BY ALEXIS OKEOWO
JODIE TURNER-SMITH’S beauty routine, as of late, has been a little unusual. After cleansing, the British actor uses a dash of lavender oil, red or black lipstick—“I love when my lips are very moody and dark,” she says—mascara, cheek stain, a brow pencil, and her own breast milk. “Ever since I had my baby, my current beauty secret is that I put breast milk in all of my face serums,” Turner-Smith says, laughing. “My skin is very sensitive, so I use a light cleanser, and then I put on a serum with aloe and breast milk that I literally squeeze right into my hands from my boob. I think it’s the lactic acid. I’ve just found that the milk has been revolutionary.” Only a few months after having her baby daughter, Turner-Smith is one of the faces of Gucci’s new campaign for its latest Bloom fragrance (Anjelica Huston, Florence Welch, and Susie Cave are the others).
In the short film announcing the campaign, the actor wanders through a dreamy, flowered landscape—a vision from Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele. “I had long admired Alessandro’s aesthetic: fanciful and genderless and really playful,” Turner-Smith tells me from Los Angeles.
Fashion and beauty campaigns, she adds, help shape our parameters of what is considered beautiful and valuable. And they have the power to shift limiting representations of Black women. “There were so many times where I would take photos, and whoever I’m working with was like, ‘Now, can you be really fierce and growl?’ And it’s like, ‘Can I just be tender?’ ” she says. “White women get to be that all the time. So I loved the fact that I could be this woman who is powerful while still gentle. Can I be a carefree Black girl?!” Already a lover of essential oils, incense, and floral fragrances, she was drawn to the perfume itself: a heady blend of tuberose, jasmine, and sandalwood. “Scent really has the power to shift your mood, to calm you, to excite you,” she says. “That’s something that’s always been very important to me.”
The lockdown in Los Angeles has been an unexpected blessing for Turner-Smith, who broke out in a starring role in last year’s Queen & Slim, and her husband, the actor Joshua Jackson. After giving birth in April, she’s used quarantine to recover (she recounted her nearly four-day labor in a much-read essay for British Vogue) and spend uninterrupted time with her daughter. “I had to learn how to breastfeed and how to be a mum—it really worked out for my baby,” she says. Turner-Smith’s mother ended up staying with them for three months during the lockdown, and having her and Jackson at home was a “comfort” from the chaos outside. “It doesn’t make sense that we still have to be screaming to the world that our lives matter. It doesn’t make sense that Black people are being senselessly mowed down by the police,” Turner-Smith goes on. “It doesn’t make sense, this country’s response to the global pandemic. It doesn’t make sense that so many people are unemployed, and the government is bailing out corporations. But what did make sense, inside of that, was the love of my family.”
Turner-Smith’s other routines have also changed. She is still looking for “cool mum” outfits; during her pregnancy, her style was mostly stretchy pink clothes and sneakers. And while lipstick used to be the center point of her beauty looks, she now saves it for Zoom meetings since most of it ends up on her face masks. During the long days of quarantine, she has been going on walks and recently watched all of How to Get Away With Murder with Jackson: “Viola could do anything, I’m just obsessed with her,” she says of Viola Davis, the show’s star. Turner-Smith has several film projects on the horizon herself, including Without Remorse, starring Michael B. Jordan, anticipated this fall. As she and Jackson raise their daughter, she wants to teach her daughter to have confidence apart from physical beauty: “That self-assuredness is what is going to help her navigate life. It’s important to impart to my daughter what is beautiful about her, and about who she comes from and where she comes from, and what is powerful about that.”