Aja Naomi King Shares What It's REALLY Like Working With Viola Davis

Jul 16 2018 - 5:35am

From the outside looking in, you might assume that Aja Naomi King [1] knows all too well about living the glamorous life in Hollywood. The actress stars alongside Viola Davis in Shonda Rhimes's hit series How to Get Away With Murder and recently landed a huge new beauty deal as the face of L'Oréal Paris True Match Foundation — a big f*cking deal, if you ask us.

But like many women of color, her road to success didn't come without some lessons. We had a chance to sit down with King, and she told us everything from what it's really like working with Viola Davis to her biggest fear in coming to work as a black woman and what she'd like to see change in terms of inclusivity in the beauty industry. Luckily, we also got the scoop on her skin and makeup routines — because, hello, have you seen that beautiful melanin complexion?

On Inclusivity in the Beauty Industry

"Women and men of all skin tones should have access to great-quality makeup that actually matches their skin tone at prices that are accessible. That's what you call makeup equality."

POPSUGAR: Why is this shift in beauty brands becoming more inclusive so important?

Aja Naomi King: People of color are bringing issues up, and the world is finally beginning to listen. I also admire women, such as yourself, who are able to write our stories and educate people on what black women have been, and are still, affected by. We're all rising up together in that way, and it's incredible.

When I was shooting a part of my True Match campaign, one of the L'Oréal chemists was there. She's a stunning, cool-as-f*ck black woman who was telling me that she travels the world with a small tool she puts up to various skin tones to see what components make it up. Then, she goes back to the lab and creates makeup for that specific complexion. Seeing this powerful woman of color understand the nuance of our skin (and of all skin) and make products for us was truly incredible. Women and men of all skin tones should have access to great-quality makeup that actually matches their skin tone at prices that are accessible. That's what you call makeup equality.

That's what we should be striving for.

What She's Learned From Viola Davis

PS: What's the best beauty advice you've gotten from Shonda Rhimes or Viola Davis?

ANK: One of the most important things they've taught me is the importance in how you treat people. These women respect everyone and are all-around great humans — and that is what's beautiful. They also carry around this exquisite confidence because they know what they are capable of. I know a lot of us move through the world feeling like we don't know what we're capable of, but if we can allow ourselves to believe that it is something good, then that brings us much closer to achieving something good.

Keeping that in mind is really challenging these days because we are all on social media viewing other people's lives. But people who are truly honing in on what matters to them are the biggest to blow up. Lena Waithe [2] and Ava DuVernay [3] are great examples of this. They're not looking for validation; they're just trying to show the world who they are, and I really respect that.

Her Biggest Challenges as a Black Woman on Set

PS: Have you ever had to deal with an artist not having your foundation shade on set? How did you handle that?

"I would walk onto set and makeup artists would literally tell me, 'Your skin is perfect; you don't need makeup.'"

ANK: It's one of the biggest struggles I experienced when I first started in this industry. When I first started booking jobs after grad school, those days were actually nightmare experiences for me. I've had artists grab the darkest product in their kit, which would end up being too dark or too light for my skin tone. I would normally let the artists do whatever they needed to do and go back to the trailer and fix it. I knew I would always do a better job than them, which is sad but common, and it can really affect your confidence. For a long time, I had a love-hate relationship with that part of going to work.

Once I started working in Shondaland, though, I never had to worry about walking into bad hair and makeup on set. Because there was a black female lead and creator of the show [How to Get Away With Murder], the hair-and-makeup trailer had everything we needed.

What Hollywood Can Do to Better Represent People of Color

PS: What can Hollywood do to ensure that women of color are better represented on television and in mainstream media?

ANK: When your set crew and heads of hair and makeup are diverse and inclusive, then you are truly thinking about everyone and preparing to work with everyone. You really can't assume that only one type of person will be booking a particular job.

Her 10-Minute Makeup Routine

PS: So tell us — you're running late for work and can only grab a few products to use in a 10-minute Uber ride. What do you bring with you?

ANK: Definitely my True Match Foundation and True Match Lumi Glow Boosting Drops [4] ($12). You don't really need much beyond that. I mix the drops with the foundation, and it creates a beautiful natural glow. If you're wearing something strapless or showing some skin, put a little on your body and you're set for the entire day. I'd probably also grab eyeliner and mascara, and I can live with that.

On Her Skincare Struggles

PS: For many women of color, makeup is only half the battle. Skin care is a whole other ballgame. What are your biggest skin concerns, and how do you take care of these today?

ANK: I definitely struggled with acne and hyperpigmentation during my teenage years. Now, I've been really trying to take my skin care a step further. I am focusing on what I am putting in my body and taking care of myself and my mind. Whenever I get down on myself or if I eat unhealthy, my skin is the first thing to react. But when I take time to be mindful of how I am treating myself — eating well, drinking water, taking vitamins — my skin looks fabulous. If you're taking care of your spirit, it will show on the outside. As we develop, things are bound to happen, but overall, I say take care of yourself and don't pick at your skin. And hyperpigmentation sucks, but it does eventually go away.

The One Product She Can't Live Without

POPSUGAR: You mentioned you love the L'Oréal True Match Foundation. Why is being the face of this campaign such a huge deal for you?

ANK: When I was younger, L'Oréal was one of the first brands I fell in love with. They had this HiP line [5], and I loved it because I could rely on them for eye shadows that actually showed up on my skin. So when I started wearing foundation, the True Match [6] ($9) was an obvious choice because I was confident the products would show up on my complexion.

I really love this foundation because, most obviously, it matches my skin perfectly. I've had issues in the past experimenting with makeup. I'd put foundation on the back of my hand and think that it would be a perfect match. Ten minutes later, it would oxidize and become a totally different color. I've never had that issue with True Match, though. It's never felt greasy or looked cakey. Once it's on, I don't have to worry about it, which is wonderful.

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