Quinta Brunson Abbott Elementary slick hair feather dress
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Big Beauty Questions

Quinta Brunson Wants to Change the Way You Think About Beauty

The Emmy nominee and new face of Olay shares her tried-and-true tricks and skin-care staples.

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It's the day after Emmy nominations have been announced, and by all accounts, Quinta Brunson is keeping it together. “It's fine, I feel good, I'm happy,” she tells Glamour. Okay, so that might be downplaying it a little bit, because, just 24 hours earlier, Abbott Elementary—the ABC-Warner Bros. Television sitcom that Brunson created and stars in—received a nomination for outstanding comedy series, with Brunson getting two additional Emmy noms, for outstanding actress in a comedy and outstanding writing in a comedy. She is the first Black woman to receive comedy nominations in all three categories. 

Brunson can barely keep up with all the good things happening. She's back in the writers room for season two of Abbott, which just received a 22-episode order, doubling all of season one. No pressure, right? “It's really nice to just get back to work, because I think that's a really good way to celebrate what we did last season, and motivate us to continue to do the same,” she says. “I'm just so happy for everyone.”

But there's more. In addition to all the Emmy love and fan reception, Brunson's been keeping another big secret that she can finally shout from the rooftops: She's the new face of Olay and will be featured in the Retinol 24+Peptide campaign, which debuts August 1.

“I'm over the moon about that,” she says. “I'm so excited to be with such an iconic brand because Olay has been a staple in my life for so long. My mom used it, and Olay has always been in my bathroom. It was with me when I was broke and it's still with me. I just couldn't believe I was going to be a face of Olay. It was just exciting.”

But even with Emmy noms, a new season of her hit show, and a major skin-care-brand deal, Brunson is still Brunson, keeping it real and in perspective. For Glamour's latest installment of Big Beauty Questions, she opens up about her “weird guilty pleasure” she swears by daily, her signature scent, and the beauty standard she's trying to change in Hollywood.

Brunson for Olay. Photo: Courtesy of brand.

Glamour: What is one beauty or skin-care trend that you’re obsessed with right now?

Quinta Brunson: I really enjoy doing lymphatic massages on my face. They feel good. I actually do see a difference right away, especially if my face is a little puffy. It's become a weird little guilty pleasure time, to go on YouTube and find new tutorials and do it. Even though they're all doing the same thing. [Laughs.]

Do you use a gua sha stone or a face roller?

Sometimes I use the gua sha stone; sometimes I use the rollers. Sometimes I use just my hands, which I'm the biggest fan of because then I'll just do it in the shower with a nice light oil. 

Is there a beauty rule that you think is B.S.? 

That beauty products have to cost a ton of money. You were being told that if it wasn't over $50, it's not working. And while I think maybe there's some validity to that with some products, I just don't think that's true with things like moisturizers. I recently got into retinol, and when I was searching around, some of them were so expensive, but Olay actually has a nighttime beauty line that's retinol 24 plus peptide and it works. You can get that at the drugstore, and it's not breaking the bank. I don't have to pay for all these different products to come work together and maybe irritate my face. This is one line that does work, is simple, and is accessible to most people. I wake up with my skin feeling so soft and hydrated. That's all I'm really looking for. I don't need it to work a miracle. I just need it to feel good.

Olay Regenerist Retinol 24+Peptide Night Moisturizer

What’s the best beauty advice your mom taught you?

My mom always was like, “You have to wash your face at night. You have to wash your face no matter what.” And that has stuck with me. I don't care if I am going to bed at 4 a.m., I need to get a washcloth and make sure my face is clean every single night without fail. You cannot go to sleep with that clogging your pores. People don't realize how much makeup can clog your skin or how many pollutants are out there. 

Fill in the blank. I love my hair when...

I love my hair when it is wet because I think it looks really cute. That's it. I can't walk around with it like that because it's just drenched and truly would just be sopping wet because my hair retains water. I wish I could be one of those people who just goes outside and my hair dries in an hour. My hair will stay wet for an entire day and I can't walk around like that. I'll catch a cold or something.

Is there a city or country that gives you the greatest beauty inspiration?

New York. There's so many different people walking around with so many different styles, just being themselves. I think that's so beautiful. I can't say the same for L.A. I think L.A. people all have a look, and especially over the past 10 years, everybody kind of fell into looking the same. But New York, every time I go there, I'm so inspired by everybody's style on the street and everyone looks so beautiful to me. I feel more beautiful in New York. I love walking around there.

Let’s say you can use only three skin-care or beauty products for the rest of your life. What are they and why?

Olay's brightening eye cream because I have big eyes and I get big bags under those big eyes. I put it on in the morning and it really hydrates the area, but it also looks brighter. I'm going into the writers room a lot, fresh-faced and no makeup on, and it's important for me to feel like I don't look tired, but I don't want to put makeup on.

Olay Vitamin C+Peptide 24 Brightening Eye Cream

Then an eyebrow pencil. I really like the brand Anastasia Beverly Hills because they have a great eyebrow pencil that is slanted a little bit.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz Eyebrow Pencil

And my perfume, which is Mark Jacobs Daisy. That's a staple for me, so much so that I even have the little small travel-size one for when I go to other places and can't take my big one. That's my signature scent.

What is your favorite way to take a moment for yourself?

Just being home, playing video games, and relaxing with my cat. And sometimes watching old music videos. I just did that last night with my writers. Actually, we just came home and watched old music videos. That's something I enjoy doing, like old Ludacris videos, Alien Ant Farm, Blink 182, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, that era. It's very nostalgic for me and also inspiring.

If you could change one thing about beauty perceptions, either on social media or in Hollywood, what would that be?

It's something I'm hoping to do with Abbott Elementary, which is having four women on the same show who I really feel are beautiful in their own way. They don't all have to look the same or even close to looking the same to be considered beautiful. Ava is so different from Barbara, and so different from Melissa, and of course so different from Janine. But you have these four women who look like everyday women and that's important to me—to show people who look like everyday people onscreen, who look different from each other, still being perceived as beautiful, and still making the audience fall in love with them because they are beautiful.

Every woman on my show is just gorgeous. They may not be the model beauty-standard gorgeous, but to me, they represent women in my life and I think they're incredible. And that's important to me to be able to show what real women look like.

Janelle James, Quinta Brunson, Lisa Ann Walter, and Sheryl Lee Ralph

ABC/Getty Images

In addition to your gorgeous costars, who are the women who inspire you the most right now?

Channing Dungey, who is chairman of Warner Bros. Television Group. She's really cool. Besides her just being a Black woman, which is incredible and great and all, she's just so good at her job, and that what's inspiring to me. She helps creators maintain their vision, but still doing what she needs to do as the head of a studio who has to work with so many networks and streamers.

Mindy Kaling because she is such a Renaissance woman. I feel like she almost doesn't get the credit she deserves for how good she is at what she does. But that woman is incredible. She helped form one of the greatest sitcoms of our time, and continues to do it over and over again. Never Have I Ever is amazing, Sex Lives of College Girls is amazing. She's just good at this, and I find that so inspiring.

Jessica Radloff is the Glamour senior West Coast editor and author of the upcoming book The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series (October 11, 2022). You can follow her on Instagram @jessicaradloff14.