Believe it or not, the actress Michela De Rossi barely touched beauty and skincare products prior to winter 2020. The breakout star, who plays Giuseppina Bruno in the Sopranos prequel film The Many Saints of Newark, remembers removing her makeup using hand soap before learning about the ins and outs of the beauty world on the set of Newark and her upcoming Italian film Io e Spotty in which she plays the lead role, Eva. “The makeup artist there asked me, ‘What’s your beauty routine?,’” she tells me from her home in Rome over Zoom. “I said, ‘What is that?’ She introduced me to this world and I fell in love.”
Now, De Rossi says she has hundreds of products, and is discovering new ways to use them daily. In fact, during this interview, the actress—who picked up the role of Giuseppina almost immediately after performing a chemistry read opposite her costar Alessandro Nivola—sat down in front of the camera with an armful of serums, toners, and creams to show off. Not that she needs much help. Rossi, 28, is what many might call a natural beauty (thanks to, she points out, her dark features and the “shadows on my face”), which lends itself to her Newark character. Ray Liotta, who plays the “Hollywood Dick,” brings Giuseppina to the United States from Italy to be his wife. Upon arriving in New Jersey, she quickly begins seeing Liotta’s son, Dickie Moltisanti (Nivola) instead. Although Giuseppina’s story very much centers around being the love interest, she has goals of her own—namely, her desire to open her own hair salon, a narrative arc that De Rossi notes was in the script from day one. Here, De Rossi details her own journey into the world of beauty, her search for the perfect moisturizer, and taking care of her super dry skin.
In The Many Saints of Newark, Giuseppina’s style—and more specifically, her hair and beauty—appears to change based on what’s happening in the story. In the beginning, as Hollywood Dick’s wife, she wears an almost Stepford Wives look. Then she vamps it up when she becomes Dickie’s girlfriend.
She starts to change when she’s with Dickie because she’s happier than when she was with Hollywood Dick. We don’t see her when she is in Naples, where she’s from. So we don’t know what they do or who she is when she meets Ray Liotta in Italy. We decided to choose only one dress—the red dress with the roses—when I had the scene with Dickie for the first time, when they meet and she kisses him. We chose that red and white dress thinking, this is her dress from Naples. That was the only dress she brought with her in America, which is a really “family woman” dress.
What were your favorite beauty looks from the film?
I loved her beehive hairstyle she wore with the green dress. And the funeral looks were amazing—we spent three hours on that look. In general, I had three hours, more or less, of hair and makeup every day. And I wore a huge wig.
What was the main inspiration for Giuseppina’s look?
Sophia Loren was definitely the main reference, which makes sense. I had a huge picture of her in front of me, every day. It was so stressful to see her every morning, like, “I’m watching you. Be careful.” [Laughs].
What is the best beauty tip you picked up on set of Many Saints of Newark?
My makeup artist put eyeliner on me in a slow and precise way: she put little dots between every single eyelash. It took so long, but the results were really natural-looking. She spent half an hour just putting eyeliner on me, and I’ll always use that trick.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning, beauty-wise?
When I wake up, the first thing I do is drink two glasses of water. Then I wash my face. I have very, very dry skin, so if I don’t take care of it, it becomes like a snake.
Which face wash do you use?
In general, I use natural products, without additives. I discovered this Ren Perfect Canvas Clean Jelly Oil Cleanser, and it’s very useful for my kind of skin, which needs oils in general—every kind of oil.
What are your go-to skincare products?
To remove my makeup, I use Centella Cleansing Oil, which I bought in Romania when I was shooting during the summer. Then I use Innisfree’s Intensive Hydrating Toner, which is my favorite thing ever, and Innisfree’s Intensive Hydrating Eye Roll-on with Green Tea Seed. FaceD Pure Plump Hyaluronic Acid is amazing; I mix the hyaluronic acid with oil. I use Chanel La Solution 10 cream if I don’t have to go out that day.
Do you have a favorite moisturizer?
Right now, I’m trying creams like never before because I haven’t found my perfect one yet. I’ve been going to Sephora and getting their little testers—I love Ole Henriksen C-Rush Double Cream. It smells like oranges and it’s really, really hydrating.
What’s your approach to makeup?
The most important thing, to me, is mascara. I’ve used one kind of mascara for 10 years that I will never change: L'Oréal’s Voluminous Butterfly Mascara. I have long lashes, so I need something that will just brush my eyelashes. Every mascara makes your lashes bigger and longer, but I don't need that. I use Benefit Watts Up highlighter all over my face: on my eyelids, in the corners of my eyes, on my cheeks, on the tip of my nose, and on my Cupid’s Bow. I love Chanel’s translucent face powder. And Benefit’s 24 Hour Brow Setter Clear Eyebrow Gel is so important to me.
That’s a pretty no-fuss makeup routine.
I need very natural-looking products, because whenever I use makeup, it looks like I have a lot on. I don’t love eyeshadow and lipstick.
Do you have any favorite lip balms that you use instead?
I love Laneige’s Lip Sleeping Mask. I even use it during the day.
Is there any beauty trend you participated in that you look back on now and say, “Oh god, what was I thinking?”
I think it’s the same answer for many girls in my generation. I was in high school, and I removed all my eyebrows. They were a completely flat, straight line on my face. I saw my friends doing it. My mom started to cry when I got back from school. “What did you do? You ruined your face!” But fortunately, I’m kind of a werewolf, so they came back over the years. Now, my eyebrows are one of the things I love most about my face.
Do you do any regular body treatments?
I always have a body scrub with me. Every shower I take, I scrub my body, and I scrub my face three times a week, since my skin is so dry. I make my own scrubs with sugar and oil, and I love Sephora’s Volc Bright Skin Exfoliating Scrub. It has volcanic sand in it. In Italy, we have lots of volcanic areas in the territory. If you go to the beach in the south of Italy–which, this summer, I did a lot of—you can scrub with the volcanic sands. In Calabria, or Sicily, or Naples, you put it all over and then you go swimming in the sea.
What is your favorite form of self-care?
I love fruit, and eat a lot of it—every morning, my breakfast is at least three kinds: pineapples, strawberries, and golden kiwis are my favorites. [I don’t do it for beauty], it’s just because I love it. I’m a dancer, and I do a lot of yoga—I’m actually a pro. It’s a great middle-ground between dance and gymnastics, and it helps my mind and my body. I’ve done everything in my life—Crossfit, lifting weights at the gym, and I swam—but I’ve never seen the kind of body that yoga gave me before.