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Apr 4, 2018
Elle Fanning on What Beauty Means to Her

When you look at the April cover of Glamour, there’s no question that the three women pictured on it—Elle Fanning, Camila Cabello, and Aja Naomi King—are beautiful. I mean, just look at them. But, like the rest of us, they haven’t always felt confident in their own skin: As a kid (and before her Fifth Harmony days), Camila says she never saw herself—a Cuban-Mexican immigrant—represented in pop culture. When she first started playing with makeup, Aja found that some products just didn’t show up on her dark skin—and that stung. And Elle, who has been in the Hollywood spotlight since age three (yes, three), admitted to feeling pressure to conform to old beauty ideals by straightening her naturally curly hair for her first day at public school.

Isn’t it about time we rewrite this conversation? In honor of International Women’s Day, I spoke with all three of these remarkable women about how our definitions of beauty are finally shifting. As Camila put it: “When you look at the cover with me, Aja, and Elle, you see different body shapes, different skin tones, different backgrounds. It just shows you that beauty looks like everybody, you know?” Yep, we know.

Elle Fanning

Forty-five. That’s how many movies Elle Fanning, at age 20, has under her belt. I wasn’t convinced that was even possible until I counted them myself. You can literally see her grow up onscreen, under the Hollywood spotlight: at age three, playing the younger version of big sister Dakota in I Am Sam. As a dreamy young girl in Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere. And kicking off 2018 with critical favorite I Think We’re Alone Now, a post-apocalyptic love story from buzzy director Reed Morano.

Still, Fanning tells me she’s never felt scrutinized for her appearance by the industry, which has been pretty accepting of her playful makeup looks (just part of the appeal when L’Oréal Paris signed her as a face last year) and quirky fashion sense (frilly Rodarte pants are kind of her thing). It was her ­contemporaries—​kids at school—who made her feel she should conform to a certain mold. So what does she want to say to the world about beauty and feeling good in your skin? Hear it in her words.…

GLAMOUR: This is your first Glamour cover. Will you share what it means to be starring in the beauty issue?

ELLE FANNING: Well, beauty is not just what you look like from the outside. I’ve certainly experienced not feeling super confident. I was home-schooled until third grade. In fourth grade I went to a regular school, and it was the first time I had been in a classroom with kids my age, so I was a little freaked out. My hair is actually really curly, so I got it blown out straight, and I wore contacts—my eyes are terrible—and this one boy came to me on the playground and said, “You’re so beautiful. I’m going to marry you!” Whatever. Then the next day I washed my hair, so it was curly, and wore my glasses. And he told me, “I’m not going to marry you anymore.” I’m like, What? All because of physical appearance? Heartbreaking.

GLAMOUR: So even a nine-year-old boy was programmed to think that straight hair was beautiful. Traumatizing.

EF: Think of The Princess Diaries, which I love, where she has glasses and really curly hair, and then you remove those and: Wow! She’s so hot.

GLAMOUR: So how do we all move beyond the old beauty ideals?

EF: I think it starts with what people put out there. Airbrushing is not attractive. Imperfections are what’s beautiful. I like to post funny, not-so-serious things.

GLAMOUR: You’ve talked about growing up with a lot of women—sister, mom, grandmother. Was there bonding around beauty?

EF: My mother is very natural. But my grandmother will not go out of the house without a full face—she piles it on. She’s blond and blue-eyed and looks like me. And she always does a full lip, with matching liner in a peach tone. She was really excited when I signed with L’Oréal, freaking out, actually. They sent her a whole bag of lipsticks, which was really nice.

GLAMOUR: Being in Hollywood so young, did you feel pressured to look a certain way?

EF: Mostly at school. In a weird way I felt that the red carpet or the movie world was a place to escape and wear my funny clothes—frilly Rodarte pants instead of skinny jeans and the bandage dresses girls wore to bat mitzvahs. At work, there would be older people around who were like, “Hey, that’s cool!”

GLAMOUR: Did you ever feel sexualized at too young an age?

EF: No, I always had really good people around me, making sure that didn’t happen. They were sometimes overprotective. But I did have my first kiss onscreen, for the film Ginger & Rosa. I was 13 and trying to hide that it was my first kiss. But the director knew. So they pulled out this giant binder of guys from casting, and I had to pick one. It was one scene, his name was Max. And I picked him.

GLAMOUR: It’s a powerful moment for women in Hollywood, with open conversations around sexism and inequality. Can you talk about the experience with female directors—Sofia Coppola when you were 12 for Somewhere, and Reed Morano last year?

EF: Reed is one of my favorite people in the world. I felt so safe having her behind the lens. As women, there’s just a camaraderie, an understanding of each other. And shooting with Sofia when I was so young—it was very special to get to see a big movie set run by a woman, to see what’s possible, the respect. I would love to direct one day too. Women have so many stories to tell. Why ­haven’t we been able to for so long? We’re just starting.

GLAMOUR: You met Valerie Weisler—the 19-year-old founder of antibullying organization The Validation Project—at L’Oréal’s Women of Worth event. Did her message hit home for you?

EF: From her own experience of being bullied, she has gone on to help 6,000 other teenagers. She’s my age—and it’s just inspiring that she found something she’s so invested in. She pushed me to reevaluate myself, in what I can give back. That’s empowering. [Source]

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The Great (TV Series)

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Release Date: 2020
A royal woman living in rural Austria during the seventeenth century is forced to choose between her own personal happiness and the future of Russia, when she marries an Emperor.

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Follows a young man suffering from epilepsy who plots the murders of his dysfunctional family.

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