Sometimes it’s fun to paint the eye makeup on thick and pretend you’re Penelope Cruz.
In the film Volver, Cruz has the elegance and classic beauty of European movie stars from Hollywood’s golden era. She’s done up from head to toe, fierce but feminine, and looks like she could be a hot, tasteful Jersey Shore mom.
Have you seen Volver? If you haven't, DO IT.
The movie was written and directed by the great Pedro Almodovar. Maybe more than any other filmmaker, Almodovar understands and loves women. He makes heroines out of his characters by putting them in trying, torturous situations that summon up their strength.
In Volver, the dark story line is tempered nicely by vibrant colors and quirky humor. Almodovar’s muse Cruz plays Raimunda, a hard-working mother in a messy situation who’s haunted by dark family secrets that include incest, rape, murder and deceit. Not an easy life, but she is at once graceful and brazenly resilient.
Volver reminded me of the 1960 film Two Women, or La Ciociara in Italian, in which Sophia Loren plays a poor mother trying to protect her teenage daughter from the horrors of the Second World War. It’s another tough movie to watch, and Loren became the first actress to win the Academy Award for a non-English speaking performance for her role.
Cruz and Loren sort of look alike, dontcha think? The strong and complex characters they play seem to enhance the beauty of each woman. Maybe it’s that feminine courage that makes them seem similar.
Or maybe it’s the boobs?
Almodovar padded Penelope to give her bigger breasts and bum, and dressed her in figure flattering clothing to highlight her… assets.
Let’s be real: The first thing I needed to manufacture for this look was breasts. I’ve only actually seen my own cleavage be impressive once in a too-tight dress a few years ago after I had gained a few birth control boob pounds. Other than that, I'm not overly blessed in the breast department, and I’m OK with it.
But boobs are as much of a part of this look as eyeliner, so I put on a push-up bra first, followed by a regular, structured one. (No socks.)
The results were pretty incredible, for me at least. In fact, I wore the two bras for the remainder of the day just to glance down at my chest and smile. I felt like a total liar, but it was fun. Feminists can wear two bras and like it, right?
I also pinned the bright red flower clip I bought at Family Dollar in my hair to match my bright red sweater and put on hoop earrings, of course.
Penelope’s hair in Volver is messy but put together, with sexy layers and an unfussy style. So committed am I to xoVain that I actually got a haircut to achieve the Volver look.
I was due for a trim anyway, but Karla from Three Squares Studio, an awesome Manhattan salon, cut my hair so that it would easily work for the more voluminous look, but still be OK for those days (most days) where I don’t feel like doing anything to my hair.
I loved Karla because, apart from her terrific name, she’s a sweetheart with mad hair cutting skills. She took off a couple inches, layered it up, and taught me how to achieve the Penelope look at home without any backcombing.
First, I "pre-dry" my hair. This is a term Karla used to describe drying the hair a little while adding root lift and getting rid of any cowlicks.
Blowdry a section of wet hair at the root for a few seconds and then flip the hair in the other direction and blast it again. This confuses your hair, sending it into a forgetful state where it no longer remembers to have cowlicks. Hooray! It’s also a good technique for when you want hair that’s not perfectly parted.
With my hair still damp, I sprayed Bumble and bumble Thickening Hairspray onto my roots and continued the pre-dry. I used a round brush to finish drying it completely and clipped it half-back loosely.
Foundation is normally not a part of my life, but I wanted my skin to be as flawless as possible, so I pulled out the big guns. (I’m not still talking about my breasts.)
Using my fingers, I dotted a bit of NARS Sheer Glow Foundation on my forehead, cheeks, nose and chin and rubbed it in gently. It’s really light and gives great coverage.
MAC Studio Finish Concealer has been by makeup BFF since I was 15. I used it under my eyes and to cover up pimples or discolored spots.
Even though felt-tipped liners are easier to apply, I lined my eyelids at the lash line with L’Oreal Lineur Intense liquid black liner. I love this one for its teeny tiny brush that gives a more precise, dramatic effect.
I pulled my skin on the bottom of my eyes taut and followed along the lash line with Dolce & Gabbana The Khol Pencil in True Black. There might be a more civilized way to do this, but for me, pulling is easiest. I went over the waterline (a term I just learned from Jill--thanks, Jill!) on the top and bottom with the khol pencil as well.
I’ve always been a “color outside the lines” kind of gal, so I make sure to have plenty of Q-Tips on hand when I attempt to use liquid and kohl liners, although a bit of smudging is OK in this case. The look is supposed to hold up while you, like, heave giant piles of towels in and out of laundry machines in the basement of the hotel you work at, and then as you mop office floors at your second job, and later still be intact while you cook dinner for your family that night. (Pene does all those things in the film, by the way.) This is hard-working-Spanish-woman beauty.
I finished my eyes with two coats of Maybelline Lash Stiletto mascara in Very Black, which is great because it’s really lengthening and only costs eight buckeroos.
Lips aren’t the main focus of this look, but they are still bolder than I would normally wear in combination with that much eyeliner (why the hell am I such a makeup prude?). I started by lining them with Dervish by MAC, a very soft rose color that pretty much matches my lips. Sometimes, I'm like, “Why’d I just use that, again?” but it does add a bit of definition, I guess.
The lipstick I used is B52 by NYX, and for $5, that mauvey-rose was pretty killer. I bought it at a magical store I just discovered named Ricky’s (I just moved to NYC). Do not go to Ricky’s if you have a beauty product addiction as I do. Or do go, but be prepared to lose all self control.
I love this look because it’s colorful and unabashedly sexy without being trashy. Penelope’s character in Volver is a woman who endures a lot, but looks great despite it all, and maybe even because of some of it. Going through difficult times adds an intangible depth to our characters and beauty that makeup alone can’t replicate.
I’m thinking of making this one of my standard going-out looks. There’s something beautiful about celebrating our femininity with heavy eyeliner, bright colors, two bras, and tousled hair.
Wait. Am I turning into Snooki?