You’ve seen Keke Palmer’s upturned face, eyes wide and mouth agape, staring at the unknown in the posters for Jordan Peele’s highly anticipated sci-fi thriller, Nope. The brief flashes of her mystery-shrouded character in the movie’s trailer have only sparked more questions about its top-secret plot, including the possible involvement of aliens, Palmer’s character Emerald and Daniel Kaluuya’s character Otis, and the mind-melting twists that are sure to follow in any of Peele’s movies. Fans finally got their answers last week on Nope’s official release date Friday, July 22. But even before the premiere occurred, those posters and trailers had actually already revealed parts of Emerald’s backstory—if you just knew where to look.
“I think that’s what the look that we did for her is,” Tym Buacharern, Nope’s makeup department head and Emmy-winning makeup artist, tells Glamour. “We see her, and we actually see her character.”
While Buacharern, who’s worked with the Glamour July cover star on multiple projects, usually creates Palmer’s looks for high-glam makeup moments, this script made the duo decide to go in another direction. “We tried to do something that was totally different from what you’ve ever seen of her on camera,” he says of Emerald’s no-makeup makeup look. (As far as no-makeup looks go, it took a long time to accomplish: 45 minutes each day to make Palmer appear as if she had just woken up and washed her face in the morning.)
“She’s a horse trainer,” says Buacharern. “She’s a total hustler. She will take any job and do any job. So I think that dictates it a little bit.” Emerald is also an aspiring social media star who dreams of an elusive shot at fame that will win her 50 million followers overnight, something you might not have gleaned from the trailer but is hidden in her makeup. Look closely early on, and you’ll see that she’s wearing lash extensions, which gradually fall out as the plot ramps up and the rest of her makeup deteriorates. That, says Buacharern, was something of “a happy accident.”
“Basically what happened was, Keke came in with lash extensions,” he says. “She’s like, ‘I’m gonna get the shortest ones.’” While Palmer just wanted to try the look for fun off set, it ended up tying in perfectly with her influencer-obsessed character. Instead of getting them touched up, she let them fall out naturally in accordance with the movie’s progression.
Palmer’s make-under wasn’t the only look Buacharern tested for the film. In fact, Palmer almost ended up starring in Nope with green hair and a face tattoo. The green hair was on account of her character’s name, while the face tattoo was something Buacharern and Palmer tried on a whim one day before production started. In the end, both the actress and the makeup artist decided on the final pared-down look that more accurately reflects Emerald’s backstory. “I tried [the green hair and face tattoo] on her, and we looked at each other and we go, ‘Nah,’” says Buacharern.
What did end up making the cut: An elaborate skin-care regimen that kept Palmer’s skin protected throughout filming. The actress has spoken candidly about her acne journey before, so Buacharern wanted to make sure the shoot’s outdoor conditions didn’t cause further flareups. Palmer’s daily essentials for Nope included morning sessions with the CurrentBody Skin LED Light Therapy Mask and a depuffing application of Bellefontaine Cellstemine Eye Contour Perfection Cream. Her hair was kept similarly nourished with Salwa Petersen Chébé du Tchad Hair Cream. Buacharern even created Emerald’s sweat stains with Pause Well-Aging Instant Cooling Mist for bonus body-care benefits.
As for the minimal makeup, Palmer starts the movie in a base of shine-controlling Nars Soft Matte Foundation, Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Concealer, and MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Powder. Buacharern then lightly lined her eyes with Hourglass Gel Eyeliner and added the barest touch of color on her cheeks and lips with Bésame Cream Rouge and Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Red Dahlia. Without giving too much away, Palmer’s makeup routine gets significantly shorter by the end of the movie.
“What you’ll probably notice is a deterioration of her look,” says Buacharern. “Just get ready for a roller coaster. It’s such a ride.”
Sarah Y. Wu is a writer and copy director in Berlin. Follow her on Instagram @say.wu.
Originally Appeared on Glamour