Much has happened in our world and culture since the early days of Sex and the City, when the original four characters stomped the streets in Manolo Blahniks, clinked together their cosmopolitans at [Samantha Jones voice] “fabulous” parties, and recounted their romantic exploits over brunch at Cafeteria.
In the show’s new reboot, And Just Like That…, now on HBO, three of the show’s original protagonists, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon), and Charlotte York-Goldenblatt (Kristin Davis), have returned and are contending with middle age, from the challenges that naturally come with a new, more mature phase of life, to the physical changes inextricably linked to aging. “There’s so much misogynist chatter in response to us that would never. Happen. About. A. Man,” Parker told Vogue in her December cover story, speaking of the ageist commentary around the actors daring to embrace their age with graying lengths and fine lines on-screen.
At the same time, there has been an encouraging sea change in Hollywood, one where we’re finally starting to see projects that celebrate and telegraph the real lives of older women, offering both a sense of realism and, in the case of S&TC’s latest installment, aspirational style and attitude. Yes, those things can happily coexist, emphasizes And Just Like That…’s makeup department head, Sherri Berman Laurence. “I’m a 53-year-old woman, so I kind of grew up with these women,” says Laurence, “so for a show like this to be celebrating so many women in their 50s, and in a real, yet glamorous way, is really exciting to me.”
To conceptualize the makeup vision, Laurence sat down with showrunner Michael Patrick King and costume designer Molly Rogers to ensure they were taking a 360-degree approach to their storytelling. “It’s great working with someone like [King], who really cares about the looks—the makeup, the hair, and the costumes,” says Laurence. “They all play off one another. You can’t have one not work or they all don’t work. Michael Patrick King is such a visionary and he knows exactly [what he wants]. He has a picture in his head, and it’s a really interesting process to talk it through with him.” While the plan for each character was different, there was one throughline. “[King] was very specific about not trying to make them look younger than their age—enhancing the beauty that they have already,” explains Laurence. “We all did our best to accomplish that. And I think we did.”
In simplest terms, she describes the evolution of the original characters and their approaches to beauty as follows: Carrie, “fresh and easy”; Miranda, “a little more done with a new sense of self”; and Charlotte, “expensive and very polished.” Then there’s Che Diaz (Sara Ramirez), the series’s first nonbinary character, a stand-up comedian and podcaster, who “embraces their natural beauty” with custom-designed tattoos; Seema Patel (Sarita Choudhury), a powerhouse real-estate broker who appreciates “strong, Old Hollywood glamour” with jewel-toned lips and winged liner; Lisa Todd Wexley (Nicole Ari Parker), a documentarian and best-dressed-list topper who is “very uptown, pristine,” with a flawless, sculpted complexion; and Dr. Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman), a Columbia Law professor who goes for an “earthy and natural” vibe with no-makeup makeup characterized by lit-from-within skin and nude lips.
“For most of them, we focused a lot on the skin,” explains Laurence of the universal emphasis on a glowing complexion on set. “With all of these women, we’re not trying to hide age, we’re just enhancing the beauty of who they are. Women at this age are beautiful. And I like the fact that we weren’t trying to make them look 30.”
While Parker, Nixon, and Davis all worked with their own makeup artists (Elaine Offers, Kerrie Plant Price, and Matin Maulawizada, respectively) there were a lot of widely embraced product favorites on set. Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate Soft Radiance Foundation was one such beauty hero. “It’s such a beautiful, creamy illuminating—without looking shiny—foundation,” says Laurence of the moisturizing, hyaluronic acid–laced formula, which offers medium- to full coverage infused with just the right amount of light-diffusing pigments. “It’s funny because, again, I lived makeup then and I’m living it now too,” she explains. “There are always new products out there that have shifted the look of things. They’re not as matte and powdery; they’re more illuminating without being shiny.” In that spirit, sculpting cheeks, whether for a dewy rose or sun-kissed effect, saw a softer, more light-handed approach.“The blush isn’t as heavy as it was; it’s a little more flush,” she explains, name-checking the creamy, melts-right-in formulas that were favored on set such as Tom Ford’s contour and blush duos and Patrick Ta’s Major Double-Take formula. In the same vein, lips were less ’90s and decidedly more 2020s. “The liners back then were a little darker on the lip,” she says. “It was more defined and you could see the liner a bit more than you can now. Now it’s more about an even blend to enhance the natural shape of the lip.” For a juicy wash of color, Dior’s Dior Addict Stellar lip gloss was a tried-and-true favorite, as were Charlotte Tilbury’s lip liners and lipsticks in your-lips-but-better shades.
To keep gazes looking fresh and wide-eyed, there was an emphasis on creating eye shadow and eyeliner shapes that make the eyes look bigger and pull attention upward. “With eyes, what you want to do is create shapes that go up and lift instead of dragging them down,” explains Laurence, adding that matte or satin textures are often the most flattering on mature lids. “Eyeliner is also going a little more out, rather than following the exact line of your lash line,” she adds. In heavy rotation were natural-looking lashes by way of Lashify’s Control Kit, which supplies small clusters of silky lashes that blend seamlessly into the natural lash line, especially concentrated on the outer corners for length and volume. “It really opens up the eyes,” emphasizes Laurence of their universally flattering appeal.
In terms of skin care, veils of Tatcha’s cult-favorite Dewy Skin cream and Herbivore’s glow-enhancing Orchid face oil, along with de-puffing, blood flow–boosting facial massages by way of the Herbivore face roller or Pause Well Aging’s fascia stimulating tool, helped keep complexions bright and hydrated throughout filming, says Laurence.
As the buzz around And Just Like…’s premiere takes hold in group chats everywhere, one thing is for certain: There’s much to love and appreciate about each character’s individual—and refreshingly age-embracing—approach to makeup (or lack thereof) as self-expression. “This isn’t something that is really that common that you see right now…this many women who are more mature yet glamorous-looking without it appearing overdone,” says Laurence. “It’s exciting, and there’s such a need for it. I think it’s going to make women in their 50s feel more beautiful.”
Originally published on Vogue.com