Candis Cayne On Taking Compliments, Saying “No,” And Understanding True Beauty

"I’m always the person who is gonna follow my dreams, so I kept going."

A true Jane of All Trades, Candis Cayne is an actress, dancer, and choreographer who’s made memorable appearances on Dirty Sexy Money,, Nip/Tuck, I Am Cait, and, of course, RuPaul’s Drag Race. She’s also an outspoken advocate for the LGBT community who’s worked with GLAAD and HRC to further our community’s advancement.

Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for Logo

Now Cayne, who grew up on the island of Maui, adds “author” to her resume with the publication of Hi Gorgeous!: Transforming Inner Power into Radiant Beauty, which covers beauty from every angle—including the beauty of loving yourself.

Candis spoke about the book’s inspiration, how she built her career and the connection between inner and outer beauty.

Hi Gorgeous! is filled with a lot of beauty tips but also advice and inspirational quotes. Is it okay to embrace outer beauty?

It was really important for me to tell people that your outer beauty is important, and I write a lot about that in the book, but it’s also just as important to work on your inner beauty, and to understand that we all come from a place, inherently, of insecurity. We all have to figure out how to broaden our minds and have confidence and love ourselves. A lot of people come up to me and say “Oh you’re so pretty,” or whatever, and I’m like “Thank you, you too!,” and they always say “Oh, no.”

Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for Logo

I don’t know if it’s a female thing—that it’s hard for women to accept compliments because they’ve been taught their whole life that if they do it’s egotistical. But it’s really important for every women to really accept a compliment and understand their true beauty. It all starts from within.

Are there any skincare concerns specific to trans women?

If you’re a trans woman who hasn’t started her blockers or hormone therapy before puberty, your skincare takes on a whole new life with hair growth. I went through seven years of electrolysis before I even started my hormones. It was painful, and it was a lot of work, and after that your skin becomes more sensitive and a little bit thinner. It was basically like electric-shock therapy. I have really sensitive skin, and it tends to go red. I usually do a green-based concealer and a moisturizer to balance out the red in my skin, and I personally can’t have anything that has any kind of scent or harsh chemicals. I have to go really pure with my makeup and skincare regimen.

What advice do you have for trans and gender-nonconforming people just about facing day-to-day struggles?

I live in California, and I understand that there are a lot of trans women who live in states where LGBT people don’t have the same rights that I do, that it’s detrimental to walk down the street. It was important for me to tell women who are going through that to love yourselves, have confidence in who you are, never forget how beautiful you are on the inside.

I understand what women, especially trans women, and women of color and ethnicity go through on a daily basis. If you ever get into that dark place, call somebody that you can trust. Find a tribe member. We all have that inner devil in our ear that says, “You’re too this, you’re too that, you too fat, your too thin.”

JB Lacroix/WireImage

In the morning when you’re getting ready, say “I’m gorgeous,” put your confidence on, wear it like a coat, and go out into the world.

Your book has some classic beauty tips, but there were some new ones, too. Can you explain what a “work-pout” is?

Well you know I’ve been lip-syncing for my life for 20 years, so I know how to work the muscles in my lips! It’s about learning how to control your mouth to give your face exercise. Listen, we all have to traverse the rigors of aging, and I’m not 22 anymore, so I have to start thinking about these things along with getting a little Botox here and there, do exercise every day, and try to keep it together!

Michael Tran/FilmMagic

In the first chapter, you talk about your early life—your transition and your family. Did you intend for Hi Gorgeous! to be a resource for parents of queer and questioning youth?

I was writing the book for young people, to tell them a little bit about my story and struggle. But I also understand how important it is for parents to see people who are doing things with their lives and understand that their kids aren’t just going to be in a traumatic situation for the rest of their lives. They can be truly happy themselves.

I asked my parents to write a little paragraph for this book and they talked about those with inner beauty. I thought it was so sweet what they said and how they said it. I do think that this is a good read for a parent of an LGBT kid, also.

We’re coming up to Drag Race finale. Do you have any favorites from Season 9?

Well, I think that all the girls are fabulous. How’s that? (Laughs). I love being a part of that show whenever they ask me to choreograph or judge. Seeing old friends, or making new ones, I love being a part of it whenever they ask me.

Did you always plan on being an actress?

I always, from when I was little, wanted to be an actress, and a dancer, and a performer. Early on, I realized there probably weren’t going to be very many roles for a feminine guy. I was kinda raised in the late ’80s and early ’90s, so I remember seeing Jack on Will & Grace and thinking “Oh my God. I cannot believe they’re putting him on television. This is amazing!” The idea that I could actually be on a prime-time show was so foreign to me.

And then especially when I decided to transition in the mid 90s, I was like, “Well, there’s no way this is going to happen for me.” but I’m always the person who is gonna follow my dreams, so I kept going. I found the drag scene in New York City. That was my tribe, so I performed and it was part of my career path, but I always wanted to be an actress.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

They say it’s important what you say “no” to. Were there any particular jobs, or kind of jobs, you were quick to turn down?

In the early part of my television career, after Dirty Sexy Money, the word trans wasn’t really a thing. Nobody knew about it. It was, like, the “underbelly of society,” so as people started writing trans roles, I had a really strict set of rules for myself as kind of the face of a new burgeoning career for trans women. I turned down roles that had writing that was unrealistic for trans people.

Mark Sullivan/WireImage

And if I happened get into rooms with producers or writers, I would say, “This is wrong. You have to write it like this,” and often they would say “Okay.” If they said, “I’m sorry, this is the part”, I would say “No, thank you. This isn’t my part.”

Mostly, though, people would listen to me because they wanted to get it right. They wanted to write it real. As a trans woman, I’ve seen, heard, and experienced pretty much everything when it comes to abuse and transphobia. I wouldn’t say words in a part that a trans person wouldn’t say or do things a trans person wouldn’t do, but I had no control over how they were writing other characters and their reactions towards me, and that’s not my place as an actress. In my own way, I was making the world of acting a better place for trans people and portraying myself in a positive light to the rest of the universe, so they could start to understand what being trans was all about.

The Magicians/SyFy

Who is the most beautiful person you know?

This is gonna be a cheesy answer, but my parents. My mom and dad are the most beautiful people I know. When I came out to them, they accepted me. When I came out as trans, they accepted me. They’ve been a rock in my life for as long as I can remember—encouraging me, supporting me, giving me love, giving me shelter when I needed it. And letting me fly when I needed to.

Hands down, the most beautiful people in my life.

Happy Anniversary #55 I love mom and dad ❤️❤️❤️ #truelove #soulmate

A post shared by Candis Cayne (@candiscayne) on

Does your mom love lipstick?

She’s gettin’ there! I was raised by a tomboy—She was an artistic, scrappy Italian woman who played sports, and was telling me “Don’t ever let them tell you no. You’ve gotta get out there, you’ve gotta do it.” In the past maybe ten years, she’s gotten more and more into makeup and beauty. Just a month ago, she let me dye her hair fuchsia. Now she’s a fiery Italian women with fuchsia hair!

It’s never too late to start. I truly believe we’re as old as we act or feel.

Hi Gorgeous!: Transforming Inner Power into Radiant Beauty is in stores June 20.

Andrew Sotomayor is a celebrity makeup artist, grooming expert, writer, on-air personality, vegan, and hot vinyasa yoga fan with two adopted chihuahuas.
@AndrewSotomayor