By this point, Zoom interviews are commonplace, but it’s been a very long time since I spoke to an interview subject as passionate and engaging as Michaela Jaé Rodriguez — on screen or otherwise.
Rodriguez is a Golden Globe Award-winning actress, who you may know from Pose and Tick, Tick...BOOM!, but she is also currently starring in the (absolutely brilliant) Apple TV+ show, Loot.
During our chat, we had lots of banter, mainly me gushing about how she is my personal forever Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, and our mutual love for the word “weird”. But Rodriguez recently became the first American muse for beloved British makeup brand Charlotte Tilbury, the announcement of which coincided with the 10-year anniversary of Charlotte Tilbury’s Pillow Talk collection. (Whew, time flies, right?)
Charlotte Tilbury’s brand-new launches — the Pillow Talk Matte Beauty Blush Wands and the Hypnotising Pop Shot Eyeshadows in a limited-edition rose gold — are further expansions of the line under the new Pillow Talk Party collection. In fact, it's likely you've seen them all over TikTok — and Rodriguez is the new face.
Rodriguez explained to me why she joined forces with Charlotte Tilbury to celebrate their shared love of beauty and mission of promoting confidence and empowerment for everyone, everywhere. “It's not just for a campaign, it's not just for money. This is something that's actually real and rooted,” Rodriguez says. “I promise you, I'm a real chick. I don't align with things that don't align with me, and I'm sure Charlotte doesn't either. We're smart women and we have the same kind of vision when it comes to uplifting and making sure that women are seen in the best light. This is not a costume. This is just what it is — and it's fabulousness.”
Ahead, we learn about Rodriguez’s long history with Charlotte Tilbury (both the person and the brand), her best piece of beauty advice and why she doesn't believe in makeup mishaps.
On how Charlotte Tilbury changed her life
“Charlotte had a pop-up I went to in Los Angeles,” Rodriguez told me. “I had been using her products for quite some time, but meeting her in person and meeting her team, I was just like, ‘This is the place that I would like to be aligned with. I hope at some point we get to work together.’ At the end of that event, we just struck up a conversation and started talking for about two hours.”
In fact, Tilbury adored Rodriguez from the get-go. “I remember Charlotte saying, ‘I feel like there's something about you. There's like… a gold.’ She said this to me specifically: ‘There's a gold road, a glittery gold road for you.’ I don't know, I'm a bit of a witch, but I thought, not only is she a vibe, but she's giving me all of the right kind of encouragement that I need to keep pushing forward.”
Before Rodriguez had even met Tilbury, she loved what the brand stood for. “Her branding and how her team showcases diversity and inclusivity on all spectrums and all different walks of life runs the gamut. So when I got the offer, I kind of fell to the floor.”
On the best beauty advice she’s ever received
“The best beauty advice I ever received was from Etienne [Ortega, makeup artist], and it was about contouring. Contouring and highlighting will carve your face out just the right way. Charlotte Tilbury has this contouring cream wand that just lays on so smoothly.”
Contrary to popular technique, Rodriguez places her contour directly beneath her cheekbones, as well as along her jawline, and she also applies a tiny bit on her forehead (underneath hair hairline) using the dot method for more dimension. The one controversial beauty hack we can agree on? Highlighting our T-zone to amp up the glow. “That's the magic right there,” she says, “it's like a light following you around.”
On the skin care routine she swears by
“I wake up two hours before I even go to work to get it started,” says Rodriguez of her beauty routine. “To start off the day, I do a cleanse, then I use the Magic Serum and Magic Cream. I also use the Magic Oil just in the morning to make sure that my skin is hydrated. Then I'll probably go in with the lip oil to condition my lips and make sure that they're smooth.”
The secret to nailing natural, glowing makeup, says Rodriguez, is applying it immediately over a just-moisturized canvas. She likes her skin to look glossy. “I'll probably lay out some foundation, but I also use and will be continuously using the new Charlotte Tilbury [Beauty Light Wand] highlighters — they just parlay really well because it's a glow. It's like a bronzer. It's perfect.”
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Charlotte's Magic Serum Crystal Elixir
On her approach to makeup
Wearing Pillow Talk Dream Pop on her cheeks made Rodriguez look like an angel on our Zoom call, and I was #influenced. But for her, the first transgender actress to win a golden globe, and now become a muse for a major beauty brand, makeup is more than surface level. “It's a superpower to [wear] makeup,” said Rodriguez. “It makes us feel good; it doesn't take away from us at all. It's not a costume and it's not a mask. It is something that makes us just feel good and enhanced.”
But does she have any beauty no-nos? “I don't think I've ever [been told] 'don't do this, don't do that'. I feel like makeup is a playground — you can do anything you want. I mean, yes, there will be things that look different and they'll look abstract, but there's never a failure when it comes to it. You don't really ‘mess up’ when you put on makeup.”
She gestures upwards, “You can put blush right up here and create a very high-fashion look,” then downwards, “You can put the blush down here and create an everyday look. If you want to elevate it, put all the blush on your cheek, highlight under your eye, and you're set for an event. You can do really anything with it — there are no rules.”
On her favorite lip combo
Rodriguez pinpoints the Pillow Talk Medium Lip Liner (which she says she often used on the set of Loot) and the Collagen Lip Bath in Pillow Talk as a gloss over the top. Combined, both products create a '90s-inspired, juicy lip.
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