aisling franciosi

Exclusive: Getting to Know "Black Narcissus" Star Aisling Franciosi

Aisling Franciosi knows the Zoom style strategy better than anyone: put all the attention and detail into your top half, the only part of you visible through the screen. But while we were all taking advantage of a torso-up view to disguise cutoffs in work meetings, Franciosi and her team of glam experts were planning couture gowns and strategically-applied makeup for Zoom events, press conferences, and even a full-scale photoshoot. As an actress navigating an entirely new normal (are you tired of those words yet?), Franciosi is quickly becoming an expert on a digital form of stardom. Just after a Zoom press conference promoting FX's long-awaiting miniseries adaptation of Black Narcissus, a dark drama about the undoing of a convent in the mountains of Nepal in which she stars in, Franciosi joined me on yet another Zoom call to chat about her compete getting-ready process for a digital event, how it differs from an in-person press conference, and how she's managing the most chaotic year ever.

Aisling Franciosi
Olivia McDowell

On the fashion look for the Black Narcissus press event

"We had to factor in that most people would only see the upper part of the dress. I worked with Rebecca Corbin-Murray, she's the stylist I work with whenever I have to look good, and she sent me box-loads of clothes and I just tried on over FaceTime with her. There were some beautiful things that on-camera just didn't read so that was a new aspect of choosing an outfit, having to factor in what you see and how it reads on [a computer screen]. I quite like the romantic, gothic look—or maybe gothic with a bit of an edge to it, so we chose a beautiful Brock Collection dress. It had a nice little detail around the neckline so it was interesting for the Zoom. 

In terms of styling, even if I'm not going to a big event where I know there'll be a photo taken or something, it's crazy how different an outfit can seem in real life versus when it's photographed. Rebecca told me to always take a photo of what you're wearing to see how it photographs—that’s a tip from her, a great one."

On getting ready for a big event

"It usually takes two hours. Sometimes hair and makeup will work together, sometimes they'll tag-team it. I also don't like rushing. I get nervous for events—not for the interview part, not for the speaking. It's fun and I'm starting to really like it but initially I found the whole experience so…I mean, it's odd! You're on a red carpet with tons of photographers and I'm like, How do I stand? I don't know any of this stuff! I used to get very nervous for it, so I liked being finished a little before I actually have to go. That way you can decompress a little bit."


On the beauty products used for her Black Narcissus premiere

"Clara Leonard did my hair, and Cyndle Komarovski did my makeup. I hadn't worked with Clara before but I have worked with Cyndle and she's a great makeup artist. It's like, "whew, I wish I could have you do my makeup every day!'

We used Chanel products. I have to say—and I even said this yesterday—that in the last five years, I feel like Chanel has really knocked it out of the park with their products. Cyndle used a gorgeous raspberry-colored lipstick, CHANEL Rouge Coco Flash in Live ($38), and pinky and raspberry tones on my eyes as well. The raspberry palette, CHANEL Les 4 Ombres Quadra Eyeshadow in Candeur Provocation ($62) was really great."

For hair, Leonard used Bumble and bumble. Thickening Spray ($30) on the roots and Prep Primer ($28) on the ends before blowing it out and curling it, finishing with Thickening Dryspun Texture Spray ($31) on the roots and Brilliantine ($25) styling cream on the ends.

On her beauty saviors

"I do really love a brand called OSKIA. I actually discovered them when I was on the shoot for Black Narcissus. We each got a little pack from the makeup designer on the show, Nicole Stafford. We were in Himalayas and all using the same products. I actually went through a spell of having kind of problematic skin, I'd have a lot of breakouts or under-the-surface bumps and stuff—and I have no affiliation to OSKIA, I don't have anything to do with them—but I really found that after using their products for three months straight, I was like, 'Wow, my skin looks really good!' They have a serum called the Super 16 Pro-Collagen Serum ($138), which I love, and the Renaissance Cleansing Gel ($53) that kind of goes on like a balm and then you wash it off. I really love those. And then if I'm going to throw on a bit of lipstick, I do love CHANEL semi-sheer lipsticks. Those are really lovely."

 Olivia McDowell

On filming in Black Narcissus in Nepal

"We were being really careful with our skin because there was a lot of wind. Our lips as well were getting super chapped. They would put this…I don't know what it is, something on our lips that when it dries, it cracks and makes your lips look like they're grossly chapped. But because that's what was happening to us up there! The wind was so strong and cold. The air was really thin up there as well and some people suffered from altitude sickness; we had to remember to drink loads of water. But the filming experience was incredible. It's such a beautiful landscape, so vast. I felt certainly overwhelmed by the beauty but also a little bit insignificant, you know? I feel irrelevant and insignificant in places of vast beauty. But it was a great experience and we all got to know each other really well and we met some lovely people, the Nepalese people were just gorgeous. It was a great bonding experience."

I feel irrelevant and insignificant in places of vast beauty.

Olivia McDowell 

On getting into character for Sister Ruth

"I have played quite a few dark characters in the past so I have a little bank of things to draw on there. I had the scripts that Amanda Coe had written, which obviously provided a lot of the inspiration but when you also have the novel; it’s so lovely because it's a huge asset. You can really draw on that—there’s a lot to take from Sister Ruth. There's an original film but there's also really different version of her that you can interpret from the novel. She's kind of irritating but then I found myself feeling sorry for her too so that was my guiding principle: here's someone who's very fragile and vulnerable and clearly mentally not very well and who's in this incredibly isolated place, feels lonely and cut off from the group she's supposed to be a part of, and she feels misunderstood and has a lot of conflicting and confusing feelings. It unfortunately sends her on a descent to despair."

On her inspirations

"I'm actually drawing a lot, which I haven't done in about 12 years. I started getting back into it and would listen to audiobooks. I love listening to podcasts and audiobooks but equally would find myself feeling kind of guilty if I wasn't doing anything 'productive' while doing so. I thought I might as well do something that won't take away from concentrating on what I'm listening to but I'll have a finished product by the end! I'm okay—I don’t know how good I am but maybe with practice I'll get better. I always have a big, white wall in my apartment that I'm trying to fill so I'm like, 'Maybe if something’s good enough for now it can go up there.'"

Makeup: CHANEL Makeup Artist Cyndle Komarovski

Hair: Clara Leonard

Styling: Rebecca Corbin-Murray

Photography: Olivia McDowell

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