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In Pose, FX’s hit show centered on New York’s ’80s ballroom scene, Mj Rodriguez’s character, Blanca, is the definition of fearless. She has nerves of steel, never backs down from a challenge, and leaves the city’s most prominent “house” (i.e., a group of LGBTQ+ people who operate as a family and compete in ballroom) to start her own, on her own terms. Rodriguez is just as bold in real life, and her most recent fearless moment is being honored as a keynote speaker at George Washington University’s Annual Diversity Summit, days after speaking at Glamour’s Women of the Year Summit. “I’m excited to speak these young individuals who want to learn, or just want to hear my story, because I have a lot to say,” Rodriguez tells Glamour. “And I want to influence them, but the only way for me to do that is feel comfortable enough in my own skin.”
To prepare for the event, the 28-year-old actor paired up with Olay Body—the first Latinx trans woman to do so—and took part in the brand’s 14-day challenge using the Olay Ultra Moisture Body Wash. “I feel much more confident than I was before—I was pulling up my pants to see flakes of dry skin falling off of my calves,” she says. “Now I get out of the shower and see smooth and milky skin. My skin is very important to me.”
We caught up with Rodriguez for our Big Beauty Questions, a rapid-fire Q&A on all things beauty, and chatted everything from her favorite products to Ariana Grande. Read on for her drugstore essentials, why her mom is her hero, and her life-changing self-care advice.
What’s one beauty rule you swear by?
I used to be someone who used a lot of makeup when I was younger, but now I know it’s a wonderful enhancement to the beauty that you are and hold within yourself. I noticed that less is more, and I started using less makeup, so I think that’s been my key thing. If you just have a pop of lip, it will bring out the best parts of you.
And one beauty rule you think is B.S.?
I’ve heard people say that winged eyeliner is not the real deal, and honey, that is B.S.! It is the real deal. I wear a winged eyeliner whenever I get a chance; it opens up my eye like nothing else, so I know does the same for others.
You travel constantly. What city or country gives you the greatest beauty inspiration?
I’ve gone back and forth to L.A. a lot, and I see a ton of beauty campaigns over there, and it’s like, yes! People are finally taking into consideration all that beauty incorporates. It doesn’t always have to do with makeup; it can simply do with skin and body care, and what beauty can be. Going over to California has changed my perception of beauty. Now I think of it more in a way of how to care for your skin so it’s healthy and it’s the way you want it to be, versus heavy coverage. And I’m not saying that that’s bad at all, I’m just saying it’s good to see campaigns out there that are showing beauty in a different light.
You’re stranded on a desert island. What are the three products you bring with you?
Obviously Olay Ultra Moisture Body Wash because I need my skin looking milky when I’m walking on that island with no clothes on. And then a metal pick comb for the third product that I have, which is my wig. We definitely need that comb when I’m taking my wig off. So a metal pick comb for my natural hair is a must. I always want my natural hair to be flowing when I’m on an island. Wait…I said my wig, but actually that’s not it. The third product would be something that exfoliates my skin!
What color are you loving on your nails right now?
I recently just cut my nails; I usually have them long. I love a nice sheer pink that matches my nail beds, it looks so sleek and professional, even when you have longer nails. So I love either a sleek pink or a really sheer nude.
What’s your getting’ready music?
I have a lot! I have an extreme playlist of strong female singers—I always try to uplift my sisters as much as I can, so there’s not a lot of male singers on there. Ariana Grande is my go-to, I love Kiana Ledé, and Snoh Aalegra; she’s amazing. The list could go on, but those are three girls I’m loving right now.
What’s the last Instagram rabbit hole you went down?
The last one I went down is looking at all the Halloween costumes I wanted to wear but didn’t because I didn’t have time to get into a costume. I was so upset! But the Halloween rabbit hole was everything. I wanted to be Jade from Mortal Kombat, but not the stereotypical Jade costume, I really wanted someone to make it for me and put some heart into it, or I was going to do Lara Croft.
You have $20 and free roam of a drugstore. What do you buy?
Some hair gel; we need to keep the baby hairs laid down. Some obvious skin care; I’m trying my best to not over-advertise, but I live for the products, so I would buy some Olay Body Wash off of that rack. And I would buy some Shea Moisture hair care. That line is beyond amazing.
Who are the women inspiring you the most right now?
I know this sounds really cheesy, but I’m going to say my friend Janelle Monáe. She has been such a beacon in the music industry and in the acting realm. She’s breaking down barriers, she’s talking about really important topics, and she’s an ally of the LGBTQIA community in addition to being part of it. I look up to her and I’m glad I can call her a friend. Kehlani, also a musical artist and a good friend of mine, she’s been breaking down barriers too for the LGBTQ community. And the last one is my mom. She’s my grounding rock, she’s beautiful, and she instilled womanhood in me. I had the opportunity of being introduced to the ballroom scene at 14, but I was never raised by trans women. I saw my [trans] sisters, but my mother raised me, and she was that beacon of hope for me when it came to womanhood, so she’s someone I always look up to.
If there was one thing about beauty perceptions you could change, what would it be?
That the look of someone shouldn’t define their beauty; what’s inside should define their beauty. I think everyone has beautiful skin, I think everyone has beautiful eyes. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholders, not the ringleaders who think that we’re worthy—usually those ringleaders are men. Beauty is in the eyes of the woman who holds it. No matter if we are trans, no matter if we are curvy, or have different complexions, we are beautiful no matter what. And that’s what we [women with a platform] have to break down, and once we do that other women will be allowed to take up space.
What’s your favorite way to take a moment for yourself?
Every morning, for about 20 minutes, I look in the mirror, and I strip down completely, and I look at myself as I am. I use words of affirmation to let myself know that I am deserving, I am worthy, and I’m existing the way I exist, and nobody can take that away from me until the day I die. I always use words of affirmation, and I have to make sure they are genuine, not just words spewing from my head to make myself feel good. If there’s a blemish on my face, I know that blemish is still beautiful because that blemish does not make me. I look at my skin, and I look at my face and I relish in who I am, and it builds my confidence up.
Bella Cacciatore is the beauty associate at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @bellacacciatore_.