It brings me so much joy to know that I can be an inspiration to someone by being my authentic self. It is a blessing.
We cannot keep our eyes off Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, formerly known as MJ Rodriguez, when she’s commanding a scene. She evokes the sort of beauty you see in Renaissance paintings—an ethereal Bottecelli muse wrapped in long tresses holding a wistful gaze—which combined with her grace and strength, leaves the lasting impression of a powerhouse talent. First as a musical theatre star as Angel in a 2011 off-Broadway production of Rent, then as Blanca Evangelista, the heart and soul of Pose, and now with her costarring role as Sophia Salinas on Apple TV+’s Loot, the 31-year-old Afro-Latina actress and singer rightfully steals the show with each and every role.
As the first transgender woman to be nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her role on Pose, and the first to win the latter, she has made history in a slow-to-change industry. However, her talents far outweigh her responsibility as a role model, one she doesn’t take lightly. “If not me, then who,” she says when asked about the milestones she’s met for the LGBTQIA community. Rodriguez says she does not shy away from her purpose, and whether it’s bringing tears to our eyes with her iconic turn as Blanca or making us laugh by keeping Maya Rudolph’s riches-to-riches character on Loot in check, we keep watching.
While we patiently wait for Sophia Salinas’ next voice of reason moment on Loot, she took a moment to share with us why changing her name was vital, her absolute beauty staples, and how she unwinds after long days on set.
Can you share why using your full name is important to you?
“I decided to use my full name to introduce ‘the artist’ side of myself that I felt the world needed to see. I have been referred to as MJ my entire life and as I continue to evolve, I want the world to know me. All of me.”
What was your first beauty memory?
“I feel like my first beauty memory was when I put on mascara for the first time at the age of 14. At that time, I was fortunate enough that I didn’t have to use any foundation. My face at that age was crystal clear, but there was definitely something missing—mascara!”
Walk us through your morning skin-care routine. What do you use at night?
“My morning skin-care routine is using CeraVe to cleanse all the impurities from my face, then Charlotte’s Magic Serum Crystal Elixir as well as her face oil, to keep my skin moisturized and obtain a glow. I also use this as my nighttime routine.”
What are your desert island beauty picks—the top three things you can’t live without daily?
“I would have to say my favorite skin cleanser, moisturizer, and you can’t go wrong with a lip gloss.”
After three seasons on Pose did you walk away with any tips or tricks you learned on set?
“Yes, I would say the most important tip is to prep yourself before you go into any kind of intense scene so that you don’t carry it with you throughout the day. Especially when it comes to a drama series or movie.”
You made history with your Golden Globe win. How does it feel to be a role model and know so many people look to you as inspiration?
“I feel like it is an obligation to live out my God-given purpose and that is to be a voice for the LGBTQIA community. I use my platform daily to inspire those like me. If not me, then who? It brings me so much joy to know that I can be an inspiration to someone by being my authentic self. It is a blessing.”
On Loot, your character Sofia doesn’t mince words. What do you love most about playing her?
“I enjoy playing Sofia for many reasons. One of them being the strong woman she is. Her demeanor and love for what she does is not only admirable but inspiring.”
How do you unwind after long days?
“I take 20 minutes to myself, and I reflect and meditate. I feel like that’s the kind of healing you need to prep you for the days to come.”
What really makes you feel like you’re “done” when getting glammed up? Is there a part of your look that has to be on point or you won’t feel comfortable?
“My glam team GETS IT! If you ever witness my team and I together, you will quickly see that we are truly a family. It’s more about the energy than the actual look. We all just know, and the looks give life every time.”
You’ve been performing since childhood. What did you think your career in entertainment would be like and did you ever dream this big?
“I’ve always known what I wanted to do, and I am grateful for the platform that I have grown on over the years. I haven’t reached the highest heights yet. This is truly just the beginning.”
What is the next big project you’re working on and what can we expect?
“Many things! Keep a close eye on me!”
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