SAG-AFTRA members are currently on strike; as part of the strike, union actors are not promoting their film and TV projects. This interview was conducted prior to the strike.

Amandla Stenberg’s eyes are coated in smudged black makeup. Her skin is bare, dewy, and dare I say maybe a little sweaty. The actor, who uses she/they pronouns, has bleach-blonde braids with bubblegum pink strands scattered throughout and slightly outgrown roots. This may read like a harsh critique, but it’s all intentional — it’s the same look she wears in her latest film, My Animal, coming to theaters on September 8 and on digital starting September 15. The hair color, as she tells me, is her own brainchild.

“I did my hair for My Animal,” Stenberg reveals. “The movie exists in almost a non-specific era of time, but it feels older so there’s something very campy and feminine about the character and her wardrobe.” With that came Stenberg’s idea to go for “poorly-bleached, box-dye-colored hair with roots showing” for her character, Jonny, a love-torn Canadian teen with her heart spiritually on her sleeve (but drawn on her face for dramatic effect) who falls for Heather, a hockey player who moonlights as a werewolf. As she falls deeper in love with Heather throughout the film, Jonny’s hair transforms from brassy blonde to precious bubblegum pink. “We worked the color pink into her hair throughout the storyline,” they explain, “so the pink telegraphs some of the metaphors of the film.”

While many actors vie for a spot in the producer’s or director’s seat of the films in which they also star, Stenberg can be found in the hair and makeup departments when she’s not filming. “Formulating the hair and makeup of the characters is one of my favorite parts of the process,” they say. “You get to make a lot of choices about who this person is and how they express themselves in the world.”

My Animal, an ‘80s-inspired queer horror flick that sits at the intersection of Twilight and Twin Peaks, wasn’t her first go at crafting beauty ideas for her own on-screen counterparts. Stenberg also ideated the reverse cat-eyes and smudged, streaky mascara from 2022’s Bodies Bodies Bodies, a horror-comedy film that cemented her as an A24 darling alongside the likes of Emma Roberts, Jenna Ortega, and Florence Pugh. “For Bodies Bodies Bodies, we decided to do something a little less traditional and have eyeliner only underneath the eye as opposed to on top, and we also did acrylic nails,” they say. (The manicure du jour, by the way, is long and black with a neon green French tip and star accents.)

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