When Donni Davy, the makeup artist behind film company A24′s explosive teen drama “Euphoria,” experimented with her beauty routine in middle school, she opted for a heavy swipe of black liner on the waterline of her eyes.
But by her first class, Davy rushed to the bathroom to scrub it off.
“I felt too shy about it,” Davy said. “People were looking at me, saying things and one person said something negative. It crushed me, so I stopped experimenting.”
The makeup artist, now 35, has since returned to experimenting. In fact, it’s what catapulted her career. “Euphoria” characters like Rue, Jules and Maddy — played by Zendaya, Hunter Schafer and Alexa Demie, respectively — wear blue glitter eyeshadow, avant-garde cat eyes and lots of rhinestones around their eyes, cheekbones and foreheads.
The success of “Euphoria,” has encouraged the show’s legions of fans to give risky looks a try and brought Davy to the forefront. In May 2022, Davy, “Euphoria” director Sam Levinson and Ashley Lent Levinson, his wife, launched A24′s first consumer brand, Half Magic Beauty. Davy is the line’s creative director, too.
Now, after selling on its own website for a year, Half Magic has landed funding and its first retail partnership. Starting today, the brand’s makeup, including its Magic Flik eyeliner and multi-coloured face gems, will be available at more than 425 Ulta Beauty stores. In June, the line secured its first round of outside capital from Alliance Consumer Growth, Imaginary Ventures and Access Entertainment. (A24 started the brand with over one million dollars in seed funding.)
What happens next depends on how effectively Half Magic can leverage content, commerce and Davy’s expertise as an artist.
No Makeup Makeup Beginnings
As the studio’s first full-fledged brand — A24, has engaged in a smattering of other ventures like merch and podcasts — Half Magic sits at a crossroads in beauty. Entertainment can certainly be more than what’s on a screen, but translating it to a personal purchase like beauty, without making it feel like a gimmick, is tough to do. Davy has to be Half Magic’s unlock.
By her own account, Davy’s introduction to beauty was uneventful. At age 10, the Venice, California, native found a copy of “Bobbi Brown Teenage Beauty: Everything You Need to Look Pretty, Natural, Sexy and Awesome” and started to dabble with her mom’s lipstick.
“I tried the ‘no-makeup’ makeup thing, a little concealer, a little blush,” she said.
Davy was surrounded by art and colour in other ways. Her father was a sculptor who collected African masks, and her mother worked in graphic design; she studied photography and fine art at Pratt. Davy’s makeup style on “Euphoria” and products today draw influence from Philip-Lorca diCorcia, William Eggleston and Nan Goldin.
At 23, Davy took a course in special effects and movie makeup and picked up a number of odd jobs around LA, such as doing the beauty for actors’ headshots and student films. Then she got her big break: makeup department head for Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight,” which was produced by A24. This led to Davy getting the makeup designer gig with “Euphoria,” the job that would change the trajectory of her career and shake up A24′s core business model.
“We are reimagining the way the studio looks,” said Matthew Bires, A24′s co-founder and chief operating officer, who is working to create a “platform for all types [of creators] to create consumer products when and where they are justified.”
The Face of Gen-Z Beauty
It’s a feat to remain on top of trends, let alone be the one to create one, but trends are fleeting. Ultimately, Half Magic’s success will come down to its ability to transcend “Euphoria” mania.
Despite the outsized impact the show’s makeup has had on culture, Davy doesn’t yet have the name recognition of social media famous or more established artists with their own brands, from Mario Dedivanovic to Gucci Westman or Charlotte Tilbury. Davy doesn’t exactly fit into either camp, despite her role in creating one of the biggest makeup trends since contouring.
“Euphoria” makeup as a trend and Half Magic also aren’t one and the same. The hashtag #euphoriamakeup on TikTok has 2.5 billion views; Davy and Half Magic have 127,000 and 45,000 followers, respectively. According to data from consumer trends platform Spate, in June, the term “Euphoria makeup” saw around 100,000 monthly searches and remains a high-volume trend, compared to other beauty looks.
The brand has yet to integrate itself into “Euphoria” via limited-edition products or collections, as the show hasn’t started filming its third season, which is expected to air in 2025. Nor has the brand been able to bank on its famous cast of stars as faces in the interim. Zendaya and Barbie Ferreira, for example, have been locked in multi-year deals with competing brands like Lancôme and YSL.
Larry Milstein, co-founder of Gen-Z consultancy PRZM, noted that the “‘Euphoria’ look and consumer taste has shifted dramatically” since 2019, when the show first aired. He pointed out that bold, expressive makeup is just one beauty trend alongside many others, like Sofia Richie Grainge’s minimal, model-off-duty look.
Davy said she will be more forward-facing as a founder, something she’s ready for after previously being “crippled” with fear during early interviews and panels. She will attend Ulta Beauty meet-and-greets in Chicago, New York and LA, beginning this week, and will create content with the retailer’s influencer collective. Half Magic will expand its product assortment and offer more wearable but still sparkly options in line with a recent Magic Nudes collection.
But Davy still plans to encourage experimentation.
Like many others who never tried metallic eyeshadow before seeing an episode of “Euphoria,” neither had she. It was only after the first season that Davy started to use her own face as a canvas, making up for lost time since her “Bobbi Brown Teenage Beauty” days.
“It gives me street cred because I can actually say to people, ‘I know you think you can’t wear this, but you can and here’s how,’” she said. “I get where they are coming from.”