The refreshingly candid actress opens up about her college side hustle, aging, and her decidedly low-key approach to beauty.
This article originally appeared in InStyle.
What’s your earliest makeup memory?
As a kid, I was always fascinated by watching my mom do her makeup. So one day I asked, “Mom, can I please put some on?” She let me, and I did blue eye shadow, black lip liner, and dark plum lipstick. But the precision, honey! I need you to understand how precisely I applied this lip liner. I almost went to cosmetology school, but I chose engineering instead.
How did engineering turn into acting?
Well, prior to college I had auditioned for a performing-arts high school and didn’t get accepted. That killed my dreams of acting, so when it was time for college, I decided to major in engineering. I don’t know what I was thinking, because engineering wasn’t my passion. Eventually, my dad encouraged me to transfer schools and pursue acting again. Thank God I did.
Is it true that you did hair in college between classes?
Yes. I had a hooded dryer, rollers, everything. I mean, there wasn’t a line of clients waiting outside my apartment, but a few people knew I could do hair and it became a word-of-mouth thing. They’d see me on campus and be like, “Hey, girl, I have a date tonight. Can you hook me up?” I charged $20 a head. It was a cute little hustle when I needed cash.
Now you’re the face of MAC Viva Glam. What made you sign on?
It was a no-brainer when MAC approached me. For one, all the proceeds from the lipstick go toward helping women, men, and children affected by HIV and AIDS. And two, I’ve been wearing MAC since I was a teenager. So many companies launch makeup collections and five years later expand and say, “We now have shades for the black girls!” But MAC has always been inclusive. I support that.
What’s been the most useful beauty tip you’ve picked up over the years?
To drink water. Everything—your hair, your skin, your nails—looks and feels healthier when you’re consuming a good amount of water. I try to drink a gallon a day, but sometimes I fall short. It takes discipline.
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In what type of hair and makeup do you feel most beautiful?
When I’m in my natural state. I wear hair extensions often to avoid damage from heated styling tools, but I love rocking my real hair. I also like a clean, fresh face. I’m happy when I look well rested with no raccoon circles under my eyes.
Has anyone in Hollywood ever suggested you change something about your look?
Nobody has been crazy enough to actually say it, but I’ve picked up on vibes when it’s been implied. I block it out because I didn’t get into this business to please anyone. I’m here to touch people with my art. I’ve made it pretty far being myself, and that’s good enough.
What are your thoughts about aging and injectables?
The first thing is to learn to accept aging because it’s inevitable. Once you’ve accepted it, you can age gracefully. As women we have enough pressures, and there’s something liberating about freeing yourself from beauty standards and ideals. If you want Botox, do it because you want to, not to impress someone else. And if you decide to do it, just make sure you find the best doctor!
Check out Taraji’s must-haves:
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