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.
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.
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!