Jennifer Beals has spent much of the past year or so hiding a secret: At the same time that she was reprising her iconic role of Bette Porter on The L Word: Generation Q, she was trying an entirely different character on for size. The actor had the “very surreal” experience of going between embodying Bette, an art-world power player and present-day Angeleno, and Madam Garsa, a Twi’lek who runs the Sanctuary cantina in The Book of Boba Fett.
When Disney+ dropped the show’s first trailer, which doubled as an announcement of Beals’s involvement, Star Wars fans couldn’t believe their eyes—and not because Beals looked worlds away from her usual self with two large, fleshy appendages protruding from her head. The collective reaction is perhaps best summed up by a tweet with side-by-side photos of Beals in the 2022 trailer and the 1983 film Flashdance, captioned “Paul Rudd has nothing on Jennifer Beals.” In other words, the 58-year-old actor is “ageless.” And when it comes to her skincare advice, well, it’s really more like life advice. She shares her routines, holistic approach to beauty and wellness, and the process of transforming into a Twi’lek, here.
I'm going to come clean and admit I know very little about Star Wars, though I have seen and liked the movies. Why should a non-Star Wars fan—say, someone like Bette—watch The Book of Boba Fett?
Well, is there such a thing as a non-Star Wars fan? I don’t understand that. I am with you in that I had only seen the films, so I hadn’t taken a deep dive into all the other worlds that were built, but it’s just so extraordinary. It’s so mythic, and by being mythic, feels intrinsically true. [There are] themes of redemption and themes of survival—what it is to care for a child or what it is to care for your world. To me, that’s incredibly compelling to see on such an epic scale.
Can you tell me about wearing the lekku, those huge fleshy appendages atop Madam Garsa’s head?
Brian [Sipe] and Alexei [Dmitriew], who were responsible for those beautiful creations, made a concerted effort to fit me so precisely that it didn’t affect my head movement too much. They took images of me and then they did a 3-D rendition on the computer. I got to see it one day and I was like, “Oh my gosh, what is that?” And they were like, “Oh, this is how we make them. We measure your head and look to see where the exact point would be for the greatest amount of weight and how it would affect your spine.” The technology around it is extraordinary.
The moment I was cast, I reached out to makeup, [Dmitriew], and costume, Shawna [Trpcic], to create a shared document where we could explore ideas together. I was working on The L Word, and it was a little tricky with Covid to get together. But I did tell Shauna, “as many fittings as you need, I will get myself to you because I know this is challenging.” And she does have wands back there, where she does, I think, do a “bippity boppity boo” and just creates things. From the moment we all started working together, they asked for my ideas and my input, which was wonderful. And doesn't always happen, frankly. One of the things that we talked about was the eye makeup.
I was going to ask you about that—it’s such a defining look.
For some of the [costumes] Shawna came up with, we thought it would be really beautiful to create Garsa’s version of a cat eye. Her dresses flow with a steely kind of femininity and she sometimes has this metallic collar that tells you there’s something at play other than flowing fabric. She’s powerful and she’s shrewd. She knows how to live strategically, how to survive. And so when we were thinking about the makeup, we thought a throwback to the Egyptian lineage would be interesting. The cat eye is a nod to really the most recognizable sign of beauty, status, health, and makeup. Once Alexei was happy with the shape, he created stencils to apply the makeup precisely and quickly episode after episode. He’s like, “Oh yeah, I'll make a stencil,” and I go, “Of course you will.”
Let’s get into your makeup and beauty routine in real life. When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing you do beauty-wise?
The most important thing I do in the morning is drink water with a little bit of lemon in it, because I really do think beauty starts from the inside out—not only your soul, but your digestive system as well. When I was a young woman, I started having autoimmune symptoms, which was not a widely used term at that time, and by 33 I had tested for Lupus, Epstein-Barr, and chronic fatigue simultaneously. There was one point where I had to crawl across the floor to the kitchen to find food, often unknowingly eating the very thing that would exacerbate the condition. Luckily, I met a physician in Vancouver, a naturopath, who helped me bring down the inflammation in my system through my diet and through supplements. From then on, I treasured my health in a completely different way and looked at certain foods as a way to heal myself.
If I believe I’m here on earth to extend into my fullest purpose of helping, healing, growing, and nurturing, then I have to offer those very same things to myself as fully as I possibly can for as long as I possibly can. For me, that means feeding myself well, avoiding things that take away my energy to the best of my ability—not to say that I don’t partake in vegan cheesecake ad nauseam sometimes. [Ed note: Beals’s favorite is the espresso caramel cashew cake from The Cheesecake Fridge in British Columbia.]
What are some of your go-to products?
Back in the day, we asked our original makeup artist on The L Word, JoAnn Fowler, for makeup products without phthalates and toxic chemicals; Mia Kirshner [who played Jenny Schechter] was the one who taught us about that. JoAnn couldn’t find stuff back then that would be luxurious enough for camera, so she developed her own line, Sappho New Paradigm, which I use for my own makeup day to day. She has these luxurious foundations that are free of nasty, toxic chemicals, but they’re beautiful. And I’m a really big believer in Eminence products. I love their Facial Recovery Oil, which I use on my face and my hair. It’s about oil, oil, oil. And I’ll use a cleanser and sometimes a serum, a vitamin C. The kale one is really nice. Then a moisturizer.
What kind of moisturizer?
The heaviest, oiliest, richest one I can find. When they say night cream, I’m like, “Oh no, that’s my day cream.” But mostly I find that when I am joyful, when I’m connected to spirit in some way and I’m treating myself well, that’s when the light is on inside. I feel like health and wellness are not just buzzwords created to sell more creams or leggings or whatever. They're signposts to a deeper question of what we want our lives to be, and by extension what we believe to be the meaning of life.
Are there any beauty tips or tricks you’ve picked up on set?
I know that I have to moisturize before I put foundation on or else it just sticks to your skin, and that’s no good. And putting oil on the eyelashes before I go to sleep. Even when I wake up, during the day, to moisturize them. I have no eyelashes and it seems to help them grow a little bit—at least, I like to tell myself that.
What are you wearing makeup-wise at this moment?
I have lots of moisturizer on, and that’s pretty much it.
Do you wear eyeliner or mascara on a daily basis?
Gosh, no. In this day and age, sometimes I'll throw it on if I’ve got a Zoom meeting that requires me to look like I haven’t just gotten out of bed. But then you start to realize nothing is a requirement. That’s your decision. It feels really nice not to have to go around thinking you have to look a certain way to please other people.
At what point in your life did you realize that?
I came to that point not about beauty, but just about how to live my life, quite early on, because it became clear I wasn’t going to please everybody. So [I should] try to listen to myself. A little bit of that also comes with spending more time with yourself, which I did a lot as a kid. Just daydreaming and being able to hear myself think. That’s why I like to get off social media sometimes. Even when I put the phone down, I’m hearing the chit chit chatter of all the teeny-tiny conversations that are in droves. I like to shut it down sometimes in my head so I can hear, “What do I think? What am I experiencing?”
Do you have any drugstore finds or go-to products that you pick up for cheap?
Coconut oil. [I use it on] my eyelashes. Sometimes just as moisturizer for my body, and sometimes I’ll make hair masks.
On the flip side, what’s your biggest beauty splurge?
A massage. But do I want to roll the dice, get a massage, and potentially expose myself to COVID? Maybe I’m better off just doing yoga and stretching myself.
What’s the worst beauty trend you've ever participated in?
I don’t think there are bad beauty trends, honestly. If you feel beautiful at that moment, if you feel like that enhances who you are in some way, if that’s an expression of who you are at that moment, why would it be bad? Having said that, however, I really wish somebody had talked to me about conditioner between the ages of 16 and 20. That would’ve been great, because I could’ve really used the moisture with my hair texture. But that wasn’t a beauty trend, just ignorance.
What’s your favorite form of self care?
For my own health and wellness, I know that I thrive with meditation and moving my body, whether it’s swimming in the ocean—which I really love—hiking, snowshoeing, yoga, running, or dancing like a banshee in the kitchen. I need to move. If I’m not moving, sometimes my husband will say, “I think you need to get out into the forest.” It’s really my happy place. And the ocean—being in the ocean is just like heaven for me.
How do you feel about aging? Do you worry about your appearance?
Going back to what we talked about earlier, to be able to live as fully as I possibly can for as long as I possibly can, that’s what I want for myself. That’s why it’s incumbent that I take care of myself—so I can still swim three miles when I’m 80. So I can still hike and be in the forest and get to the top of the mountain. So that I can look over the vista that thrills me. So that I can connect to other people. That’s what I want to make sure of.