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Breakfast at Tiffany’s Brings Forties-Era Glamour To The Stage


Eating a flaky croissant in front of a store window never looked as chic as it did in the 1960s cinematic production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. This month, the iconic story, penned by Truman Capote, will be staged on Broadway, and while the characters will be recognizably familiar, the makeup might not be. Taking on the role Audrey Hepburn made famous, Emilia Clarke—she of Game of Thrones fame—stars as the gamine Holly Golightly. But don’t expect sixties-era cat-eyes and nude lips, says makeup maestro and Target beauty design partner Sonia Kashuk, who designed the looks for the production that began previews this week and opens on March 20. “The makeup is a lot different,” she reveals. Here, Kashuk chats with about creating a retro-modern look for the big screen’s most iconic characters, the beauty of a well-defined brow, and how a classic red lip “holds the stage.”

So why go against previously held cosmetics conventions with the Broadway production of this famous film?
At first, I had all these playful thoughts in my head of the movie and those iconic Audrey Hepburn looks. But the play is more based on the original novella [by Truman Capote], which takes place in the forties. So in terms of establishing Emilia’s look, it’s anti-winged-eyeliner, a complete 360 from where I thought we were going.

How did that impact Holly Golightly’s character onstage?
It was about creating dimension. Emilia has a great face, even without a stitch of makeup. So we just used a little bit of cream bronzer, which becomes one with the skin and creates contours under the lights on the stage. Her skin is fantastic, so we focused on adding luminosity and radiance—just lifting and playing with the planes of the face. In the forties, there was more of a matte finish given to the face, no sparkle. I looked at old Vogues and Bazaars to research the makeup.

Can we still expect to see her in some of her former glamorous glory?
Yes! But for the party scene, we didn’t do big lashes and obvious eyeliner—if anything, the clear voice I had from the director [Sean Mathias] was, “It’s not Audrey Hepburn.” So I just created definition at the lash line with my Sonia Kashuk Instructional Eye Shadow Palette in Eye in Neutral and contoured the eyes into the crease with Monochrome Eye Quad in Textured Cocoa. We did false lashes, but it wasn’t about adding a lot of length, just volume and fullness to the eyes.

And what about the brows—not as bold as the Audrey Hepburn treatment?
In the forties, women wore a thinner brow. I did a play on that, mixing the modern with the old, by creating a beautiful and well-defined brow. I love how a good brow can be the final frame to the eye. I balanced it with a strong mouth, using Sonia Kashuk Satin Luxe Lip Color in Classic Red and Plum Wine. I didn’t want the finish to be too shiny. That wouldn’t be reminiscent of the period, and when an actor needs to talk a lot onstage, you want something that’s matte and will adhere well. A classic red lip on the stage has such a great presence; it’s strong and holds the stage.

What was the biggest challenge of doing makeup for the theater?
I’m used to working under lights from my younger days as a makeup artist in the studio. At 5 p.m., the photographer would say “Close your eyes” to the model, and the eye shadow couldn’t have any creases. With theater, you actually have more room to cheat things, since the actors are up onstage for short periods. The key is just to work the makeup into the skin so it lasts.

Is there anything you learned from the theater experience that surprised you, coming from an editorial and then product-design background?
I’m an avid theatergoer. I just saw Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Living in New York, theater is the one thing that I’m absolutely passionate about. For me, it was fun to cross over into that world and experience all of the hard work that goes in to a production. I learned that being an actor on the stage, and doing a live performance night after night, is very daunting!

Photo: Jason Bell

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