On the heels of a successful makeup collection with M.A.C Cosmetics, Taraji P. Henson landed the brand’s 2017 Viva Glam campaign alongside her Empire co-star Jessie Smollett. “I was like, ‘Hell ya, why would I turn that down?’” the Hidden Figures actress told us over the phone. “Not only that, when you think about partnering up with a company, you want to make sure it’s something you can be proud of. And as an artist, even in the rolls I pick, I make sure that it’s somehow going to touch and change a life for the better.”
As a woman of colour, M.A.C “always has something [available in my shade range],” Henson told us. “I just remember as I decided I wanted to act and I started getting really clear about my future and my career, I started noticing the Viva Glam campaigns and who they were collaborating with and I was like, ‘Oh my god see, that’s the type of stuff I want to do.’” The Viva Glam lipstick is a matte raspberry hue she worked closely with the brand to perfect, and there is a shimmery gloss of the same colour. Below, the actress tells us about the best Valentine’s Day she ever had, and why it only takes her an hour – from start to finish – to get ready.
Tell me about a memorable Valentine’s Day.
“I would have to say it was this New York trip. It was very romantic. It was dinner at a beautiful Italian restaurant, we went to see Hamilton and we bought each other these amazing gifts, and we went to see Maxwell and Nas. It was just the best Valentine’s ever, because the whole weekend was filled with festivity.”
What do you do to get ready for a date?
“I definitely play music. It just depends on what song, what artist has me at the moment. Right now, it’s A Tribe Called Quest, their new album, and Solange. That’s all I am playing, heavy back-to-back rotation.”
What’s your go-to beauty look for a date?
“A go-to makeup look for a date is a natural look, and that’s when I pull out my Taraji collection [with M.A.C Cosmetics], because that’s my personal Taraji natural look. I don’t wear any foundation, I just use the highlighter, and I use the Taraji glow and the Strip Me Down lipstick and the eyeliner. That’s it, just all very natural.”
Are you against wearing a bright lip on a date or do you just prefer the natural look?
“I wear what I feel. The main part of the natural look is for the face. It can be any lip. I’ve worn purple, I’ve worn red, I’ve worn something that’s almost black. It depends on how I feel. I am not afraid of colour on the lips. Bold colour? I’m not afraid at all.”
And how about a fragrance, do you have a go-to date fragrance?
“Let me see…I have my YSL Caban. I have my Serge Lutens, a Fleur D’oranger. Then I have another one that’s very alluring, it’s Narciso Rodriguez. I have a few.”
So you rotate through those?
“Yeah. My assistant just got me this amazing, beautifully packaged perfume called Tiziana Terenzi. It’s beautiful. The box has a light in it and whenever I put it on, people follow me. But that one is really expensive so that is for special occasions.”
So good for a date then.
Is there anything else that you do before a date?
“I just make sure I feel good, and I look good. If I look good, I feel good. [That] I am myself, and I am in my element. I can’t have on anything too tight, my feet can’t hurt. You know, I can’t have anything that is going to knock me off my game.”
How do you think your date-night style compares to your character on Empire’s date-night style?
“My date night is more chic. I am not Cookie. I am more boo boo kitty dressed. [Laughs] I don’t do fur. I don’t own any furs. I am just not that girl. You know, it’s a simple black dress, a great shoe, a great bag, flawless makeup, effortless hair. I don’t want to send my representation, I want him to see me – because that’s a treat when I get glammed. You don’t want to give it all to him at once, you know?”
So you like the natural look. Chic, but natural.
Chic but natural. I can be ready for a date in an hour. Shower and everything.
That’s really good.
M.A.C Cosmetics Viva Glam Taraji P. Henson Lipstick ($21), maccosmetics.ca. All proceeds go to people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's bi-weekly newsletter