The Afrobella Interview – Janet Mock

I’ll be honest — when I first read Janet Mock’s brave and beautiful confessional to Marie Claire, I Was Born A Boy, I wasn’t so much shocked by the headline as I was awestruck by Janet’s beauty. LOOK AT HER. Look at that hair, look at that skin, look at that smile. Janet Mock is gorgeous, and it’s a gorgeousness that radiates from within.

Janet Mock interview

On her official website, she shares her story of triumph and truth. On her Facebook page and on Twitter @JanetMock, she’s more likely to share ruminations on love and details of her fabulous life. By day Janet’s a writer, working on her upcoming memoir Fish Food while holding down a super cool day job as Associate Editor of PEOPLE.com. By night she’s a woman in love who co-hosts a podcast and is often captured in stunning images by her handsome boyfriend (and super talented photographer) Aaron Tredwell. Janet now leads a charmed and lovely life in NYC, but she’s more than had her fair share of pain on her way there.

One thing that struck me when I read most mainstream blog posts about Janet, as well as on YouTube…is the remarkable ignorance she’s faced with online (and undoubtedly in real life, from time to time). I don’t think I’d be able to deal with it as gracefully as she does.

Janet loves Afrobella’s message of being your natural self, and I pride myself on having some of the most intelligent readers on the internet, so I’m sure that judgmental and ignorant comments won’t be an issue here. Without further ado, here’s my interview with the beautiful Janet Mock!

Afrobella: What has been the biggest surprise for you, since sharing your story with the public?

Janet Mock: In the aftermath of sharing my story, the biggest surprise has been the outpouring of love and support and blessings. My initial intent was to share my story to show kids who are growing up like I did that they have someone just like them who has made it through. I did not expect to inspire women from around the world. One of my reader’s said it best on my blog: “You’re successful, gorgeous, transgender, frigging brilliant and then had the guts to ‘come out’ as well. So what excuse does that leave the rest of us?”

Afrobella: I’ve seen your story posted on many different sites, and there’s been a LOT of love. There’s also been a lot of vitriol and ignorance and anger for reasons I personally can’t understand. What do you say to people who are closed minded towards your story and your experience? How do you deal with that?

Janet Mock: Many people ask about how I’m handling the backlash, I must admit that though some comments have caught my attention, many haven’t really fazed me. I grew up with the soundtrack of kids in the back of the room using me as the brunt of their idiotic jokes and people saying things about my body parts and my dress in passing. Internet naysayers are just an extension of that bullying, but the only difference is I am not forced to share a classroom with them. I have the choice now to choose whom I spend my time with, and I choose not to spend my time reading comments from people who refuse to be open and understanding.

Also, as someone who grew up wearing my differences on my sleeve, I’ve developed a rather thick skin and in turn learned a lot about human behavior. As a kid, I spent a lot of my time observing people, watching the way they interacted with one another, and one thing I took away from my people-watching was that people are uncomfortable with change and it’s not my job to judge them based on their prejudices. I understand why the jarring concept of growing up in the wrong body and deciding to change it to align with my inner being and essence could seem surreal. I can understand that, but what I don’t understand are comments that say they would kill me if we ever crossed paths or that I’m an abomination to their god. That raging hate manifested in the intent to do harm and shun a human being from society and curse them, that I’ll never understand or try to understand.

Ultimately, I’ll take a public lashing of comments and ignorance if it means I’m helping kids who grew up like me know that they matter and that their stories are worth hearing and that they are not alone.

Afrobella: Is there any part of your message that you think people still aren’t fully comprehending?

Janet Mock: I think the concept of “otherness” still astounds me. I am a person, first and foremost. A person. I want all the things any person wants: a fulfilling career, a loving partner, a caring family and supportive friends. Nothing exotic or surreal there. But I happened to be born with an internal sense of gender that did not match my organs. My makeup as a human did not change because I altered my body to match who I knew I was. I am still a person; there is no otherness there.

Afrobella: In your It Gets Better video you shared the feelings of knowing you were a girl, and you had those feelings at an early age. When did you first start embracing some of the physical aspects of “girlhood,” in terms of cosmetics and beauty? Do you remember the first time you wore makeup, or the first makeup item you bought?

Janet Mock: Lipsmackers were a huge thing for me in the sixth and seventh grades. I loved collecting them on a necklace and lathering my lips in all sorts of flavors. They weren’t quite unisex, but right before my physical transition, they were a “safe” zone for me, something that allowed me, though I was still in the wrong body, to display my femininity on my chest and express myself as a part of the female collective.

Afrobella: Talk to me about your favorite beauty products. What are your top five makeup must-haves?

Janet Mock: My top five makeup must-haves:

1. Estée Lauder’s TurboLash in black
2. Lorac lipstick in Nude Scene with SPF 15
3. Make Up For Ever Duo Mat powder foundation
4. TIED: Cargo blush in Rome & Mac blush in Coppertone
5. Almay brow defining pencil in dark brown

I’m a blush and mascara junkie. I LOVE Cargo and MAC blushes for their range of colors, especially in the peach-toned zones which I feel for us colored girls really makes our natural hues pop! I often leave the house with tinted moisturizer (Laura Mercier being my favorite), mascara (I also use Loreal voluminous mascara in carbon black) and a brushing of blush on cheeks, temples, nose and chin. Almay pencil is the best I’ve found so far for a more natural, brushed on look to the brow.

Janet Mock Interview

Photo via Marie Claire

Afrobella: What about hair? Your hair is absolutely fabulous! My site is all about natural hair, and your curls are positively enviable. Can you tell me your favorite products and your best curly hair tips?

Janet Mock: My curly hair tips are:

1. Comb/rake through your curls after giving your conditioner five minutes to process. Use a wide-toothed comb and rake through from ends to roots. Once you’re done, turn upside down and scrunch hair drenched in conditioner with palms and fingers. Flip back over and rinse. Don’t use a comb while styling.

2. As my hair gets longer, I’ve depended on a root lift hairspray to maintain volume in my crown. I need the volume to maximize my cuts and curls’ shape.

3. Condition. Condition. Condition. I wash my hair with shampoo on Sundays, but also wash with just condition on Wednesdays. Basically I rinse my hair with warm water, and then comb conditioner through. My ends can get really dry, especially since they’re processed with bleach and color.

4. In between washes, I live by Moroccan Oil. It keeps the texture of the curls intact as well as adding a natural sheen.

5. For me, the creamier the product, the better, as my hair tends to eat up product. So the creamier the product, the longer my curls stay in shape without getting too frizzy.

My favorite hair products:
1. TIGI Catwalk Curls Rock Curl Amplifier cream
2. Moroccan Oil for in between washes
3. Loreal Natures Therapy deep conditioning treatment
4. Moroccan Oil Intense Curl Cream
5. Tresemme Thermal Creations curl activator spray, which I spritz onto my semi-dry hair right before I blast my curls with a blow dryer.

Afrobella: Seeing as my blog is called Afrobella…what are your thoughts on the natural hair movement? You rock your hair in a fabulous, free, natural look and I love it! Do you read natural hair blogs? Where have you found the best information in terms of caring for your hair?

Janet Mock: I think beauty is our way of putting our best face forward so that we can individually conquer the space we inhabit. I have no opinion either way on how any woman chooses to wear her hair. It’s HER hair. As long as she is happy, I’m all for it. But I must admit that throughout high school, I wore all kinds of hairstyles, from braids and weaves to perms and crazy bleached out highlights. But the happiest I have been has been with my current wash and go routine. To me, wearing my hair curly is about me embracing my truth, embracing the unique beauty that I have been blessed with. Maybe in high school, I was still searching for my true self. Maybe that’s why I was all over the place with my beauty routine, and now, I know myself and I know the look that represents me at my best. It just happens to be the look that our creator blessed me with.

I’ve gained experience and knowledge with my beauty routine by trial and error. I’m open to new products and new colors, but not new stylists. I’ve been with the same stylist, Chris from Little Hair Shoppe in New York’s East Village, for more than five years and we’ve gone through a range of highlights and low-lights and tons of cuts. But overall we’ve had fun with my hair and definitely made some mistakes together that we’ll never make again.

Afrobella: What do you love about the ‘traditional’ external trappings of femininity. Are there any that annoy you?

Janet Mock: I hate walking to work in heels, but I have to have a complete outfit with the right proportions so I tend to walk to work in heels. I hate tweezing my eyebrows, but I have to in order to achieve my most enhancing arch so I pluck my brows. I hate using eye makeup remover (Kiehls supremely gentle) but I do so at the end of a workday because I want to be free to rub up against my boyfriend at home while watching Netflix. These are the beautiful inconveniences that help make up the sum of my womanhood – and I endure and accomplish these tasks with great pride and joy because at the end of the day I feel incredibly blessed and lucky to be me.

Afrobella: Who have been your beauty inspirations? I’m talking both personally, or celeb based.

Janet Mock: I have a “hybrid beauty icon” and a beauty guru. Let’s start with my beauty guru: Kevyn Aucoin. When I was 16 years old and didn’t know how to apply makeup I borrowed Making Faces from a close friend and learned how to discover and achieve my best face. Mr. Aucoin gave me the tools I needed to develop my makeup routine, which I haven’t changed since the age of 16. His book has been my beauty bible, and I like to think he’s my angel guiding me with every stroke of my makeup brush.

My beauty icons are a hybrid of Katharine Hepburn, Iman and Halle Berry: I love Hepburn’s fearlessness, Iman’s timelessness, and Halle’s effortlessness. They are my beauty trifecta.

Afrobella: What’s your best beauty advice for women (and men) who can identify with your story?

Janet Mock: My best beauty advice for any woman – trans or non-trans – would be to embrace your truth because the moment you embrace the unique beauty that is you and your journey you light up from within and no one – no cosmetic, no conditioner, no concealer – can touch that kind of beauty. It’s your best asset.

Thank you Janet for being so open and so accessible!

Bellas and fellas, you can follow Janet on Twitter at @janetmock and connect with her on Facebook.com/musingsonlove. And of course, leave a comment right here!

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Comments

  1. Such a beautiful woman and a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing your brave journey, and I wish nothing but the best for you<3

  2. WOW. I didn’t know know who Ms. Mock was, after reading her Marie Claire story and article, I think you covered this story elegantly Patrice. Ms. MOCK is amazingly gorgeous. Good luck to her.

  3. I really adore Janet Mock – she’s amazing and definitely a huge inspiration!

  4. what an uplifting story! Love it, & can’t wait to read her memoir;)

  5. Rochelle says:

    This and Jill would have been a perfect Afrobella Radio interview. I will think that is a great medium for you and as your former producer, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Nothing beats hearing your interactions with he interviewees. Just putting the bug in your ear.

  6. What a great interview! Thanks Afrobella!

  7. Ms. Mock is so beautful. I was born a woman on the inside and outside but I swear I AM JEALOUS!!! Great story Afrobella!

  8. I’ve never heard of her before, but now I’m intrigued and cheering her on! What a beauty and inspiration!

  9. Mishara says:

    I love this interview. Love Love Love.

  10. Great interview!

  11. warrior11209 says:

    I did not know anything about Janet Mock before your informative interview.She is a strong and beautiful woman. Great job Afrobella.Thanks Janet Mock for sharing your story.

  12. luvmylocs says:

    great interview and thanks for sharing your beauty advice. also your boyfriends photography work is awesome!

  13. She’s so pretty! And wise!

  14. melanie says:

    what a lovely person! hair- on point, attitude- on point, whats not to like? f* the ignorant people who hide behind the internet to say things they’d never say to your face. she’s my inspiration to live my life honestly and openly and be fabulous and happy! and again, the hair is the business!

  15. Great interview and what a beautiful woman Janet is! If I could be so lucky! Haha. And I just LOVE her hair! I think naturally curly hair is amazing. Janet, it’s good to know that you are beautiful inside and out and that you’re not letting the negativity deter you from being all you can be!

  16. an inspiring story! “I think beauty is our way of putting our best face forward so that we can individually conquer the space we inhabit.” Love this line!

  17. Took a break from office work today to read this amazing piece. Janet’s inner peace radiates in her photos! It just goes to show that being completely true to yourself is the best beauty secret of all. Continued success, Janet! You are an inspiration.

  18. Great interview. She is my new hair idol!

  19. gorgeous woman, amazing story!

  20. Thanks for this interview! Here hair is beautiful…Loving the color.

  21. renee82 says:

    I think this story is nice and Janet is very beautiful! Her hair is amazing! However, as a woman of God I must ask the question…When a person decides to change their gender,isn’t that saying God was wrong when HE created you? Do not get me wrong I’m not saying she’s the devil oh her soul is doomed…etc..etc. I just want to know what people think.

    • @renee82: With all due respect, from one woman of God to another, judging is not our responsibility nor our place. Let’s accept the story for what it is (Ms. Mock sharing “her” story) and learn from her “hair tips”. God bless!

    • Renee82, God made our bodies. He did not make our gender. Gender is a social construct, like race. Some Black women have café au lait-colored skin and others have dark mocha-colored skin and some have skin the color of bittersweet chocolate. Yet all are Black. Likewise, some women are trans and some women are cis. It’s no denial of God to recognize that not all women look the same nor do all men look the same.

      It’s not the body parts that make a person a man or a woman. If it was, then what do we call someone without a uterus or without breasts? Would not having these parts mean you’re not a woman? What if you have MORE parts than what most people expect a woman to be born with? I have three nipples. Yeah, that’s right. I said THREE. Now, here’s where it gets even more complicated: Due to cancer, I had chest surgery. It left me with one complete breast and about half of one on the other side.

      Well, what does that make me? The answer is: It doesn’t make me anything. I am a woman regardless of what my body looks like. My body needn’t conform to how some people think that a woman should appear. No matter what anyone else has to say about my body (e.g. “That looks disgusting!”; “How did you get those fat keloid scars across your chest?”; “If I had to go through all of that, I’d kill myself!”), I am a woman and God loves me for who I am, not because of what gender I consider myself or because of what my body looks/looked like at some point in my life.

      The same is true of Ms. Mock. She’s a woman, because she knows she’s a woman. During the period of slavery in America, the womanhood of people of color was denied, because of how we looked. We weren’t white and, in the eyes of the ruling majority, that meant we didn’t have what it takes to be considered real women. They didn’t even consider us people! They even used the Bible as justification for this view.

      But WE always knew what and who we were. It took a long time for this society to accept what we already knew. Eventually it became apparent that their self-serving interpretation of the Bible was bogus. If history is any clue, we are now in a period where people who identify as trans* are taking the same steps that people of color had to take to in order to be acknowledged for what and who we were.

      I’m saddened that some of our sisters are still forced to fight for their right to call themselves women. I know one thing for sure, in the Bible, Jesus was ALWAYS on the side of the downtrodden and oppressed. I don’t think I could call myself a follower of Jesus or a woman of God if I didn’t take the same stance and stand in support alongside our sisters who are trans.

      • All I can say to your comment is, AMEN. Thank you.

      • I must say, I’m very delayed in reading this post and only becuase of vanity and curl obsession did I land here. However I had to let you know that I am truly inspired by your comment. As a person who is all about self expression and freedom to be and love who you want, I have had difficulty understanding the transgender movement. However your excellent comment helped to put some things in perspective. Kudos to you for such a well thought reflective response and to all of the other women who commented in such a classy way. This type of discourse is what truly invokes change and unity. Who said women are always catty?? lol

    • I really feel that as a result of the curse on the earth that she really could have been a woman in a boy’s body. She really looks like a woman. I think she is beautiful. Not sure how God sees it. All I know is if she felt this way from very young that she was a girl how can can she really be a boy?? I am confused but I don’t know how God would judge this, honestly.

  22. NativeTouchNatural says:

    This was a wonderful interview. Ms. Mock is absolutely beautiful. It is amazing to me how people can be so ignorant and willing to cause harm to others in the name of their god. Well I can imagine that the GOD I serve is smiling upon you Afrobella for being loving and kind. For those who want to judge Janet …Judge not lest thee be judged. Is it really our concern to question her decision. For those of us who weren’t born feeling trapped in the wrong body we can’t possibly understand. God does not make mistakes. However I feel that man’s free will can take root in so many ways__ and in ways we can’t describe or explain. God loves all of His children despite our short comings and our sins. If Ms. Janet Mock believes in God she will be just fine.

  23. Very cool interview! MS. Mock seems confident and at peace…more than many people. God bless.

  24. She is gorgeous. Her story was very touching – to be as fearless as she was at such a young age is inspiring enough for anyone to invoke courage within themselves to be who they are, and live their dreams. Thanks for posting this story, Afrobella.

    On another note, which issue of Marie Claire was she featured in?

    Thanks,

    Le Nubian Belle
    lenubianbelle.blogspot.com

  25. In my opinion God put people on this earth for us not to judge but to LOVE despite what we agree or disagree with. He put people on this earth for us to help one another, learn from one another and Love one another…..Love that is the answer to peace. All I can say to you Ms. Mock is that God made you to be a strong person. (with such awesome hair!) He makes no mistakes!

  26. Beautiful!!!! I know I’m almost a month late, but beautiful!

  27. Wow, what a story. I do love the hair. I’m curious to know if there are people who, after they make this transition, realize they were mistaken and regret becoming another gender.

  28. What a wonderful article. First of all, I am so proud of you, Patrice. You have done such a great job with this whole blogging thingy. I salute you, babes. Secondly this woman Janet warmed my heart to the highest degree. This is the ultimate lesson in being yourself, the courage it takes, and the rewards you reap if you can take that step. I am so inspired. Seriously people, this internet thing is amazing. The people I am meeting is Blowing. My. Mind.

    Oh, and God doesn’t give a damn what gender you are. He told me ;)

  29. I think we shouldn’t speak for God. EVER. We should do as His word says and love one another. Period.

  30. Hon, your are very lucky in many ways. But for some of us it doesn’t get any better. I have lived thru four decades of living as a woman and still not happy. People has constantly refer to me as a male. I’m post-op and legally a woman but people just would not see me as that. It is years of constantly abouse where is just mentally breaking me down. I don’t look as passable but i have to be reminded of that. I think alot about suicide these days. I don’t know how I made it this far in life. God made me like this but he didn’t giveme the tools to work with. Everyting in my blood is totally female except for my face. Surgery? My skin would not had the facial surgery. So i am stuck. I’m suppose to be on top of the world and seem like I will be under the bottom.
    Things don’t get better.

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  1. [...] announced that she is transgender. After training with GLAAD, Mock shared her story with NPR and various blogs to increase understanding and [...]

  2. [...] announced that she is transgender. After training with GLAAD, Mock shared her story with NPR and various blogs to increase understanding and [...]

  3. [...] Her curls are amazing and I thought her story was interesting read more here: [...]

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