Laverne Cox on ‘Glam Masters’ and what the beauty industry needs right now


Laverne Cox is getting beat for the gods. Known for her role as Sophia Burset on “Orange Is the New Black,” the actress will soon star in “Glam Masters,” a beauty competition show premiering Wednesday night on Lifetime.

Executive produced by Kim Kardashian, the show casts celebrity makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic, YouTube star Kandee Johnson and Milk Makeup cofounder Zanna Roberts Rassi as judges. Cox is the host and though she’s supposed to be playing herself, she’s taken on a persona she describes as “a combination of RuPaul meets Tyra [Banks] meets Oprah meets Heidi Klum.”

To help get into character, Cox released a music video titled “Beat for the Gods” on Friday and in it, she serves up operatic high notes, leg splits and makeup-inspired rhymes like “lashes, mascara, shadow in the crease, foundation, contour, she’s sitting on fleek.” It’s a beauty bop — for the gods.


WWD spoke to Cox last week about “Glam Masters,” her beauty routine and the industry at large. Here, she opens up about each.

WWD: When did you start wearing makeup?

Laverne Cox: I started wearing makeup in high school. It was an expression of my femininity and gender expression, all that, but it was a way for me to announce to the world that you think you know who I am and what I’m about, but this makeup is telling you a different story. It was a way or me to transform myself and the way in which the world thought about me.

WWD: What’s your first makeup memory?

L.C.: My grandmother, may she rest in peace, her name was Emma Cox, she had this beautiful vanity and I remember sitting at her vanity, the smells, the perfume and then specifically the loose powder — she was very old-fashioned. There was this big, powder puff and this big, antique-looking container of loose powder and I was immensely fascinated with the loose powder. It felt so glamorous and smelled so good.

WWD: Tell me about your beauty regimen. What kind of products do you like?


L.C.: Sunscreen is super, duper important, even for black folks because even though we have protection from sunburn and all that stuff, the sun does age you. I try to stay out of the sun and if I am in the sun, I wear a Neutrogena sunscreen. Moisturizing, drinking lots of water. Estrogen changed my skin a lot. Before I started my medical transition, I had terrible, terrible acne and my skin was a disaster, and about eight months into taking estrogen, it all cleared up. My skin is super sensitive, so I have to be really careful what I use — everything’s hypoallergenic. I’ve always had puffy eyes so I use a de-puffer from Kiehl’s and they have an eye cream that I do at night as well.

WWD: What’s your relationship with your makeup artist, Deja Smith Davenport, like?

L.C.: I have known Deja for 10 years. I met her through my friend Mila J [the recording artist]. I always did my own makeup, I didn’t trust anyone, and when “Orange Is the New Black” came, they had press stuff and they were like, “You need a makeup artist.” So I asked [Deja] to do my makeup for press and she really has elevated my beauty and my look tremendously. Deja is a friend, she is a confidante, she beats me for the gods.

WWD: Who do you look to for glam inspo?

L.C.: Kim Kardashian recently did a look for her makeup line and the look was so incredible and I screenshot that and was like Deja, let’s be inspired by this and do our version of this for my skin. I love J.Lo, I love Beyoncé, Zendaya’s taking such great risks and doing really fun things. For my song “Beat for the Gods,” for the cover art and one of the looks, I found some inspiration from Grace Jones. I look in the past, I look at iconic things that I love, there’s Marie Antoinette inspiration there, too. We look everywhere.


WWD: I read that you don’t wear makeup on first dates. Is that still true?

L.C.: I’m dating someone now, so I haven’t had a first date in half a year, but yeah, the night I met him I just was not wearing makeup. I was single last year and I was meeting guys online for the most part, so when you meet someone on Tinder or OkCupid or whatever, you don’t know who they are. If I was coming from an event or coming from work and I’m wearing makeup and meeting someone, fine. But if I have a day off, I’m not putting on makeup for some dude I don’t know. I try to schedule the date within a five-minute walk from my apartment ’cause I’ve dealt with a lot of guys standing me up. Dating in New York, guys stand you up — my trans girlfriends deal with that. Schedule a date within five minutes of my apartment, when they get there, text me when you’re there — I don’t leave my house ’til they’re there — and then if it’s a dud, I get out in 15 minutes.

WWD: I love that so much.

L.C.: Girl, no. The whole point is that you don’t put energy and effort into [it]. If you’ve met someone from online, it’s not a first date, it is a screening. It really should be a drink or coffee, it’s a screening process. Are they worthy of me putting in effort for this date? And then you discover that.

WWD: What are some needs you want the beauty industry to address that it isn’t?

L.C.: Rihanna’s Fenty came out last year and had all those colors of foundation. Iman was one of the first people who had a company years ago that had shades for women of color, but that still feels like an issue. We’ve actually been approached about working with a makeup company and their offerings for women of color just weren’t there. I love that there are more companies that are gluten-free and vegan and don’t test on animals. I found that I’m gluten intolerant last year and I cut gluten out of my diet completely, but it was still showing up in my diet and my doctor said that it could be the lipstick that I’m wearing, ‘cause you eat the lipstick. So now I have to wear gluten-free lipstick. I feel like there’s lip service to women of color in beauty ads, but it’s like, if we don’t see ourselves in your ad campaigns, we’re not gonna buy from you ‘cause we don’t think it’s for us. We begin to think it’s for us when there’s an effort to create colors that reflect our shades and have us in your ad campaign. Those are two things that we still need to work on in the beauty world.