When I first saw Angelica Ross’ Louis Vuitton ad a few weeks ago, I literally gasped!

With the American Horror Story: 1984 star’s big booming Afro picked out to the Gods, her glowing face and eyes that can pierce your soul, it was clear that this right here was necessary, groundbreaking and most importantly, beautiful and Black AF.

 

Following in the footsteps of Pose co-star Indya Moore who has been featured in multiple campaigns for the luxury fashion brand, creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere created a new campaign for the Pre-Fall 2020 collection, paying homage to old school horror and science fiction books. It features the likes of Ross, her other American Horror Story: 1984 castmates, Jaden Smith and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, to name a few, and I love it.

I recently sat down with the former Pose actress to talk about this huge accomplishment, how this amazing afro came about and the importance of having more Black trans women be included in fashion and beauty campaigns.

Kellee Terrell: OK sis, so tell me how this came about, ‘cause this huge!

Angelica Ross: All I know is that my publicist said they reached out, and they wanted to do this campaign with vintage horror novel covers and of course I wanted to do it! It also included some of my co-stars from ‘American Horror: 1984’ story, which let me say, when I realized who else was going to be involved, I saw that it wasn’t this situation, whereas a Black trans woman I being tokenized. One, [creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere] already has a history of inclusion and opening the door for other trans people. That, and I was just being included alongside my ‘American Horror Story’ cast.

Included as I should be, not a gimmick, but as I should be, with everyone else, not an actor, but in the fashion industry, saying maybe they might have been sleeping on this face for a minute!

KT: So when you first walked in on-set, what did you think?

AR: Coming in you always wonder, ‘Who am I going to be working with? Are you people of color going to be there? And there was. I worked with the makeup artist who was like, Oh hey great, were so excited, this is such and such and he’s going to your makeup and I’ll be overseeing it. My artist ended up working with Jamal Scott [who has done makeup for Vogue, Juju, Tasha Smith and more.]

It’s important to point out that they weren’t there because I’m Black and I am asked them to be there, but because Black people should be getting these jobs and the fact that they were using the space to do that, it made me feel good.

KT: So let’s talk about that big beautiful Afro! 

AR: Duffy [who is white] was doing to my hair and he says to me that he’s got this wig and he’s going to tease it out to make it really big. So I thought about it and was like, “Well, couldn’t you just do that with my hair?” Then he asked, “You’d be comfortable with us doing that?” I told him, “I’d prefer it.”

So he went to see what the folks at Vuitton thought and he came back,  immediately, and said let’s do this. Together, he and I worked on getting this big Afro and listen…he picked this shit out of it. I was like “Make it as big as you can do it! Let’s do it for the culture!”

KT: I love that! How did it make you feel in that moment?

AR: There have been very few moments where I have felt this kind of beautiful because was feeling so natural, you know? The way Jamal did my makeup, it wasn’t about covering up all my skin, or contouring to hide my face. It was just to cover my blemishes and I remember looking in the mirror thinking, “Wow! Thank you, Lord that I can have skin to pull off this kind of number.”

KT: And as a Black trans woman, to be able to show your hair in this way must have been huge.

AR: It was. To be a trans woman and not need a wig or for my hair to be pressed? To be in this natural state and to sit in this androgynous way. It was everything. They even binded down my boobs girls! They gave me this thin binder, but I got what they were going for, so I went with it. Honestly, I felt powerful as hell! I think that’s what came across in the ad—a confident, quiet power. I didn’t need too much flexing.

KT: This Afro moment wasn’t just amazing for natural sistas, BUT for 4c girls, who often get erased. 

AR: Yes! Because folks will use curly girls, Tracee Ellis Ross curly, and that’s not the same thing here. And let’s not also forget the dark-skinned Black women! That’s what I love about Louis Vuitton; they’ve had dark skin models with natural hair [in ads and on the runway], so I knew it wasn’t going to be this big deal. I love working with brands like this one who are clear that there is room for and the possibilities could be me.

And this is really about breaking even more barriers for dark-skinned Black women and dark-skinned Black trans women. That, and seeing Black folks tag me on social media, who aren’t even in the LGBTQ movement, saying that I’m doing for the culture, matters. I really need my community to know that I am Black first, but that doesn’t cancel out my queerness or my transness.

KT: I know that tour castmate Indya Moore has modeled for Vuitton before, Mj was named an Olay brand ambassador, Janet Mock and Dominque Jackson have modeled for Valentino. Why is it important for us to have more Black trans women in these spaces, helping expand how we talk about beauty and fashion?

AR: It’s so important, but it’s also important for us as a trans community to celebrate this too. The rally cry has been so loud [for our equality and to protect our lives] has been thunderous, coming from the trans community who refuses to wait our turn. We’ve been so loud about the need for more opportunities for Black trans women, this is also a really good thing too. It’s an opportunity and it’s also about happiness. Not everything about our lives has to be gloom and doom. Trust, I know what it’s like to be struggling, homeless, on the margins. But when we have moments like this, let’s amplify it, so when that the girls from the farthest corners can see a way out. So they can see themselves have a happy ending of sorts.

KT: Well said. So, speaking of beauty…what products

AR: Ha! OK, I am loving Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Foundation. It’s vegan and cruelty-free and it looks so beautiful on my skin. That, and I LOVE Ashley Blaine Featherson Mented Bronze & Glow Collection. It looks so beautiful on my skin.

Also, my girl Amiyah Scott has her Galactical Gloss, which has a little bit of sparkly that you can wear with a basic liner or bump up any lip color you are already wearing. I know this next one is a lot, but I really love Crème de la Mer Moisturizing Cream.

KT: Girl, bye. That’s expensive! I’m kidding, we all deserve a splurge. Is it really as good as they say?

AR: Yes! It’s really amazing. J-Lo amazing. But for me, there are certain patches around my nose and eyebrows and it just makes it all better. Finally, my secret is an orange color corrector. I use it on dark spots around my lip, chin, and mouth and it ends up making me use less foundation.

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