“You write it down and it happens,” 25-year-old actor Alexa Demie tells Vogue over Zoom. Demie is at her home in Los Angeles, musing on the power of manifestation. After several bouts of bad acne as a teenager, Demie would wake up every morning and say the following out loud: “I have beautiful, clear, acne-free, scar-free skin.” And it worked. Nearly a decade later, she called on the powers that be again to get her very own beauty campaign. The following week, she received a call from M.A.C Cosmetics. And now she’s setting her sights on her own beauty business, although she’s remaining tight-lipped on that for now.
Born and raised in Hollywood, Alexa Demie is best known for her role as Maddy Perez on HBO’s Euphoria. A former pageant queen, Maddy is an outwardly confident young woman who isn’t afraid to use her sexual wiles to get what she wants—something she communicates sartorially and through her bold beauty aesthetic. Like her character, Demie uses makeup as a vehicle for creativity and self-expression. But when it comes to feeling beautiful, Demie is more concerned with how she’s feeling than how she looks on the outside, a lesson we should all learn. We caught up with the actor about her ever-evolving relationship with beauty.
© Benedict Brink. Nails by NailSwagYour mum was a makeup artist—what role did beauty play in your relationship with her growing up?
“I remember being a little girl and sitting on the floor and flipping through magazines all day, just watching my mum do her makeup. When I was 12, she had to do this 15-minute look in front of the people at M.A.C, where she worked, in order to become a pro artist. Her model had cancelled and so she asked if she could bring me in. So I was sitting up on a podium, and she completely blocked my brows, did a blue lid and a red lip. It was gorgeous. She also taught me about cleanliness, moisturising, SPF and drinking lots of water. If I came home and I had makeup on and I went to bed, she would wake me up and make me wash my face.”Would you experiment with makeup on your own?
“There are pictures of me where I’m five years old putting lipstick on in front of the mirror. I feel like I was born ready for beauty. For me, it was about becoming different characters, that thing of transforming and being a chameleon. It’s fantasy and an escape from reality, being able to live these other lives.”Have you always been comfortable with the way you look?
“Growing up, there were moments where I was like, ‘I look amazing, look at me,’ and then there were moments where I was like, ‘I’m too skinny.’ I had ups and downs with my looks and I still do; there are days where I hate the way I look and I hate my body, but I’ve just come to realise that it depends on how you’re feeling inside because it affects your self-perception. It’s like your work or something you’ve created—if you’re not feeling good, you’re going to think whatever you’ve created looks like shit.”What do you do in those moments?
“If you’re not feeling your best, create a makeup look, put on an outfit, put on a song—anything that’s going to get you out of that mindset so you feel good again. Time helps. There was a time in my life where I suffered from acne and I would have makeup on all the time. I was super insecure about it. I would sleep over at friends’ houses and I would wake up before them to do my makeup and then I would get back in the bed. That’s how insecure I was. So I just took time to get my skin in a better place. I tried every acne face wash and product. It’s also about what you’re eating and drinking. This might sound crazy, but every morning I would wake up and say, ‘I have beautiful, clear, acne-free, scar-free skin.’ I would say this every day, and it worked!”What other beauty tricks do you have up your sleeve?
“I’ve been obsessed with skincare during quarantine. I bought an at-home steamer and I’ve been doing full facials where I steam my skin. I’m using facial rollers, massagers and bubble clay masks. I have a spa here, basically.”
© Benedict Brink. Nails by NailSwagWhen it comes to beauty references, you’re a big fan of the 1990s. What else are you inspired by?
“I love old Hollywood starlets [such as] Sophia Loren and María Félix. Also, in 1960s Italian and French cinema, they did the best eyes. That’s something I’m into. I had a bad phase where I thought I was punk because I was obsessed with No Doubt, but that’s not even punk. I would wear really chunky boots, low-rise plaid patchwork pants, I had my hair in a side swoop that would cover one eye and I would do a smudgy eye. There’s also a picture of me from fifth grade where I’ve sprayed my hair all different colours, and I’m wearing a lot of black eyeliner and fishnets. It’s kind of crazy, actually.”Where do you see your beauty obsession going?
“Well, I have been planning a business with it, but I can’t talk about it. It’s less of a business and more extending my knowledge of skincare and makeup, and sharing it with the world.”Let’s talk about Euphoria. How does it feel to be part of a show where makeup and beauty play such a key role in the storytelling?
“It’s truly a dream come true that the creator of the show is so interested in makeup and actually sat down and had full conversations with me about it, because you usually have no say in your makeup. I’ve been compiling looks that I’ve dreamed of doing on private Tumblrs and in folders since middle school, and now I finally get to do them.”How important are Maddy’s looks to her character?
“Very important. From day one, Maddy was the one who was going to have all the looks. She started wearing makeup young and for her, as well as for me, she didn’t have the best home life, so it was an escape as well. Makeup was this mask she would put on for confidence because she didn’t have it at her core.”Is that something you can identify with?
“I’ve always been more of an internal person, so I’ve focused on the way I feel more than the way that I look. I kind of rebelled because of my mum being a makeup artist. Sometimes I would want to wear no makeup.”What has playing Maddy taught you about beauty?
“She’s made me more confident in doing certain looks myself. It’s nice to see everybody online recreating them and having so much fun with beauty. But there’s a dark side to beauty. You know, we shouldn’t be pushing so much for our appearance to be everything. We should have fun with makeup and use it as an art and as an expression, but don’t use it as a mask to hide what you’re feeling or who you truly are.”It’s ironic that what you’re doing with makeup, and what Euphoria is doing, is challenging mainstream beauty ideals—but now magazines and designers are co-opting these new looks and endorsing them as new trends to follow…
“Since the beginning of time, trends have been pushed on to us. That’s why I always like to say to people, ‘Look at my makeup and maybe use it as an inspiration to do your own, but you don’t have to copy it exactly. Do your own version of it.’ Trends aren’t going away, they just need to be taken a little lighter because you don’t have to look like anything.”What advice would you give to people who aren’t happy with the way they look?
“Stop looking in the mirror. Stop focusing on your appearance and focus on something else. If you stare in the mirror long enough, you’re going to find something wrong with yourself.”Also read:
Euphoria makeup artist Kirsten Coleman is challenging the way we look at beauty
Euphoria’s Barbie Ferreira has said all she has to say on body positivity
Model and skincare influencer Kadeeja Khan on why acne needs to be normalised