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Meet the Roommates (and the Makeup Artist Behind Their Looks) of "The Sex Lives of College Girls"

Photo courtesy of WarnerMedia Direct LLC

If you ask us, Emmy®-nominated writer and producer Mindy Kaling is the true Queen of Comedy. From her days playing a snarky Kelly Kapoor in The Office to her hilarious hit show The Mindy Project and as the voice of Disgust in Inside Out (it’s not *only* a kid’s movie!), she always knows how to make us laugh. So when we heard that she was teaming up with writer and producer Justin Noble to create The Sex Lives of College Girls, a new HBO Max show following four college roommates during their freshman year, we were instantly on board. And we weren’t the only ones who were psyched.

“I was very excited,” says Carleigh Herbert, the show’s makeup department head, when she found out she got the job. “It’s always been a dream of mine to work for HBO. The script, led by Kaling and Noble, was a lot of fun and gave me tons of room to play makeup-wise.” So how did Herbert take words on a paper and turn the characters into three-dimensional people you’ll fall in love with? We checked in with her to find out.

By the way, the first two episodes of The Sex Lives of College Girls premiere on Thursday, November 18 on HBO Max. Trust us, you won’t want to miss it.

About the Expert:

Carleigh Herbert is an Emmy- and Guild-nominated makeup artist and makeup department head for HBO Max’s The Sex Lives of College Girls. Her work can also be seen in television shows like Teen Wolf and American Horror Story: 1984.

Bringing the Characters to Life

Being a makeup department head for a television show starts well before the actor hits the makeup chair. Herbert always approaches a new project with research in her back pocket. “I first dove into all the makeup trends for teens and young adults on Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram,” she says. “I paid attention to how people are using colors and shapes to play up their makeup.”

In her research, she found that a lot of current makeup trends nod back to earlier decades. We know all about how the ‘90s have made a major comeback, but that’s not the only decade she referenced when building the looks. “I also take a lot of inspiration from the ‘60s and the eye designs that have come back in style,” she adds.

The script and the characters’ storylines, backgrounds, and goals for themselves also played a big role in Herbert’s design of their makeup. “I like to think makeup for many people helps steer and guide the person they are or want to be on the outside,” she says. “The makeup on this show is fast, always changing, and always moving—how I believe the characters in this show are.”

Meet the 4 Roomies (and Their Makeup Aesthetics!)

1. Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet)

Close-up of Pauline Chalamet as Kimberly in the HBO Max series The Sex Lives of College Girls
Photo courtesy of WarnerMedia Direct LLC

As the valedictorian of a working-class public high school in a humble Arizona suburb, Kimberly is the overachiever of the group (at least academically, not so much socially). You’ll love her smart, caring, earnest, and ambitious personality from the jump. On actress Pauline Chalamet’s sensitive skin, Herbert relied on gentle brands like BAREMINERALS and BURT’S BEES.

“For Kimberly’s look, we kept her sweet and natural,” says Herbert. “The other girls would bump up their looks for parties and nights out. Kimberly’s character had not played with makeup much before coming to college. Her version of bumping up her makeup is throwing on some lip gloss.” As the show progresses and Kimberly gets more comfortable with her new life as a co-ed—and even meets some cute boys—she starts to play up her look a little (but you'll have to stay tuned to see that!).

2. Bela (Amrit Kaur)

Close-up of a smiling Amrit Kaur as Bela in the HBO Max series The Sex Lives of College Girls
Photo courtesy of WarnerMedia Direct LLC

Bela is a comedy-obsessed, super confident cornball from an affluent suburb in northern New Jersey. She’s not afraid to say what she’s thinking, including describing herself as “extremely sex-positive” even though she just had sex for the first time, which is one of the reasons her character is instantly compelling.

“Bela is a wild child just getting out of her parent’s world and jumping full force into her college life,” says Herbert. “Her makeup very much reflects her moods and expressions. She would change her look up depending on if she was in class, at a party, or pursuing her writing career.” This allowed Herbert to play around a lot with actress Amrit Kaur’s look.

“When [Bela] was going through hard times, she would wear her makeup lighter to reflect that,” says Herbert. “When she was ready to go out for the night and feeling good, you always knew because she was covered in glitter or threw on an intense liner look.” To get Bela’s playful looks, Herbert reached for a lot of URBAN DECAY: “They have a great range of colored mascaras, eyeliners, and colorful eye palettes.”

3. Leighton (Reneé Rapp)

Close-up of Reneé Rapp as Leighton in the HBO Max series The Sex Lives of College Girls
Photo courtesy of WarnerMedia Direct LLC

If you ask Leighton to introduce herself, she'd say she was a normal, classy girl from a great family. Ask anyone else, and they’d likely describe her as blunt, judgmental, even entitled. She comes from one of the richest families in New York City’s Upper East Side, and is a fourth-generation legacy at Essex (the New England college the girls attend).

“Leighton’s look is very upscale and clean, a proper Manhattan girl,” says Herbert. “She is a creature of habit, always pulling together a small winged cat eye, lashes in the corner, a pop of pink on the cheek, and a soft lip.” Herbert’s go-tos for creating Leighton’s classic looks: KOH GEN DO, LA PRAIRIE, and ARMANI BEAUTY. “The red lips Leighton uses throughout the season are ARMANI BEAUTY pencils and liquid lipsticks.”

4. Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott)

Close-up of Alyah Chanelle Scott as Whitney in the HBO Max series The Sex Lives of College Girls
Photo courtesy of WarnerMedia Direct LLC

As the soon-to-be star of Essex’s soccer team, Whitney is strong and confident. She is also the only daughter of the most powerful Black senator in the country. After graduating from an elite L.A. prep school, Whitney chooses an East Coast college to live her most exciting, independent life.

“Whitney’s look was a no-makeup look for the most part since she’s always on the go and an up-and-coming soccer star,” says Herbert. This meant lots of clean skin and soft, rosy lips. For party scenes, Herbert added thick eyeliner and a pop of color to Whitney’s lips from brands like FENTY BEAUTY, MAC, and ANASTASIA BEVERLY HILLS. “I dig [ANASTASIA BEVERLY HILLS’] variety of colors for their bronzers, which were a must-have for me and Whitney’s character.”

Feeling inspired by the makeup on The Sex Lives of College Girls, and want to experiment with your own look? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started on your very own IPSY Glam Bag. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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About the author
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Maddie Aberman
Maddie is the senior manager of editorial at IPSY. She’s been covering beauty and wellness for more than nine years. Her work has appeared in Allure, Cosmopolitan, Popsugar, Women's Health, Good Housekeeping, and Seventeen, among other publications.
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Article Last Updated November 17, 2021 12:00 AM