‘1883’ Star Isabel May Talks Growing Underarm Hair to Accurately Portray Role

by Amy Myers
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The Yellowstone spinoff, 1883, details the trials and tribulations of the Dutton ancestors as they journey westward from Tennessee. From diseases to bandits to unforgiving terrain, the show aims to accurately portray the difficulties families faced as they searched for new opportunities. In order to do so, director Taylor Sheridan has considered every detail of the set, including the hygiene and personal care of his stars.

One 1883 actress has even altered her grooming techniques to match those of the late 1800s. Isabel May portrays 19-year-old Elsa Dutton, who, despite her mom’s best efforts, rebels against the notion of being “ladylike.” In order to look the part of the young traveler, May has had to stop shaving.

“This is my real hair. I’m very proud of it,” the 1883 actress told Town and Country, referring to her underarms. “It’s not that bad. Everyone was freaking out about it because all the ladies on set had to grow their hair out as well. I think it’s rather nice. What’s not great is the smell, I’m not gonna lie. It’s a whole other beast in 106 degrees. I carry around deodorant everywhere I go.”

Ditching the razor is a small price to pay for such a memorable role. In fact, Sheridan even wrote Elsa’s script specifically for May. But in order to embody her 1883 character, May knew she had to follow Sheridan’s image for accuracy.

“Taylor said from the very beginning, ‘I want everything to be authentic,'” May shared. “I mean, women didn’t start shaving until the 1920s. He really wanted that to be an aspect of the show, and so I was more than happy to oblige.”

‘1883’ Star Also Talks Hair and Makeup

For many shows, even when the stars have mud and blood on their faces, they have to endure hours in the makeup chair – but not for 1883.

In fact, May shared that the only makeup they use is what’s below their feet.

“We don’t wear makeup. We wear dirt. It’s like a natural contour. I’m just going to start wearing dirt everywhere I go,” May explained. “I actually really like it. You don’t care what you look like. There’s none of that ridiculousness, you’re just fully invested.”

As for her hairstyle, May’s character typically ties her blond locks into a long braid on the side of her head underneath a bonnet, the common look for young girls of the time period.

While the lengths that the 1883 actors go-to for accuracy may seem extreme, it’s likely that these small details also help them stay in character and achieve the right mentality for the part. Long braids, armpit hair and a dirty face were the everyday looks for westward women, and May is more than happy to sport the look.

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