But thanks to the magic of makeup, and "a little tape and glue," the brunette actress transforms into the spitting image of the icy blonde, plump-lipped designer.
Gershon is starring in the Lifetime original movie 'House of Versace," based on the Deborah Bell book of the same name, that tells the story of Versace's life as she struggles to carry on the fashion company after her brother's murder.
The true story recounts how, after Gianni Versace (Enrico Colatoni) was slain in 1997, Donatella struggled to keep the company -- and herself -- together, battling bad reviews, drug addiction and nearly driving the company to bankruptcy.
She entered rehab and went on to guide the Versace empire to astronomical success.
“Surprisingly enough we’ve never met, though we have a lot of mutual friends,” Gershon said, of Versace. “I’ve played people [on-screen] before who are still living and I’ve always met them... but I’m kind of glad I never met Donatella. She’s certainly a larger-than-life character.”
The dramatic physical transformation included plenty of tricks, but no prosthetics, said makeup artist Kathy Kelso.
Kelso "reshaped" Gershon's nose and bone structure "using highlight and shadow and with different intensity for every stage of [Versace's] life.”
She outfitted Gershon with a blonde wig, parted down the center in Versace's trademark style, stuffed cotton behind Gershon's lips to give them extra pout, and added plenty of smokey eye makeup.
“She goes through an evolution -- she physically changes, as we all know, through the years and it was important to be as truthful about that as possible,” Gershon explains. "It’s movie magic -- a little tape and glue."
“Her physicality is so different from mine; the way she stands and walks and speaks," she said. “It was a good exercise in concentration for me in trying to maintain that truthfulness.”
'House of Versace' airs October 5 at 8 p.m., and also stars Raquel Welch and Colm Feore.