Before Cruella de Vil became the ruthless villain and dog-hunting fashion designer we all know, she was Estella. In Disney’s Cruella — an origin story of the title character — makeup and hair are crucial storytellers, as Estella embarks on her journey to finding herself.
Played by Emma Stone, Estella often uses makeup and hair as a disguise to cover up the unique parts of herself, like her infamous black-and-white hair, in order to fit in more with society.
“With simple hair and makeup, it meant that when we started to discover who Cruella was, we just had this blank canvas to be able to play,” hair and makeup designer Nadia Stacey tells The Hollywood Reporter about her process in developing the looks. “She hadn’t really figured out who she is in fashion yet. It gave me the opportunity to continually change her silhouette, continually change the colors.”
With several punk influences from 1977 London, Stone’s iteration of Cruella is unlike any we’ve ever seen before. When it comes to her makeup, she’s more daring than ever — using her looks as a means to make a statement. One scene sees the character with black eyeshadow that reads “Future” across the eyes.
Having worked with Stone prior to Cruella on the critically acclaimed The Favourite, Stacey was thrilled to join the Cruella team. “It’s a really nice, creative, safe space to play in,” Stacey says of working with Stone. “And she loves makeup. She was like a kid in a candy store, so she would just let me play.”
Stacey is nominated at the 94th Academy Awards for best makeup and hairstyling, along with the rest of her team Naomi Donne and Julia Vernon. The category also recognizes The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Coming 2 America, Dune and House of Gucci. Previously, Stacey won a BAFTA Award for her work on The Favourite.
Below, Stacey chats with THR about the influences for Cruella’s look, collaborating with Stone again, and creating looks for the modernized take on the villain.
When I think of Cruella, her iconic look immediately comes to mind. For the makeup and hair, where did you start with your research and what influences did you pull from?
It’s an origin story, so in the other versions, you’ve never met Estella before. So I started with Estella, to think about who she was. I thought of this young girl living in London, 1977. What’s going on socially, what music she listening to? What books is she reading? You know, that kind of thing. I always put myself in the mind of the character, and I felt that she would have quite a basic, minimal one lipstick, one eyeliner kind of girl with a bit of mascara. With simple hair and makeup, it meant that when we started to discover who Cruella was, we just had this blank canvas to be able to play.
And all these moments when we first meet Cruella, a lot of them are big fashion moments where she’s gatecrashing and she wants to make an impact. So it meant that there was no holding back on how big we could go. Nothing felt off the table really. I looked at every reference and tried to kind of borrow things from everywhere to pull it together, which also felt very punk.
Cruella’s makeup in the film tells a story, as she continues to grow and change as a character. With that in mind, how did you go about creating Emma’s makeup looks as they change over the course of the movie?
I felt like the hair and makeup are kind of its own character really because it’s used so much as part of the storytelling process. Right from the beginning, you meet young Cruella with this black and white hair. Then, she needs to hide it, she needs to dye her hair. And so there’s a makeup change there, there’s a hair change there. She needs to disguise herself because the Baroness knows who Estella is, so then she’s got to use makeup and hair to disguise herself again. It was kind of thinking, “How could you hide yourself?” Lots of the big looks are kind of a mask, based around deception.
I liked the idea that she hadn’t really figured out who she is in fashion yet. So then that gave me the opportunity to play, as well. It gave me the opportunity to continually change her silhouette [and] continually change the colors. Nothing felt like we had to stick to, “oh, she would only wear dark lipstick.” Like when she comes out of the garbage truck, when she dumps all the clothes, she’s dumping the spring collection from the Baroness. So then I thought, “well, if it’s the spring collection, then the makeup should be pinks and blues and yellows and lighter colors.” But when she’s on the motorbike and she’s got the “Future” makeup on her face, that’s a harder look. Then, it can be black and red and harder colors. So it’s all in there in the script for you to find, and it’s how you kind of interpret it. Her makeup was like its own character.
It’s a modernized take on Cruella’s story — how did you make sure that shined through?
I think punk played a massive part in this. In 1977, that was such a huge movement in London. I really think that played massively into the looks because punk is a mismatch of lots of different looks. The general essence and the aesthetic of punk definitely played into the looks because I would take something like an 18th century wig, but then mess it up and put it on slightly tilted, so it wasn’t the same. I think coming from The Favourite that had made me brave to do that because that was a period piece, but equally we did stuff in The Favourite that wasn’t period correct. We kind of blurred the lines. So I think I’d had the courage from doing it before to try it again. And I always wanted it to be sort of relatable. I wanted people to look at Estella’s looks and be inspired by them.
What was it like collaborating with Emma again after The Favourite?
She’s just so great. She’s so fun and so easy. We have a lot of fun together. It’s a really nice, creative, safe space to play in. And she loves makeup. She loves makeup and products, and she’s kind of excited by them. So she was like a kid in a candy store, so she would just let me play. It was really good, and so great to see her transform into that character, because that is some big shoes to fill and I thought she just did an amazing job.
Cruella expresses herself through her appearance, whether it be through her hair, her makeup and her outfits. What do you hope audiences have taken away from that message of using fashion and beauty to make a statement?
Well, I’ve been absolutely blown away by the response of what the hair and the makeup have done. What’s been really beautiful is that I always felt in the film that as she went along, she grew in confidence. Her looks got bigger and she got braver. [Her makeup] was giving her the confidence to be herself. And by the end of it, instead of hiding behind these masks, when we last see her, she’s in this beauty makeup. It’s still her Cruella look, but it’s beautiful. She’s accepted herself and she says, “I’m here. I’m Cruella.” And even if her friends don’t like it, she’s like, “this is who I am.”
Obviously, at the time, you don’t even imagine something like that’s gonna happen. I’d never worked on anything that would have this kind of exposure before. So I didn’t know it was gonna do that, but I’ve had so many beautiful messages from people that have said that they struggle to be who they are. And so lots of people that do cosplay and things like that to dress up in a character and become someone else and create a persona, it really helps them. Because we’ve been in lockdown, I think everybody had not bothered with makeup, right? So it’s just been a really exciting to see, and really lovely that people have done their own interpretations of the looks, as well.
Interview edited for length and clarity.