Meeting Caitlyn Jenner is like coming face-to-face with a superhero. She’s screen-goddess beautiful. She is on a mission to do good. And at 6’1” (6’5” in heels), one gets the distinct impression that she could leap a tall building in a single bound, if she wanted to.
When we meet in the makeup room of a Manhattan photo studio, Caitlyn breezes in —black dress, windblown hair, scarlet lips, bare feet — with dignity, pride, humour, gusto and grace. It’s evident that this is a woman who is comfortable in her own skin and having the time of her life — finally. In the last nine months since transitioning under the critical, often unforgiving microscope of the public eye, she has come to represent courage, fearlessness, honesty and compassion — characteristics long-prized and celebrated by M•A•C. She is using her newfound platform not only to share with the world the simplest pleasures of life — like waking up each morning happy — but also to tirelessly advocate on behalf of the community of which she now finds herself a part.
Her beautiful transformation inspires all of us to live our best lives and to honour who we are. Differences are what make us interesting. Acceptance, warmth and understanding are what make us human.
Today, M•A•C is proud to announce a partnership with Caitlyn Jenner that begins with the April 7 launch, exclusively on maccosmetics.com, of a limited-edition Lipstick created by Caitlyn. One hundred percent of the sales from her signature shade, Finally Free, will benefit the M•A•C AIDS Fund Transgender Initiative to expand its support of much needed grants to organizations and programs dedicated to improving transgender lives. Here, we speak with her about the transformative power of beauty and what it means to be Finally Free.
We’re so excited to meet you, although you must get that a lot…
I do, and the last nine months have been the most fascinating of my life, by far. I worried for 50 years, if I ever did this, what would the reaction be? I never, in my wildest dreams, ever thought it would be as positive for me as it has been.
It’s been positive for the rest of us, too.
I hope so. But just speaking for me personally, it’s been so positive every day, being part of this conversation. People come up to me and tell their stories, that they have a trans person in their family who they never ever talked about before, it was kind of swept under the rug. And now, they are being open about it. So, for me, it’s been an amazing experience, but I’ve also learned that I am the exception to the rule; I certainly am not the rule. The horror stories I’ve heard of homelessness, and of what we call “survival crimes” by trans people just to survive — it’s shocking to see how tough it really is out there for most of the community. So, it’s been eye-opening. I realize that I’m in a position where I can help people who are really struggling by creating a platform and bringing exposure to the issue.
“I’ve learned that I am the exception to the rule; I certainly am not the rule…So, it’s been eye-opening. I realize that I’m in a position where I can help people who are really struggling by creating a platform and bringing exposure to the issue.”
– Caitlyn Jenner
Is this why you chose to partner with M•A•C? Because you probably could have done a cosmetics collaboration with any company of your choosing.
M•A•C was the first to come to me, and a company, I realized, would really make a big commitment. I knew the VIVA GLAM campaigns; I saw that the proceeds were going, in those cases, mainly to AIDS and HIV causes, and I was wondering if they were interested in doing something specifically geared toward trans issues because we need funding. M•A•C is a global company. It’s in places around the world where not just trans issues, but women’s issues, are a major subject that you have to talk about.
Before I came out, the impression I had of M•A•C was, “That’s quality; that’s the good stuff.” Not only is it the good stuff, but M•A•C also has the willingness corporately to use its reach to make a difference, to change people’s minds. To help raise funds for HIV and AIDS, and in our case, for trans issues.
And honestly, my ultimate fantasy — I never thought in a million years that it would ever happen — was to get involved with a makeup company. When you’re going through all of this, that’s just like never going to happen, but wouldn’t it be something to be involved in a project like that? Boy, watch out what you wish for, because it came true.
Tell us how it all started...
At first it was sort of like a “rumour” that M•A•C was interested in doing something. And I thought, “Well, that’s a good rumour!” And then, finally, we had our first meeting. I was so excited to be there.
You’ve picked a wonderful name for your signature lip colour: Finally Free. How did you choose it?
I wanted a name that I use, and which represents the community. This is who I am: Finally Free.
“I wanted a name that I use, and which represents the community. This is who I am: Finally Free.”
– Caitlyn Jenner
It’s something we’ve heard you say before.
Yeah, it’s just so simple. No more secrets. I’m free. I woke up the other morning, and I was just happy. Getting dressed, going out, I’m accepted in the world; people are nice. Life is good. I’m Finally Free. That’s why I’m glad I was named Barbara Walters’ Most Fascinating Person last year, because this year I have no more secrets. I’m going to be very boring!
Yeah, I’m going to be the Least Fascinating! I haven’t come up with one secret in a year.
How did you arrive at this particular colour? Is it something that you wear every day, for evening or both?
I wanted a lipstick that would be universal, suited to more people, and was an everyday lipstick, not just a high-glam, once-in-a-while kind of lipstick. I like a little colour on my lips, not a lot during the day. And this rosy nude is the colour I’ve gone to. To be honest, I want people to use it every day so they have to buy more. I want to raise a lot of money. It’s very simple.
One hundred percent of the proceeds from Finally Free, which launches April 7, will go to the M•A•C AIDS Fund Transgender Initiative, to expand its funding to organizations and programs improving transgender lives. One hundred percent of all sales — that’s rare!
There are two things we need from M•A•C: Number one, finances — this is going to help a lot of people. But number two: We need a corporate, global network that can really make a difference in other parts of the world. What I have learned over the last nine months is that we certainly have a lot of issues here in the United States, and a lot of things we need to work on, but we are so much further ahead of the rest of the world. It’s unbelievable. I met with Samantha Power, our Ambassador to the United Nations, on this issue and on all LGBT rights. There are still far too many countries where if you’re anywhere in the L, the G, the B or the T spectrum, it’s a criminal offense. You can go to jail for being anywhere in there. You can get decapitated. Take Russia. In Russia, if you are anywhere in the L, the G, the B or the T, you are considered to have a mental illness. And people with mental illnesses cannot get driver’s licenses. This happens in our world today. M•A•C has a global reach. We can start here, but I would also like to take it on a worldwide basis – the big picture. For right now we need to figure out trans issues and get some help here, but on a global scale, it’s women’s issues.
Even though you’re “not the typical story of a trans person,” as you have said, you’ve become a powerful representative for the community because you have started a conversation that so many of us were not having. We’re becoming more familiar with the very serious issues facing trans people; we’re learning how to be more sensitive. These are things that very few in the public eye were talking about before.
I have my part. I just continue on with our plan about bringing understanding to this issue. I can’t wait until this [project with M•A•C] is announced. I don’t want to do everything; I want to do the right things. And working with M•A•C is the right thing. For years and years and years they’ve been committed to fighting HIV, and they’ve done things for trans issues, too [through the M•A•C AIDS Fund]. What we’re trying to do now is up it on the trans side. I have learned so much in the last nine months. It comes down to finances. It drives you crazy, but you’ve got to have financing. I was with the LGBT Center in New York, and they have a Trans Latina group. They do wonderful work, I mean, wonderful work. They’re out there helping sex workers get off the streets. They’re doing HIV testing, which is a big problem in the trans community because of the survival crime of doing sex work. So I asked, “What’s your budget?” The whole budget for the entire year is $10,000. I was shocked. How can you run this for $10,000 a year? If they had more resources — and it doesn’t take a tremendous amount of money — they could do so much more work.
So many of us have been inspired by your courage and grace and so touched by your story.
I’m blessed to be in a position like this. The first thing I had to do when I went through all of this was to be honest with myself about who I am, which I had struggled with my whole life. I got to the point where this woman had lived inside me all my life, and everybody just knew little, old Bruce. And there I was, 65, out in Malibu, all by myself. I’m thinking, I am hiding in my house, this is the way I’m going to live my life. And after a lot of talking with therapists, with my kids, I came to the conclusion that it was time for her to live, to give her a chance. Let’s see what she can do.
For me, the issue was that I was getting destroyed in the tabloids. The last two years were intense. I had four or five paparazzo’s cars following me everywhere. As soon as I left my house, I would try to lose them. I would be racing through canyons just to get rid of these guys, thinking this is so stupid. I was just so sick of it.
People go through so much to figure out how to deal with this issue; if they have a trans child, they have to move schools and start their kid somewhere new with a different identity, just so they won’t be harassed. For me, how do I deal? Do I run off to Alaska? Find a log cabin in the backwoods and transition? Eventually, the media would find me, no matter what I did. So, I had to do it publicly. I had to answer all those questions that had been out there for so long. So we put together a plan with Diane [Sawyer] and Vanity Fair that was very thought-out. And it worked better than we ever thought it would.
What role do you feel beauty plays in transformation?
For me, the beauty side of it was important from the beginning: to try to do fashion right, to try to do beauty right. I worked on it all my life, but nobody knew it. I made a statement where I said if I was going through this, I didn’t want to look — me, personally — like a man in a dress. I wanted to do it with style, with grace. Looking good was important to me. Well, I got in all kinds of trouble with the community because they said, “Well, what about all the people who don’t care about that or don’t have the resources to do that?” I’m talking about in my case. I grew up in a family where, with the girls, presentation was very important to them, too. I have been around a long time, and I told my kids as they were growing up that the way they act, the way they dress, the way they speak — if you want to get ahead in life, it’s important. I know that for some people in the trans community it is not that important, but for the majority it is.
As a guy, I never took presentation as that important, because I didn’t care. I didn’t care about clothes; didn’t like guys’ clothes, never really bought clothes. I’d have my wife buy my clothes — if I was married at the time. But now, it’s just the opposite. I really enjoy the whole process. I had to do it in the closet for so many years, now I can actually do it and go out.
“For me, the beauty side of it was important from the beginning: to try to do fashion right, to try to do beauty right.”
– Caitlyn Jenner
Some say beauty — makeup, skincare, hair — is superficial; it’s frivolous. But beauty can be incredibly empowering. If you can stand taller because you feel good about yourself, you’re going to face the world…
In a totally different way, I totally agree with that. If I walk into a room now, with a great outfit on, the makeup’s working, the hair’s working, and I walk in and the first person turns around and says, “Oh my God, you look great!” that is a great start to the night.
Also, I get photographed every day. I walk out of my house and I get photographed. It’s either by paparazzi or by someone wanting a selfie, which they will post. So when I walk out of the door, I take my appearance seriously. Now, I love a casual look — jeans, a great top. You don’t get dressed up and go glam every day.
I often thought, wouldn’t it be the coolest thing in the world to actually be able to wear what are traditionally considered a man’s clothes — which women wear all the time — a shirt, a pair of jeans and some sneakers, and be able to still look good? For me, that was a big challenge: How can you do that? But now, I’ll wear just a basic shirt and jeans, go down and hit Starbucks and feel good about myself; I’ll feel like it’s a great look. So, for me, that is coming a long way.
You have no shortage of glamorous role models in your family! How have the women in your life inspired you in terms of your approach to beauty and fashion? What have you learned from them?
One is that they take their appearance very seriously. They always look good. They always do their makeup well. They really understand how to dress, even if it’s everyday stuff. And to me that’s inspiring, because it’s a lot of work. And I realize everybody can’t do it. They have the resources. I always look at it as being a celebrity and being in the public eye: It’s a business. If you treat the business properly and take it seriously, it’s a good business. And these girls have been extraordinarily good at business. They’ve built incredible businesses for themselves on this side of the industry. They’ve been smart; they’re hardworking and they get it. Kim has been great at giving me advice, just by saying, “Ok, if you’re going to do this, you’ve got to rock it. You cannot go out the door unless you’re put together. I’ll do whatever I can to help you, but you’ve got to take it seriously because, if you get that one bad photo, they’re going to use it forever. So don’t give them that ammunition.” And I’ve had that, boy have I had that.
Well, it’s near impossible to get it right 100 percent of the time.
You can’t; you just can’t. And they will take those pictures and run with them. But with the day-to-day stuff, I pretty much do everything on my own. My assistant, Ronda, who’s got a really good sense of style, will go shopping every once in a while for me. She really has my sizes down — what’s going to work and what’s not.
“For people to realize that to be able to live your life authentically is the most wonderful gift you can give yourself…It’s incredible to be able to be in a position in life where you can say, ‘This is me. This is who I am, and I live it authentically
– Caitlyn Jenner
It’s hard to believe it’s been just nine months since you introduced Caitlyn to the world. What you’ve helped so many people realize is that it’s not that there are so many kinds of different people; it’s more like there are just so many kinds of people. We each are who we are.
Yeah! This has been going on, just trans issues alone, throughout history. It’s part of humanity, nothing new. It is a normal part of who you are. Although it’s been pushed under the rug and not dealt with properly for many, many years, it’s still part of society.
You know what the best thing is, when you say, “We each are who we are.” For people to realize that to be able to live your life authentically is the most wonderful gift you can give yourself. Sometimes that’s very hard to do. If you’re young, and let’s say gay, and scared to death to tell your parents, and you put it off for years, the turmoil that builds up inside just grows and grows and grows. And that issue — in my case, being trans —does not go away. It’s incredible to be able to be in a position in life where you can say, “This is me. This is who I am, and I live it authentically every day.” It’s the most wonderful feeling in the world. No more secrets.
M•A•C’s credo is ALL AGES, ALL RACES, ALL SEXES. Founded in 1987, the M•A•C AIDS Fund has historically supported the transgender community, particularly those affected by HIV/AIDS. To date, the M•A•C AIDS Fund has donated more than 24 million dollars to support HIV prevention, care and treatment, as well as efforts to address stigma and discrimination of the LGBTQ community via grant-giving to organizations like the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in New York City. M•A•C recognizes the diverse needs and issues facing the transgender communities and is proud to partner with Caitlyn Jenner in order to increase its support of these vital programs.
The M•A•C AIDS Fund is pleased to announce that it is working with acclaimed filmmaker Silas Howard to develop a documentary video series that will share more stories from the transgender community. The series will highlight the resilience, humour, creativity and love that define the lives of these remarkable people, while also shining a light on the critical issues that trans people face, among them HIV/AIDS, homelessness, mental health, discrimination, and violence.
Finally Free will be available April 7 exclusively on maccosmetics.com