If You See Reese Witherspoon With a Smoky Eye, Her Daughter, Ava, Was Probably the MUA

Photos courtesy Elizabeth Arden
Photos courtesy Elizabeth Arden

When we meet, Reese Witherspoon is propped upon a pink couch in a backyard cabana filled with pink roses, wearing a maddeningly perfect pink shade of lipstick. The star — and storyteller-in-chief of storied beauty brand Elizabeth Arden — certainly knows a thing or two about makeup after decades in Hollywood. (But maybe not quite as much, she admits, as her 19-year-old daughter, Ava, who grew up in the era of the YouTube tutorial.)

Witherspoon is on hand to share a few of her beauty secrets with a host of beauty influencers, bloggers, and journalists in celebration of Elizabeth Arden's White Tea fragrance collection and its Great 8 Daily Defense Moisturizer, which comes with a welcome SPF of 35. We talked to the Big Little Lies star about the first perfume she ever wore, bonding in the makeup trailer with her costars, and the fun of looking back at her own '90s beauty moments, ahead.

Photos courtesy Elizabeth Arden

POPSUGAR: So today is all about fragrance — tell me a little bit about how you wear it. Are you the spritz-on-your-wrist or walk-into-it person?
Reese Witherspoon: I'm definitely spray in the air and walk through it — two, three times. Forward. Back. Forward. Out.

PS: Do you have specific scent memories that are linked to particular perfumes?
RW: Perfume reminds me of my grandmother. She always loved beautiful floral fragrances like rose and gardenia, and my mother was the same. I remember all the bottles lined up on her dresser and just thinking she was so feminine and gorgeous.

PS: Do you remember when you first started wearing perfume and what you wore?
RW: I do, actually. I think the first perfume I ever bought was Betsey Johnson. Doesn't that just say that I grew up in the '90s?

PS: Totally. Tell me about your title with Elizabeth Arden as storyteller-in-chief. Can you talk about the role that storytelling has played in your own life?
RW: It's all I ever wanted to be when I was little. I loved reading. I loved books. I just loved telling other people's stories. The fact that I've been able to transform my life and be a storyteller for as long as I have, and now have the opportunity to help women get their stories made into film and television, [is] just really a dream come true.

Photos courtesy Elizabeth Arden

PS: Are there stories right now that you're particularly excited to tell?
RW: There are so many stories to tell. I think we haven't seen enough of the spectrum of the female experience on film, so we're still yearning for the truth of those stories. I feel really enormously honored to be able to make some of them and bring them to the screen.

"I'm so inspired by young women these days. They hold so many different ideologies in one place — that you don't have to be exclusively academic or cerebral, or exclusively interested in fashion and beauty. There's a great spectrum of interests women can hold all at once."

PS: You've been a pivotal voice in Time's Up and just elevating women's voices in general. You've also pushed that work forward with Elizabeth Arden with efforts like "Pink Punch" lipstick, which benefited UN Women. These efforts seem like a cool, subversive way to say: "Hey, women can be interested in lipstick and also care about gender equality." Is that something that struck you?
RW: Yeah. I'm so inspired by young women these days. They hold so many different ideologies in one place — that you don't have to be exclusively academic or cerebral, or exclusively interested in fashion and beauty. There's a great spectrum of interests women can hold all at once. It's a great time to be a woman. I think we're standing together more than we ever have. There's a global solidarity that I really feel [when] I travel the world, or even just go on Instagram. I feel so much more connected.

PS: Is there a character you've played whose beauty look was your favorite of all time? Is there one you just loved, even if it was a radical departure from your everyday look?
RW: I'm looking back at old performances and hairstyles, because I'm about to do a show set in the '90s (Little Fires Everywhere). I've been doing a lot of research on what I looked like and what women looked like back then, because I have teenagers in the show dressing like my characters from movies like Cruel Intentions. I love Elle Woods. I just think it was such a privilege to get to play a character that was so optimistic, and it's been such an inspiration. She's inspired me, as well, to believe in myself.

Photos courtesy Elizabeth Arden

PS: Is there anything from those '90s photos that make you think, "I somewhat regret that"?
RW: Oh, definitely some lipstick choices. Brown liner on the lips was a little awkward. Some very skinny eyebrow situations.

PS: Obviously, you get to work with top makeup artists and hairstylists — not to mention your castmates, too. Big Little Lies has one of the best-looking casts on television. Do you trade any sort of beauty tips? Have you picked anything up from them?
RW: It's a wonderful experience getting ready with other women. Nicole [Kidman] and I in a trailer, and Laura [Dern] and Shailene [Woodley] — there's so many of us, we have to rotate trailers. Just watching the camaraderie between people, creating character and beauty, is really a fun process to have with your hair and makeup people. They go to war with us. They're our best friends. It's great to bond with other people's teams as well.

Photos courtesy Elizabeth Arden

PS: What is that process like when you are creating a character? Especially now that you're so established in your career, I imagine you have a little bit more power to say, "No. I think she would do X, Y, and Z."
RW: Everything in film and television is very collaborative, so it's important to be a good partner and really listen to people's ideas. We pull a lot of old photos from archives and photo searches. We'll have a little bit of time to talk and play around, and then it's go time. You can't really change it after you've made these choices. These movies last forever, so we always say to each other: "OK, do we feel good about this forever?"

"It's great, because if I get in a pinch and I need a smoky eye, she can just pop one on me really quick."

PS: It seems like every teenager and young woman out there is a total makeup pro these days, because they came up in the age of the YouTube tutorial. Your daughter, Ava, is that age, too. Is there anything that she passed on to you, beauty-tip wise?
RW: Oh my gosh. She has a whole array of brushes that I have no idea what she does with. There's all kinds of blending, square blending, fan blending. It's crazy. But it's great, because if I get in a pinch and I need a smoky eye, she can just pop one on me really quick. She really can. She's like, "No, no. Mom, go like this and go like this." And then she gets really frustrated because she doesn't think my palettes are the same kind of palettes that she uses.

PS: Tell me about this partnership with Elizabeth Arden. You've already done so many cool things with them, but I wonder if there's anything more that you have in mind to leverage this storyteller-in-chief role going forward?
RW: I love telling the story of Elizabeth Arden. I think she was such a pioneer in the beauty industry — starting her own company, really believing in holistic beauty, the health of your body, the importance of self-care; the way she championed women's rights by helping the suffragettes, showing solidarity by passing out lipstick while they were marching on the right to vote. She's just an inspiration. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the women like her who started that entrepreneurial spirit. I wouldn't have the companies that I have. If you think about the bravery of women, the boldness, and the determination to change things for all women, it's really inspiring.

PS: Self-care is a big talking point these days, and I think a lot of people are turning to that to find balance in their lives. Is there anything that's kind of an important part of your own self-care routine, whether it's beauty or just relaxation?
RW: I definitely take time for myself. I exercise or walk outside every day. I think it's important. As hard as we all work, particularly working moms taking care of kids, you get home and you do your other full-time job. It's really important to have moments where you completely mentally unplug. I walk the dog or go outside for a bike ride. That really clears my mind.