The tattooed tv star who refuses to be anyone but herself.
The tattooed tv star who refuses to be anyone but herself.
Text: Jack Reilly
Because of her beauty of a rose and edginess of its thorn, Australian model and actress Ruby Rose has been chosen to be the new face of G-Star Raw’s latest campaign. As a queer woman who is not one to shy from androgyny, she is representing the G-Star brand as confident, unique, and totally bad-ass. It seems only fitting seeing as she is an undeniable star who is completely raw and 100% authentic.
Ruby started her career at sixteen as a model and eventually became more known from her job as a video jockey on MTV. Best known for her breakout role in Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, which launched her role on Twitter as a viral thirst-trap, she has gone on to work on a variety of projects, including her part as Batwoman on the CW. Having been bullied at a young age for her sexuality, Rose has chosen to rise above the negativity pushing her down, becoming a wildly successful icon. I had a chat with her about self-confidence, identity, sexuality, and representing a brand like G-Star.
What’s it like being the face of this campaign and knowing that you’re very much in the public eye?
Well, it’s exciting, with a brand like G-Star. You get different offers over the years for different campaigns, some you say yes to and some you say no to. It was a bit of a no-brainer for me because growing up it was a brand that I really associated myself with and really really liked. I remember always thinking their campaigns were so edgy and cool and different compared to other denim brands. I actually remember going to a casting call for G-Star when I was about sixteen, and I didn't get it, but you know the good news is now I got it. I think it's just a really authentic, organic brand. We both have the same kind of business ethics, and their motto and what they do aligns with what I stand for and what I believe. It's always a blessing to get these opportunities where you are able to be the face of something that you already highly respect.
They said that they chose you based on your confidence and your dedication. How do you find the confidence to be able to be the face of a campaign and work on something like this as well as your career?
Well, I think it sort of goes back to what I just said. When it comes to this campaign, there's no trouble finding confidence. We had such an amazing time, we flew to Barcelona, it was an amazing crew, and all the clothes fit my identity, so it just felt natural. This was really just wearing things that I would have worn anyway, and then being photographed. And as far as career-wise, in acting, confidence comes into play much more than something like this. You’re playing different roles and meeting all these different people all the time, from casting to directors to producers to other actors, and it makes the stakes really high. You have to have the confidence to know who you are really thoroughly to then show how complex another human is so you can play them with integrity and passion and give the role justice. And you know, as it’s life, some days you wake up really confident in your ability and your craft, and sometimes for no reason whatsoever, you wake up and you don't feel like that.
I appreciate and admire that G-Star chose me based on confidence because just like any other human I have days where I'm like “where did my confidence go? Is it in the fridge? Is it under the bed? Where is it?” so it's just a balancing act of knowing how to stay grounded and centered. I think for me, I try to never stop working. If you don't have a job booked, you can still work. You can go to acting workshops and read scripts, you can watch movies that inspire you. I think the same thing can be said for someone who might work freelance. You can still broaden yourself and you’re still working you’re just not getting paid for it. You just have to actively put those disciplines in place, otherwise, anyone else in the world can do it. If you're not actively picking up the guitar every day but you want to be a guitar player, you're probably not going to have as much of a chance as other people who put in 8-12 hours a day regardless of if someone is telling them to or not.
I know that you are very busy and have a ton of different projects you’ve been working on that have been super successful. I really admire how confident you seem and how open you are with yourself. How does it feel being a queer woman who is the face of this campaign, and being a queer icon in the media?
Well I think it’s interesting because when I was modeling back when I was very young, which wasn't something I wanted to do it was something we needed to do to pay rent, I was always told that I had too many tattoos or too short hair, and all the things that were wrong with me and why it wouldn't work, especially in Australia. What I think is that if I had listened and I had tried to be one of those girls they wanted, I wouldn't be here today. The trick that I learned early on was looking to people I idolized, Annie Lennox, and Bowie, and Prince, and all the people who were very experimental and outspoken, and especially who were LGBTQ+ allies or queer themselves. Then there was Pink who came along with her shaved head and I was like “YES! This is the thing that makes sense to me.” I'm not Mandy Moore, I’m not Britney Spears, but Pink? That I can definitely get down with. I think that's when everything fell into place for me. When I realized that I couldn't spend forever trying to be who everyone wanted me to be. We are all unique and all different so if I'm trying to be someone else, then I'm trying to be something that isn't turning out the way it should.
I was out at the age of twelve, and when I did MTV there was a conversation about not being “too out” too soon, just so that the narrative wasn't about my sexuality and so I could make my mark as a DJ and a presenter first, but it didn't really work out that way. Someone put in a tip to a paper and they called MTV. We had a discussion about whether or not I come out as gay, because that is what I was going to do anyway, or whether I come out as bisexual, because that was more “approachable” or “understandable” and less alienating. I was like, that's not really my style. Other people’s problems with who I am are not my concern. So I came out a couple of weeks into my job, and it wasn't really ever a question for me. I wanted to be someone in the world that could make a difference, and so when I got that opportunity, I was definitely not going to leave out one of the most important things about myself that I care about. I came out really early in life and in my career, and then I watched other people come out and other people in the industry say to me that was something that really helped in Australia. People were out, but not like today. In Australia, there wasn't really anyone, and so it was kind of a big deal but it just didn't feel like one. I think you just have to follow your heart, and I totally understand why some people don't come out early or they haven't come out yet, and why people don't think its anyone's business. It’s unique to who you are and what your past is and what your journey is, and mine was definitely to try to destigmatize my sexuality, because I was bullied about it in school for so long, and it felt really strange to talk about. When I had the power where people would listen to what I had to say and I had a platform, it just seemed like why would I not use that platform for the things I cared about the most? That was anti-bullying, LGBT, and animal rights.
It’s great that you are able to use that negative aspect of your life and use it for something good like this. It's pretty clear they chose you because you're so unapologetically yourself.
Yeah and it's funny, I get asked a lot what the highlight of my career is. You'd expect it to be getting a SAG award or even Orange is the New Black has to be one, but my highlight is getting on the Ellen show. I'm gay, very gay, so that was a pivotal moment in my career. For me, that was it. If I don't do anything else ever again at least I was on the Ellen show. It's just something I would have never thought about when I was twelve, thirteen, twenty even. It just seemed so unlikely. To have a conversation on a hugely loved and watched daytime show like it was just so normal. I wouldn't have been able to do that if it weren't for the people that had done far more than I have in far more testy times when there was way more to lose, like Ellen for instance. And they were the ones that have done all that hard work and sacrificed so much.
Do you have any new projects you’re excited about?
I just finished the pilot for Batwoman and I'm really excited for that and hope that gets picked up. Anything could happen when it comes to pilot season. But I really hope that story gets told because when we're talking about LGBTQ+, it just handles it with such grace. We've got gay writers, and basically predominantly women writing the show, and a lot of queer women. I just think it was so beautiful to tell a story about what it's like to grow up as gay. It wasn't easy and it hasn't always been easy, it's getting better every year in many ways but we still have a long way to go, and it really is a beautiful story about that. In a couple of weeks, I'm going to Romania to shoot the Doorman, which is an entirely different film altogether. But yeah I'm really busy but I'm so excited to start this year. I started with my campaign, went straight to Barcelona, then went straight to filming, it has been a great year and its only April.
Well, that is very exciting! And it's great to see the rise of queer superheroes like Batwoman or someone like Nafessa Williams’ character in Black lighting.
Yeah, we just wouldn't have seen this five years ago. Even a couple of years ago. I think Orange is the New Black was a huge turning point, with having a trans woman cast as a trans woman, having gay, lesbian, non-binary, just every type of relationship you could imagine. All showcased in a show that was brilliant, funny, and dramatic. And I think from there, there's transparent, there's shows that have come forward that have really included people and diversity. And the same goes for G-Star and brands that are actually listening to what people want, and who they are, and realizing that not everyone checks a certain box and not everyone dresses the same way, or fits in only a certain type of space. So when we see more of this inclusivity it just feels like, in many ways the world is in a strange place, but in many ways, there is greatness being taken in many areas and I think that allows us to approach things more positively.