Tessa Thompson is floating up the stairs at an Armani Beauty dinner, staged on the roof of Venice’s Guggenheim Museum during the city’s annual film festival. Her hair, recently dyed red, is coiffed in a way her stylist has appropriately dubbed “a little Lauren Bacall, a little Bianca Jagger.” Tonight, Thompson is dressed in a silver Armani Privé long-sleeve top and flowy white pants—just one outfit in a long line of looks she’s rolled out that have generated enough buzz to rival whatever is going on with Don’t Worry Darling.
The Westworld and Creed 3 star is abroad with Armani Beauty, who named her its new face back in January. The iconic makeup brand, a main sponsor of the festival, invited a number of its ambassadors—including Sydney Sweeney, Dylan Sprouse, Barbara Palvin, Chase Stokes, Nicholas Holt, Maude Apatow, Cami Mendes, and Gavin Leatherwood—to attend two nights of dinners and celebrations in the coastal-Italian hotspot.
Between glam red carpet appearances and countless brand events, we snagged some time with Thompson. Read on to learn about everything from her morning beauty routine to the reason she chose to go red.
I think the biggest thing, obviously, is getting a lot of sleep. One consistent morning thing I’ve gotten so into is gua sha and doing a lot of massaging. Typically, I’ll use a serum or an oil. It kind of depends on how my skin feels. I feel like products are always changing depending on how my skin feels and what it looks like. And then sometimes, I ice my face. I really like doing that.
Ice is the best thing for that. And then something I’ve been doing recently that’s amazing is if I know I’m not going to have a lot of sleep the night before, I’ll brew some green tea and steep it overnight. I steep it for a long time on the counter, then I’ll put the cup in the fridge so the teabags get cold, and then I’ll just put those directly on my eyes. Then I drink the iced green tea, and it’s the most delicious thing.
I have a lot of periods where I don’t sleep a lot. This is one of them. I’m in Venice for two weeks and because I’m also on the jury, and then between my Armani commitments and doing premieres at night, I don’t have a lot of sleep. I think I was traveling and staying in a hotel and I didn’t have any of my products on me. I had nothing for depuffing, but I did have teabags in my hotel room. It’s very vintage movie star, but I’ll be in a hotel and get a bucket of ice and a bowl, and I just dip my face in that. Green tea also apparently is supposed to whiten your eyes too, so it’s a double whammy in terms of helping with depuffing and then also making your eyes wider. Certainly, when you haven’t had a lot of sleep, it’s really helpful. Then you can drink the tea too, which also wakes you up and is a fabulous antioxidant.
It’s really nice to shake it up sometimes, because the truth is, we are all capable of change and expanding ourselves and growing in new and interesting ways that might surprise us.”
I’m obsessed with [Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Foundation]. It sounds so silly, but this foundation really was life-changing in the sense that I had such a hard time with artists finding a color that worked for me. I would see myself on camera and wouldn’t feel like myself. Then, when I started to discover Armani, I worked with an artist who put it on me many years ago before one of my big first premieres. For the first time I was like, “Oh, there’s my skin.” There are a lot of folks who haven’t used foundation because, frankly, they just can’t find a brand that has a range of colors that can speak to their unique skin tone. I think it is really impactful to have a brand that is able to do that, and then for all folks—women, whoever—I think it just feels really good on your skin. It doesn’t feel like you’re covering yourself up.
I used to really discount the power of primer. I never used to use it. More recently, I have really understood how great it is, and Armani’s Luminous Primer is really, really fantastic. It also has an SPF, because, sometimes, I would do all the regular stuff, make sure my skin is moisturized enough, and then use the sunscreen. Then other times, you find that the way it interacts with your actual base can look weird or too heavy.
One product that I love so much is Fluid Sheer. I use that sometimes when I’m not wearing any makeup, just with my cream or with a serum, because it just makes you look so glowy. My dad famously doesn’t like makeup that much, but I’ve been at that house for dinner and just had Fluid Sheer on. He’s like, “Your skin looks good.” I really love natural beauty, and I think that product in particular makes you just look really glowy, and it does it in such a very natural, sort of invisible way.
I don’t know if it changed my personality..maybe. The truth is, I’ve always thought that red hair is so beautiful, and always felt like if I didn’t look like myself, I would love to be a redhead. Then recently I was like, “Oh, I could just be a redhead.” Sometimes you can get into a certain idea of what might look good on you depending on your complexion, but I really love to try to be expansive and imaginative with my ideas of beauty. I was seeing these old photographs of my mom in the ’80s, and she went through this period where she had beautiful red hair. And then I saw some images of myself that my dad sent me when I was a little girl, and it was one summer where I think I had been in the sun a lot. I noticed my hair looked kind of red and also we had...this sounds so weird, but we had a Doberman Pinscher, a brown one when I was a kid, named Refit.
So I went to my consistent collaborator, Lacy Redway, and I was like, “Look at these images, what do you think?” We came up with a plan together, and then this amazing colorist named Aura did my hair in L.A. and it’s been fun because now, over the last couple months, I’ve done a bunch of different shades of red. I think particularly in my profession, so often I have to look a certain way for work, and I’ve been taking some time off from work. It felt really good to get to have my likeness be my own and make choices about the way that I look and do something that feels different. But definitely, there were a couple days in the beginning where I would catch myself in a reflection and be like, “Who is that?”
Yeah. Who is she? It’s really nice to shake it up sometimes, because the truth is, we are all capable of change and expanding ourselves and growing in new and interesting ways that might surprise us. I think just changing something about your exterior is a nice way to remind yourself of that.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.