The actress is in her eye makeup era.
“I’ve always loved a red carpet moment,” says Elle Fanning over a video call from Cannes. “Since I was little!” The 25-year-old actress, producer and L’Oréal Paris spokesperson has indeed been a fixture in Hollywood since she was a toddler. She kicked off her already two-decades-long acting career by playing the younger version of her sister Dakota’s characters in the miniseries Taken and the film I Am Sam, and at age four landed her first independent role, in the comedy film Daddy Day Care. So she knows a thing or two about a red carpet.
Today, she’s calling in from her fifth Cannes Film Festival, where she opened the annual Film Festival in a stunning Alexander McQueen design by Sarah Burton. “It was kind of the ultimate Elle dress,” she says of the romantic custom look, which is inspired by a deconstructed orchid. “I went to my first Alexander McQueen show in March and I saw the bodice of this dress on the runway.” It was love at first sight. “Seeing it in person, I was like, ‘This is the best dress I’ve ever seen!’,” she laughs. “It was like wearing art. It was so me and Cannes is the only place to wear a dress like this. It’s such a big carpet, it needs a big dress. And sparkles never hurt.”
A culmination of Fanning’s signature romantic, ethereal style, which we’ve watched evolve and grow alongside the young actress for over two decades, the McQueen dress by Sarah Burton is indeed so very her—mature yet still whimsical and playful. “You never want to take fashion too seriously,” says Fanning. “Then it starts not being fun.” Fanning says that fashion has long been a happy, welcoming place for her, giving her space to play and experiment. “The fashion community has always been a place that’s accepted me,” she says. “When I was in high school, a bold fashion sense wasn’t as celebrated. I’d wear my wacky Rodarte pants or my vintage finds to school and they just weren’t accepted in the era of skinny jeans and t-shirts. I always felt at home in the fashion industry, because I could experiment and try new things.” Fanning credits style giants like Sofia Coppola and Marc Jacobs for taking her under their wing and helping to shape her ability to put a look together.
The actress brings that sense of play to her beauty looks, too, of course. “I’m in my eye makeup era,” says Fanning. “I’m getting creative and experimenting with my eyes.” I ask if this is a post-Euphoria effect. “Oh yeah, maybe! The rhinestones!” While Fanning uses makeup as a creative outlet, she also views getting un-ready at the end of a day as a moment of self-care. “It’s important to take time for yourself to decompress at the end of the night with your skincare. For me, hair wash day is a big deal because I have very curly hair [Editor’s note: say what?!], which people actually don’t know because I straighten it a lot,” she laughs. “But detangling it is a whole process. And I think loving yourself and being able to take time to look in the mirror and breathe is very important.”
As a young woman in Hollywood who’s been in the industry since she was really young, Fanning says she’s proud to work with L’Oréal Paris, who launched the Lights on Women initiative in 2021, a yearly award program for promising female short filmmakers. The winner of each year’s award will collect a grant, and receive support from the brand throughout the year at other festivals. “It’s so important to uplift young female artists and create space for them,” says Fanning, who has a production company with her sister, Dakota, called Lewellen Pictures. “I’ve been fortunate to have worked with a lot of female directors from a very young age,” she says. “So I will always continue to look for new female directors to work with.”
The same goes for the writers of the films and shows she works on. “As a woman, I want to feel like all of my complexities and layers are on screen,” says Fanning. “I think sometimes male writers will write a part where a woman walks into a room and she’s just strong and badass. And of course, there’s a time and place for that. But I’m like, ‘Where are her weaknesses? Where is she faltering and finding her strength?’”
Fanning is outspoken about the importance of increased diversity and representation in every facet of the industry, As one of the faces of L’Oréal Paris’ True Match Foundation, which is available in 45 shades and was recently reformulated with up to six pigments, allowing for its most precise shade-matching ever, the brand’s commitment to providing a wide range of makeup shades (and at accessible price points) is certainly not lost on Fanning. “It’s always so inspiring to be on set for True Match commercials and be with all of the girls,” she says. The most recent commercial stars Fanning alongside H.E.R, Kate Winslet and Nyma Tang. “It’s incredibly important that people feel like they are seen. The worst thing in the world is to feel like you’re not being listened to and not being seen. I’m happy that we can provide a little bit of that through beauty. Everyone deserves to feel beautiful.”