Southern California is on fire, but Chandler Kinney is still smiling. The day of our photo shoot with the upbeat 18-year-old happens to be the same day she and her family are evacuated from their home just north of Los Angeles due to the Woolsey wildfire blazing through Malibu and Simi Valley. Someone with less of Kinney’s mettle and infectious positivity might have canceled, but there’s no other way the actress would have rather spent her day than playing with makeup, creating beautiful images.
“Being there on set and getting away from that stressful day for a couple hours to create art was so much fun,” Kinney tells me a week later, after returning safely home and decompressing. “I was actually really grateful for that experience.”
Keeping artistically busy seems to be in Kinney’s blood. She started performing at age 3 (she also trained in ballet and tae kwon do throughout her childhood), and in 2016, she scored her biggest break yet, starring as Riana Murtaugh on Fox’s hit show Lethal Weapon. A longtime lover of skincare and makeup, Kinney says the opportunity to work with some of the heaviest hitters in beauty has been almost as exciting as the career success.
“I’m really lucky to be working in the entertainment industry because not only do I get to pursue my passion for acting, but I also get to learn about beauty and be exposed to professional makeup artists every day,” she gushes, giddy to shout out the MUAs she works with on set and for red carpet events, including Ernesto Casillas, Sean Harris, and Rebekah Aladdin. “That’s my team,” she says, breathless. “They’re amazing.” And she doesn’t let her time in their makeup chairs go to waste. “I ask a lot of questions and try to be really observant while they’re doing my makeup,” she says, “so now I feel like I know my face better than anybody.” (This is a philosophy she learned from Zendaya, by the way—more on that in a bit.)
As throngs of California’s brave firefighters extinguish the nearby flames, Kinney expresses gratitude to be out of harm’s way and helps create the following inspiring images. Keep scrolling to see the looks and read our conversation.
Between ballet and martial arts, you’ve led such a badass active life. How did those activities shape you? And how has your fitness routine changed as you’ve gotten older?
Well, first of all, thank you. At my peak, I was dancing 30 hours a week and also simultaneously training in tae kwon do. I think the number one thing I took away from all that physical activity is how important your physical health is not only to your mental health but also to your emotional health. Dancing and being in classes all the time really encouraged a can-do attitude. I approach every situation ready for a challenge, ready to go, and I credit a lot of that to being so active. I don’t have as much time to be as active as I was before I was full into acting and filming a show, but these days, I have a new puppy, a little black German shepherd, so I run around with him.
He keeps me on my toes. I’m personally not a huge fan of the gym, but I still try to be active when I can because it just makes me feel so much better about myself. Even just going on a walk or choreographing a dance in my backyard.
When I was 18, my skin was a damn mess, but yours is legit flawless. Explain.
My routine is really simple because I’m always on the go. I don’t want to spend hours in the bathroom. I start with Arcona Four O’Clock Flower Gentle Cleansing Cream, which I love because it’s light on my skin, smells so beautiful, and has really great ingredients. I also use an Arcona moisturizer—the Magic White Ice—which is not a cream, but a gel, and feels like water, really light, which is great because I don’t like the feeling of having a lot of products on my skin. Then at the end of the day, I’m really adamant about taking off my makeup properly, and my absolute favorite product for that is the Bioderma Sensibio H20.
I just use it with a cotton pad, and it gets the job done. I also have a whole thing about lips. I’ve always been low-key obsessive about lipcare. I never leave the house with my C.O. Bigelow Rose Salve, which smells incredible. You can use it not only for your lips but also your cuticles, elbows, knees—any part of your body that could use extra moisture. I have it in lavender, too. And Aquaphor. It’s super simple, just from the drugstore, but I use it every night and throughout the day. And I use the Tatcha Lip Mask at night, which smells amazing and does wonders.
Hypothetically, if I were to raid your purse right now in search of makeup, what would I find?
Benefit Badgal Mascara—it’s my favorite. The brush is not super bushy, so your lashes don’t get too clumpy. I just don’t like a clumpy lash. And foundation: Josie Maran Vibrancy Argan Oil Foundation Fluid. Oils work really well on my skin. The packaging is really pretty, and it works great for my skin because it has buildable coverage, so if I need to use it for an event at night, I can do that, but it’s also not too heavy for daytime. It has a dewy finish and keeps my skin moisturized.
Are there any other Hollywood figures whose makeup aesthetics really inspire you?
I would have to say Zendaya. I think it’s amazing that she does her own makeup for a lot of events. I worked with her on K.C. Undercover, and we actually had this conversation. I had heard that she did her own makeup, and I was like, is that true? And she was like, oh yeah! She basically explained that because she’s fortunate enough to work in an industry where she’s been exposed to all these amazing makeup artists, she’s been able to ask a lot of questions and come to know her face the best of anyone.
She’s learned the techniques and practiced. I think that’s so cool. I aspire to be like that too. Also just because it’s fun. Makeup is a creative outlet. For anybody who wears makeup, the most important thing is just experimenting, finding what you like and what you don’t, trial and error. And it’s an ever-evolving industry, so brands are always doing new things, and there are always new trends. It’s fun to navigate and cool to be a part of.
You seem so positive and relaxed as a person. What do you do on days when you feel stressed, not even like natural-disaster stressed, but about anything—work, just being alive—to self-soothe and keep yourself in that positive place?
This sounds boring, but it’s true: I love cleaning. If you have a lot on your mind and just go in your room, shut the door, and start cleaning—organizing your makeup products, wiping down your desk, whatever—by the time you’ve calmed down mentally, you look around, and your room is clean. It’s perfect, and it makes me feel like I’m getting something done. A lot of people have this habit, at least I know I do, where when I’m upset, all I want to do is dwell on that one thing, but my mom always says to me, Keep moving, keep moving.
So if you just get up and keep moving toward something, even if it’s just to make the next day easier—like laying out your clothes for the next day—whatever that may be, something simple, it helps future you but also present you because you’re dealing with whatever you’re going through but also getting things done.
That’s wise as hell because there are definitely things that will help future you but not present you, and vice versa.
Yeah, like ice cream will help present you, but future you? She’s not gonna be as happy about that.
Photographer: Paley Fairman
Stylist: Yasi Moshtael
Hairstylist: Marcia Hamilton
Makeup Artist: Samuel Paul