The following is the full interview between Jayla Roxx and Tess.
Tess: Alright, I’m recording!
Jayla: I’m driving right now, so you won’t be able to see me because my phone has this relationship with my car where I can’t see my screen until I stop driving. It’s for safety reasons. It’s not me not wanting to show my face. Once I park, I’ll definitely show you my face. I look really gorgeous, so you have to see it.
I expected that. I’m coming on here with hair and glasses and I thought “She’s going to look fabulous. What am I doing?” But honestly, seeing you be a trailblazer in the beauty industry and in general is inspiring to me as I enter the world and try to be inclusive, and start a site that’s a safe space.
Yes. I love it. I like that you used the word trailblazer. I really like that word because it’s something that I don’t really see for myself because I’m in it knee deep. I’m just like, “Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing what I need to be doing for my people? Am I just a capitalist?” You know, all those things that come up, and I just have to surrender myself and go, “This is what the universe wants for me. This is what my purpose is. Let me align my intention with my purpose and just go for it.” So, I do that with everything that I put my name on. BatMe! Cosmetics is my first baby and I’m super excited to share more exclusively with you about what’s to come. Thank you again for having this safe space for me to have a voice.
The energy I got from you right away is “this is my passion,” and I’m a passionate person. So, when you emailed and said, “I’m a free spirit”, I went, “This is why she’s going to be successful.
I’d rather give a call and put a face to the brand and talk to you. You know what I mean? Like I said, I like to do those things through conversation and you get to know more about me through conversation rather than interview style. I hate that.
Well, you learn so much more about a person through talking.
Absolutely. Not only is that helpful, I’m a Southern belle too, so I’m like, “pick up the phone and call me.” I really appreciate it, and I’m glad that we’re able to do this and for you to get to know my personality and my crazy spirit, you know? You can put that in the article too. [Jayla turns her camera on] Can you see me? Okay. Let’s see, speaker. Okay. How about now?
You look fabulous.
So, I can read all about you, but there’s a personal connection when you talk with someone face to face. If you could just start from the beginning so I’m not quoting another article.
So, it all started back when I was four. [laughs] Literally, I start the story off like that because they think I’m joking, but it’s how it started.
When I was four, I was the lead role in the Rudolph the Reindeer Christmas play, and I’ll never forget it because, it seems funny now, but it was my very first moment of satisfaction and crowd appreciation. It’s one of those things that therapists ask you, “When was your first moment of joy?” That was that one moment, because not only was I the lead, but the play was named after me. I was Rudolph. It wasn’t called “The Reindeers.” It was called “Rudolph.” So, I wanted to make sure that it was something that I ended up appreciating and taking with me forever in life. Personal satisfaction and crowd appreciation is one of those things that I’ve always done to make sure that everything that I do is entertaining. I make sure that it’s genuine. I make sure that it’s something that is quality and of standard.
That’s what I get from you. Complete, genuine energy.
So, moving forward in life, I’ve always been a theater kid. I’ve always loved makeup. I’ve always been here and there; done TV, done radio, and I was just loving it. So then, when I got to – I call it my development years – when I started my transition briefly after college, I went to my first drag show, which is super exciting. Once I did that, I was able to experience more people like me having more answers for the things that I was feeling, having more language for the things that I was going through and experiencing my first drag queen , and everybody has that first drag queen moment, where it’s like, “Oh my God!”
I was like, “Oh my God, I can do this. This is just theater. I can go in and just do what I need to do to excel.” Then I was like, “Where do I start?” I took a love to just having the nightly show. I used to headline the shows back at home. I went from being this little amateur to headlining the shows, to hosting the shows. It just kind of spiraled out of nowhere and then I was like, “Oh my God, okay, this is starting to get me notoriety and popularity.”
One night I ended up performing and two people came up to me and they were producers for a TV show. We’ll just say TV show. I said “Okay, sure.” They were filming me; they brought the camera crew in and I had no idea what the show was because they were very secretive about it. I was like, “What is this? What is going on?” I was very young and naive, and I thought, “Whatever, I’m just going to film it.” Right after the show, they asked, “Would you like to come to Los Angeles?” I said ‘’Sure.” I got to Los Angeles and the show ended up becoming [redacted]. I did not know.
Oh my god.
They gave me $10,000 because I was so genuine and I was so nice. I cried on national TV. That was my first ever appreciation that tapped back into that four-year-old Rudolph moment, that crowd appreciation and that personal satisfaction. It was one of those moments and everybody was like, “Oh my God, this is so amazing.” I was like, “What do I do with this moment? Do I become a reality star, or do I use this platform to help others?” Being the Pisces that I am, I am going to choose the more the road less taken and not do the whole reality TV thing.
I’m a Sag, and the stereotype is that I would have tried to be a star. But I wouldn’t end up here with you, you wouldn’t end up here with me. It would be a total missed connection.
Yeah, exactly. Instead, I took that money and I invested into things that I spend the most money on: makeup. I ultimately started selling lashes. I was like, “I spend almost $50 on lashes a week. I don’t want to spend any more money. How can I do this the cheap route?” I had a website selling those things. I was like, “Oh wow, I never have to pay for lashes again. What happens if I sell this? What happens if I sell that?” It ended up becoming this accidental brand, I guess. Then I was just taking it just to go and make money here and there. Then I started getting DMS from people from Nashville and from Maine saying, they love my lashes.
I thought, “Girl, they’re just lashes.” Then the mature side of me started to kick in as a brand leader and go, “Oh my God, I’m doing what I’ve always wanted in life – crowd appreciation and personal satisfaction.” I’m doing that through transactions and small things like lashes, because if you look good, you’ll feel good, you’ll perform good. You’ll do all those things that make you successful. I didn’t realize that I was a part of that success in every other person. I then realized I have to tap into this and really start to hone in on the people that want it, that need it, that appreciate it. BatMe! Cosmetics has been running ever since.
Has community always been important to you?
Definitely, and I’ve been building this great community, if you will, of people. I don’t want it to just be like a “buy” experience and just go, “Oh, look what I got.” I want to make sure that everybody is getting some sort of storytelling through their creative process. Then Forbes happened, then Teen Vogue happened, then we did the makeup for Pose. It was just like, “What the hell is my life right now?”
So, here I am, and now we’re in the future. BatMe! Cosmetics is down right now because we’re doing a revamp. We want to make sure that it’s a more personal experience catered to each person. I want to develop that experience even more. We’re developing an app and all those things now. So, BatMe! Cosmetics will be open, hopefully, in about a couple months or so, but the people are waiting. They’re not going to drop off on the brand. They understand the message and the story. So, they’re like, “Whenever you’re open, we’ll be ready.”
I think that’s important. I think so many brands, if they weren’t as personal and focused on community as you are, the consumers would go “I can find another eyeliner brand.” You know, you’re building loyalty, but you’re not doing it to build loyalty. You’re doing it because you care and want to and appreciate that.
Exactly, exactly. I’m glad that you get that and the fact that you reached out to me, because I was like, somebody will get the message and they’ll reach out to me. So many people have been trying to take from me because, “I’m an influencer, let me model your brand.” I’ve given so much product, money, and time to people that are willing to take. They take the products and go snapshot, “thanks,” then throw it in their stuff with free things that they get. I stopped doing that whole influencer thing because people who really want it will pay for it. People who really want to support it will do so in support of black trans women, black trans entrepreneurs, trans entrepreneurs in general and small brands. People will do that just because. I think that if I do everything genuine, everything else that will follow will be genuine as well.
So, you have a lot going on right now, clearly, but with the revamp, what are you looking most forward to?
I’m looking forward to providing more quality for the people. I think the first time around I was learning as I go – and I still am, which makes it exciting for me. Every day, I like to have a challenge. That’s what’s going to push me to be better for other people, allow me to be available, allow me to be present. I’m looking forward to providing more of a personalized standard. So, if you bought something and you couldn’t remember what shade you bought, guess what? You have a profile now that will say, “Hey, this is what you bought. This is what you like. This is what you might like.” People will all have different things. There will also be more of a community forum where people can review products and rate their products and show what they’ve done.
I want everybody to take that and go, “I feel seen in this whole process and I have a hand in this brand,” because it’s our brand. We’ve helped build this together. If they say, “Hey, I want a mini palette,” guess what happens? We get a mini palette. And they go, “You know, I had to say in that.” So, I want people to feel that it’s their brand too.
That’s amazing. Again, it comes back to you building community and being accessible.
That’s it. I know that’s so car salesman to say, “You’re my number one customer,” but it’s so true. You know, without them, there would be no BatMe! brand. I look forward to it and I look forward to more stress. I do cry almost every day. I cry for good and bad. For the most part, I’m not rushing it, so that’s why I’m like, “it will come when it’s ready in a couple of months.” I’m not like, “Oh, I need to do it because of articles coming out.” I want to make people wait.
Hell, when you make lasagna, you don’t just put all the shit in there and just start eating it. You have to put it in the oven, let it get all creamy and cheesy and crispy at the top before I take it out and go, “Children, eat.”
That’s the perfect ending to this article. Oh my God.
Yeah, me and my BatMe! lasagna. There you have it, I hope you enjoy.
When I was searching for brands, I just wrote an article on gender neutral nail polish. Since, you know, Machine Gun Kelly just released his, Harry Styles, then there’s brands like Fluide and there’s new brands like NE1. When I was searching, so many brands just use women’s nails [in their branding] and it’s the kind of a thing where it’s not inclusive. So, how can brands in their branding be more inclusive?
Well, it starts with having those inclusive folk in those rooms when you’re doing those campaigns. Just having that folk in the room for said things will help open that inclusivity before we pick up the cameras, before we start booking our talent. We know then. That’s why I don’t say drag queens, I say performers – because there are so many trans men and trans women. They all divide under the performer umbrella rather than just drag queen. I think we’ve moved past just drag queen so I want to make sure that I am on top of my rhetoric, my language, my availability, my inclusivity, and be able to provide that for other people. So I think, you know, have those people in the room, give people those opportunities to do so and we’ll see more of it in the future, hopefully.
This is a question that I want to put in the article, but it’s also a personal inclusivity question to me. How can we create a safe space in the industry for people to say, “Okay, I’m safe enough to come out and say I’m trans and that I’m a badass and that I am a beauty owner and you need to fucking buy from me?”
I think self-identification is really important along with self-awareness. With my approach, it’s not my tip of the hat, if you will. My tip of the hat is my work ethic, my resume, the things that I’m able to offer, my genuine spirit, my crazy ass personality, all of those things sell it for itself. Then I just happen to be trans. Does that make sense? So, I prefer if we lead with, what does this person have to offer rather than body. Because when you say, “Oh, she’s this trans model,” that’s more physical rather than “this model fed half of Africa and just happens to be trans.” I want to lead with the flow of, “this is what I’ve done for community, for self and lead with that.”
So, I think if we take out the whole us versus them, the cisgender versus the trans, I think we all can thrive in this growing industry. I hope people aren’t just buying it because it’s just the trans brand. It’s more about what this person does for our community on top of the makeup and lipstick. The lipstick and stuff is all material stuff. It doesn’t breathe and speak for you. It doesn’t do anything. It’s just there but it is about the message and the spirit behind it. I want all those things to reflect what I do. That’s why BatMe! is such quality – because I’m fucking quality.
Yeah, you are girl.
So yeah. That’s where we are as far as the whole trans this trans that. I’m just a bad ass bitch who just happens to be trans so we’ll go with that.
Perfect. I’m very grateful to you for taking the time to talk to me and giving me the opportunity to learn and evolve as a person through this conversation.
I take these things into consideration and it’s people like you as well that help. I’m going to throw you in there too, because it’s more about giving these people, myself included, the voice, the platform to share their voice. You could easily have been like, “Oh, this is a great brand,” sent me an email and just said, “keep it up.” The fact that you’re willing to take my voice and immortalize me. Once you put it on the internet, it’s forever. So, immortalize me in my spirit and the things that I will leave behind in this world, besides fucking lipstick. It’s my words and my encouragement that will keep other people to do what I want to do.
I happen to be the first blah, blah, blah. That doesn’t matter to me. I’m worried about the people that are coming up behind me that want to do the same thing. Like I say, I always encourage people. If you want to do a makeup brand, please call me. There’s no competition. I’ll help you. I want to help you.
Because my thing is, I said this in my Forbes article, that when you go to CVS drugstore, there’s one million eyeliners and mascaras and foundations, but it doesn’t matter. People are going to buy it. You just have to put yourself on display. That’s the analogy I use. Putting yourself on display is what’s going to help you get chosen, it is what’s going to help you be up there with the greats. Maybelline can sit there for three weeks until I go there and go, “This is the color I need.” But how would I know that if you’re not on display?
Yeah, that’s exactly it. You don’t.
Put yourself on display, put yourself up there and go, “This is what I want. If you like it, buy it. If you don’t, great.”
I love that.
You know what I mean? That’s the mentality that I have moving forward, and that’s just the mentality I have in life.
Coming back to your quality, that is so important. I feel like there are so many brands that kind of skip out on that so that they can release quickly and have the new thing, have the new collection. QUILL only recommends products with four or more stars, so that’s why I reach out to a lot of small brands. I want to work with brands who go, “Okay, no, we’re not going to settle. If we don’t have a good rating, we need to do something and change it, not just release the next thing.” Is that sort of your mentality?
It is, absolutely. I mean, I’ve had products that weren’t as profitable as others. It’s putting it up, taking it down; putting it up, taking it down, to see what really sticks and what works. So, every product that has stuck around in the lineup, if you will, has proven to be successful in itself. So, I’m not going to just sell stuff. Most of the inventory I have in storage and stuff like that – I even have some of it in my house because it over-spills, and I’m like, “Okay, how can I get rid of these palettes?”
Then I think, okay, why is it not selling? Is it that I’m not promoting it enough? Is it not the right colors? It goes back to the feedback. I encourage people to tell me what they think about it, and I don’t get offended. So I’m like, ”Okay, you didn’t like it, that’s fine. We’ll get something else’.’ I think that’s part of the quality: just understanding what works and what doesn’t work and just being honest with it.
Yeah, that kind of falls back into your corrective criticism.
Yeah, corrective criticism influences the quality. Not just not like, ”Oh, I got haters, they’re just hating on me.” No, they just don’t like that. Just take it down, get something else.
That’s so important to me. I like to say “I’m never going to be a master of anything, ever.”
I agree. Me too.
You’re always going to learn. There’s always something new to learn. I mean, every second something new comes out that you can learn. I feel like that’s what I get from you as well, with your idea of corrective criticism and your idea of learning the business.
I like to say, “The most interesting people are always the most interested.” That’s a gem to take with you.
Oh, I’m putting that in there. I’m 100% putting that in there. And I want to thank you so much, once again.
You’re a breath of fresh air. Thank you so much, Tess and we’ll talk soon.