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Emma Roberts: ‘Often on photoshoots, you’re wondering why they even want you to do it as you don’t look like yourself’

She may come from Hollywood royalty but down-to-earth bookworm and new mum Emma Roberts just wants to be herself. Here, the actor and Hugo Boss ambassador talks about being pregnant in a pandemic, her love of perfume and ditching that Noughties panda-eye look

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Emma Roberts photographed for Hugo Boss Alive Intense

Emma Roberts photographed for Hugo Boss Alive Intense

Emma Roberts attending the 2019 Met Gala

Emma Roberts attending the 2019 Met Gala

Hugo Boss Alive Intense

Hugo Boss Alive Intense

Emma Roberts photographed for Hugo Boss Alive Intense

Emma Roberts photographed for Hugo Boss Alive Intense

Hugo Boss Alive Intense

Hugo Boss Alive Intense

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Emma Roberts photographed for Hugo Boss Alive Intense

As a total tag hag, I lust after all of Emma Roberts’ red-carpet clothes. I mean, who doesn’t remember the gorgeous Giambattista Valli gown she wore to the 2019 Met Gala? Or her December 2020 Cosmopolitan US cover, where she donned a fabulous Frankies Bikinis pink co-ord? As the magazine’s first-ever pregnant cover star, her crop top showed off her baby bump while the high-slit skirt revealed the star tattoo at the top of her leg.

So, it’s our shared passion for fashion I’m expecting will connect us as I get ready to chat with the American Horror Story actor over video call from her home in Los Angeles. However, it’s the rather more unlikely subject of books that we end up discussing at length.

A keen reader, 31-year-old Roberts loves to recommend books on her Instagram page. Together with her friend Karah Preiss, she set up a book-club community called Belletrist. “I feel that falling down the rabbit hole of a book is a luxury now because we’re just so consumed by screens,” she says. “So, to be able to read a book on the plane or in the bath, or even in a quiet part of the house, really does feel nourishing for my brain.”

She confesses to becoming obsessed with finding the perfect book for people, and loves nothing more than to curate a set of books for friends going on trips. “I tell them when and what order to read them, depending on the mood they’re in,” she says. “There are all these stipulations when I give these books over, so I take it very seriously.”

I am here for nourishing minds as well as bodies, I tell her. “Books really are my passion in life,” she continues. “When my sister Grace, who’s 21, told me she didn’t like to read, I took that as a competition! I gave her so many books and she didn’t like any of them. Then, I found one that she loved: Daisy Jones & The Six [by Taylor Jenkins Reid]. I read it in three days and I was weeping at the end of it. You have to read it.”

Roberts’ evident passion certainly fits with the tagline of the new Boss Alive Intense eau de parfum, which celebrates the “boldness of women everywhere and enhances a lust for life”. We’re speaking today to discuss her role as the face of the fragrance.

Her relationship with Hugo Boss began after she sat in the FROW of one of the luxury fashion house’s runway shows and loved the clothes. A few days later, the brand asked her if she wanted to work with them on the Boss Alive fragrance, alongside fellow actors Laura Harrier, Bruna Marquezine and Chloe Bennet.

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Emma Roberts photographed for Hugo Boss Alive Intense

Emma Roberts photographed for Hugo Boss Alive Intense

Emma Roberts photographed for Hugo Boss Alive Intense

Getting back to books for a second, I’ve just finished Manifest by Roxie Nafousi. Did Roberts manifest the Boss gig into her life? “I must have on some level, but it felt like one of those, ‘Is this my life?’ moments,” she says. “I loved the fragrance, and when I asked what the campaign would look like, they said it wasn’t even going to be retouched [digitally airbrushed to remove imperfections].” Sorry, what? I’ve spent over 20 years reporting on all things beauty, and this is most certainly not the usual practice.

“They just wanted me to have fun and be comfortable and confident,” she says, adding that, as an actor, she also relished the opportunity to just be herself. “I thought it was amazing, because a lot of the time when you do photoshoots, they dress you up and you’re unrecognisable. And you’re wondering why they even want you to do it as you don’t look like yourself. So, it was so nice to be asked to do something that’s inspiring people to feel and look like themselves.”

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She was not the only one impressed with the results when the campaign was released in 2020. “I hadn’t seen the pictures anywhere, and then my sister travelled to Spain and she sent me two photos from the campaign. One was located right outside her hotel and the other one was in the airport, and she said, ‘I just can’t get away from you’. She also said that I looked so pretty and like myself — and, because my sister is 10 years younger than me, that was really sweet, coming from her.”

Roberts comes from a talented family. She’s the granddaughter of acting coach Betty Lou Bredemus, the daughter of actor Eric Roberts and, famously, the niece of megastar Oscar winner Julia. As a child, Roberts got to hang around set — she was an extra in some of Julia’s scenes in the 2001 film America’s Sweethearts — and used the opportunity to learn the ropes.

Her first big role was at age nine, playing Kristina Jung, the daughter of Johnny Depp’s cocaine smuggler in Blow. Fans of the kids’ channel Nickelodeon will remember her as Addie Singer in the teen sitcom Unfabulous, which aired from 2004 to 2007.

Addie wrote songs about her life in middle school, which led Roberts into a music career for a few years. She has since appeared in numerous movies, as well as her role in American Horror Story.

She is executive producer of the 2022 Netflix series First Kill, which follows the queer romance between a vampire and a vampire hunter, and came about from a Belletrist recommendation.

Roberts was also delighted to come back this year for the Boss Alive Intense campaign — with the brand saying she was chosen because of her “undeniable charisma and aura of positivity”.

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Emma Roberts attending the 2019 Met Gala

Emma Roberts attending the 2019 Met Gala

Emma Roberts attending the 2019 Met Gala

“I just absolutely love this scent,” she says. “It has this note of vetiver in it, which I love in perfume, and it feels really warm and yummy. The bottle looks quite beautiful on my vanity, and I love when a perfume bottle looks as good as it smells.” We both laugh at this, as I’m the same — showing off.

“I put my perfume on every day and it’s just part of my routine. It’s not a special-occasion thing, like perhaps make-up can be. I have my skincare and my perfume right next to each other on my vanity.”

She likes to spray her perfume in hotel closets and drawers when she’s shooting on location. “I want to just put my clothes in there and not have them smell like someone else.”

Like most of us, she had great intentions of wearing a different outfit every day and putting on make-up during the pandemic, but other than wearing perfume, those plans fell by the wayside — principally because she became pregnant and had her son, Rhodes, in December 2020.

Roberts began dating Rhodes’ father, actor Garrett Hedlund, in March 2019, but it was revealed in January that they have sadly split. They are now co-parenting their son, and the pair celebrated his first birthday with a rodeo-themed party.

When we talk about the pandemic, I ask whether she found it a good time to be pregnant and cocooning? “It was the perfect time. I kept wearing my fragrance so that my son would know that that was my scent, because my mom said that when she had me and my sister, she would spray her perfume on our blankets so we would smell her.”

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Hugo Boss Alive Intense

Hugo Boss Alive Intense

Hugo Boss Alive Intense

Roberts admits the make-up only goes on a few days a week now. “I did a full face of make-up one day when I wasn’t doing anything except for taking care of the baby, and forgot I had it on when I rubbed my eyes,” she laughs. “I looked in the mirror and I looked insane, and the baby was looking at me like I was crazy, with mascara all over my face.

“I’m obsessed with skincare, though, and my mom laughs at me because I’ll literally buy anything if people are like, ‘This will change your life’.”

Unsurprisingly, she’s got the kind of glowing skin that looks expensive. I want to know everything she uses in her beauty regime and we get busy talking through some mutual favourites. Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser has been a staple for years, and she thinks the serums from the Dr Barbara Sturm line are fabulous. And — like a lot of mums I know — Charlotte Tilbury is her holy grail.

“Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Cream is amazing, and every time I cheat on it, I end up wondering why I did that and I go back to it. She did my make-up once and I almost fainted, because Charlotte Tilbury doing my make-up one day was on my vision board, and then it happened. We have the same birthday, actually.”

I tell her that I saw on her Instagram that MUA extraordinaire Lisa Eldridge had done her make-up too. “She used her red lipstick on me before it came out, and I remember being like, ‘OMG, I need this’.”

Despite mingling with the industry’s big names, however, Roberts’ favourite beauty tip was given to her by her mum, Kelly.

“It was ‘less is more’, especially when it was the early 2000s and I thought I needed to wear four pounds of eyeliner to leave the house,” she laughs. “So, I appreciate her take on that now.”

We finish our chat and promise to meet up again some time, perhaps on these shores. “I went to Dublin and thought it was so amazing,” she says of a visit at age 16 with her mum. “I didn’t really get to explore but it’s on my mom’s and my bucket list now to really go on a big Ireland trip, so hopefully we’ll get there.” Get it on that vision board, then! 

Boss Alive Intense by Hugo Boss is available from Brown Thomas, Arnotts, McCauleys, Shaws and CH Chemists nationwide


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