Rebecca Dayan Is Keeping Her Cool
The actor and Chanel muse spills her beauty secrets.
Rebecca Dayan is the chic, glamorous friend we all wish we had. Sipping an Aperol Spritz poolside at the Faena Hotel, the actor and producer is having a brief moment of respite amid the chaos of Art Basel Miami. Dayan is clad in sheer olive PRISCAVera pants and her mother’s vintage silky oversized paisley blouse. "It's my most Miami outfit," she quips with a rich, throaty French accent. Her strappy black Matthau bikini is peeking through, begging for a cameo. "You never know if you need to jump in!” she laughs.
It is late afternoon and Dayan is rocking a full face of freshly-minted makeup with slicked-back Robert Palmer girl hair, exuding the effortless charisma of old-Hollywood starlets like Anouk Aimée, Lauren Hutton, or Jane Birkin. If Dayan was to take a plunge, she would need to keep her head above the water — something she’s proverbially used to doing since she began dipping into the Hollywood limelight the past few years. In 2017 she got her feet wet, inhabiting a nun's habit alongside Margaret Qualley in the acclaimed indie film Novitiate. This year she dove into Ryan Murphy’s coveted stratosphere in American Horror Story: Double Feature and Halston, where she shrewdly portrayed Italian designer Elsa Peretti. Most recently, she is trying her hand behind the camera, co-producing a documentary entitled Born Free. The film, debuting at festivals next year, coincides with her organization Mother Lover, which raises awareness for the maternal health crisis in America.
Taking a well-deserved beat from her endeavors, Dayan is in town for what can only be described as a luxurious three day Chanel-does-Miami field trip that included a beach party (where 500 drones took over the sky to create a 600 feet tall No. 5 bottle in celebration of the fragrance’s 100th birthday), a Peter Marino-designed boutique opening in the city's Design District, and tonight’s grand finale dinner to celebrate artist Es Devlin’s Five Echoes — a sculptural installation commissioned by the brand.
Dayan’s deep connection to art and fashion has always reinforced her sophisticated brand of cool, so she’s at at home diving into the week's art-driven festivities. "I have few friends who have pieces in the fair and young gallerists that I want to support," says Dayan, who, aside from acting, paints watercolor portraits and dabbles in photography herself. "I would like to take a little leave from figurative work — though it suits me because it's very controlled, it would be good for me to try and be a little freer."
The French Riviera-born actress was a multi-hyphenate before that term became a millennial prerequisite. She studied fine arts and theater in Nice before moving to Paris to pursue modeling, working with the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and Ellen von Unwerth, and fashion design, assisting Sonia Rykiel. "I have a hard time making decisions in general," says Dayan. "I've been like this forever. So, one thing or transition informs another, and my life became more multifaceted."
She ultimately made the decision to move to New York to focus more on acting. "I was too shy to admit that that's what I wanted to do because I felt like it was impossible or an unattainable foreign world. I didn't know anyone in the film industry or grow up around film people,” says Dayan. “After trying many different things, I had to stop kidding myself. This is what I wanted and needed to do! So, I took the leap."
The jump has clearly paid off, but Dayan is still taking things as they come with a laissez-faire attitude. “When people say, where do you see yourself in five years? I have no idea,” she admits. “For me, it's very much intuitive.”
Dayan's process when it comes to style and beauty is equally innate. She is refreshingly quick to embrace that aspect of her career that some peers in Hollywood may find tedious. "I love having fun with makeup. I love doing it myself too — I've been pretty good at it since I was a kid," she says. She recalls dressing up her sister and cousin when she was a child and doing their makeup for mini fashion shows. “I’m sure they probably hated me for it,” she laughs.
Although Dayan continued to experiment as a teenager, dying her hair red and wearing "insane makeup” that involved copious face jewels, today, she is more interested in style over trend. The 37-year-old walks a classic, polished, and grown-up line that is able to remain equal parts modern and sexy. “I've worn vintage for a long time because I don't want anyone else to have what I have," she says. "It feels like there is a thing now where everyone wants a uniform or an identifiable look. It's a little sad because it takes away from the art and joy of dressing up and expressing who you are and how you feel in a moment."
Sharing the same less-is-more, rule-breaking mentality, it's no wonder Dayan has recently found herself in orbit with the house of Chanel. Yet, the brand's focus on the arts is what intrigues the ingenue the most. "I love how closely rooted Chanel is to culture and film. It is an elegant approach that feels genuine and smart." says the beauty, who was introduced to Chanel Creative Director Virginie Viard by photographers Inez and Vinoodh. The introduction eventually led to Dayan posing for the photographers in a series of stills and videos alongside Lily-Rose Depp, Quannah Chasinghorse-Potts, Alma Jodorowsky, and Jennie Kim that marked Viard's S/S 2022 Ready-to-Wear collection.
When it comes to makeup, Dayan has been a devoted Chanel Beauty fan long before she began aligning with the house professionally. "I use all the Chanel makeup I can get my hands on,” she says with a laugh. Although she doesn’t wear a lot of makeup daily, she counts “off-duty” products such as Le Volume de Chanel mascara in Noir, the transparent Chanel Le Gel Sourcils to tame her eyebrows, and Le Correcteur de Chanel concealer as her must-haves (“It hides my sins,” she says).
Spending the last eighteen months in and out of lockdown due to the pandemic, Dayan did most of the press for her latest projects via Zoom. She's excited to be here in Miami, with a glow that is primed and ready for her return on the red carpet. "I was in pajamas for pretty much three months straight, and the only thing I spent money on during the pandemic was beauty products, especially face masks. I created my own home spa," recalls Dayan, whose daily skincare routine relies on the Dr. Barbara Sturm Cleanser, Irene Forte Lemon Toner and Dr. Barbara Sturm Sun Drops SPF50 serum along with Macrene Actives High Performance Face Serum and Extra Rich Night Cream (developed by her dermatologist Dr. Macrene Alexiades). She also uses Vintner's Daughter Active Botanical Serum face oil on warmer weather days. Her everyday haircare regiment is equally straightforward with go-to products made with naturally-derived botanicals, like Klorane shampoo and conditioner and MFLORENS No. 1 Exfoliate & Revitalize Scalp & Hair Serum (both from France).
Leaving what was surely a pair of amazing French-girl pajamas behind in her downtown Manhattan apartment, soon Dayan will slip into a black feathered Chanel shift dress. Though perhaps bold for happy hour by the pool, her dramatic makeup look will perfectly offset the femininity of the frock. "I decided to contrast the look with a punk edge," her friend and Chanel makeup artist Cyndle Komarovski said in an earlier interview. "Rebecca and I discussed creating a look that was very graphic, and that would stand out at night in a dark setting."
Komarovski, who has a knack for painting rising talent such as Maggie Rogers, Phoebe Tonkin, and Taylor Russell, lined Dayan's eyes with Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof Eyeliner in Ébène to create an inverted cat-eye. She then layered Limited Edition Stylo Ombre Et Contour Eyeshadow-liner in Contour Graphite with the metallic silver shade from the Chanel Les 4 Ombres Quadra Eyeshadow in Modern Glamour.
Careful to ensure the final result isn't too overdone, Komarovski kept the rest of Dayan's face and lips fresh, clean, and natural. "The key to looking effortless even with a bold metallic eye is balancing the rest of your makeup and keeping it feeling cool and undone," "I love that Rebecca is confident in herself and is always down to have fun and try something bold. She can pull off just about anything."
For Dayan, the feeling is mutual toward the soft-spoken makeup artist. "I trust her taste," she says as the waitress drops off a few small plates of food. "We are able to come with beauty looks in the moment and be spontaneous. There's a kindred spirit in the things we love and with our restraint.”
When Murphy set out to cast the storied Peretti in his new season of Halston, Dayan fit the bill and sunk her teeth into the role with fervor. "We're not totally dissimilar women. She was a model, and then she studied design and moved to New York with a dream — she was this sassy, tough lady who did it all on her own," says Dayan, who gained some helpful perspective playing the icon. "The main thing I take away from her is I try to remember to be uncompromising and stay true to what I feel. It's easy to get a little confused or a little distracted, or sensitive to what people project on you. You need to keep a cool head to stick to what you are doing."
When it comes to Hollywood’s ageism, Dayan is also trying to keep a cool head, though she admits even she feels vulnerable at times. "Look, if it weren't my job to be on camera, I probably wouldn't be as concerned with it as I am. When I look in the mirror, I'm like, 'Oh, I look fine.' And then I see a photo I'm like, ‘Holy shit, who is that?'” she exclaims. “So, of course, it adds to the anxiety that women go through.”
For now, Dayan is relying on equal parts science, precaution, and some balance to keep things in perspective. "I love my dermatologist. I do all the lasers, microcurrents, facial massages and PRP treatments I can get — but also, I'm drinking and smoking as we speak,” she says. “I am careful about how much I'm in the sun, and I put SPF on every day, but I love being at the beach and enjoying myself. You have to find moderation. That’s the best way to go.”
She pauses, then adds, "I feel if you are happy, it shows.”
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