Bobbi Chats With Laverne Cox

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Bobbi Brown
·Editor in Chief
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Steve Schofield/Getty Contour

I love watching Laverne Cox as Sophia Burset on Orange Is the New Black, but I’m even more impressed with the beautiful example she’s setting for women across the globe. As the first trans woman of color to star on a hit TV show, and a role model on the cover of Time magazine, she inspires me to be confident and comfortable in my own skin. I know that her thoughts on beauty will make you feel the same way. 

Laverne Cox: I can’t believe I’m talking to Bobbi Brown! I am such a huge fan. 

Bobbi Brown: And I of you!

L.C.: It’s very exciting. I’m a huge fan of your beauty philosophy; the very neutral palette that you talk about, and I also apply my foundation with my fingers.

B.B.: That was my starting line. I’ve been watching the show since the beginning and I’m hooked. You are so beautiful.

L.C.: Aw, thank you! That’s very sweet. 

B.B.: I love how you wear your make-up. Do you do your own makeup for the show and events? 

L.C.: Sometimes. Lately I’ve been bringing on a dear friend named Deja, who’s been doing my makeup for different red carpets and events, but I’m very hands-on. I’ve been doing my own makeup for years, and I’d like to think I’m not bad at it.

B.B.: When you do your own makeup, not for the show or red carpet, are you as glamorous? Or is your makeup a different style?

L.C.: When I fully do it, absolutely. When I do college lectures, I do my own makeup, and it’s probably as glamorous. But lately I’ve been working so much that when I’m not working, I don’t wear anything. My skin needs a break.

B.B.: I know. You get tired of it, too. When I’m not working I don’t wear makeup either. I want to know, with all your fame and notoriety and all the things happening so quickly, how are you handling it all? 

L.C.: Thank you for asking that! At the moment, I don’t think I’m handling it well. I’m exhausted; I feel very defeated. I just did an event where they wanted me to do video after the event, but I had to say ‘no,’ because it was just too much. And I feel like the quality of my work is suffering because I’m doing so much, and I have to set some boundaries and say no to more things. I have such a full schedule till the end of the month. 

B.B.: I think it’s really hard; I’m also in the public eye and when things start piling on top of each other and it’s all the things you’ve always dreamed about, but when they’re actually happening you’re so exhausted and they’re hard to deal with. I get it. I’ve learned that if you don’t take the time to recharge you’re not good for anyone. 

L.C.: I know. How do you deal with it? Do you just say ‘no’ more?

B.B.: I’ve got Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and now I’m creating this beauty magazine for Yahoo. Plus I have three kids and I’m married and I have a full life. Right now I’m not exactly in my balance, but I schedule my exercise a couple days a week, I am a total health fanatic—I eat super healthy food. And I like to have an occasional cocktail that just makes me kind of calm down. What do you do when the adrenaline and cortisol is pumping in your veins? 

L.C.: I do jumping jacks, or I just try to breathe. I listen to Brenée Brown audiobooks. She’s a shame researcher, who has for the past 15 years, studied shame, whole-hearted living, and vulnerability. She has three legendary legendary TED-Ed talks, and she’s done a couple “Super Soul Sundays” with Oprah. She reminds me to breathe, slow down, and reality check the messages that I’m saying to myself in my head. Working out is important, but I haven’t had time to get to the gym in forever, so I’m going to try to work out this weekend.

B.B.: This is your moment, but I know it must be exhausting and overwhelming, although it’s also got to be really cool and really exciting. 

L.C.: It’s great stuff. I’m really tired, but I’m so grateful. There are so many wonderful opportunities that I’m getting, and I’m affecting so many people’s lives in a positive way. There’s a 12-year-old girl named Zoe, and she’s transgender and the ACLU did a lot of work with her to make sure she could go to school as herself, and she introduced me and gave me the award today for “Orange Is the New Black.” She’s a delightful young girl, and when I think about Zoe, my whole energy shifts. 

B.B.: That’s awesome. I’m involved with a high school in SoHo called Broome Street Academy, where 30 percent of the kids are either homeless or in foster care, and they have a pretty big transgender population. These are kids that didn’t fit in anywhere, and we’re helping them get into makeup and beauty and see that there’s a whole world out there. 

L.C.: Oh, my God, that’s great. 

B.B.: Well, I really commend you on what you’re doing. I think it’s great. What do you know now that you wish you would have known at 25?

L.C.: Are you suggesting that I’m over 25? Is that what you’re suggesting? [Laughs.] My official age is over 21. I’m not going publicly cop to being over 25. [Laughs.]

B.B.: I’m 57 (but feel 35), and I am proud of it because I look damn good for my age. But OK, what do you wish you knew when you were 14?

L.C.: I wish I knew I could transition at 14. I would have done it then. My acting teacher tells me to say the first thing that comes to my mind, and that’s the first thing that came to my mind. If I had known then what I know now, I would have transitioned at 14. 

B.B.: Since you are at the beautiful airport lounge, do you have a cocktail of choice? Do you drink? 

L.C.: I’m not a big drinker, but I feel like I need one today. On the plane, I’ll have a Bailey’s and decaf. 

B.B.: And that calms you down?

L.C.: Sometimes, or a glass of champagne, but I’m such a lightweight. I had a glass of champagne at the amfAR gala the other night, and I got pretty tipsy from one glass of champagne. I don’t like being drunk, and I don’t like being out of control. 

B.B.: I don’t either, but I sure love that vodka on the rocks after a long day. Do you feel beautiful right now? 

L.C.: No. 

B.B.: Because you’re tired?

L.C.: Because I’m tired, and I probably ate a little too much so I feel bloated. I’ve been using this waist-cincher lately, and it’s been changing my life in terms of giving me shape where I don’t really have one, but it is deeply painful; it’s hard to sit down. The other night when I was at the amfAR gala, I tried to sit down, and I was in pain the whole night.

B.B.: I used to go to events and be really uncomfortable, and now I make better choices. And I’m sure when you go to events, everybody stops. They turn and look at you because you’re gorgeous and statuesque. 

L.C.: I have to say at this point I didn’t wear the cincher today, and I was in heaven. But I wore a peplum, so it kind of hid all this stuff, and I really wanted to get a good picture.

B.B.: What do you wear on weekends? Are you a jeans girl?

L.C.: I like sweats. Five years ago I would never wear sweats, but I changed in the car on the way to the airport, and I’m wearing sweats. It sounds so unglamorous, but I just don’t care about how I look. Though I did think we were going to talk more about makeup! 

B.B.: The site is beauty, and to me beauty is not just what you put on your face, it is everything from what you put in your body to how you live your life, and mostly how to be confident. What makes me happy is to empower other people, and I know from talking to you, that’s what gives you pleasure and happiness. It’s what drives you, and that’s what makes you incredible. Ok, makeup tips because I love learning from other people. What things are important to you?

L.C.: It’s funny because I’m working with a new makeup artist now, and I’m a powder girl. I have oily skin anyway, so historically I’m very much into foundation and powder. I use the sponge. I’m a big fan of L’Oréal True Match Powder ($10.95) with a sponge or a powder puff. 

B.B.: Do you wear false lashes or mascara or both? 

L.C.: I wear false eyelashes as much as possible. If I have a makeup day where it’s a meeting, I’ll wear lashes, powder, mascara, and a little light brown shadow actually because I have a little puffiness under my eyes. A light brown shadow on the bottom lid makes that recede.

B.B.: Can you put lashes on yourself? 

L.C.: Absolutely! I do strips; I’ve had makeup artists do individuals. But when I was in college, I wore lashes every single day, so I can definitely do lashes on myself. 

B.B.: And what about lipstick? I see you mostly in lighter colors.

L.C.: I do lip palettes and stuff for events, but I really don’t like the feel of it. My lips are so big that sometimes I’ll do a darker color, and I like to mix it up. I like using liner, and sometimes I’ll use concealer on my bottom lip for highlighter and stuff like that. 

B.B.: Have you ever done anyone else’s makeup?

L.C.: Years ago I worked at Patricia Field on 8th Street in New York, and I did makeup. I worked at her beauty counter for a few months.

B.B.: I think it’s amazing to be able to teach someone how to make themselves look the way they’ve always wanted to look.

L.C.: Absolutely. I think it’s about knowing your face. I think it’s an individual thing. Makeup artists will say, ‘This is how you’re supposed to do it,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, I just like doing it my way.’ I don’t even know if there’s a right or wrong way—it’s about what you’re going for and what you want from your makeup. 

B.B.: We share the same philosophy because it’s not about anything but what makes you look good, and it’s about what you love. I am so happy that I spoke to you—it was really a pleasure. 

L.C.: Thank you so much, Bobbi Brown!