When it comes to Hulu’s gripping drama “The Girl from Plainville,” it’s hard not to notice how Elle Fanning undergoes a mesmerizing transformation to portray the real-life teenager, Michelle Carter. Carter made headlines when she was accused of encouraging her boyfriend to take his own life through a series of text messages. However, it’s not just her intriguing story that captivates viewers, but also the striking visual representation of Carter’s appearance.
In the show, Fanning is nearly unrecognizable with her deep tan, 2010s-appropriate makeup, and most notably, her thick, dark eyebrows. Contrasting with Fanning’s fair skin and delicate arched brows, Carter’s distinct features include a pronounced tan and straight, bold eyebrows that perfectly match her black eyeliner. The disparity between the two is undeniable.
To gain insight into the makeup artistry behind Fanning’s portrayal of Carter, we spoke with the talented makeup artist Erin Ayanian Monroe, who shared fascinating details about the process and the challenges she encountered. From mimicking Carter’s signature style to providing Fanning with a believable fake tan, Monroe skillfully brought the character to life.
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Immersive Transformation: Recreating Michelle Carter
Monroe embarked on her transformation journey by thoroughly studying every available documentary about the case. She meticulously collected numerous images of Carter throughout different stages of her life, paying close attention to her moles, freckles, skin tone, and preferred makeup styles captured in public records. By carefully analyzing these details, Monroe ensured an authentic representation of Carter’s appearance.
Unraveling Brow Mysteries
One of the most remarkable aspects of Carter’s look was her eyebrows. When approaching Fanning’s portrayal, Monroe faced a unique challenge as Carter’s brows were straight, while Fanning’s were arched. Nevertheless, Monroe skillfully replicated the shape as closely as possible, using a combination of brown and espresso tones from L’Oreal pencils. In just 10 minutes, she managed to achieve a close enough match to sell the look flawlessly.
Navigating the Tanning Dilemma
While exploring Fanning’s skincare needs, Monroe discovered that her skin was sensitive to spray tans. Taking no risks, Monroe decided to find a spray tan workaround. To darken Fanning’s skin tone, Monroe used Roxanne Rizzo Bronze Glow around her hairline after each day of shooting. This product had a semi-permanent effect that dried without transferring to Fanning’s wig lace.
To further emulate Carter’s appearance, Monroe applied a sheer foundation wash with freckles and moles that matched Carter’s skin features. She used an alcohol-activated Illustrator Palette for this purpose. Additionally, Monroe periodically applied different shades of Chocolate Sun sunless tanning cream to Fanning’s body, ensuring her skin tone aligned with the various stages of Carter’s tan depicted in the script.
The Quest for Teenage Authenticity
It was crucial for Monroe to not only match Fanning’s makeup to Carter’s documented photographs but also to create a look that appeared as if a teenager had applied it. To achieve this, Monroe intentionally incorporated imperfections into the makeup, such as wobbly eyeliner and clumpy mascara, while choosing color combinations that appealed to an ordinary teen. The goal was to present a genuine depiction of Carter’s daily makeup routine.
Elle Fanning’s Enthusiasm for Authenticity
Elle Fanning’s commitment to authenticity shines through her dedication to the makeup transformation process. Fanning embraced the extreme eyebrows and wholeheartedly embraced the makeup required to accurately portray Carter. Her enthusiasm for embodying her characters is evident in her willingness to push boundaries and explore different looks.
Bridging Worlds: From Michelle to Rachel Berry
In one of the most memorable moments of the series, Fanning transforms from Michelle into Michelle-as-Rachel Berry for a “Glee” musical sequence. To achieve this transition, Monroe referred to images of Lea Michele as Rachel Berry and incorporated Carter’s personal taste in makeup. The collaboration between Fanning and Monroe on this project proved to be a highly rewarding and meaningful experience, as they understood the importance of respectfully portraying real individuals.
Through Monroe’s artistry, Fanning convincingly embodies Michelle Carter’s appearance and captures the essence of the character. The attention to detail, from the meticulous eyebrow shaping to the carefully curated makeup, adds depth and authenticity to the performance. Ultimately, the visual aspects of “The Girl from Plainville” contribute to the show’s powerful portrayal of a complex and controversial real-life story.
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