Everyone loves a good underdog story, and the smash success of sleeper hit Everything Everywhere All At Once is certainly one of this year’s best. The absurdist comedy – brainchild of director duo The Daniels and A24 – is already generating lots of Oscars buzz for lead actress Michelle Yeoh, who plays an unassuming laundromat owner who uncovers unexpected universe-jumping skills. It’s an unlikely awards vehicle for the legendary star, who has decades of experience in acting and martial arts, but an exciting and unprecedented one nonetheless – Yeoh transforms into dozens of different characters throughout the movie thanks to the incredible work of the film’s hair and makeup team. Below, hair department head Anissa E. Salazar and makeup head Michelle Chung tell BAZAAR all about what it took to bring Everything Everywhere All At Once to life on the big screen.
Hair and makeup both play a critical role in bringing the tale of Everything Everywhere All At Once to life. I can’t imagine the movie without first thinking of Joy/Jobu’s memorable Elvis-inspired look and, of course, the bagel hair. How much say did you get in crafting these looks? Were they primarily scripted by the screenwriters or did you all contribute a lot of original ideas?
Michelle Chung: I loved being able to experiment with Joy’s looks. I didn’t have too much direction from the script as far as makeup, but I drew inspiration from the costumes and hair, as well as artwork and photos that I had pulled to create mood boards.
For the Elvis look, I knew Jobu would be wearing a jumpsuit with a lot of bling, so I wanted to bring some of that excitement onto her face. I had pulled some inspiration photos of jewels on the face and decided to add some rhinestones as freckles, as well as adding them onto her eyes along with a teardrop jewel, just to give a hint of emotion to the character. The teardrop was also featured in a couple other Jobu looks.
For the bagel universe, Shirley, our costume designer, had told me she was adding a bunch of pearls and brought me some of them to possibly use in her makeup, and I knew I wanted Jobu to look celestial and glowing. I also knew the set was going to be all white, so after making her face as glowy and heavenly in pale white tones as possible, I added pearls around the eyes to tie into the costume.
Anissa E. Salazar: For the Bagel universe the script reads: “a celestial goddess walking through a temple,” so we knew the tone would be somewhat heavenly and a colour-muted atmosphere. I tested a few different hairstyles for this look on myself and kept The Daniels in the loop for feedback until I landed on our final sculpted braid-based, bagel-shaped hairstyle.
Shirley, our costume designer, had some fun pearls and white latex fabric for this Jobu costume. She gave us those beautiful pearls you see on her costume to incorporate into her full look! Though the multiple braids and complex shapes were challenging to build for this hairstyle, I am so proud of all of us for designing the final look. It’s been such a treat to see the fans recreating our character looks.
For the Elvis look, The Daniels gave us direction for Jobu’s costume and props. This helped in creating an idea for her hairstyle. I ended up hand-painting a platinum blonde wig with an ombre effect of multiple pink tones and added glitter at the roots for some Las Vegas sparkle. Lastly, I styled the wig with two different irons to give a textured, rock-n-roll wave.
Michelle Yeoh and the entire cast are all generating lots of buzz going into awards season. What was it like working with them on this movie?
MC: The cast was so wonderful, professional, and fun! They were all so trusting of us and really wanted to create these believable, real characters. The film’s continuity and all the constant changes in looks were a challenge, and the cast really gave us the time to do what we needed. I was constantly awestruck by their performances on set; I actually cried during the filming of several scenes, they were just so emotional and moving.
AS: Michelle and the entire cast were a dream! Professional, kind, and silly. They trusted the process of our character designs, which allowed us to work efficiently. Michelle had an extremely tight schedule which included studying her script breakdown in between rehearsals and memorising tedious stunt choreography. It was important I nailed the wig prep and instalment daily to ensure all her hairstyles could handle blood, sweat, tears, and wind machines!
I hear you created many wigs for this movie. What was your favourite or most memorable look?
AS: I have changed my mind multiple times about my favourite look because they are all so special to me! But my top ones are the Chinese Peking Opera wig style for Michelle and the Hodgepodge wig (Picasso-inspired makeup) for Jobu. The history and art form of the traditional Chinese Peking Opera wig was a fun research journey, while the Hodgepodge Jobu hair (large jumbled textured wig) inspired me with textiles of couture fashion and art.
K-beauty inspired several of the film’s looks. While many Korean beauty products might still be new to Western audiences, the K-beauty craze has been sweeping Asia for many years now. What do you think about the more recent buzz K-beauty has been generating around the globe?
MC: K-beauty was a huge inspiration for many of the looks, including Jobu’s golf girl look. I have been following several Korean makeup artists for years, so I’m excited to see their looks move outside of Asia and become more mainstream! It also means more products are becoming available worldwide, which is always exciting for me; I love trying new brands and seeing the latest trends.
You both have years of experience under your belt, but the sheer amount of hair and makeup looks found in this movie seems like it’d be challenging for anyone. They don’t call it Everything Everywhere All At Once for nothing. What can you tell us about the new challenges you faced working on this film?
MC: One of the biggest challenges for me, besides the crazy looks of Jobu, was creating real, believable characters. For example, Michelle Yeoh is such an amazing and beautiful woman, and I really wanted to make sure she looked like the worst version of herself. So, toning down her look was really important, making her look worn and tired, as someone you might know in real life. And obviously, Jobu’s looks were a challenge. I wanted to make sure each version of Jobu was very different from the other and that each universe had its distinct look. We also had such limited time, so making sure each look had a lot of impact without having much time to create it was a big challenge. Luckily, I started my career in indie films, and working efficiently to create looks has become an asset I have.
AS: The biggest challenge during the making of this film was to design looks that were unique and authentic to the characters. Especially with Jobu, most of her looks are from different universes while she’s in the “normal” world at the IRS building, so all of the stylings had to be high-impact to tell what kind of world she was coming from. Because we had such limited time and resources with our budget, it was important to produce quality work. Our hair department did not have the luxury of multiple backup wigs, a large crew, or even a proper shampoo bowl sink set up – we didn’t even have a trailer. But we made it work because we believed in the film and The Daniels. Their sets carry a passionate and kind crew, which can make it a lot easier on your well-being.
You worked with many different skin and hair types for this film. Tell us about some of your favourite, most versatile products – what would you recommend to a friend?
MC: Oh, I have so many products I love, but one of the most important things for me is creating a great canvas to work on. So, I concentrated a lot on skin prep; Weleda skin food is a favourite of mine, as well as Tatcha’s skincare line and May Lindstrom’s cleansing oil.
Regarding products, I love Armani luminous skin foundations; they are a staple in my kit. I also had such crazy colourful looks and MAC’s paint sticks and acrylic paints were a lifesaver. They are so versatile and easy to use, which came in handy for a lot of the more experimental looks. Finally, Sunnie’s Face is a line that is great for Asian skin tones; their lip colors are beautiful and cruelty-free.
AS: To protect our cast’s scalps, I used early samples of my scalp tonic, now named Esperanza Scalp Tonic by Tecuane. Because we had so many hair changes, this multi-use product was great to use on the scalp to hydrate and prevent any hair breakage. I developed this product to work on all hair textures, and it can be easily used as a daily leave-in; a forever kit must-have of mine now! I also used Biorich spray by OWAY, which created a beautiful base for all my hair styling.