How Euphoria Makeup Director Doniella Davy Creates “Emotional Glam”

Behind the scenes, Davy creates looks that propel the narratives of Rue, Cassie, Maddy, Jules, Lexi, and Kat.

Alexa Demie as Maddy in ‘Euphoria.’ Courtesy of HBO Max

Doniella Davy, the makeup director on the hit HBO Max series Euphoria, was just as surprised to see the beauty looks from the second season of the show as you likely were. After season one—in which glittering, colorful, experimental eye makeup and bold lips became synonymous with Euphoria’s singular approach to beauty—Davy met with her team and series creator Sam Levinson to discuss taking a different tack for the much-anticipated follow-up season. Davy, who lives in Los Angeles with her husband and newborn baby, has described season two as season one’s “introverted sister.” She’s more likely to wear subtle shimmer, like Cassie (Sydney Sweeney), a sharp winged eyeliner for Maddy (Alexa Demie,) or a “broken down” (Davy’s words), no-makeup look on Zendaya, who plays Rue.

In Davy’s world, this was a marked departure from the shining, multicolored Face Lace that once adorned Jules’s (Hunter Schafer) eyelids. But once she began watching the new season at home, Davy realized the looks still felt true to the show. “I’m seeing it on my big TV in my living room—not on a tiny monitor on set—and I’m like, that’s funny. The makeup looks bigger than I thought,” she tells me during a Zoom interview. “It’s always a surprise, how things will look—I never know for sure until I see it on TV. But even when I’m trying to be super minimal, it’s not that minimal. My version of minimal is still pretty heightened.”

Below, Davy details behind-the-scenes beauty secrets from Euphoria, recreating Maddy’s carnival look on Cassie, and why eyebrows are of the utmost importance—both on the show and in her real life.

Season two of Euphoria has taken a different direction when it comes to the writing, plot structure, and of course, the visuals—which includes the makeup design. What were those initial conversations about the creative evolution like?

The general feeling with all the different heads of departments on Euphoria was not to repeat ourselves from season one. That’s just how Sam Levinson is—he doesn't think prescriptively. He’s experimental and trusting of his own new ideas. I didn’t want to repeat myself either. For me, continuing the Euphoria makeup conversation was never about going bigger and brighter. It wasn’t about more glitter or more rhinestones. It was about taking all the ingredients from season one and doing something that would live parallel to it, but with a slightly different approach.

Still, the core of the makeup is the same as season one: it’s emotional glam. The makeup needs to visually communicate the characters’ emotional states of mind; the looks give more insight into that character in that moment. That always comes first, before the look.

You’ve mentioned working with Alexa Demie on her looks for this season—how she came into the makeup trailer with all of these ideas for her own looks that communicated her character's backstory. What did she show you?

Alexa, in real life, has this relationship with makeup and a love for it—her mom’s a makeup artist. She was excited and inspired by Maddy this season and had these great ideas that she was really tied to. We would go through colors together, sort through shades, and shapes of her eyeliner. She really was the creator of her looks, and it was always a collaboration—sometimes Alexa would do part of her makeup, sometimes she’d do the finishing touches, sometimes she would start the liner, sometimes she would do the liner on one eye and my team and I would match on the other side. It was a fun and very different way to approach doing makeup for TV.

She seems to have taken Maddy’s winged eyeliner to the next level this season.

I remember while filming the first episode of season two, loving the idea of making Maddy’s wing long—and then making it longer. Alexa was in the makeup chair, and [makeup artist Alexandra French] were looking at her from different angles. We were like, let’s make it longer, longer! How far can we take it?

There was something about the particular angle, the skinniness, the sharpness of that wing that says so much. It’s just her perfect with her outfit and her hair, all the crazy shit going on at that party. It’s definitely kind of scary, when she’s banging on the door—you do not want to be on the other side of that door.

Alexa Demie as Maddy in Euphoria.

Courtesy of HBO Max

It feels like Sydney Sweeney’s character, Cassie, has gone through a drastic physical transformation. What were your references for inspiration for Cassie’s makeup looks?

When I spoke to Sam about his vision for Sydney, he wanted a lot of her looks to feel really anxious. That was a word he used. That meant wet-looking, dewy skin; flushed cheeks, and pinky blush tones on the eyes. He wanted her to be experimenting with different makeup looks. I thought about how Cassie takes inspiration from the girls around her—so obviously, if she’s having this relationship with Nate, naturally she’d be thinking about Maddy. Which is why you’ll see Cassie in, several different winged liner moments, as well as the amazing scene where she comes to school dressed as Maddy. That was so fun, because I got to recreate Maddy’s carnival look. I wanted to take one of Maddy’s most iconic looks, and tailor it for Cassie—instead of purple, which Maddy wore to the carnival in season one, I made the palette white for Cassie because there’s this innocent, pure, naive, idealistic thing about her. Which kind of makes you feel so much empathy for her character even when she's hooking up with Nate, which is a huge teenage girl no-no.

I love seeing her in these various states of being extremely broken down and then being extremely made up. You see her anxiety, her sweat coming through the makeup looks—which, some of them get really desperate, almost ridiculous.

Sydney Sweeney as Cassie on Euphoria.

Courtesy of HBO Max

What does the beauty process look like for Zendaya’s character, Rue?

Her looks is always super simple: it’s no makeup. We went with her total natural skin texture—I would just accentuate the bags under her eyes, or put this red eyeshadow around her eyelash line, or even trace over her veins on her temple and her brow bone using this watercolor-style special effects makeup and a really skinny brush. We were also using this Elizabeth Arden product called Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant that Z loves to keep her face really moist.

Zendaya as Rue in Euphoria.

Courtesy of HBO Max

Let’s get into the Beauty Notes questions. What is one great beauty hack you use in your work?

The one thing I cannot do any winged liner without are tiny Q-Tips to help with cleaning up the liner. That’s the secret, I think, to great liners: to have great corrective tools and great brushes, like tiny, flat-angled, eyeliner brushes. I like the ones from Bdellium.

What was your favorite product you worked with for this season of Euphoria?

I love all things shimmer and wet-looking. There was this Make Up For Ever product that I loved this season called Star Lit Diamond Powder. It’s this super fine, shimmery, loose pigment that I would dust on top of most of the eye shadow looks; I would use it on Cassie a lot, as the topper. We were also really into big, naked eyebrows that were brushed up. We were using the Göt 2B Ultra Glued Styling Gel for that.

Photograph by Eddy Chen/HBO

The brushed-up brow seems like Kat’s whole thing.

We use it on Kat, but we use it on everybody, basically—otherwise, some variation of brushing eyebrows up super natural.

What’s the first thing that you do in the morning, beauty-wise?

I actually do my eyebrows. I love using super moisturizing skincare at night, before bed. Then in the morning, I just have a nice moisturized face, ready to go. I don’t wash it off. The one thing I do, even at 4:00 AM before leaving the house, is defining my eyebrow arch. I use eyebrow gel or even hairspray if I’m in a pinch, and a Spoolie, and I just throw my eyebrow hairs up.

Barbie Ferreira plays Kat on Euphoria.

Courtesy of HBO Max

You start your day at 4:00 AM?

Sometimes it’s earlier, sometimes it’s later. The hours are quite insane for a lot of departments, but especially hair and makeup: we’re there before filming to get the actors ready, and then we clean up at the end of the day. And we shoot everything for an extremely long amount of time. When all the ingredients get together on set, it’s pretty magical—you can tell, some days, the director is really inspired and he’ll just go, Just keep shooting something. But the hours are really hard. I have to ask myself all the time, how, why? This is just not normal! It’s like that in the whole film industry, not just Euphoria.

How do you unwind at the end of a long day?

I take a bath every single night. As soon as I get home, I call my husband, like, Okay, I’m on the way home—can you run the bath? That is my instant de-stress, unwind. It was especially tough for me this season, because I was pregnant during the entire thing; from Day One, I was pregnant and didn’t know it for the first two months.

I just order huge bags of Epsom salt on Amazon. And then I use some essential oils, sometimes—but only a little bit. You have to be careful because some of them burn. I have all these ingredients on a table next to my bath and I’ll just make a big concoction.

When you were younger, did you ever participate in a cringey beauty trend that you look back on now and you’re like, What was I thinking?

I got rid of the bushy part of my eyebrow—the part that’s right above your inner eye corner. I thought that part was entirely too bushy, so I plucked it all off. Then my eyebrows had an inch and a half between them. I made the rest of them so thin. That’s definitely the cringiest.