When you’re Emma Watson, a simple trip to the hair salon turns into headlines and blog posts the world over. “There was a time when people only ever wanted to ask about my haircut,” she says. “That was a big deal for a while. But increasingly now I’m getting asked about the work I’m doing, which is really nice because people are genuinely interested.” This is probably because Watson is genuinely interesting. The 22-year-old Oxford University English student who leapt to the world’s attention as Hogwarts’ brightest half-muggle, Hermione, has managed to graduate from the blockbuster Harry Potter series into a string of intriguing independent films, including The Perks of Being a Wallflower and this summer’s Sofia Coppola-directed The Bling Ring.
Although she says she’s not the “sort of person who likes posing,” Watson has also lent her intelligent gaze and elfin features to ad campaigns, first for Burberry and now for Lancôme. “I’ve wanted to work with her for many years, but I didn’t want somebody too young to be [the face of] the brand,” says Youcef Nabi, president of Lancôme International. “I don’t want people to feel that they need to put on makeup very early.” Once Watson matured beyond Potter, the matter was broached, and a connection became apparent between the English actress and the French beauty company. “I was born here in Paris, and the brand represents a lot of the sensibilities that I grew up with and the type of style I try to emulate,” says Watson, who fronts the spring makeup collection, including 12 glimmery Gloss In Love shades. It also represented an opportunity to add to her collection: Her home in London is dotted with hatboxes full of beauty products from all over the world (lately she’s worked on sets from Iceland to New Orleans). “I have always really loved makeup,” she says. “I grew up around makeup artists. They were my surrogate mothers, so I always learned a lot.”
Last year, much of Watson’s life on set took place in sunny and superficial Los Angeles as she filmed The Bling Ring. Based on a true story exposed in Vanity Fair, the film follows a crew of wealthy, entitled teens who break into the houses of celebrities—Paris Hilton, Rachel Bilson, Lindsay Lohan—and steal their designer clothes and bags. “You could imagine her as one of the Kardashians,” Watson says of her character, Nicki, the daughter of a Playboy model. “It was hilarious because it’s so far from what I know. So for me to wear Ugg boots and matching tracksuits was just so much fun. I had to learn to pole-dance! But the film isn’t a comedy, and more than anything I had to find a way to relate to my character. I couldn’t just laugh at her; she had to be real and have real feelings and intentions and motives.”
Surreal as it is to see her pole-dancing in hair extensions, there isn’t much danger of Watson morphing into the typical Tinseltown try-hard. “I notice through people’s careers that gradually, everyone starts to look more and more like each other, especially with cosmetic surgery. It’s such a shame,” she says. “You have to be careful that you don’t just become another model of someone else.”