Everyone’s always like, “You’re 12” and I’m like, “No, I’m 27″. People have an image of me that’s seemingly unchangeable regardless of what the truth is.’
For an entire generation of screen-watchers, Dakota Fanning was the fresh-faced child star that dominated Hollywood during the noughties. She stood by Tom Cruise as evil alien robots took over the planet in War Of The Worlds, pouted in prep school uniform in Uptown Girls and evaded kidnappers alongside Denzel Washington in Man On Fire. She even made red contact lenses a legitimate beauty look with her role as Volturi vampire Jane in the Twilight series.
But, that was 20 years ago. Fast forward to 2022 and Fanning hasn’t stepped into adulthood so much as powered boldly through it. With starring roles in The Alienist and The First Lady, an enviable spot as Global Brand Ambassador for Clé de Peau Beauté alongside contemporaries Diana Silvers and Ella Balinska, and her own production company co-founded with sister Elle all under her belt, Dakota Fanning has most definitely left the reductive label of ‘child star’ well behind.
ELLE UK caught up with the short film director, skincare lover and cinematic icon to talk all things ageing on screen, the allure of Michelle Pfeiffer and why we need to rebrand the word ‘beauty’…
Moving forward in 2022, what are you excited for in beauty?
‘I’m definitely excited to have more moments of putting on make-up and getting ready for social events that we haven’t really been able to do, so I’m crossing my fingers for that! But I also want to see more of a focus on individual beauty and uniqueness.
‘Beauty is subjective. I think some of the trends right now make everyone look the same and I want to keep seeing a lot of diversity and different ideals of beauty. Some people feel their most beautiful when they’ve got messy hair and they’re wearing pjs first thing in the morning, and I think that’s great. Other people want the full glam to bring out their beauty and that’s great too. I’m somewhere in between. I’m all about highlighting what you have and bringing out your inner beauty, and then make-up is like the icing on the cake. I like looking natural but a little dewy – you can’t speak about beauty now without using the word dewy! For me it’s more of a smart suit pant than sweatpants…’
Which part of your beauty routine are you a pro at?
‘I’ve really honed my skincare process which is the foundation of beauty, I think. I’m very fair, obviously! I feel like the fairer you are the harder it is to hide any sort of redness or blemish – they just stand out. I am super lucky with my skin but because I’m so pale I’ve had periods of rosacea and redness so I just incorporate it into my blusher whenever it flares up.
‘I really see my skincare routine as a ritual I give myself each morning and night, especially during these hard times. It’s something I do no matter what. It’s my little bit of stability in the craziness. I love Clé De Peau Beauté’s Softening Cleansing Foam and the serum is amazing and so moisturising. Also drinking lots of water, staying out of the sun, wearing SPF and taking my make-up off before I go to bed – those clichés are all actually really helpful. I’ve been travelling a lot and it’s so drying on my skin, so I really focus on putting moisture back in. If I’m a bit jet lagged and then I have one good night’s sleep it makes all the difference. I look like a different person and I’m like, “Oh my god I needed that sleep.”‘
Tell us about your most empowering and most embarrassing red carpet looks…
‘I wore a Miu Miu gown that looked like a mermaid – it had all these iridescent sequins on it – to the Venice Film Festival a few years ago. That was one of those times where I look back at the photos and I love the way I looked.
‘Starting out so young I had a lot of red carpet moments when I was little. There was a time when I must have been eight years old and I was filming Cat In The Hat and my character had this very specific hairstyle of two little curled pigtails and really short bangs. I ended up on so many red carpets with a blonde bob and these tiny little bangs that just didn’t work without the pigtails and the Dr Seuss outfit. I look back and laugh but I’m not embarrassed. Although I’m not gonna be going for a micro fringe any time soon, that is not the look for me!’
As an actor growing up on screen, did you feel pressure to be ‘beautiful’?
‘It’s interesting because when you’re making a movie or a TV series the focus is the character, so personally it’s helped me to separate how I feel about my “beauty” and a character’s beauty, and seeing those as two different things. I think it’s actually made me a less vain person in a weird way because I want to serve the character. If they’re meant to have dark under eyes and no make-up then I’m like, “Cool!”. Instead of making me hyper aware of every feature, it’s helped me to not worry about what I look like as much when I’m filming.’
How do you feel about ageing in an industry that traditionally heroes youth?
‘What’s funny for me is the thing I’ve come up against for most of my career is everyone thinking that I’m younger than I am, because I started working when I was so little. Everyone’s always like, “You’re 12” and I’m like, “No, I’m 27”. People have an image of me that’s seemingly unchangeable regardless of what the truth is. But, it’s actually created a healthy dynamic between me and my age where I’m just being and feeling and doing instead of focussing on how old I am.
‘When I inevitably get older it’s not something that I’m afraid of. I’m excited for it. I’m excited for the things that come with being in your 30s, 40s and 50s. I hope that feeling stays, I don’t want to lose that. I want to embrace the age that I am and I want to look the age that I am. I don’t have a desperate need to look different, but I’m also saying that as a 27-year-old so I know that may change.’
Who represents beauty to you?
‘Let’s rebrand the word beauty! The word has a superficial connotation but it isn’t superficial at all. Saying someone is beautiful doesn’t have to mean they’re pretty, it could be your attitude, your spirit, your soul, the way you treat other people, not just what you look like.
‘I just worked with Michelle Pfeiffer who I also worked with on my first ever film I Am Sam. It’s been 20 years almost to the day since then and now we’re working together again and she’s still so beautiful. She’s playing Betty Ford and I play her daughter in a new series and just seeing her transform into someone else was so wonderful. I definitely admire her a lot. I also love Frances McDormand. Seeing her on the cover of magazines embracing her beauty and being celebrated for her age and talent, I love that.’ [Source]