How Hair and Makeup Artist Ivana Primorac Brought Barbie to Life: Exclusive

48 hair pieces, 25 lipstick shades, custom eyebrows, and body paint were used to transform Margot Robbie into the world's most famous doll. In a Glamour exclusive, Primorac breaks down key beauty moments from the film—including Ryan Gosling's beachy tan and Kate McKinnon's marker scribbles.
Barbie Movie Hair and Makeup Artist Ivana Primorac Breaks Down Key Beauty Moments

When hair and makeup artist Ivana Primorac first met Barbie movie director Greta Gerwig on Zoom, it was a year before filming began. Every Tuesday the pair would meet with production designer Sarah Greenwood and costume designer Jacqueline Durran to try to answer the same question: How do we represent the world‘s most iconic doll on screen? 

“We have all the dolls as reference points, so how do we make humans into dolls? We discussed that at great length,” Primorac tells Glamour. “But it was always great fun because we were free to just chip in with all of our ideas.”

At first Primorac was set on recreating a toy—something that had a “plastic look” to the hair and skin. “I thought it was about the shine and perfection of some kind, that’s not worldly and that’s not human,” she says. 

Over the course of planning, discussions, and script changes, Primorac found that Barbie’s perfection didn’t have to be so literal. After a few tests, she quickly ruled out the fantastical, plastic look of dolls and approached Barbie from a much more grounded place. 

“What we realized is that the Barbie doll represents the best version of oneself,” she says. “If you can think of what would be the best version of yourself, it would be when your hair looks the nicest, when your skin is blemish free. Your hair is the best color that suits you. It’s not in the plastic sheen—the plastic was just a material the dolls were made out of.” 

Jaap Buitendijk

Instead, Primorac decided to focus on proportions and paid close attention to smaller details, like skin smoothness and color, to convey the perfection of Barbie dolls. 

“Doll hair is glorious and it’s the width of their shoulders, so it’s always a bit more glorious than any human could ever have,” she says. “And the skin matches all over. It’s not plastic necessarily, but it’s all nicely finished. The elbows, knees, and heels—those clunky things like the soles of your feet, when they get a bit dry and dirty—dolls don’t have that. So we paid extra attention to that, rather than making any of our cast members look plastic and fake.” 

High-level attention to detail meant that each Barbie and Ken needed custom hair and makeup looks. Primorac also dismissed the idea of making all the dolls look the same. 

“Every single Barbie and Ken, we designed individually,” she says. “We designed the makeup, the skin tone, everything that suits them best. Everyone had their own team of hair and makeup artists.” 

Jaap Buitendijk

The result was the Super Bowl of hair and makeup—an early morning mad dash to prep and execute looks for an A-list cast of actors. Or, as Primorac likes to call it, a Barbie party. 

“It ended up being a very team-driven effort, and it was like a party every morning in the makeup and hair rooms because everyone was getting ready together,” she says. “You really rarely approach an actor from head to toe. You don’t normally have to do everyone’s whole person to become the character.”

Of course, Primorac was up to task. A veteran in the hair and makeup department, she has earned nominations and awards for her work on films like Atonement, Sweeney Todd, and The Reader. Despite all this, Primorac admits she is “extra proud” of Barbie. “I got to see it again at the premiere, and I have to say, it is very exciting how much people like it,” she says. 

Here, Primorac breaks down key beauty moments from the Barbie movie, including Margot Robbie’s Barbie makeup look, Ryan Gosling’s perfect Ken tan, and Kate McKinnon’s face scribbles—plus, the exact nail polish used in the famous Barbie shoes scene

Glamour: Margot Robbie has spoken about the range of wigs that she wears throughout the movie, and I want to confirm that she does not wear her real hair at any point, right? It’s all wigs?

Ivana Primorac: It’s all wigs. We had to have 18 wigs for her, full wigs. And on top of that, we had something like 30 hairpieces. So hairpieces that would be stacked on top to create volume, pieces that would create length. One of the traveling wigs that she wears in the camping section of the travel into the real world is so super long that she could only wear it a couple of times because it was too heavy. She also wears it in another little section at the beginning, I think it was at one of the award ceremonies in Barbie World, but we managed to have all of them feature this gloriousness of Barbie hair.

Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

When the trailer dropped, a huge viral moment was when Margot steps out of Barbie’s shoes. How did you make her feet look so perfect? 

That was interesting because, obviously, it was scripted and part of the doll thing. I thought it was so clever in the script, they’re always on tippy toes. When her feet go flat, suddenly the story begins. So we always knew we were going to have to shoot that moment and the scenes that follow. We did it and thought, if Margot’s feet don’t look great enough, we have to think of something. 

We had the special body makeup made for Margot to suit the skin. She was very good at keeping her feet up arched by herself and suddenly it became evident that her feet are pretty perfect. While we were shooting, I said, “If need be, I’ll give Greta notes to remember in the edit that they can tidy up things.” So we all agreed and were relaxed about it. 

We shot the footage, and once we looked at it, it was actually perfect. I was worried about the heel and the toe and the wrinkle in the toe, but we finished her feet so nicely with all the body makeup and color. None of us have even skin color, our skin color varies slightly, and once we did that her feet became so perfect.

What was the nail polish you used on her feet? 

We used Naked by Glossify on her toes. 

When you are working with body makeup, do the actors follow a body care regimen?

It’s amazing how professional and hardworking all of our cast were, but particularly Margot, because she wanted to help the process of not having long makeup calls in the morning. She would do a lot of prep by herself at home. There was a whole skin prep and regimen, but she would follow that herself religiously so we would have a shorter makeup call in the morning. We’d have a good scrub, a good body moisturizer. 

The problem with body makeup was that we couldn’t have it transfer to clothes. We had to search high and low for something that would do the color and the finish that we wanted. That wouldn’t wrinkle, that wouldn’t crack, that was seamless and thin-looking, and the right color, but also wouldn’t come off on all the white and pastel clothes. We made custom body makeups for everyone because everyone’s skin was slightly different and some people are more sensitive to certain things.

Jaap Buitendijk

How did you create Barbie’s makeup look?

So the look for Barbie Margot was the healthiest peachiest skin throughout. There were special chosen highlighters for around the eye, around the mouth and the nose, so we achieved the nicest shape to her face.

We also had custom-made eyebrows. We lengthened the eyebrows, so the proportion of her eye and her eyebrow to hairline changed. That subliminally helps a lot. We didn’t do any false eyelashes; we did mascara that lengthened, and it was very thin and separated her lashes. But with the longer eyebrow, the eye shape grew. We highlighted the corners of her eye with something very sparkly so it would catch the light.

We had lots of different lipsticks and blush color. Blushes and lipsticks were matched to her costume, and Margot got very good at choosing that herself because that becomes a part of preparation. We had thousands of colors in front on our table set up. We never really repeated the same formula, every costume had a different hair and different blush and different lipstick. I would say almost 25 different shades of lipstick for every costume.  But the idea was that her makeup and her hair was simple, so it’s the classiest and the simplest, yet radiant. 

Kate McKinnon said a lot of thought went into her Barbie look. I’m curious to know how you created the scribbles on her face and what you used. Was it eyeliner?

That was a very difficult character to set, because we know from memory the Barbies that we cut all their hair off and put Sharpie on their faces. We tried so many different things and different hair, and nothing really quite worked for a while. Kate’s amazing in her preparation and dedication, and she gives you as much time as possible. We remade her hair quite a few times until we got to what we have in the movie.

Sitting there with her, I thought, I’m totally overcomplicating it; it needs to be something that’s as effortless as when kids do it. It felt a little bit invasive to draw without a plan on Kate’s face, so I drew it on my face and Kate said, “That makes sense. That’s what’s free about the movement.” So that was then the plan. We had to approach the technique to Kate’s face. 

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

I’d bought huge amounts of primary colors of eyeliners ages ago from a South Korean brand, Pudaier Color Liquid Eyeliner, and I never had any need for them. Suddenly I was like, That’s it! We need those flat, bright primary colors that won’t come off. We used those eyeliners to create the black Sharpie around her eye and the squiggles on her face. We had stencils and measurements and photographs to do it the same every day. 

Ryan Gosling’s Ken has a different look from Barbie, with more platinum hair and a beachy tan. How did you settle on what his hair and skin would look like? 

We were all involved in setting Ryan’s look, but he had his own amazing team of makeup and hair artists. Ryan was very clear; he knew what he wanted his Ken to be. So we tried a whole bunch of different shades of blonde and then we settled for that one. I have to say, I love the way it looks in the movie.

Same goes with his tan and body makeup. We particularly took a while to find the right formula for him because, again, he needed to be a bit more tanned, but it couldn’t be very different from Margot. It also couldn’t have been the same as Margot, because it wouldn’t have looked good. These were our technical problems. He was spray-tanned, but I wouldn’t say consistently because it would have to be measured. He couldn’t ever get too pale. So we spray-tanned a few times, then we stopped, then did the body makeup and he would go out in the sun, so we would change up the formula. We kept searching for the best solution and he was always on top of it. 

Besides the ones we discussed, are there are any other favorite looks you have from the movie? 

I loved Issa Rae. Hari Nef. Emma Mackey, I loved her freckles. I really noticed them yesterday. I thought freckles are definitely part of a new trend and new fashion for the summer.

Dua Lipa’s mermaid look is great fun, because she is the only one that truly is a copy of the toy. Because she appears in the surf, we all thought it would be fun to actually make her look identical to the toy. So her hair and her tail were actually identical to the original Barbie toys, because I just thought that was a nice nod to the real Mattel Barbie Mermaids, rather than making her into a stylized one. She does look like a toy.

Ariana Yaptangco is the senior beauty editor at Glamour. You can follow her @arianayap.