By Ally Dean
Tousled chestnut hair, smoky eyes and pillowy lips permanently set in a knowing smile – actress Penélope Cruz’s beauty calling card is a winner, onscreen and on the red carpet.
It was her performance as Maria Elena in Vicky Cristina Barcelona that won her an Academy Award and ignited a romance with now-husband Javier Bardem, and surely kohl liner and ruffled hair is (partially) responsible.
Growing up in Madrid around her mother’s beauty parlour, Penélope’s fascination with beauty started at an early age. “I fell in love with Isabella Rossellini when I was 13,” she tells Hello! “She was strong, independent, confident, charming and romantic – everything I thought was feminine and beautiful.”
Penélope, 40, followed Isabella’s footsteps when she became a beauty ambassador for Lancôme. “Trésor was my first perfume; the brand’s been a part of me for a long time,” Penélope says after nearly five years working with the Paris-based company. “I’ve loved their idea that beauty should not be a constraint but something liberating and playful.”
The mother of two – who recently filmed the drama Ma Ma (to première later this year) and directed a short film for lingerie brand Agent Provocateur – proves that juggling a fast-paced career, motherhood and marriage is as effortless as a hair toss.
Here, the star shares what it means to truly be beautiful and why she admires French women:
How would you describe your signature beauty look?
On days that I’m not working, I like to keep it natural, but I always wear mascara. It’s the little black dress for your eyes.
What about your red-carpet look?
Getting dressed up is always fun, it’s like getting in to character. Makeup changes how you feel, the way a haircut or new dress does. I love strong eyes. I finally learned how to do my own eyes, but it has taken me so long to master. I think eyes are the most important feature. They express feelings that words cannot.
What makes a woman beautiful?
It’s about deciding to love and respect one’s self and really becoming your best friend. The older I get, the less interested I am in pretending to be something I’m not. I’m more comfortable with showing people exactly who I am.
As the face of a Paris-based brand, what is your vision of a French woman?
French women have this incredible sophistication that seems absolutely effortless. I’m so inspired by Jane Birkin, Juliette Binoche, Catherine Deneuve and Marion Cotillard. They all have something in common, probably freedom, they’re all free spirits.
What’s your favourite thing about France?
I couldn’t pick just one. I love the culture, food, art, fashion. I truly love Paris, but the south of France has breathtaking nature and is always bathed in an incredible light.
What has your career taught you?
I love acting but it’s less and less about results and more about continuous research, experiences, the magic of the process and the lack of control that comes with it. You are always a student in this profession, and I love that.