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Just before she started filming The Promise, Charlotte Le Bon sent an email to her two co-stars. “I wrote to Oscar [Isaac] and Christian [Bale],” recalls Le Bon, miming out the action of typing as she sits in a Toronto hotel lobby. “I just said that I was super-intimidated by them both but I couldn’t wait to start. I promised that when I met them, I’d pretend everything was all right and it was fine, but I just wanted them to know that that feeling was there.” (BTW, Isaac wrote back right away saying he felt the same; Bale never replied.)
We’re catching up with the French-Canadian actress the day after that film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, and her relief at the romantic epic’s positive reception is obvious. “We had a standing ovation. There were a lot of Armenians in the room, and it was really moving to have them come up to us afterwards with tears in their eyes, thanking us for our work. That’s exactly why I want to do my job.”
In the film, to be released early this year, Le Bon plays Ana, a cosmopolitan Armenian woman who returns home to what is now modern-day Turkey (then the Ottoman Empire) on the eve of the outbreak of the First World War—and the start of the genocide of much of that country’s Armenian population by the Ottoman authorities. (It’s worth noting that Turkey still officially denies this ever occurred.) Ana also finds herself in the middle of a love triangle, torn between an American journalist (Bale) and an Armenian medical student (Isaac).
“I think she really doesn’t know [who to choose],” says Le Bon. “Love is a weird and complex feeling: Sometimes you choose passion; sometimes you choose comfort. I think it’s a modern approach to a love story because although it’s not completely politically correct to say she’s in love with two men, it happens in real life.”
That complicated romantic situation isn’t the only true-to-life parallel the 30-year-old noticed while filming the Terry George-directed epic, which centres much of its action on a group of Armenians (and Ana) trying to escape through the mountains. Two summers ago, Le Bon and her boyfriend were on the Greek island of Lesbos, which, along with being an idyllic vacation spot, is also the site of a large refugee camp filled with migrants from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan fleeing conflict.
“I just remember seeing hundreds and hundreds of people walking in the street in the heat,” recalls Le Bon. “You really don’t know what to do. We bought water bottles and we were trying to give what we could. You’re trying to choose—maybe give to this one because she’s older, this one has a baby. You feel completely helpless.” Fast-forward to shooting The Promise in Spain about a year later: “Seeing those hundreds and hundreds of extras going down the mountain, I was like, ‘Fuck—this is exactly what I saw [in Greece].’ It’s awful to see that 100 years later, nothing’s really changed. Humans are worse than rats! We don’t learn.”
At another point in our conversation, Le Bon complains about her eyes (“They’re too big, especially on a movie screen”), but seeing her use them to persuade, to impart passionate caring, you get a sense of why this Montreal-born performer is already a big deal in her adopt-ed home of France—and why Hollywood has come calling. Le Bon is basically the definition of French-girl cool, down to an endearing overlapping front tooth that seems impossibly chic. (She’s probably pictured beside the word “gamine” in the dictionary.) She started as a model, served briefly as a weather girl on French TV and then got her big acting break in the 2014 biopic Yves Saint Laurent, which was quickly followed by a role in the Golden Globe-nominated The Hundred-Foot Journey and a star turn opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 2015’s The Walk.
And while Le Bon loves acting, she says she feels most like herself when she’s drawing. (And it’s no hobby; she opened her first solo show in Paris this summer.) “The thing with acting is that it goes through so many filters that in the end you can’t control anything, but with art the delivery is so pure because it’s you, it’s just you.”
She says being an actress is work—not so much “what happens between ‘Action’ and ‘Cut’” but what she calls “all this stuff,” gesturing to the elaborately embroidered dress she’s wearing for a day of television interviews, her heavily-made-up face and her carefully coiffed hair. “This is not my favourite thing, you know?” she says. “I wear no makeup in real life, and I wear jeans and sneakers.” Even when it’s for a role, Le Bon finds the beauty routine tiresome. “Sometimes I’m like, ‘Ugh! I just want to do everything without makeup. Can I do that?’ I mean, Christian and Oscar arrived in jeans without makeup. It’s freaking unfair!”
But Le Bon insists she’s not letting down the Canadian side by throwing any tantrums or being difficult. (Although she does half-jokingly threaten to “start a revolution” when it comes to these gender-based double standards.) “The thing people say is that I’m unusually nice,” she says of being unashamedly Canadian. “I’ve been living in France for seven years now, and it’s actually true that we are so nice. Even when I come back now, I’m surprised by how easy and relaxed and cool it is socially. I’m used to the Parisian attitude now, so it’s almost weird!”
Oh, and if you’re wondering how Le Bon eventually fared on-set with those “intimidating” co-stars—well, she and Isaac ended up hanging out all the time (when he wasn’t jetting off to promote Star Wars: The Force Awakens, that is), and she basically became a one-woman fan club for Bale. “I think I laughed at every single one of his jokes for four months,” says Le Bon of her on-set “best pal.” She does note, however, that Bale was very much about doing his own thing. “He’s very present, very professional—but when it’s over, he just disappears like Houdini. Poof!”
Bale even pulled a disappearing act on the last day of filming. When the final shot had wrapped, Le Bon went to find him so she could give him a drawing she’d done for him...and he’d already bailed. (Bale-d?) “I asked everyone where Christian was, and they were like, ‘He’s already on a plane! He’s gone!’ and I was like, ‘Shit!’ But, really, it was fine.”
And then it’s Le Bon’s turn to go, gracefully picking up her skirts as she rises from the table, straight from our chat to a flight bound for Paris.
The owner of the world's most famous pair of brows is more interested in her eyelashes.
If you’ve read any articles about the ideal brow shape in the past five years, you know Cara Delevingne’s dense, expressive pair is it. A quick search on YouTube will find you just under 30,000 tutorials demonstrating how to get the look that Delevingne naturally wakes up with every morning, thanks to genetics and the luck of having been too young to wield a pair of tweezers in the ’90s. “I tend to leave them by themselves,” says the 24-year-old Rimmel London ambassador between bites of sushi in Shoreditch’s Ace Hotel in London. “Occasionally people do like to touch them, but I don’t generally do anything to them. They don’t like to be tamed.”
On the day we meet, Delevingne looks her usual blend of casual cool. She’s wearing an army-green lace-up bomber from Unravel Project, black skinny jeans and a pair of Pumas. The brows? They’ve only been given a cursory bit of attention by makeup artist Kirstin Piggott. “It’s all about eyes today,” Piggott says about the artful smoky look she has created on Delevingne in honour of the model turned actress’ latest role as the face of Rimmel London’s Scandaleyes Reloaded Mascara. It’s a strong fit for the outspoken Brit’s first campaign with the brand. In contrast to her live-and-let-live approach to her brows, Delevingne is particular about her lashes. “I’m pretty OCD about my mascara,” she admits, sitting cross-legged on the sofa. “I want to literally get every lash.”
Scandaleyes was redesigned with this kind of precision work in mind. Unlike the original wand, the new brush tapers off at the end, allowing it to reach lashes on the inner-most corner of the eye. “When the brush is really thick, it’s very hard not to touch the skin,” explains Piggott. “And most of us apply mascara last, so after you have perfected your eye makeup, you end up with dots of mascara [on your eyelids]. It’s really frustrating. The tapered brush allows for more control.” Millennial women—all women, really—expect nothing less from their products. “I think that as young women, we’ve got so much to do and we don’t have a lot of time to sit there and do makeup,” says Delevingne. “So the easier and more effective [products] are, the better.”
Rimmel London Scandaleyes Reloaded Mascara in Extreme Black ($9), shoppersdrugmart.ca.
In 2015, Delevingne chose to leave modelling in pursuit of an acting career, despite astronomical success. She didn’t hold back when explaining her decision, telling the media she found herself deeply unhappy in the industry. I ask Delevingne if she considers it one of her most scandalous moments. “I don’t know if it was scandalous,” she says, adding that it was “definitely” an adventure. “I tend to go headfirst into things anyway. If you are confident, then other people kind of believe that you are too. It works.” Montse Passolas, vice-president of global marketing for Rimmel London, references this “fearless spirit” as one of the reasons Delevingne is a perfect partner for the brand, calling her “a true inspiration to young women everywhere.”
Beyond the brush, the mascara has another major point of difference from the original: an intensely pigmented volumizing formula that wipes off with warm water but won’t smudge during the day. It is, I learn, quite a feat–and not the first time the brand has had a major breakthrough in the mascara category. In 1864, Eugene Rimmel, the entrepreneurial son of a French perfumer who set up shop in Mayfair, invented Water Cosmetique, the world’s first non-toxic mascara. Today, all mascaras are made up of waxes, pigments and oils in various combinations. Why mascara clumps (or doesn’t) depends largely on how the brush and the formulation work together. “What happens is that many of the volumizing formulas contain a lot of wax,” explains Dhavel Patel, vice-president of research and development for Rimmel London. “They tend to dry pretty fast on the lashes, so you don’t get a lot of time to actually shape them.”
Different types of waxes have different effects on the formula. Rimmel London uses a proprietary combination of waxes based on the type of mascara they’re looking to develop. “Wax is basically oily material in a solid form that repels water,” says Patel. “So that’s primarily how you build material on the lashes to make them longer and thicker.” Properties of the wax also affect how long wearing the formula is, as well as its creaminess (and thus how many layers you can apply with varying amounts of ease). Use of harder, more rigid waxes will actually curl your lashes as the formula sets. Scandaleyes is able to avoid the clumpiness of most volumizing mascaras by using a gel-cream formula that features a patented polymer technology the brand is the first to bring to market.
The polymer, Patel tells me, is everything. Since I spent my last chemistry class debating the merits of Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls, he offers this primer: “A polymer is a general term for something made up of many smaller units.” The one Rimmel London developed is multi-functional, which means it’s made up of units that are normally separate. Because the polymer has wax already built into it, not as much of it is needed to increase volume. This allows the brush to comb through the lashes, separating them from one another before the formula dries (ergo, no clumps). It also evenly disperses black pigment through the formula, giving the product its fluid texture and lacquer finish. “The shiny effect is normally not there with mascaras that have a lot of wax,” says Patel. “They are usually matte or grey looking.”
In the campaign, Delevingne plays a secret agent tasked with avoiding capture by a crew of suited men in aviators chasing her through St. Pancras station – presumably it’s a sweaty pursuit, but her makeup remains intact. In order for the mascara to be granted long-wearing and smudge- and humidity-proof status, Rimmel London puts the formula through a sauna test, as well as consumer testing in every type of climate. The polymer (it always comes back to the polymer, says Patel) encapsulates the pigments and other materials, repelling most of the moisture and humidity. (Note: Jumping into a pool is beyond the limitations of the mascara. For that, you need to go fully waterproof.)
When I ask Delevingne if she’s typically good about removing her makeup at night, she says she tries: “Obviously, I’m not going to lie. There have been occasions when I just have to get to sleep as quickly as possible.” Later that night, there’s a launch party at Kachette, a former railway station, where English rapper Lady Leshurr—there at Delevingne’s request—stands under an imposing brick archway and dedicates a song to exactly those kinds of moments. “This is for the girls who don’t take their makeup off and go right to bed,” she announces to a crowd of beauty editors and influencers before launching into the track “Queen’s Speech 6.”
As Delevingne leaves the event, I get another look at her makeup. It appears just as it did when we spoke six hours earlier. Hopefully she’ll take it off before bed, but even if she doesn’t, there’s a good chance it will look fine in the morning.
“British-girl makeup is quite effortless,” says makeup artist Kirstin Piggott, who has also worked with Rimmel London faces Kate Moss and Rita Ora. “The general London girl likes a bit of a rock ’n’ roll thing. It’s funny, my hairdresser friend in New York is like, ‘What is it with you English girls not even wanting to brush your hair?’” For Delevingne, British beauty is more of a mindset than an aesthetic. “I think it’s about being unapologetic and unafraid,” she says. “We are willing to push boundaries and break the rules.”
Carli Whitwell and her husband attempt to find some common holiday ground.
I came to the realization that my husband and I are vacation incompatible when we were on our honeymoon. We were in the crumbling, romantic seaside city of Syracuse in Sicily. I was jonesing for a little loungey beach time, preferably with my new BFFs: cassata (a ricotta sponge cake) and espresso. But Tim had hunted down an archaeology museum, so instead I found myself wandering after him through its dusty corridors for hours.
So we divorced. Kidding! But to avoid future tantrums – mine, not his – we devised a plan. Going forward, we’d divide all vacations: 50 percent sightseeing, 50 percent slothing.
We tested out the approach on a recent getaway in Napa Valley and San Francisco. A road trip, I reasoned, would ensure that I could hop in the car and hightail it to the nearest beach if Tim pulled the museum sneak attack. It might not come as a surprise that Napa (wine, sunshine, spas, swimming) is my thing. There are 501 wineries in the county, and according to our tour guide, David, “There isn’t a bad glass of Cab Sauv.” Challenge accepted, sir.
The author and her husband. Image by: Ford Canada
First up: sightseeing. Our Napa time began with a visit to Elizabeth Spencer Winery. This mom-and-pop operation doesn’t grow its own grapes; rather, it sources them from local vineyards. Spencer’s was my kind of tasting: We were served in a tree-lined courtyard. For those who prefer the romance of a wine tour, I’d recommend Davis Estates. It’s the passion project of Mike Davis, a gregarious-cowboy type who made it big in the tech boom and then went into the wine biz – for fun. The tour is worth it to see his palatial manor alone; apparently some state senators had stopped by the week before. A blissful Tim took so many photos his iPhone died. Meanwhile, I powered through until I found a comfy hanging chair on the terrace overlooking the valley.
Round two: sloth mode. You won’t find any impersonal 500-room hotels in Napa; it is mostly B&Bs or small resorts. We stayed at the ultra-luxe Calistoga Ranch – think summer camp for millionaires – which has just 50 rooms. They call the rooms “lodges,” which is apt because they’re bigger than my condo and feature outdoor fireplaces, outdoor showers and hot tubs. It’s also worth noting that the resort is in a forest, so it smells like you’re inside a cedar-scented candle. We wrapped up our stay with a deep-tissue couples massage in the ranch’s Auberge Spa, after which I nearly cried because I didn’t want to leave.
The Golden Gate Bridge. Image by: Getty
Next up: city sightseeing. Knowing we were headed into his territory, Tim appeased me by letting me drive. I dawdled as much as I could, taking a leisurely, winding route into the city before hitting all the classic tourist stops – Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, AT&T Park (the stadium where Kanye proposed to Kim, so obvs a must-stop) and the OG hippie haunt, Haight-Ashbury. (FYI, Deadheads: 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, and the city is hosting exhibitions and festivals all year long.)
Today’s San Fran is not the Full House iteration you grew up with. It’s now a home base for booming neighbour Silicon Valley, and apartments here cost more than their Manhattan equivalents. The people-watching is just as good as the Big Apple’s: Over truffle fries and a glass of Cab Sauv in the St. Regis hotel, I’m pretty sure we saw at least five app-development deals go down.
San Francisco's "Painted Ladies" on "Postcard Row" Image by: Istock
As the city has evolved, so, too, has the food scene. The region now boasts 49 Michelin-starred restos. We ended our getaway with a meal at the buzzy Twenty Five Lusk, which recently got a thumbs-up from Barack Obama. “Nobody comes here once,” our guide had told us about the city. Turns out not even sedentary vacationers like me can resist it. We’re already planning our next trip.
JOY RIDE Your road trip is only as good as your wheels. Here are my three must-haves.
The 2017 Lincoln Continental Image by: Ford Canada
1. Comfy seats. We test drove the 2017 Lincoln Continental, and I can report that the leather seats were as soft as the marshmallow-like bed in my Napa lodge. They also boast back massagers.
2. A good sound system. The Lincoln’s 10 speakers ensure you can always play Rihanna at full blast, as she should be.
3. A jacked-up dashboard. Among its many tricks, it shows the speed limit of the road you’re on. This is helpful when you’re pulling a Jack Kerouac and have no idea where you are or how fast you should be going.
This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of ELLE Canada.