A VERY L.A. CHRISTMAS WITH PHOEBE TONKIN
On the day we met, actress Phoebe Tonkin answered the door bare faced with damp hair, fresh from a workout at celebrity favorite, Body By Simone. Dressed in a worn grey tee shirt and black jogging pants, the set up for our winter editorial shoot felt more akin to hanging out with an old friend. It helps, of course, that Tonkin has the kind of infectious personality that makes someone ridiculously likable, like greeting each member of the Highbrow team with a smile and hug so genuine you almost forget you’re meeting her for the first time.
If Tonkin’s personal style is characterized by laid back comfort, then our location for the day, the Studio City home she shares with boyfriend Paul Wesley, is what happens when comfort meets chic. Impeccably furnished and dotted with personal touches, like the Diptyque Bais candles she keeps burning in the kitchen, the minimalist yet inviting space served as the perfect backdrop for a shoot inspired by being home for the holiday season.
Though she may be recent fixture on American television, Tonkin is no stranger to the small screen. She starred as Cleo on the three-season run of the Australian teen mermaid drama, H20, and has, for the most part, lived in the fantasy realm ever since. Her first major role after moving stateside was a stint on The CW’s witch-centric series, The Secret Circle, before it was abruptly cancelled after just one season, a case study in bad timing. The short-lived show, which garnered a small, yet loyal following while on the air, found new life, and a bigger audience, after its cancellation- this time, on Netflix. Despite no longer working together, Tonkin remains extremely close with the cast; so much so that her after-shoot plans this evening include dinner with her former costars at the newly opened Ysabel in West Hollywood.
The CW kept Tonkin on their roster after the cancellation, eventually casting her in her current role as Hayley Marshall-Kenner, a shape-shifting, undead werewolf. Her journey as Hayley began on the hit series, The Vampire Diaries, eventually leading to the New Orleans-set spin-off, The Originals, which is now in it’s third season. The show has really found it’s footing, which isn’t surprising given the success of its predecessor. It features same gloss of magic and mystery that continues to draw in massive audiences to Vampire Diaries, but with bigger, badder villains and a more adult storyline.
It’s a scorching 86 degrees in The Valley on the day of our shoot, perfect weather for the fur coats and cable knit sweaters we’ve chosen, jokes stylist Sarah Scheussheim. Despite the heat, Tonkin is ever the professional, a blank canvas for hairstylist Chad Wood and makeup artist Monika Blunder to create three updated versions of traditional holiday party beauty. The shoot also gives Tonkin the opportunity to pick up the torch as creative director, collaborating with photographer Jin-Woo Prensena to bring the looks to life.
At 12:00 sharp, we begin shooting. As soon as the cameras start clicking, Tonkin transforms from the laid-back Aussie I’ve gotten to know in the makeup chair, (fun fact: Wood carries around a full-blown styling chair to accommodate his staggering height), to a seasoned vet who knows her way around in front of the camera. She’s so good, in fact, that we are able to shoot the entire first look in fifteen minutes. The whole crew pauses-not used to having time to spare on set- then quickly resets to change into the second look. Between takes, Tonkin wears the hat of a ‘holiday hostess’ well, offering the crew fresh raspberries and healthy muffins (a Whole Foods gamble she’d picked up the night before that definitely paid off), which we all eagerly devour.
The styling of the shoot is somewhat inspired by Tonkin’s incredibly -and inherently- cool personality: everyone on set agrees she’s the type of girl who could make vintage-washed jeans and a cable knit sweater work for a holiday party, just by pairing them with a statement lip. Hair references of the Olsen twins translate into textured waves, offset by glitzy, but completely wearable, winter makeup. We’ve got something for everyone with the three looks- a silver and rhinestone cat eye for the life of the party, a rich berry lip for the minimalist and a navy smoky eye for the rebel.
The shoot wraps 20 minutes later than scheduled, after three hair changes and two wardrobe swaps to get the third look perfect, but the lost time proves well worth the extra effort after seeing the finished photos. While hair and styling pack up, Blunder takes a minute to tone down Tonkin’s smoky eye to something more wearable for a casual evening out with close friends. Sitting in the chair, Tonkin confesses she’s not great at her own makeup, so she wants to take full advantage of having a professional here to help, even though her dinner isn’t for another six hours. Dressed back down in her own clothes- this time, tribal printed shorts and a slouchy tee- Tonkin represents the ultimate millennial compromise: You can do it all, because you don’t have to do it perfectly.
Published November 30, 2015
by Zoe Brenneke
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