Riverdale's Lili Reinhart Wants You to Know the Red Carpet Isn't Reality

"It’s a nice reality check to know that I don't look like that every day."

lili reinhart natural makeup on red carpet

Not unlike an episode of Riverdale, my interview with Lili Reinhart (aka The CW show’s beloved Betty Cooper) featured a series of trials and tribulations, was teeming with excitement, unveiled untold truths, and concluded with the ultimate suspenseful cliffhanger: a dial tone.

“I know it’s been kind of a pain in the ass to set this up,” she points out almost immediately when we first connect over the phone. “My schedule is stupid, so I apologize for that.”

Considering that the actress is in the midst of filming Riverdale’s heavily anticipated second season in Vancouver, Canada, it's a testament to her character and professionalism that she's even apologizing—an unnecessary gesture, considering I'm more than grateful to share a brief 20 minutes with her.

Although our conversation ultimately ends with an abrupt air of mystery (with poor cell reception likely being the culprit), it's clear that the actress proves mature well beyond her 21 years. Lili Reinhart isn’t Betty Cooper, but her resilient manner, thoughtful responses, and innate love of product and beauty (all punctuated with a refreshing dose of wit and transparency) certainly doesn’t go unnoticed.

With Riverdale being such a knockout success (talk to any viewer and they’ve likely binged the entire first season in two days), Reinhart has had her fair share of interviews over the past few months. A consistent theme: the inherent difference between Betty Cooper’s rosy demeanor and Reinhart’s actual (and to be honest far more relatable) IRL personality. Not that we don’t appreciate the poignancy of Betty’s peppy persona, we do, but it would be unnatural and contrived for Reinhart to replicate Cooper just for the sake of her fans’ idealized expectations, a topic she’s openly discussed with other publications.

However, curiosity getting the better of me, I can’t help but muse how Reinhart’s approach to beauty compares to that of Betty’s pristine coiffed ponytails and barely there makeup.

“I do actually use a lot of the same makeup that I wear as Betty on the show, purely because I’ve fallen in love with so many of the products. For eyes, I love to wear this Clinique mascara because I really like a thin, precise brush. I’m not a fan of huge, chunky lashes, so Clinique’s formula delivers a really beautiful finish, and I also use its concealer. Brows are a big thing for me too. I think everyone on the planet uses the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo ($21), which I’m a big fan of.

“I’m also really obsessed with the Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow Face Sculpt & Highlight ($68)—oh my gosh, it’s just so gorgeous. I was wearing it for the show and finally had to get it to use in real life, too,” she laughs. “Then for day-to-day, I’ll use Tom Ford’s Traceless Foundation Stick ($88) with a BeautyBlender. On the show, we actually use a mix of the Kat Von D Lock It Foundation ($36) and Josie Maran’s Vibrancy Argan Oil Foundation Fluid ($45), which creates a really gorgeous glowy illusion that translates really well on camera,” she explains to me.

“I guess, when it comes to beauty, I’m very much like Betty in the sense that I don’t wear a lot of makeup, and day-to-day, my look is very natural. For instance, I’m out to breakfast right now, and I don’t have any makeup on. But when I think about it, I do think I’m more willing to do a vampy lip or strong, bold eyeliner for a special occasion whereas Betty tends to stay in her comfort zone with her pink lipsticks and softly made-up eyes.”

The actress’s now-natural approach hasn’t always been her go-to aesthetic. Her current less-is-more strategy has been cultivated over time, with age and an uptick in confidence. “In middle school and high school, I struggled a lot with my skin, so I would try to overcompensate by wearing foundation every day. But now, whenever I get the chance, I like to let my skin breathe. It’s actually become really important to me because I wear makeup 14 hours a day, five days a week, so when I don’t need to wear makeup, I’m not going to.”

Intrigued by her mention of problematic skin (something that many women, including myself, struggle with), I point out how mesmerized I am by Betty’s flawless complexion whenever I’m watching the show. I hear a chuckle on the other end of the line: “I still struggle with cystic acne, so I’m the same way in the sense that when I’m watching myself on screen, I’m like, Wow, my skin looks good! In person, and I hope this might help readers feel a little bit better about themselves, my skin doesn’t look as great or as perfect as it does on the show. It’s lighting, it’s smoke and mirrors, and the show’s head makeup artist, Erin McKenzie, is really amazing—she's the reason my skin looks like that.”

However, she does take responsibility for her skin through her daily routine: “I wash my face right when I wake up, and since going to bed with your makeup on is pretty much the worst thing you can do, I make sure to wash my face before I go to bed every night. I’m also constantly trying new products—I think that’s key—cycling things out, and not just sticking with the same three products you’ve used over and over again. I’m convinced our skin becomes desensitized to it. Some things work and some don’t, but I think it’s really a matter of experimenting.”

In fact, Reinhart and I immediately bond over our mutual love for celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau’s skincare line. As it turns out, we have similar skin types (ahem, acne-prone) and we take a few minutes to compare notes and fawn over a few of our favorite hero products (The Anti Bump Solution , ($48), and The Rapid Response Detox Mask, ($64).  

As we continue talking, I find myself feeling increasingly refreshed and heartened by Reinhart’s spirit—warmed that something as simple as a gilded and shimmery face mask can make her giddy, and appreciative of her point-blank refusal to present anything other than 100% authenticity to her fans when it comes to her beauty regimen.

“How I look on the red carpet, that’s me at my best. I don’t look like that every day and I think that’s important for people to know. That’s me with a professional hair and makeup team, and I’d really like to be open and break the illusion that that’s how I look all the time because it’s really not. I know what it’s like to see all of these pictures of celebrities looking gorgeous 24/7 and to draw unrealistic comparisons. It’s like, Oh my god how does someone look like that? Well, it’s because they have hair, makeup, and skin professionals. I hope it can be a nice reality check for people to know that celebrities, myself included, don’t look like that every day.”

If you’re one of her nearly four million Instagram followers, you already know she’s speaking from the heart. Though equally stunning sans makeup and hair, the actress (and the entire Riverdale cast, for that matter) frequently post endearingly normal and hilarious footage on their social media platforms. In fact, one gem came courtesy of Camila Mendes (Veronica Lake) depicting Cole Sprouse (Jughead) working the camera for a mock YouTube makeup tutorial. Which of course begs the question: what beauty lessons has Reinhart learned from the guys on the show?

“Hmm, not much, I mean they’ve learned how annoying it is to dye their hair—it’s like, yeah, well, welcome to the club. I do feel bad for K.J. though because he has to dye his hair every two weeks and he thinks he’s going to be bald by the end of the show. But then I’m like, hey, beauty is pain. I have to get highlights every month and a half, and my hair gets put through the ringer and it sucks but what can you do? It’s our job.”

Since Reinhart’s hair hardly looks damaged (as far as I can tell from the comfort of my couch), I ask her what her secret is. “I’m lucky enough that my hair colorist in Beverly Hills, Matt Rez, makes the health of my hair his top priority. Truly, finding a good hair colorist is step number one. However, I do commit to a lot of upkeep—I sleep with a product called Olaplex ($28) in my hair, which you can actually get on Amazon. It does total damage repair, and you can’t overuse it. I also swear by Shu Uemura’s Ultimate Remedy Extreme Restoration Treatment ($37) and serum, and then Pureology’s Colour Fanatic Multi-Tasking Hair Beautifier ($25), which is a heat protectant.”

With hair products on the brain (and our heads), our brief but telling interview has come to an end. Reinhart is off to start her day of work, and I’m left with the resounding impression that the mysterious town of Riverdale is only the first stop on a long, successful journey for this thoughtful actress on-the-rise.

Next up: model Alexis Ren explains how self-care cured a break-up.

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