The Insecure star co-created her CoverGirl campaign for the new 48-shade Exhibitionist collection.
There’s a scene in the season one premiere of Issa Rae’s hit HBO series Insecure where Issa is practicing her pick-up lines in the mirror and putting on her makeup for a night out on the town with her bestie, Molly. She adopts different personalities when she switches between a bold red lipstick and changes her name to "sexy;" she becomes a stereotypical "valley girl" when she glides on a vibrant violet shade; her aggressive side comes out to play while wearing a black lipstick and a creamy pink lippie appears to morph her Cali accent into...a British twang?
It’s that same confidence and fearlessness Issa Rae drew on when she collaborated with CoverGirl for its new Exhibitionist Lipstick collection, available in a whopping 48 shades and three different finishes—metallic, demi-matte, and cream—as part of Issa’s newest campaign, Shade for Shade. In the campaign visual, however, Issa’s real-life best friends take the place of her Insecure mirror, as the friends playfully quip about each other’s lipstick shade choices, highlighting the importance of being unapologetically themselves.
Below, we caught up with Issa Rae to discuss which lipstick shade brings out the "dominatrix" in her, why diversity in makeup is so important, and why we shouldn’t hold our breaths for a full makeup line from her—yet.
CoverGirl had the concept and they asked, ‘Do you want to cast your friends?’ and I was like what, yes! Being a CoverGirl is already amazing, but enlisting my friends to be "CoverGirls," to have fun while shooting a commercial is just so dope. It was fun. I have to admit, we were in the middle of shooting Insecure, so I was mad stressed because we were pretty much shooting Insecure everyday—12 to 15-hour days, 15 to 18-hour days sometimes—and it’s like ugh, I don’t wanna do a shoot on the weekends. But, just being able to go on set and kick it with my girls and see them looking fly and being able to clown like we used to just felt like I was hanging with my friends.
What was the entire experience like working with your real-life best friends?
I was appreciative to them to take a night off just to be a part of it but it really embodied how we really are. Your girls are the ones that will tell you, "That color is not for you sis. Take that off," or, "Ooh, you look so bomb." I have to give them props and credit for empowering me so I can be like, "Okay, this color is me and this color is not." Now I know where to go from here.
What’s the feeling like being able to co-create and stay true to yourself even while working with a cosmetics giant like CoverGirl?
Your individuality is your currency. It feels like now, we’re in this state where that is especially true because people want authenticity and they want to know that they’re getting to know the real you, or that what you’re creating and what you’re standing behind is really you. I strongly believe in individuality. You’re immediately turned off when a brand feels inauthentic. We’ve all seen commercials where we know there were no black people behind this whatsoever. For me, I wouldn’t want to be involved in anything that doesn’t feel right to me. The power to [say], "No, that’s not it," is definitely something I appreciate.
The Exhibitionist collection comes in 48 different shades. What shade is your go-to?
I’m a big red or nude girl. I like the shimmery red lipstick (Ready or Not) that I have on in the video and I also love Succulent Cherry. I still love a good nude, though. I have a bunch of nudes that I pack to travel with me just for my fun nights out, like Coffee Crave. I’ve always liked creamy formulas, I love the metallic but I just can’t do matte. I have to do matte with a little bit of shimmer.
What shade brings out a different side of you?
Whenever I have a bold red I just feel outside of myself like, "You can’t even step to me." I feel confident in a whole new way. I love a gold too just because black people really look good in shades of golds and yellows and it complements my skin—that’s something I wouldn’t have done if I did the initial shoot.
I will go with a black when I’m feeling really, really bold. I wear Don’t Tell in private, though, like that’s my dominatrix look. Black is my "Don’t fuck with me" lip, but like a more sexy "Don’t fuck with me.”
What about a shade you’d absolutely stay away from?
I don’t think I would ever do white—it makes your face look ashy, I’m not tryna look like Tyrone Biggums. I’ve seen it look really good on other black women but I can’t pull that off. There’s also this purple shade called Steal that I never thought I could pull off. I felt like I was bold enough to walk out and wear that shade but it just wasn’t for me. Steal is just a lot because it’s not very subtle; you have to have the right mood and the confidence to rock it.
CoverGirl recently dropped their new Matte Made foundation in 40 shades, which seems to be the new normal in the beauty industry. How do you feel about this movement of brands expanding their shade offerings to include deeper tones?
I think it’s about time even though CoverGirl has always been checking for black women with the Queen Latifah Queen Collection. It’s a beautiful thing to see the beauty industry branching out because it only benefits all of us—the entertainment industry is even paying attention to diversity. We should all have a chance to feel represented. Options are great and finding the right shade is empowering in so many different ways.
Why do you think it’s especially important for drugstore brands?
That’s where I shop, to be honest. I just started experimenting with other types of makeup but one time when I was traveling and forgot all my makeup, I went to a drugstore and they had a lot of work to do. The shades weren’t all there and I talked to the lady and asked, "Why does the colors only go up to tan or medium?" and then she pulled the dark shades from out the back room. It’s necessary for people to have access to a wide range of colors because makeup can be a mark of confidence so just imagine the lack of self-esteem you have when you go to their local drugstore and brands aren’t representing you. That’s unacceptable.
Have you adopted any cool makeup tips or hacks while working with CoverGirl in the past year?
No, I have to figure out what my makeup routine is. I watch a lot of YouTube tutorials.
Who are some of the beauty gurus you look to for help?
Jackie Aina, of course, but I will Google ‘dark skin makeup tutorials’ and then I’ll see what comes up.
What do you hope to see more of in the future with beauty brands and diversity and representation?
Showing us in all of our multifacetedness. I think the last CoverGirl campaign, I noticed people being like, "Okay, it’s great that we have different shades but what about representation in body type?" I think I would love to see all models of all sizes; the fashion industry—little by little, thanks to Christian Siriano—are embracing plus-sized women but I think in beauty, it’d be great to see that represented.
When can we expect a full "Issa Rae x CoverGirl" collection with eyeshadows, highlighters, and more?
I don’t think I’ll do that until I have my makeup game down, until I’m on Jackie Aina-level because I would feel like a hypocrite like "Here’s my collection even though I don’t know how to put any of this on." The more and more I experiment and feel confident in myself, who knows—but I’m still happily experiencing with makeup.
This article originally appeared on elle.com