Going into season three of Orange Is the New Black—available for binge watching on Netflix now—we knew little about the new inmate shaking things up at Litchfield. Come to find out, Stella Carlin is not all that different from the striking real-life beauty who plays her. Google Ruby Rose, and you’ll find that like Carlin, Rose hails from Australia, sports an androgynous look, and is completely comfortable and confident in her own tattoo-covered skin, as evidenced by her powerful short film, Break Free. Two months after the film went viral on YouTube, Rose got a call to audition for Orange, a life-changing event she believes is no coincidence. “I feel like those two things were very in sync with each other,” she told Byrdie. “I think Orange thought I could be a good fit for Stella because there are a lot of similarities.” While she’s a newcomer to the acting game, we can assure you Rose’s time in the spotlight is no flash in a pan. With a hand in acting, modeling, designing, and DJ’ing, the hyphenate isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
We caught up with Rose on the set of her June Byrdie editorial to talk about joining the Orange family, the meaning of beauty, and bringing the topic of gender identity to the surface. Keep reading for our exclusive interview.
Makeup artist Jenn Streicher used Charlotte Tilbury’s K.I.S.S.I.N.G. Lipstick ($34) in Bitch Perfect on Rose’s lips.
BYRDIE: Were you a fan of Orange Is the New Black prior to landing the role of Stella Carlin?
RUBY ROSE: Yeah my god, I was. I was late to it. I think I was touring when it came out, and then I managed to get wind of it just through social media and everybody talking about this show. I hadn’t heard of such a crazy fan base, from politicians to celebrities to writers to people in the industry to just like regular television viewers, and I was so intrigued. I started watching an episode, and I remember it was Sunday or something, and the next thing I knew it was Tuesday and I’d watched the entire series. I was like, what just happened? I had never binge-watched TV before, and I was like, this isn’t normal. I asked some friends, “Is it normal that I just watched 12 hours of television?” And they were like, “Yeah, it’s this new thing; everyone’s doing it. It’s streaming media and Netflix.” I was like, okay good because I was very addicted to it.
BYRDIE: What was it like joining such a tight-knit cast?
RR: It was great. I mean, I was so nervous. It wasn’t like a whole new cast; it was just a few of us. I got in the pickup van, and I was sitting with Vicky [Jeudy], who plays Janae, and it was just like that scene that Taylor has, or Piper has, with Janae on the first day she gets put in prison. And that’s who I was sitting next to, and it was just us, and I was like, oh my god!
BYRDIE: You have such a great androgynous look. Who are some of your beauty icons?
RR: I know that growing up I had a thing for Annie Lennox because of her kind of androgyny, definitely, but she always kept it very minimal. There was always very little makeup, if any. And I liked that, and she always had such chiseled cheekbones, but I didn’t have that as much—I just contour. But then on the flip side, I was obsessed with Madonna, her whole look. You know from her beauty to what she did with her hair, she was constantly reinventing herself, so I’d just get used to Madonna with short black hair singing like “Rain” or something, and then suddenly she’s doing cowgirl Madonna and then she’s doing Ali G. The way she kept transcending time was just phenomenal. I was obsessed with Madonna from “Justify My Love” and Erotica—that whole period. Even though I’m probably closer to like Sinead O’Connor when she was sort of younger and had that big song and Annie Lennox and that style of look, I get more giddy when it comes to the Madonnas that are more statement like. I just don’t do as many statements, or I do, it’s just with tattoos.
BYRDIE: What is beautiful to you?
RR: I think beauty is really, as cliché as it is, I feel like beauty is definitely the warmth that somebody puts out—what’s internal as opposed to what’s external. And it’s really for women—I guess it’s the same for women and men these days now—that everyone is crossing over or being able to be themselves, whatever that may be. I think beauty is being around someone or seeing someone who is confident in themselves and has that confidence to lift other people up with them. There’s nothing more beautiful than seeing a woman stop another woman in the street to tell them they are beautiful. They are not going to get anything out of that. If anything, it takes a lot of guts because that person might be like, “Great. Thanks. Why are you talking to me?” And it’s just so nice when people have that comfort and peace of mind in themselves that they are actually noticing beauty around them.
BYRDIE: What are three beauty products you can’t live without?
RR: Mascara is a big one. It’s like mascara, eyebrows, and lips are kind of my things. I actually use a lot of Nars. They have this palette—this is what I really go to every day—it’s like a contouring thing. I can use it with no makeup underneath, which I like. If I can avoid makeup, I pretty much will go with just powders for a little bit of sharpening, so to speak. And for the brow, I use Tom Ford or Anastasia. Tom Ford has this crazy pencil thing—the Brow Sculptor ($54)—that is a brush on one side and a pencil on the other, and you get a really good shape. He’s just a freak when it comes to makeup. I’m like, how do you know how to design clothing and have amazing perfume, and now you know how to do makeup? I feel like it’s not really fair. His stuff is really good. If not him, I use Anastasia because she has a dipping thing, so you can dip in a brush and get more of a precise line—and she has a color that’s just good. She is a freak when it comes to eyebrows, and that’s like my main thing.
BYRDIE: I noticed on Instagram you’re always changing your hair.
RR: You know, hair is funny. I would shave my head. Every time there is a role that I audition for or there’s a role that I get—there’s a couple of indies I was in talks with—every time it comes to the character, I’m like, “I think this character should have a shaved head.” And they’re like, “Really? We didn’t see that.”
For mascara, I’ve been with Maybelline so long that I haven’t used anything but Falsies Mascara ($6) in like five years. I look forward to seeing what else is out there, but it’s such a staple for me. I was using that and all of their classic mascaras since I was a kid, so maybe I’ll go and see what else is out there, what else I like.
Makeup artist Jenn Streicher used Nars’s Audacious Lipstick ($34) in Angela on Rose’s lips.
BYRDIE: You have so many cool tattoos. Can you tell us about some of them?
RR: I have a place in L.A. called Shamrock with artists like Dr. Woo, Boo Boo, and Mark Mahoney—that whole place is filled with tattoo history. It’s really like an establishment. It’s definitely worth it if you’re going to get a tattoo and you just want to get one or a really special one and you’re willing to wait, it’s definitely—you’re going to get the best tattoo in the world there. But a lot of them I’ve gotten in all kinds of places, from Amsterdam to Belgium to obviously places in Australia, and some of them are amazing and some of them I’m still recovering from. But yeah, I don’t know if I have a favorite [tattoo]. I go to a woman named Jessica [Mascitti] from East Side Ink in New York, and she did my [Jean-Michel] Basquiat portrait. A lot of people will stop me in the street and say, “Whoa, that’s Basquiat, that’s amazing.” Or if they don’t know who it is, they’re like Who is that person? It’s like a real photo. And she is really brilliant. She did that in three or fours hours, which would usually take someone about six.
And then Bang Bang has done my sleeves. He’s probably one of my big main dudes, and he’s done Rihanna and Bieber and Rita Ora. He’s amazing. I remember when I met him like six years ago, he did the Tank Girl on my shoulder, and ever since then, I had him on MTV because I was so obsessed with him. We became friends, and it was crazy just watching his career go up and up. And he’s like a kid still—he was in his young early 20s doing lifelike photographic pieces. And then I have one saying, “Be the person your dog thinks you are.” That’s kind of one of my favorites. There is like one or two that I would get rid of, that’s it.
BYRDIE: Let’s talk about your film Break Free.
RR: It’s weird. I feel like after so many years of interviewing singers who write these songs, all their greatest songs are ones they did in a studio and 15 minutes later out comes this hit. It was a little like that. Of all the work I’ve done and all the prep I can do for something, I’m most proud of that piece, because it’s the most authentic and the most real and it happened in one day. I had been in America for a year, finding myself, figuring out what I wanted to do here, and nothing was really happening. No matter what you’ve done in Australia, you could be the biggest star at home, it’s like what have you done here, why should we care? And it’s great, because it really makes you start being hungry for it again and think outside the box. You can’t just be a pretty face and expect an easy way into the industry—it just doesn’t happen. So I got it together and put it out there, and I had 300,000 fans on Facebook from like the 10 years I worked my ass off at home and I had about 100,000 on Twitter. I put it out for my audience and then it just spread like wildfire. I think it was just one of those things where everything fell into place, when you follow your heart and gut. I wanted to let people know a little about my story because a lot of [my fans] are trans, or gay, or bisexual, or just bullied in school or whatever else they relate to on my level, and I didn’t realize how big that population is. It’s a minority, but it’s so many minorities together that it’s the majority of people that all face one of these things. I think that’s why it related to so many people and did so well.
BYRDIE: Your fiancée, Phoebe Dahl, is doing incredible things with Faircloth & Supply. Are you involved with the clothing line at all?
RR: I don’t help with designing or anything—obviously that’s all her. But she runs everything through me, to point that the other day we were in the office—she has a studio downtown—and she said to me, “You should start paying rent for working here,” and I was like, “Excuse me? You should start paying me by the hour for like all of my services.” We were just joking—we weren’t fighting, we never fight—but we run everything by each other. And then we have a brand together called Scallywags, because she always wanted to do like streetwear-type clothing as well, because the stuff she does is very feminine and Japanese oversized linen, and it’s beautiful stuff, but it’s not everyday. And I’m really into that world and had a clothing range, which was more of a streetwear line. So I was like why don’t we team up and do a gender-neutral, unisex-type brand and make it charitable and go by everything [Phoebe] knows as far as business sense and how to give one for one so that somebody else also benefits from purchasing the item and everything I know about like streetwear and fashion and the more kind of out-there looks. And it’s cool. We’re releasing it in about a week.
BYRDIE: You’re a model, VJ/host, DJ, and actress. What do you find is the most challenging?
RR: I do a lot of DJ stuff, so I produce some music on the side as well, and I find that very challenging. I feel like when I was younger, like 16 or 17, I could sit on a computer for like 24 hours and not even notice and love it. And now, I think there is always that push and pull of how much time I want to spend in the office versus outside living. So producing can be really challenging, but because it’s a challenge, I really like doing it. It’s like fixing problems constantly. And then aside from that, definitely acting. You know, modeling it’s not even a challenge at all. It’s like I could do it with my eyes closed. It’s actually kind of therapeutic, because I don’t have to talk, I don’t have to think, I can just hang out. Someone else does it all for me. They do my makeup to make me pretty, they dress me to make me look good, and there’s a really talented photographer who has lit it well so you naturally look beautiful. It’s almost like a foolproof job, and I’ve been doing it since I was like 12 or something. But acting is—I mean yes, you have amazing writers and the director is hugely involved. I mean, if you don’t listen to a director then you are not a good actor, but it’s really all on you. When there’s like 15-20 people in the room that aren’t in the actual scene behind the camera, and then you have this other actor or two actors or three actors that you are working with, and they are all incredibly talented, and you’re all trying to remember your lines, but also trying to remember to feel every emotion; it’s really challenging. And it’s so much more new to me. I did television hosting for six years. I could pick up a microphone and interview you and I could do it for an hour without missing a beat, but acting is definitely, um, it gives me nerves and anxiety, but really good nerves and anxiety. It’s like going to the gym after you haven’t been in a really long time, saying I don’t want to do this, I can’t do that, and then you do it and you feel the best you’ve ever felt in your life and you’re better the next day and the next day and the next day.
So what’s next?
Well I have Orange, and then I have a sci-fi coming out, and I have a lot indie films at the moment that we’re sort of in talks with. And there are some great scripts going around, so hopefully I pick up a good project. Honestly, there is so much going on outside of Orange, but I’m so in the Orange world right now. But there’s the clothing range with Phoebe, I’m touring the states and Europe DJ’ing. It’s mental—every day is different. I’ll be in the studio, and then I’ll meet with a studio or casting agent, then I’ll go shoot something, and then I’ll do press, and then I’m flying to Spain. It’s a pretty crazy life.
Photographer: Justin Coit
Hair: Ashley Streicher
Makeup: Jenn Streicher
Stylist: Zoe Costello
Manicurist: Michelle Saunders