How Ruby Rose Became Hollywood’s Ultimate Girl Crush
Thanks to her status as a style icon, plenty of people think Ruby Rose’s androgynous, gender-bending style is the coolest thing about her.
But what’s way cooler, aside from her acting talents and insane work ethic: she’s been into it since way before gender was a topic of conversation in the mainstream. Ruby has been exploring gender fluidity for years — because that’s just who she is. People love to say that Ruby “turns straight girls gay,” but the reality is due to her own self-confidence, Ruby inspires people to listen to their own desires and be true to themselves.
A former MTV VJ, Ruby is also one of the most in-demand DJs in the world, a style icon, and hard at work on an acting career that saw her unofficial American debut in one of the most popular TV shows on right now, Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black,” last year.
Galore recently caught up with Ruby Rose to talk about pop culture longevity, gender fluidity, straight girls sliding into her DMs, and that time she was almost too high to handle Kelly Clarkson.
Sooo…You were an MTV VJ! Everyone misses it! I miss it!
You miss MTV? Yeah, me too. Such good times! It was pretty iconic in its more music-based television days. Not that it isn’t doing its own thing now; it’s just different. I feel very lucky that I joined the [MTV] team when local production, music, and live performances were its foundation. I got to do ridiculously entertaining and rock star-type adventures before reality TV started to take over.
That period of time was when I said, “Alright, I’m gonna move on and do some other things.” I had done it for about 4 – 5 years, so it also seemed time; because you don’t just work at MTV—you sort of live, breathe, and sleep MTV, and it’s wild! Haha. It’s perfect for a 19 – 24-year-old.
It was spectacular to watch people come through the ranks though—seeing some of today’s top artists come out with their first single, shy and nervous and finding their footing, performing to an intimate crowd; and then the following year, the album is out and there’s buzz; and after that, they are selling out stadiums. It was inspiring. I met a lot of artists, with whom I’m still friends, who saw me every time they came to Australia. It made my job so fun because we had rapport, and the interviews would be a breeze.
Then I had a few who, on their third or fourth year, would start telling me that, as much as they loved seeing me there, they didn’t want to see me again next year. One artist in particular said, “I love you, but don’t be comfortable. You are comfortable here. Move to the States, take a risk. I think you could be something bigger. This is too easy for you.” I didn’t move to the States directly after that, but I changed careers and studied different skills that I wanted to grow as I geared up to carve out a more diverse career.
Do you have any other fun memories from VJ times?
We had some really great MTV Awards. I was once on the red carpet, and the red carpet was actually my dress. It had 20 meters or so of carpet attached, and as I walked down the journalist and fan areas, it lay behind me. And it’s how we started the show. There were a lot of carpet jokes…we didn’t think that one through all the way! [laughing]
And then there was that one time [when I was interviewing Wu-Tang Clan], and I was in their room. Let’s be honest—there was a certain smell in that room. And it was this tiny room in a hotel, and I was starting to feel a bit funny, and my cameraman had never smoked weed. I’m actually allergic to anything like that.
So, I was sitting there saying, “We need some fresh air,” but they were like, “No, you’re fine. Just open a window.” So then everyone starts giggling, and we have this four-minute interview that was good, but then it just breaks into 12 minutes of giggles. They were like, “We can’t use this.” And I said, “YES WE CAN! It’s an interview of us giggling about nothing. We have to put this on.” TV gold if you ask me.
So, you basically got high with the Wu-Tang Clan and recorded what happened.
Haha! Yeah, basically, by accident. And it’s funny because in Australia, it wasn’t like that. We walked in and thought, “Oh, what is this?” We thought we were interrupting something and asked if we should come back.
When we left, we all had headaches and the giggles and were starving! And I had to go [do an interview with Kelly Clarkson].
I didn’t know a lot about Kelly when I first interviewed her. I knew she won American Idol and had a killer voice, but she was such an American icon. In Australia, we were still getting to know her. She was one of my favorite interviews though because I went in with no expectations. Then, it turned out she had nine tattoos, and we had a bit of a tat-off. She made me laugh until I was crying (which also could have been due to the previous interview). She has the funniest sense of humor, and it’s all really self-deprecating in a cute and extremely funny way.
On that note, I had amazing experiences with everyone I interviewed. Some of my favorites were Slash, Cypress Hill, and Robin Williams. He did impersonations the whole time, and I will never forget his energy. And that’s also how I met Sia, who will forever be everything to me.
You’ve said that being called an “it girl” makes your stomach drop because you want to have staying power, but you’ve clearly only gotten bigger since then. How did you manage to back up your personal brand with so much substance?
“Stomach drop?” Yikes. I must have been being a bit dramatic that day! [laughing]
The funny thing about being called an “it girl” is, well, it’s the kiss of death. You know what I mean? It’s like being “in.” Anything that’s “in fashion” ultimately goes out of fashion. So when that started being thrown around, I thought, “Oh, God. How long is this going to last before somebody else is the new it girl?” Not because I was worried I’d be left behind, but because I wanted someone else to hurry up so people would stop calling me that.
But, you just have to prove yourself through your work.
I think a lot of people don’t know how much I’ve been working since Orange Is the New Black. I’ve acted in three different films (Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, John Wick 2, and xXx: The Return of Xander Cage), voiced an animated movie (Sheep’n’Wolves), and DJ’ed 70 shows in the past year. I can’t wait for people to see my other work.
So, it’s a matter of being comfortable not being everywhere for however long it takes to create new art, and [promoting things] that you are proud of, like working on your craft and new skills, and working your ass off while being quiet publicly—not just existing to be popular. You don’t want people to get sick of you, so it’s good to be able to appear and disappear.
It’s also not healthy to base your personal success or happiness on external things, like fame, attention, opinion, or money. The less you let that define you the better. Let your passion and work speak for you. As long as you are happy with it, that’s all that should matter.
“I was sitting in bed with my dog and Netflix and I asked, ‘Is this my life? Am I really going to sit here and watch movies with directors I want to work with instead of going [out]” And then I thought, “Yeah, I am. That is my life. And I feel so blessed.'”
Do you have to be cautious about how often you’re seen out/on red carpets so you can shake the “it girl” label more quickly?
No, I don’t even go out. That’s just not on my list of things to do.
But, I’ve been invited to some seriously amazing events. I remember the last party that everyone was going to, and I happened to finally be back in LA after shooting a film, and I was sitting in bed with my dog and Netflix, and I asked… “Is this my life? Am I really going to sit here and watch movies by directors that I want to work with instead of going?” And then I thought, “Yeah. I am. That is my life. And I feel so blessed.”
Then I was blessed to be nominated for a SAG Award for Best Ensemble Comedy for OITNB. I wanted more than anything to be there with my OITNB family because I love them so much and wanted to celebrate with them, but I was shooting in Rome. And then we won! So the things I want to go to, I never get to go to; and the ones I can go to, I stay at home. Not sure I have that part figured out yet.
“I’m so scared of Tumblr. I feel like I got into it one time and 12 hours of my life just disappeared.”
You’ve been a cult favorite on Tumblr for years. When did you first realize you were gaining a following online for your style? What was your reaction?
I’m so scared of Tumblr. I got into it one time and 12 hours of my life just disappeared. It’s such a visually stimulating platform, but I get lost in it like a black hole.
I don’t see myself as a fashion person at all in my day-to-day life. I’m always just in awe of Gigi Hadid, all of those girls—Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin, Kendall, Cara. They are all at the airport as if it’s their runway, and I’m like, “What?!” They’re always so well put together, just too fly! Impeccable style, looking amazing—I’m so impressed. And me, I’m always at the airport in kicks and a hoodie, not killing it.
So I’m not a die-hard fashion type—I love fashion, and I buy way too many clothes—but I like to put comfort first. I’d rather be in a vintage tee, ripped jeans, and a pair of flats. The airport is not a place! How did they make it a place? It’s like a place where amazingly good-looking people showcase their wardrobes, and where I look grumpy or really tired. If you look perfect at the airport, you’re not a human!
“I don’t see myself as a fashion person at all in my day to day life.”
Are people with different kinds of gender expression treated differently?
I shaved my head at 15 and kept it short, but when I couldn’t break into the industry, I wondered, “What if I grow my hair out a bit, and become a little bit less “Ruby” and [more] mainstream? Let me give it one last shot.”
So I grew my hair out and got the job at MTV. After six months, I wanted to cut my hair. They were great about it in the end, but in the beginning, they were hesitant, saying, “Look, you just started with us, and your hair with the bangs [and your tattoos] is a really iconic look.” I dressed very skater and punk rock too, and they were just worried because Australia can be a bit conservative.
So they asked me for some references, and I sent photos of Pink and Annie Lennox, and they said, “Yeah…Let’s give it a couple months.” So I walked to a hairdresser immediately after work and cut my hair anyway, and went to work the next day. I was 20 and apparently had a sense of urgency about everything.
They ended up loving it because they could see that it was the authentic me. I was happier and even more confident behind the camera.
Does your gender-bending style ever affect any auditions or jobs you go for?
I think it works both in my favor and to my detriment. I mean, regardless, it will always work in my favor because happiness is in being oneself.
So, for me, trying to convince a director or producer that I should play the lead in an action role—badass, street kid, lesbian, troubled type, or say, a fighter…you get the idea—that’s not the hardest challenge.
What is a more difficult challenge is convincing someone to give me a shot to transform, and to trust in my ability to lose myself in a role. There is no reason I can’t play, for example, a Stepford Mom, or play a man’s wife, or a mother or teacher.
There are roles where you can already guess who their top two picks would be, and so to get in the room with them is hard if you are literally the opposite of who they have reading for the role. Nothing is impossible, but you work harder for parts that people don’t already imagine you in. I worked very hard just to get in the room with David Fincher, and even though that project didn’t end up running, I got to audition with Fincher. That was good enough for me!
I’d love to be in a comedy. I always laugh at my own jokes, and despite no one actually telling me that I’m funny, I am just going to ignore that fact and pursue my dream of working with Amy Schumer or Tina Fey. But I don’t think I’d even be on the list after the list of their top people. Please put me on your list!
In general, do you think a lot about body image or do you just go with the flow?
I don’t drink or smoke. I am very healthy and treat my body very well. I think being strong is sexy. Being fit is important for my brain health and keeping me mentally focused.
Who is your ultimate female crush?
It’s a really tough one between Madonna and Angelina Jolie—both Angelina during Girl, Interrupted times and now and forever and ever. And Madonna too—but Madonna especially when she did the “Erotica”-era Sex book. She was such an empowered feminist icon, and the way she’s reinvented herself throughout her entire career has been mesmerizing to me. Oh, and Jennifer Lawrence, but who doesn’t?
“I find Leo to be one of the most beautiful men ever so when people compare me to him, I’m like, ‘Thank you, thank you very much.’”
How do you feel about the comparisons to young Leonardo DiCaprio and the Biebs?
I’m indifferent to it. I get them both so much, and then sometimes I get Angelina.
Ohhh…we like that one.
[Laughs.] Yeah, we like that one.
Justin is mostly because of how I dress. If I’m going for a skate and I have a hat on, people say, “Oh, you look like Justin.” And we do dress very similarly, but facial structure-wise, I feel like we don’t look anything alike.
Justin has tattoos and I have tattoos. But we both make fun of it—it’s not like we mean to make it continue. It’s just funny that sometimes we wear the same thing to the same place, and we’re like, “Aww man…why are we doing this to ourselves?”
But honestly, it’s such a compliment, because he’s a 21-year-old boy and I’m not 21 anymore, so that’s kind of awesome. But he’s like a little brother to me. I find Leo to be one of the most beautiful men ever, so when people compare me to him, I’m like, “Thank you. Thank you very much.”
“I’m one of those people who feels everybody is somewhere on the spectrum. I don’t think it needs to be labeled. Love is about the person.”
People love to say that you turn straight women gay. What’s your reaction when they say that? Is this something people said before you were famous, too?
I’m one of those people who feels that everybody is somewhere on the spectrum. I don’t think it needs to be labeled—love is about the person.
When people say to me that I turned them gay, I just laugh, because that’s not really even a possibility. It sounds like I did something against their will in the middle of the night, as if I crept into their brain and pushed the gay button, then did an evil laugh and left them to fend for themselves—newly gay and alone in the world.
I break it down like this: Did I find Channing Tatum in Magic Mike to be extremely hot? Yes! Could I now turn straight for him without having previously ever had a desire to be with a man? The answer is, nope. Haha.
But people will say to J. Law, “I want to be your best friend,” or to T. Swift, “I want to be in your squad.” Everyone has got their little thing, and the catch phrase I got after Orange was, “She turned me gay.”
What makes me laugh is that I’m actually single and not looking at all. I’m just focused on my career. But it was very funny how many people would text photos, or slide right into my DMs for months after Orange launched. I would say, “That’s cute, but I’m pretty sure you’re straight.” And they’d say, “I am, but now I have a crush on you.” And I would respond, “I’m pretty sure I met your boyfriend at the premiere.” But then, if I actually reached out to them to get a coffee as a friend to hang, they wouldn’t ever make plans. I could literally feel them sort of wondering if “coffee” meant something different in the lesbian world. (For the record, it doesn’t, according to Ruby.)
“When people say to me that I turned them gay, I just laugh because that’s really not even a possibility.”
Because they’re scared?
I mean, I don’t know. But I would be eating breakfast and my phone goes off, and I see a topless photo. And it would always be so out of the blue, and very confusing. But then I’d be in New York two months later, and I’d get a message from that same person saying, “God, I wish I could see you.” If I responded, “Oh really, I’m actually in NY this week too,” I would get radio silence. My friends and I would literally die over this—it’s just so funny. I mean, it is and it isn’t. People want to lead me on, or don’t realize they are doing it, but I can always eventually work out what is real and what is play.
I just think that, as human beings, we are drawn to what we can’t have. We are drawn to fantasy over reality, and often are in love with an idea of a situation rather than the reality of it. I think people like the idea of “turning gay for someone,” but it’s not actually that simple. Ultimately, that statement is just a form of endearment or a compliment, but it’s not real.
Vintage Suit from The Ruby Archive and Calvin Klein Top
Vintage Suit from The Ruby Archive and Calvin Klein Top
Anthony Franco Shirt and Vintage Suit from The Ruby Archive
Anthony Franco Shirt and Vintage Suit from The Ruby Archive
Anthony Franco Shirt and Vintage Suit from The Ruby Archive
Anthony Franco Shirt, Vintage Suit from The Ruby Archive, and Roberto Cavalli Shoes
Photography by Ellen Von Unwerth
Creative Direction by Prince + Jacob
Shot at Kitten Kay Sera’s Pink Palace
Digital Tech by Jerome Vivit
Set Design by Whitney Mendelsohn
Tailored by Anita Velizar Kounova
Cover Art by IsCreamColour