From being on screen as a host on AfterBuzz TV to being behind the scenes as the maven of BatMe! Cosmetics, Jayla Roxx is taking her latest spotlight in front of the cameras on the new series Gay-ish, and is already getting acclaim for her acting chops. This trans activist and multi media sensation sat down with me for an extended chat, where we spoke about her new foray into acting, what it is like having legends like Salt-N-Pepa and Janet Jackson be her latest “BatMe Besties” and how she started to revolutionize the market for her community one lash at a time.
Michael Cook: You are headlining Gay-ish, which is being heavily buzzed about as the newest and hottest web series. What made you want to get involved in the project?
Jayla Roxx: I have known (Director) Brad Hammer for a year prior to this production, after working with him on some music videos. He asked me to audition for this and he thought I would be great. (Hammer himself says about the show, that “directing this web series taught me how to become a better ally to the black trans community”). I knew I was not an actor, and I had not done any acting, I had only done hosting or reality television. I don’t know how to say no, so I read the script. It was a cold read, and it was intense; I had to cry on cue. I said to myself to get out of my head and find out what story we were telling. I had to go beyond just myself. This is a story that I may not personally relate to, but I am speaking to someone through this part. Once I read during the audition, I cried on cue and could not stop crying after it was over. After hearing the story and saying it out loud, I felt what someone else was going through. I felt for sure that I would fully dedicate myself to it. I mean, people are gonna watch this (laughs)! I wanted to make sure I did it well, and ultimately, I knew that we were telling a story that impacted a lot of people. We finally got a chance to put it all together and I am grateful for the opportunity.
MC: What do you think it is right now where people are really focused on telling stories about trans people of color. The world has really started to wake up and see the talent In these performers. Where do you think the awareness stems from?
JR: I am a big believer in the fact that representation matters, and I always preach that. I am very grateful, even with the new Disclosure film on Netflix that was just released, to see that these people have always been there. Maybe it takes a revolution or a resistance for people to listen. If you think about it, black or any trans people live in a resistance every day. The fact that you go outside and say “fuck you normal society, here I am” and you do that every day, you are waking up in a resistance. Maybe people know are saying “maybe we should join the fight too”. You know what though-times are changing. They are always going to, and I am glad that they are. We are finally starting to get the respect and the equality that we deserve.
MC: There remains such a high murder rate in the trans community. What do you think it will take for that to finally come to the forefront and be addressed in a way that it needs to be to see change?
JR: We always say this, and we are saying it about the coronavirus pandemic; “until it happens to you”….How many times have we heard someone say “this is made up”. Then when your cousin dies from the virus, is it made up now? Until it happens to you or your friend group it isn’t real, but you have a chance to not let that happen, to not let that be the answer. Standing up and protecting your trans brothers and sisters should be an immediate. So we don’t let them go out and feel like they are alone. If we stand up for our trans brothers and sisters in the first place, we don’t have to worry about it right?
MC: Many trans performers are coming to the forefront in front of the camera, but you created the makeup line BatMe! Cosmetics and have revolutionized that market. Talk about made “for you, by you”! What made you want to do that?
JR: I was struggling and started to ask myself, “how do I never spend money on makeup again?” and “how do I make sure I start making money from makeup”? I got into what was trendy at the time, and that was selling lashes and I would have a manufacturer that I partnered with. BatMe! Cosmetics, the name comes from the act of batting your lashes, like when you blink; it just worked, BatMe! Lashes. I started getting the word out, and people knew me from other things are started to see what I was doing. My first model was Angelica Ross, from Pose. This was pre-Pose, it was pre-everything for us. We were just doing it on my rooftop in Korea-town Then it blew up from there, I started getting messages from people telling me that “your lashes changed my life”. I didn’t think of it at first; they see to themselves in the product, they see a black trans woman is running it. I don’t want the dollar; I just want the experience is what I tell people. If these queens look good, they are going to do good and they are going to continue to buy good. If I can be part of the buy good process, then I have done my job, It is my duty to expand and to really give them more and to really listen to who my customers are. I have built a community, I call them the Bat Me! Besties. I know where the orders are going out to, I know my customers. If they want me to restock something, they can message me and they know that they will get a fast response; I have built this community within. They all support each other and are on each others Instagram and getting inspired. That is what it’s really about.
MC: You have gotten to work with some amazing people, including Angelica Ross. Who have you gotten to work with that you really were starstruck by?
JR: I had the opportunity to work exclusively with Salt-N-Pepa. They loved at me and Eric, he is their makeup artist and has been seeing all of the amazing things that I have been doing, So every time you see Salt-N-Pepa now, that’s all me, All the Drag Race girls always hit me up, so thank you Drag Race; Honey Davenport, Monique Heart, Silky Nutmeg Ganache, they all come running. The black and brown queens definitely support me, without them, a lot of the followers would not be possible. My biggest and most favorite one though, goes to Janet Jackson. Preston Meneses is her makeup artist and we met through Sasha Colby, who is a performer in Los Angeles and was one of my BatMe! models. It’s all tying in together (laughs). For these people to not ever know me and just see the drive that I had and to put me in the right direction with these people, I am forever thankful for it.
MC: Do you see the issue in the community with African American queens and trans performers finally getting their due, and do you think it is well past the time that it should have happened?
JR: Ultimately we had to give it up for ourselves. Everyone who is living and has made it to 2020. Remember when all of us were saying that 2020 would be our year, and we had out 2020 Vision? Everything is being uncovered and you can’t hide from it. The 2020 Vision is here and we kind of manifested this to happen; the day or reckoning if you will. It’s only going to prepare us for a better future and providing something for the people coming up behind us. If we can do something like sell lashes and give back to the Black Trans Protesters Emergency Fund to help shift that needle on the awesome meter a little bit further, then we are doing our job.
MC: What is next for you in a post-quarantine world?
JR: I am a host at AfterBuzz TV, I do the Drag Race after show. I ended up leaving AfterBuzz for a quick hiatus because I am going to be the next executive producer and creator of The Remedy Television Network. It is going to be a new streaming service that is going to be featuring a lot of original POC and LGBTQIA content from some of your favorite reality stars, icons and legends. Representation matters; and this is going to be the biggest platform that will have that representation. It’s not just going to be in Los Angeles, we are goin to have people coming from, Japan, South Africa, and all different countries to make this happen. A lot of people have been asking when it would happen and i’s going to be ready when it’s ready (laugh)!
MC: What have been you been doing to stay creatively fueled during this quarantine?
JR: I have to give it up to God first. I have learned more about my self awareness and my spirituality, where I stand in the world, beyond Jayla Rox. Who I am as an energy is is so important, to keep that creative energy flow going. I meditate and I walk around my neighborhood. I also have houseplants now also. I am originally from Atlanta GA so I am a southern girl. That LA fever has been creeping through my veins, so now I have house plants and fresh garden vegetables. I just moved in December and live right near the Brady Bunch house, so you have to be happy right?
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Episodes of “Gay-ish” are available here