makeup artist, Lisa Aharon introduced me to them. They're amazing. I'm obsessed and so many different colors and we use them on the show now, too. I like that they're made with natural ingredients — you end up eating a lot of lipstick as you're wearing it throughout the day.
What about your hair? You've had to go back and forth from brunette to blonde, so your hair must go through a lot.
I'm a natural blonde, so I kind of went back to my roots, but I've been working with the same colorist for six years: a woman named Kitty Geller at Bumble and Bumble. She's phenomenal. We've done it slowly, which has helped keep most of my hair on my head, but I love Olaplex. Olaplex is a blonde's best friend, and I love hair masks — I actually change it up sometimes and put a hair mask on underneath my wig prep, to let my hair kind of sit in it and soak it all up during the day and then rinse it out at night.
Can you tell me a little bit about what your process of transforming in to Midge is like when you're filming?
I have about two hours for hair, makeup and wardrobe in the morning before we start shooting. I come in in the morning and I've already done my skin-care routine at home. Then we do a wig prep first to get my hair prepped to go into the wig. Then it's the eyeliner and lips and blush and some lashes, individual lashes. And then we pop the wig on, which thankfully has been pre-styled. I'm in a modern corset, thankfully I'm not in, like, a full lace up, which would be hell. But yes, it is a lot of steps.
Do you feel like that process helps you get more into character
Absolutely. The length of time for the transformation gives me a slow way in the morning, helps me wake up, helps me look in the mirror. I don't feel like the character until I look in a mirror and I see all of that put together. I walk differently. I hold myself differently.
Do you have any sort of like a self care or wellness routine, especially when you're working a lot or traveling a lot that you do?
Yeah. I'm kind of a mask junkie. I really like the forced meditation of masks. Once you put a mask on, you can't really do anything else, you're kind of just forced to be still and let it do its magic. So I really love putting on the Cetaphil Purifying Mask, which was admittedly a little bit nerve wracking for me to try because traditionally as someone with super sensitive skin, anything that says 'purifying' — I'm walking the other direction. But I've loved it. It makes my skin feel clean and clear without making it dry. It's not a mask that dries up and gets really cakey and tight; it feels like it's gentle enough to use a couple of times a week if I need to, if I'm having a particularly heavy makeup week. I love like putting on a mask, laying in my bed, snuggling my puppies and like listening to a podcast or something.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
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