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Oscar-Winning Actor Natalie Portman on Her Journey of Self-Discovery and Self-Care

The face of the Dior Rouge Forever Dior lipstick campaign

From Oscar-winning actress and Harvard psychology graduate, to mother, activist, and beauty icon, Natalie Portman has collected numerous accolades and achievements throughout her life and career. Having recently turned 41, she is also celebrating a decade of collaboration with Christian Dior, taking on the role as the face of the new Rouge Dior Forever lipstick campaign. Under the guidance of Peter Philips, creative and image director for Dior Makeup, the French maison launched their latest high-performance formula which provides 16 hours of no-transfer wear and intense comfort, thanks to a blend of natural oils that evaporate quickly, to optimize glide upon application, allowing for perfect adherence and flawless, uniform coverage. “I love a matte lipstick, and this is so fresh and feminine and just feels like love,” says Portman of the innovative new texture.

“Working with Natalie is always something to look forward to,” says Philips. “She is inspiring, funny, beautiful, super professional and very thoughtful. She is the perfect ambassador for our makeup creations.” The ethereal new campaign sees Portman partnered with Black-ish actress Yara Shahidi, engulfed in swathes of scarlet silk against a desert backdrop to breath-taking effect. “Being surrounded by nature was so inspiring,” revealed Portman. “The wind was a little extreme at times, but it looked so beautiful and allowed for some really interesting shapes.”

With Dior’s Peter Philips

Of the many noteworthy campaigns marking her career with Dior, 2018’s Ultra Rouge stands out as one of the more memorable moments. A casual Portman, draped in a red sweater, gazes sensuously out into the distance, her nails and lips lacquered in matching crimson. “She is an actress to her core,” said Philips at the time of the launch, “and yet these images reflect her confidence, her sensuality, and her joie de vivre.” This instinctive inner joy also emanates offscreen in the exuberant television commercial for Miss Dior eau de parfum. Directed by Dutch filmmaker Anton Corbijn, the dreamy 2015 short film entitled It’s Miss Actually saw Portman play a runaway bride fleeing her Côte d’Azur wedding. Casting aside her Dior Couture gown to reveal a strapless black mini dress underneath, she’s then whisked off and away via helicopter.

It’s rare to witness an actor’s journey of professional development and sartorial maturity in its entirety, but that is exactly the case with this Hollywood heavyweight. Since her 1994 breakout role playing the discerningly precocious assassin protégé in Luc Besson’s Léon: The Professional at the age of 12, Portman has enjoyed a prodigious career, both in front of the camera and behind it, flourishing along the way. She may have captivated the world with her innate, understated appeal, but coming of age in front of the camera was no easy feat. “From such a young age so much was put upon me. It was always other people that would decide how they wanted me to look. I was a kid, and no one ever asked me what I wanted,” she says of her own personal beauty style journey. “It took time for me to really find my own look.”

As Nina Sayers in Black Swan

For the young Portman, with a heart-shaped face, almond-colored eyes, and a beauty mark on her cheek, Cindy Crawford inspired her to celebrate her uniqueness and revel in her differences. Glamorous pop culture icons like Italian actress Claudia Cardinale were also high on her list of beauty inspirations. “I once gave my team pictures of Claudia as a hair and makeup reference for a premier at the Toronto Film Festival and I was so happy with my look that day. I was the dream version of myself.”

Having gained a reputation for her seriousness, intelligence, and diligence in her onscreen portrayals, audiences have come to expect nothing short of stellar performances from Portman — and she never disappoints. From Queen Amidala with her Kabuki-inspired face paint in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and the shaven-headed Evey Hammond in V for Vendetta, to her Academy-award-winning performance as the immaculately poised but unstable Nina Sayers in the unnerving ballet thriller Black Swan, her external appearance on the big screen always appears to be a perfectly natural reflection of the role she’s playing, however extreme the character may be.

Portman’s naturally self-effacing, down-to-earth personality shines through. “I think that I used to approach beauty as time I could be doing something else,” she ruminates. “While sitting in hair and makeup I would think that I could be out hiking or writing a book. I was resentful of it. Now it feels like a great luxury and a pleasure to be pampered. When you’re running around taking care of your family [Portman has two children with her husband, French dance choreographer Benjamin Millepied], it’s such a joy to have people take care of you and make you look less tired than you really are.”

Star Wars’ Queen Amidala

By her own admission, the actress has re-learned to take time for the multi-sensory pleasures that come with a daily beauty routine. “I’m very sensitive to scent and I have products that I love to smell as I’m using them — like when I wash my face and apply my moisturizer. They’re just wonderful. I always carry the Dior Forever concealer. If I need to do something quickly, it’s the fastest way for me to look fresh. I also love the apricot cuticle cream; it’s always in my bag.” Despite appreciating her skincare products, Portman’s secret weapon is undoubtedly lipstick. Rouge Dior No.999, a classic, matte red, and Dior Lip Glow, a sheer balm — for school pickups — are her favorites, “I always carry a red lipstick as you never know when you’ll need a boost in the middle of the day. It makes you feel instantly bolder.” Whether it’s a fiery crimson or a neutral greige, for Portman it’s about wearing it with confidence and self-assurance.

Unsurprisingly, a busy family life and an unrelenting work schedule can no doubt take their toll, which is why Portman has adopted a mindful self-care approach. In addition to her usual running and core strengthening exercises three times a week, she has discovered the benefits of quiet contemplation. “I’ve been meditating quite a bit recently, especially at work when I have breaks, and that’s been life changing. I’ve also stopped using my phone before I go to bed and that’s helped my sleep and particularly my dreams.”

Portman also credits veganism with boosting her wellness and transforming her skin, making the switch while pregnant with her first child, Aleph. “Veganism completely changed my skin. Not only that, but it had this amazing side effect of clearing up my skin which was incredible. People started commenting, asking what happened, and it was literally just a dietary change.” While she considers herself to be quite strict now, she isn’t judgmental of others, stating, “For me, it’s the right choice and it feels good for my body.”

Whether on the silver screen, in an advertising campaign, or even airing her thoughts on a podcast, Portman is the personification of realness and genuine relatability. Time and again, she demonstrates that the epitome of beauty is not about what you put on your face, but instead about living your truth with grace.

Originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia

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