Rachel Zegler on ‘Snow White,’ ‘Hunger Games’ and a Classic Red Lip

Rachel Zegler knows that a good beauty look has the power to illuminate a film’s narrative. Take, for instance, the 2021 West Wide Story remake: in one scene, Zegler’s Maria is preparing for the community center dance; before she walks out the door, she steps over to her kitchen mirror and applies a swipe of red lipstick, the perfect color to match the belt on her dress. In the first-look images of the upcoming live-action Snow White, the actress plays the classic Disney princess, sitting in her quintessential blue-and-yellow dress, sporting a pinkish-red color on her pout. And while Lucy Gray Baird may not have had access to a makeup counter when she competed in the 10th annual Hunger Games, it’s not uncommon to see the colorful victor with an eye-catching lip after her win.

Is it a coincidence that Zegler gravitates toward these characters, all of whom appreciate a classic beat with a soft finish and staying power? Maybe. Or perhaps the actress subconsciously seeks out roles where beauty is used as a form of expression. Growing up, she experimented with makeup in her bathroom mirror. “I used to steal my mom’s makeup and put on really brightly colored eyeshadow, with no self-awareness and with the most confidence,” Zegler tells W over Zoom. It’s fitting, then, for her to be named as one of the faces of Dior Rouge, alongside fellow members of young Hollywood Anya Taylor-Joy, Yara Shahidi, and Dilraba Dilmurat. Below, Zegler shares her own experiences with Rouge Dior, her beauty inspirations, and the hue she thinks is in Snow White’s makeup bag.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Dior Rouge?

The first lipstick shade my mom ever bought was 999 from Dior. So this is a really cool, full-circle moment for me—and something I get to share with my mom.

Do you remember watching your mom put on the lipstick when you were younger?

I do. It’s this very vivid memory. We had two bathrooms in our house, and there was one that my mom would do her makeup in before we would go out. She would open the medicine cabinet and use the mirror and sit on the side of the sink. I would sit on the little step into the tub and watch her do her makeup and put on the Rouge Dior.

It seems like theater kids usually get into makeup earlier, because they have to wear it for productions.

I know. But my first show was Fiddler on the Roof, so I didn’t get to do anything crazy. It was very much like, “You are a farm girl, now put on your eyebrows. Okay, maybe more blush. That’s enough, and no lip color, you’re poor.”

Yeah, I don’t think there was Rouge Dior in the shtetl.

Definitely not [laughs]. But then I did shows like Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and Thoroughly Modern Millie, where I got to have some fun with makeup.

What is your relationship like with makeup now?

There’s still a lot of home-bathroom makeup being done—when I’m going out to dinner with my boyfriend, I still hunch over my bathroom mirror to get ready. But I will say, my lifestyle has opened up a world of opportunity when it comes to experimenting with hair and makeup. My glam team has become my safe haven. Red carpets and press junkets can be such a terrifying, vulnerable thing, so getting those two and a half, three hours in the morning with these people who make me comfortable and make me laugh is great.

What are your favorite beauty looks from past red carpets?

The Berlin premiere for The Hunger Games was amazing, in the Alexander McQueen gown. And then the Dior gown I wore for the London premiere was loosely inspired by Katniss’s Quarter Quell look in Catching Fire. So my makeup artist, Valeria [Ferreira], did this coal look with the eyeliner. I also loved my Academy Gala look; Clayton Hawkins and Alan Avendaño did my hair and makeup. I had this vision of old Hollywood—this soft curl with the hard part—and they made it come to life.

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You seem to usually go for that classic look with a touch of modern edge.

We always try to do something that nods to the source material, but with the contemporary edge needed to make it digestible for a modern audience. We’re prepping for the Y2K press run, and it’s like, well, we can’t go out there with dresses over jeans. We’re not bringing that back. But there were so many amazing looks that survived from that era of fashion, and the amazing thing about pulling archival work is that you get to modernize it with the glam.

At Time 100, I wore this beautiful Dior dress. It was very delicate, and we did a contemporary wet hair look with a curtain bang and a darker lip and eye, which changed the look completely.

When I think of Snow White, a classic red lip immediately comes to mind. What color of Rouge Dior do you think Snow would wear?

I feel like, because she’s so young, she would have a pinker red. The 773 is really beautiful, as well as 760.

Do you have a beauty icon?

It’s always Audrey Hepburn for me. Growing up, people made fun of my bushy eyebrows, and she had iconic, thick brows. I also loved Salma Hayek’s looks, specifically from the ’90s, mostly because it was nice to see someone who looked like me on a red carpet. But I always try to emulate someone from classic Old Hollywood—so Audrey Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn, Hedy Lamarr. They actually based Snow White’s look off of Hedy. Plus, she invented Bluetooth!

Courtesy of Christian Dior Parfums

What is the best beauty advice you’ve ever received?

Get out there and own it. If you feel comfortable, you will feel confident. Also, it’s about how you feel, not about what other people have to say about it. There will always be naysayers, but if you feel beautiful, that’s because you are beautiful. And even when you don’t feel it, you still are. You just have to remember that you are beautiful no matter what.

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