Bustle Exclusive

Poor Things’ Makeup Artist Says Emma Stone Only Wore These 4 Products

“If Bella is essentially only using three products, you need them to make an impact.”

emma stone beauty looks poor thing movie
Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures
Beauty Screener
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Emma Stone’s career has been defined by shining cinematic moments — like her hilarious appearance in Easy A, the heartbreakingly beautiful story that is La La Land, or her devilishly chic portrayal of Cruella de Vil. Stone’s most recent film, Poor Things which hit theaters at the end of 2023 — stands alone in Stone’s catalog as an avant-garde story.

Poor Things is a a screen adaptation of an Alasdair Gray novel by the same name, and was made all the more bizarre with elements of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Stone’s character Bella is brought back to life by an out-there scientist, similar to Frankenstein’s monster. But Bella has the mind of a child in a woman’s body and her unique journey, therein, ensues.

The film has received a whopping 11 nominations at this year’s Academy Awards, including: Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Makeup & Hairstyling. Ahead of the awards show, Bustle caught up with the film’s beauty leads to discuss the latter.

I chatted with Nadia Stacey, the film’s lead makeup artist, and Pat McGrath, who created the products used for the on-screen looks. Ahead, they both share the deeper meaning behind the makeup and what it was like to collaborate with Stone.

How did you use makeup to show Stone's character development in Poor Things?

Stacey: When we begin the movie, Emma’s character, Bella Baxter, is a baby in a controlled environment, so she doesn’t wear makeup at all. We used a clear gel in her eyebrows to brush them up, but honestly, that's Emma’s skin.

The first time she experiments with makeup is at the brothel when she meets Madame Swiney and her girls. I wanted her makeup to look home-done and slightly naive, like she has done it herself or that one of the brothel girls has helped her.

Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

You used red and purple pigments to enhance Bella’s veins and eyes, which are typically features people want to hide. Can you speak more to that?

Stacey: The colors I chose were from Baxter’s medical journal pictures: pinks of skin, purple veins, blood red lips. It ties everything together. Bella’s experiment with makeup is not about beauty, she’s almost dressing as a character to promote herself to the men at the brothel.

McGrath: Nadia’s makeup palette for Emma, in particular, is a testament to her ingenuity of blending anatomical and fantastical elements. Deep pinks and purples suggest the subtleties of the human form, while rich reds evoke the visceral essence of life and vitality. Emma Stone’s makeup is an echo of the movie's thematic heartbeat, with each shade chosen to underscore the film's dramatic arc. Just genius.

Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

How did you decide which Pat McGrath products to use for her looks?

Stacey: Pat’s colors are so rich and vivid, I always gravitate towards her products. I wanted to find a very deep red for her mouth, and “Forbidden Love” is a great shade that looks period-correct, but also gives the depth I was looking for.

The eyes in the blues and purples needed to be intense, and the Subversive palette is so richly pigmented and has this light-reflective quality that I thought would work well in the setting of the brothel. If Bella is essentially only using three products in that moment, you need them to make an impact.

McGrath: Nadia’s decision to use the Mothership III: Subversive palette — especially the deep shimmering purple “Night Creature” shade — was especially apt to highlight Bella’s experimental phase. And the PermaGel Ultra Glide Eye Pencil in “Blue Blitz” offered a fusion of color and character, allowing for a depth of expression.

What was it like working with Emma?

Stacey: It’s my third time working with her and we have a great relationship that includes a lot of trust to play and try new things. She’s super collaborative, and because she was also a producer on this film, she was very interested in the creative process. Bella is a very special character and Emma felt it was really important to play her. We wanted to make sure we did her justice and create something that hadn’t been seen before.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.