Academy Award-winner Brie Larson on her most influential film roles, feeling ‘uncomfortable’ in her looks and the life advice she's never forgotten...
She smashed box office records as Marvel’s first female superhero lead in 2019’s Captain Marvel, followed by Avenger’s Endgame which became the highest-grossing film of all time. But if you haven’t watched Marvel (seriously, you’re missing out) you might know Brie Larson from 2015’s Room as ‘Ma’, 21 Jump Street, Kong: Skull Island or The Glass Castle to name but a few of her hits – the likes of which have seen her land pretty much every award going, from an Academy Award and a Golden Globe to a SAG, BAFTA and Emmy.
Thankfully, her latest role – as prestigious skincare brand Decorté’s new muse – involves sharing some of her wisdom. Brie sat down with Marie Claire’s Entertainment Editor Sophie Goddard to chat skincare, self-care and the red carpet looks she’d rather leave behind…
Congratulations on becoming Decorté’s new muse. Could you tell us how the collaboration came about?
Yeah for sure. I wasn’t super familiar with Decorté. About a year ago they sent me some products and I became obsessed with them and started incorporating them. The products are rooted in hydration and moisture and before this pandemic I travelled a lot, so hydration is a huge part of my skincare routine. It’s like the main pillar of it. So I have been using their products for a while and when they asked me to be their brand muse, it made a lot of sense to me because of the craftsmanship and the care they put into their products.
The packaging is beautiful isn’t it? It’s really a work of art.
Yeah, exactly. They’re really beautiful to look at. And at a time when I’m holding a lot of stress, to be able to have products at my disposal that create a calming effect – a ritual – that feels like a way I can care for myself and I’m in control of, is really soothing to me right now.
Absolutely. And the fragrances are really beautiful too. Do you have a favourite at all?
I do, so I like Kihin the most. One of the things that I love about them is that three out of the four of them were created by females, and I actually feel like I get that from the fragrances you know? It’s made by women for women.
In terms of your day-to-day routine, as an actor does that mean you’re fairly low-key about hair and make-up on days off?
I am. I mean everybody’s different, but I am. I spend a lot of time in hair and make-up so it’s nice to just let my skin breathe and rest and be clean. Because it’s not so much the putting on of the make-up, it’s the constant retouching. Or depending on if I’m playing different characters, it can mean a lot of crazy things going on. So when I’m at home, it’s pretty low-key. I do put make-up on when I’m doing a YouTube video or something, but even that is pretty low-key and simple.
What do you use?
Some foundation, mascara, a little bit of blush. I use the lip oils quite a lot because that feels like I’m stepping it up a bit. I use the tinted ones, so it has a little bit of colour and feels fresh and hydrating.
What would be your desert island items if you could only take a handful, would it be those?
You’ve worked with so many amazing make-up artists and hair stylists. Have you picked up any tips you can share?
Oh gosh, my make-up artist, Nina Park, is just amazing. I think she’s helped me learn that I can actually put make-up on. When we first started working together I never got ready in front of a mirror. I just didn’t know how to connect with make-up or skincare in that way. In the last couple of years I’ve learned something which I’ve found so much comfort and artistry in. And I’ve found that now that I feel comfortable putting make-up on, even if it’s just a few pieces. And that’s something that I want to explore. It’s fun and I don’t have to feel afraid of it anymore. I can feel totally comfortable with just you know, face oil on, or I can put foundation on and feel great either way.
That’s a great place to be.
Yeah, it’s freeing!
You sound pretty health conscious. I was reading your parents were homeopathic chiropractors?
Yes, that’s correct! I was raised not even being allowed to have a Tylenol when I was a kid, it was always like ‘Well think first, did you have enough water? Did you have a snack? Have you slept enough?’ I love that I have that as a foundation as I really check in with myself before I put anything inside my body.
It sounds like you had a great basis for health growing up?
Yeah I think so. And it’s also something I’ve had to become really diligent about because of my job. Like if I’m filming, things don’t slow down. Like I can’t shut down a production for any reason, so being on top of getting enough sleep is key because I still work a 12-hour day, but I’m on camera too. So caring about the sleep, the food, the water… and then press tours are a whole other thing. So thinking about jetlag and international travel. I just think ‘This is my life, I love that I’m alive and that I’m here right now so I want to feel good’. If there is anything that is in my power that I can do that will make me feel good and bring myself into this world and bring more light and positivity, I’m going to do that.
So what kind of things do you do every day to make yourself feel good?
It depends how I wake up. I have a system that has hormones that can change, so depending on what week it is, it’s all very different. I do try and pay attention to my cycle and I try and eat whatever foods will support the point of cycle that I am in. I have been recently interested in hydrogen water, so I have been drinking hydrogen water every morning, exercise, sauna. And staying on top of eating really good, healthy, quality food. I cook a lot of food for myself and I grow food myself because I can right now. I don’t normally have the time to grow tomatoes, but now I do! So yeah, I just try and keep things super simple and I’m not too hard on myself. If I want pizza I’ll eat pizza. I think whatever I can do to be gentle on myself, that is the key.
Right now we could probably all do with being a bit gentler to ourselves…
Yes, like I said I think all the love and compassion we want in the world starts with us. So if I can picture that and grow that within myself it makes everything better and I’ll be able to support others much better once I’ve been able to take care of myself.
Yes – you can’t pour from an empty cup, can you?
Exactly. I didn’t even mention mental health – I do therapy and meditation. I take a bath, I mean there are so many things. I started a YouTube channel and one of the things was a video of just all the different ways – for a week I just explored every time I was feeling stressed and I was like ‘What can I do?’ So I just filmed myself doing various things to calm me down, it was just such a relaxing week. Instead of thinking that I was feeling stressed and I was stuck in it, remembering that I have all these different avenues at my disposal to take care of myself.
In terms of beauty, do you have a beauty icon? Did you look up to certain women growing up?
When I think about people who have style I love, I loved Jane Birkin, Donna Summers, even Twiggy. I really loved looking at women who were themselves. It didn’t even necessarily mean I wanted to wear the same clothes as them or do my hair the same hair as them. But I felt attracted to them because they were trailblazers in that way. And they felt comfortable in their own skin. Cher is coming to mind, too. These are women that for me – in particular when I was a teenager and felt weird and like I didn’t know where my place was in the world – I looked at them and thought ‘Oh wow there’s room’. There’s room for all of us however we want to be.
Yes and they’re all beautiful in their own right?
Yeah exactly. And all feeling confident and comfortable in their bodies in completely different ways. I just appreciate that. And the thing that I care about is ‘Do I feel good in my body today?’ and feeling really comfortable with the fact I’ve explored my body in a number of different ways. Sometimes a gown is what feels right, sometimes PJs is what feels right. And the fact that I have the freedom to be able to choose at any given moment on any given day makes me feel good.
That’s such a great way of looking at it. Do you have any beauty tips for when you’re in a rush?
Gosh I’m afraid to say what my tips are because my make-up artist is going to be like, ‘No!’. One thing that I will do, and I really hope that Nina doesn’t hurt me for saying this, but I’ll mix my foundation with my moisturiser. And voila! You have a tinted moisturiser.
What does the word ‘beautiful’ mean to you?
Comfortable, authentic. It definitely comes from the inside I think. All the other stuff is just a further expression of that.
Do you feel your definition of ‘beautiful’ and who you view as beautiful is changing as you get older?
Well in myself I felt so uncomfortable for so much of my life. I don’t know if it was just growing up, but I started acting when I was like seven. So I don’t know if it was auditioning and being told all the time that ‘you’re not right’ for things, but I always felt uncomfortable. So for a while, I went in this complete opposite direction where I would never brush my hair and never put make-up on my face. I look back at some of the photos of myself, even when I was in my early twenties, I’d go walk a red carpet with wet hair. It was just how I felt I needed to express myself and I’m so grateful for that. And I still am comfortable with that, but able to also enjoy dressing up – that’s OK. That actually feels really good to me because it’s just a way of exploring different avenues of myself. Putting on a different lip colour can completely turn my day around and I can feel great about that. I’ve even loved right now when I’m leaving the house with my mask on, that I can put lipstick on underneath and know it’s just for me. That is such a special thing to be able to explore, those things that are just for you. Those things that are not for the rest of the world. I’m a public person so to find new ways to express myself are really valuable.
Have you ever had any make-up or hair looks that you look back on and think ‘Why did I do that?’
Erm, have you ever googled me? Haha! They’re very easy to find, there’s a lot! But I actually don’t mind them. I remember when I first got Instagram whenever that was, I think maybe six years ago and people start tagging you in things. All these old red carpet photos started coming up. I remember looking at myself and thinking ‘oh gosh I wish these didn’t exist’. But I just sort of leaned into it and started posting them and I really like just embracing that I lived in the early 2000’s and I was wearing the fashion of that time. So I don’t feel so much of a need to be embarrassed about any of it because it was who I was at the time. I felt good about who I was, so how could I possibly go back and judge that?
That’s true. And nobody escaped it did they?
No! And some of them are coming back now, fashions that I never thought would ever come back. Even a couple of years ago, but now they’re here.
Are there any health or beauty treatments you couldn’t live without?
Water. I really care about drinking water. And like I said, scent. Aromatherapy scents – even taking the time to just add five seconds to rub moisturiser into my hands and breathing it in. Just taking that extra moment to take a breath before moving onto the next step is so nice. It’s been a huge lesson for me during this time to just remember to slow down a little bit. To take the time to really pay attention to what it is I am doing. To recognise that self-care is really important right now. It is not something we can just push off to the side, it’s all connected. Our mental health is so important, so whatever I can do for myself to get back into my breath has been my main focus.
Is there any life advice that you’ve been given and find yourself sharing?
The thing that’s really been living in me for a while now is the phrase a friend told me. Which is ‘when I think I know, I miss so much’. That has been a big one for me – keeping an open mind and keeping a beginner’s mind. As it stops me from getting in a combative nature with anyone else, because I don’t know. It also brings me back to ‘me’ and remembering the things that I have to work on for myself, instead of constantly projecting outward.
Definitely, it’s so true. Who told you that?
A friend of mine Katie told me that.
You’ve played some incredible roles, has there been one that you have found hard to leave behind?
I think Captain Marvel. Playing Carol Danvers has stayed with me the longest. And it’s the first time I’ve had a role stick with me in a positive way. Before that I would have said ‘Ma’ in Room had stuck with me, but I felt like I was kind of haunted from being that role in that film. Being in that darkness was hard to shake. Playing Carol Danvers literally changed my body. I started training, I started to become more vocal, I was able to stand up for myself more. On the flipside it definitely can give me anxiety sometimes. Like I’m not doing enough, I’m not helping enough, I’m not saving people, that causes me anxiety. So I don’t enjoy that aspect of it. But I do enjoy love the fact that it has put me in this place of understanding the power that I do have. And that there is a lot of good in the world to do and a positive impact can be made.
Finally, who are your feminist icons?
The thing I love about feminism is all the different forms it can take. And I don’t think any one person can do it all. So, rather than say one person, I love seeing Ariana Grande at her concerts having booths where young people could register to vote. I love seeing everyone do their part, it comforts me. I have incredible friends like America Ferrera and Kerry Washington who are doing so much great stuff for the vote. They did this CBS special which was just about the celebration of the vote. I take solace in that. And I love listening to Michelle Obama speak. There are so many incredible women and they all bring something different and yet we come together and we create this patchwork of movement forward.
I love that, because it’s a collective responsibility isn’t it?
Yeah. I don’t want to say it’s all up to one person. We can inspire each other.