Welcome to Zoom Date, our feature series where we get up close and personal via Zoom screen with our favorite celebs. They'll be giving us an honest peek into what their "new normal" looks like—from new rituals they've adopted since sheltering in place, to work projects in the age of isolation, to the beauty and health products they've been using to self-soothe.
It’s hard to believe that as one of the lead actresses in Eli Roth’s horror film Knock Knock, Ana de Armas had only begun to learn English a year prior. A Cuban native who initially moved to Spain to pursue an acting career, de Armas became a celebrity figure in the latter country for her role in teen drama series El Internado. Ready to be catapulted further in her career, she moved to Los Angeles and took English classes to stand head-to-head with other American actresses and evade being typecast as typically antiquated US Latina-speaking roles. After landing Knock Knock, she learned all of her lines phonetically. Fast-forward to four years later with a Golden Globe nomination under her belt for her role as compassionate nurse Marta in Knives Out, and de Armas is suddenly a household name stateside. Despite only learning the English language less than a decade ago, the actress was able to mirror the breath-y, cashmere dialect of Marilyn Monroe in upcoming Netflix film Blonde—proof that her determination, talent, and chameleon-like nature know no bounds. In such a short period of time, de Armas has built herself into a decorated actress with an impressive range, and she’s only getting started. In fact, she’s so in-demand that she was tapped to be Estée Lauder’s newest global brand ambassador and face of their latest fragrance, Beautiful Magnolia, which she found to be a fitting partnership given the brand mirrors de Armas’ own tenacity and drive.
“I never met Ms Estée Lauder, but if you know the things I've heard of her on her journey and the things she did, it really resonated with me because it sounded like someone who had no limits,” de Armas tells me. “She was ahead of her time and pushing for what [she] wanted, and turning something very small and little—the commodity, you know, happened in her kitchen when she was a little girl—into one of the most prestigious brands in the world. And that, to me, coming from where I'm from, I know what it's like to have big dreams and big plans for your life and feeling inspired and feeling like you want to do more and you want to… go for it. I love this phrase, this thing that she said that’s like, ‘I never dreamed of success. I fought for it.’ That is very inspiring for all of us, for women in general, and I felt like it really matched with my values and what I believe in and it's very exciting.”
So how have you been handling this past year during the pandemic? How has it been on your mental health and well-being?
[Takes a deep breath] Well, I guess, like everyone else, [I'm] trying to figure things out every day, slowly, making sure that despite everything, you still stay connected with the people you love, with family, with your friends, with everyone that keeps you sane. Even though I don't love it, being on the phone and video calls have made a big, big difference. Thanks to that, now I do appreciate it. And [I'm] trying to stay healthy, keep moving, trying to work out and eat healthy; take time for myself and figure out—now that I have the time to—to find the things that I love to do for myself. I used to go pretty regularly to spas and and get facials and massages and [sit in] saunas and things like that, [but we didn't] have that, so you had to learn only, like, a tutorial thing to learn how to get that glow and that rested feeling [you get] after three hours at the spa, and you have to do it yourself at home. So, you know, make sure you make time for that because it feels like we don't do much during the day or we work from home and it's hard to be productive. Just make sure that you do find time for yourself and you do what you love and you feel good.
Coming from where I'm from, I know what it's like to have big dreams and big plans for your life and feeling inspired and feeling like you want to do more and you want to… go for it.
And to that point, how has your wellness and fitness routine shifted during this past year?
I try to keep myself moving and I still [go] to the gym and try to run a little bit and take some boxing classes—things like that. And also some meditation. And then now, of course, I'm preparing for a new film that's an action film, so I'm really working on training and doing stunts and learning all the choreographies and practicing all the things, so that is a very good excuse to get into shape for real. [laughs] It makes me feel like I'm back in my normal state and it helps mentally too… you get it all out like it's a way out for all the emotions, and then you're exhausted and you crash. [laughs]
Definitely. Working out after work has really saved my sanity during this pandemic. And how about your beauty routine—what are you doing differently or keeping the same?
I usually just take a shower, wash my face… I have this little beauty fridge, this mini fridge, and it's cold in the morning and I [put my] eye creams [in there] and it makes me wake up right away. I heard once that—I think it was Grace Jones or something—she used to put her face in a bowl of ice water every morning. I try—can't do that. It gives me a headache. But I do have my mini fridge and my eye cream and my roller and everything and that's cold enough for me to wake up. You put your serums and sunscreen and then a moisturizer and you know… it's perfect. A little mascara, and you're good to go.
In your opinion, what is Estée Lauder 's hero product and why?
I would say their Double Wear foundation. It's incredible. First of all, the range that they have in their shades is incredible—really anyone can find their color. And to me, with all the long days at work, I barely have to worry about it. It doesn't crease, it literally stays in place. When I go to Cuba, it's super humid, but it's waterproof, humidity-proof, tears-proof, beach-proof… whatever. I think it's a really, really well-made product.
I love it too. So you recently got an amazing haircut. It looks so good. Was there a specific reason you decided to change up your look?
It was a discussion with the directors I'm working with now—the Russo brothers—for this film, The Gray Man and, like I told you, it's a very active role—a lot of action. We were supposed to shoot in January but the movie got pushed a little bit, so now we start next month. But back in December when we started talking about the character and ideas and inspirations and the look, they suggested something like this [points to hair]. And then, we got into this back-and-forth and I loved it. I thought it really suited her and I went for it. It's not a good idea or comfortable to wear wigs and things like that in an action movie. I love changing, I really do. It's cool.
Was this the first time you've had a style like this with bangs and that short of a length?
I don't think so. I mean, when I was little growing up I always had bangs. So I feel very young right now. [laughs]
Speaking of hair changes, we'd be remiss if we didn't bring up your amazing blonde hair for Blonde. How did it feel to embody Marilyn [Monroe] both physically and emotionally?
It was a gift for me to play that part. It felt incredible, it felt… also very exhausting. It was a lot of hard work to play her in what I think was a really honest way of portraying her. And her life was not simple, because you really have to go deep into that period and what happened to her and her story and who she was, and maybe you know some of her story, but it was very intense. She went through a lot of things that were not easy at the time—it would not even be easy right now. I was lucky I had months to prepare. We don't usually have that luxury—we usually have to rush into the project and make it as you go, but that one I really had the time to study. There's so much material about her, like so much to watch and listen to. It's incredible. So that's what I did—dove deep into the whole thing with the director, Andrew Dominik, and I think the result is stunning and very moving.
I love changing, I really do.
What was it like when you saw the physical transformation?
Well, I had to go bald every day, because with the blonde wigs… [Marilyn] went through different shades of blonde from golden to really platinum, so for these wigs that are beautifully made, you can't have anything dark underneath, so we had to make a bald cap every single day from my forehead to [around] my whole head. It was like, three and a half hours every day of makeup. I think I actually cried the first time I saw [the wigs] on. Probably because I was terrified. [laughs] But, I'm so proud.
I can't wait to see it, it's going to be so good. So, last thing, what are some things that bring you instant happiness?
Oh my gosh… talking to my friends, seeing them in person mostly, but now, talking to them. Dancing. A glass of wine. Going to beach, the ocean… those things.