"I am basic as fuck," actor and CoverGirl Issa Rae tells me, laughing in her seat on a high floor of the Empire State Building. "If I see someone claiming it and they’re not, I'm going call them out. I think there’s a way of reclaiming it, like, I was this the whole time and now you’re trying to jump on. 'I’ve been basic' is the new CoverGirl tagline for me."
Rae's reclamation of basic is one of the many reasons that she's a perfect fit for her new post as a CoverGirl. She's also the face of their new Melting Pout Metallics collection, a new highly-pigmented liquid lip formula available in 12 shades of varying intensities. CoverGirl is the staple brand of Basic Bitch 2.0, the woman who shrugs off any negative associations with basicness and instead embraces it as a way of life. CoverGirl cosmetics are affordable, accessible to nearly everyone, and produce products that range from lowkey (think their classic Cheekers blush range) to highly Instagramable (like Melting Pout Metallics) — in other words, a brand as simple or complicated as you are.
"What’s crazy is that I didn’t think I could pull that off," Rae says of the new Melting Pout Metallics, which launched on Nov. 27. "But I would definitely wear it to go out and make a statement."
Talking about her love for her own basicness is just part of the charm that Rae brings to the topics of CoverGirl, beauty, and makeup in general. In other words, the creator and star of HBO's hit series Insecure has a sense of humor that doesn't end with her character.
"I wear the VIP Metallic, the pink one," Rae says. "Because it just gives me like, I’m still cute, casual, and still makeup a statement. It’s like cute nude."
"Ah," I remark as I swatch the formula (it applies via a squeeze-sponge applicator and goes on like a gloss). "Not like a dead body nude."
"No," Rae concurs without missing a beat. "Not morgue nude."
Rae was announced as a new face of Covergirl in September 2017, around the same time as the second season of Insecure came to a close. Rae has called the opportunity to be one of the faces of the brand an "honor," especially with CoverGirl's commitment to inclusivity in beauty.
"They’re making it a priority to include different skin tones," Rae says. "Seeing the team behind it, knowing that they practice what they preach, and making this available to every woman. I think it’s one thing to have different shades, but you need to reflect those different shades in your marketing. What drew me to this was seeing the wide range of people represented."
Rae says that she observed black women and people of color having a hand in CoverGirl's Melting Pout Metallic product development from start to finish, as well as the brand casting diverse CoverGirls like herself. In the same week as Rae's partnership with the brand was announced, CoverGirl also announced that Ayesha Curry would also be a face of the brand. Other black CoverGirls include Brandy, Tyra Banks, and Queen Latifah. The brand has also tapped ambassadors like fitness influencer Massy Arias, Muslim beauty blogger Nura Afira, male beauty vlogger James Charles, and 69-year-old model Maye Musk.
For Rae, CoverGirl's commitment to changing the conception of what's beautiful by casting such a diverse stable of ambassadors is what made the experience so important to her, a "basic" black woman who just wants to find the right products that work for her.
"I buy drugstore makeup," Rae says. "I buy this makeup. Including regular people like me: That's how brands can put their money where their mouth is."