The Rose that Grew from the Concrete
It takes a lot of courage and determination to overcome terrible dark clouds like a lifelong struggle with mental health, but it is a completely different thing altogether to come out of that darkness and focus all of that energy into aiding those who may not be strong enough to see the light or their future. Ruby Rose is a great example of the latter, bouncing back better than ever after having had a very public battle with depression, and is now championing for anti-bullying in any way she can, from supporting campaigns to opening up to fans about her own depression, and how she had a very close call with suicide. She even released a short film in 2014 about her own struggles called, Break Free.
The world fell in love with the insanely beautiful Australian-born DJ, former MTV VJ, model, actress and activist, after her stellar performance as the confident Stella Carlin in Orange is The New Black. And after that, Ruby starred in xXx: Return of Xander Cage, Sheep and Wolves, John Wick, Pitch Perfect 3 and most recently, The Meg, which premieres in cinemas this month. She also fronted campaigns for various brands, from Urban Decay, Maybelline, Swarovski, Nike, Ralph Lauren’s Denim & Supply and Bonds. But the campaigns that really caught the public’s eye, and impacted their hearts were the campaigns for various causes she believed in, from equality and LGBTQIA rights to anti-bullying and animal rights. The positive role model is also an ambassador for Headspace, a youth mental health foundation that aims to provide early intervention mental health services to 12-25-year-olds, along with assistance in promoting young peoples’ wellbeing.
But fame didn’t come easy for Ruby, despite her amazing talents and striking good looks. Just like everyone else in Hollywood, she was once struggling trying to make it in the business. Born in Melbourne, Victoria, in 1986, she grew up on the run with her mother Katia Langenheim, from her abusive father. In high school, she became the target of violent bullies who landed her in hospital. “I’ve always wanted to write a book about my high school experience so that kids going through similar things that I did would have something tangible to read and feel like they weren’t alone.”
Everyone who knows Ruby would attest to her as being ‘pretty damn awesome.’ Celebrity hairstylist Castillo included. In fact, he compared Ruby to a ‘vegan m&m’; beautiful, colourful and strong on the exterior, but once you get to know her, she is sweet, soft and caring on the inside. I can confirm that, in person, Ruby Rose is indeed ‘pretty damn awesome.’ She arrived dressed in an oversized hoodie sweater, fitted denims and some really eye-catching kicks that her friend designed. Her cropped locks had touches of multiple blonde hues.
While getting her makeup done by lionised makeup artist Jo Baker− who, I must add, flew down from Europe that morning just to do Ruby’s makeup for our Marie Claire photoshoot− she chatted away about her recent trip to Paris. “I just couldn’t go to Cannes, and shoot in Paris and not stay. So I stayed for 6 days, and fell in love with the city of Paris! That city could be the one.” She gushed. “I mean I knew that I would love Paris, but I didn’t think that I would fall in love as much as I did. It’s just one of those things that I think a lot of the European countries, and also the Asian countries, have, where it is rich in history and culture. We don’t get in Australia, and it’s not the same in the States. And I love just seeing what people wear, the fashion, the food, and the culture.”
Once the glam team were done with their magic, Ruby switched to model mode and changed into her first outfit—a sleeveless black MaxMara top, adorned with the brand’s logo in bold, tucked into a plush voluminous plaid skirt that draped to the floor. I stared at both of her tattoo-filled arms and asked her if all her inked artwork had a personal meaning behind them. “Yeah. All 109 of them,” she revealed. “If you count on them individually, then there’s an astronomical amount. But because they are joined together, it becomes a sleeve, or it becomes a back piece. They all have personal meanings or stories− they are there to create a memory. Some of them are more meaningful than others, but I love them all.”
I asked her to share some of her most memorable ones. “I have so many! Let me think.” She scanned through her tattoos and smiled when she spotted a colourful tattoo on her wrist that reads ‘Mum’ in purple, red and blue ink. “Well, I remember when I got this tattoo, thinking ‘yay, my mum is going to be so happy, I’m finally getting a mummy tattoo!’ But the only thing she said was “that’s it? That’s the smallest tattoo on your whole body!” But for me, the meaning was deep.” She continues. “It was because I used to host a lot of TV shows in Australia, and that was my microphone hand. So naturally, you could always see ‘mum’, every time I’m on TV. If I put ‘mum’ in massive letters across my back, then no one’s going to see it.” Her reasoning made sense. “After I explained it to her, she was like ‘I suppose that’s OK.’”
“Then I have my dog on my hand, and I have the Ninja Turtles− or one of them, Leonardo− because that was such a big part of my childhood and I always felt like we were kindred spirits. So, these tattoos were there to either remind me of certain things or to help me let go of things, and just live in the moment.”
After a series of shots, we sat down in the dressing room and resumed our chat. I was still getting over the fact that my girl crush was seated an arm’s length away. She tells me about her role as Jaxx in the upcoming shark thriller, The Meg, directed by Jon Turteltaub and based on the 1997 science fiction book Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Alten, and how she much she adores her character. “Jaxx− I love that name. Jaxx is an engineer; she creates all the gliders and all the technology, and everything that they need to be able to work with the marine’s ecosystem. She’s a cool character because she doesn’t necessarily look like how you’d expect an engineer to look. But having said that, I did a lot of research into female scientists and engineers, and the awesome thing is that they’re rad! They’re overly unique. So it’s cool to kind of use that part of it and then take into account that she’s meant to be sort of the outcast of the group, where the hair is really funky, she’s got a whole like, a tattoo that’s all about marine life. So, yeah, she’s just smart, fun and kind of mysterious. I like her.”
We then discussed her fellow cast members, Jason Statham and Li BingBing. “I love both actors. Li Bingbing is a phenomenal person to work with. She’s so funny; she is so humble for someone who is one of the biggest movie stars in China. Jason is such a lad. I love him. He’s just like one of the boys, and that probably sounds funny, coming from me. We just got along; we had so many laughs. He likes to do all of his own stunts, and I like to do my own stunts, so we definitely connected on that off the bat.” She revealed. “Most people want to do stunts in the tank, so they built an entire tank for the film. But both Jason and I were like “can we just do it in the ocean?” We just wanted to do all that crazy stunts in the ocean, but everybody else that is American was like “I’m not going into the ocean! We’re in New Zealand! There are sharks!” Then I’d be like “That’d be great!” She laughs. “Ironically, just because it’s the ocean, doesn’t mean there’s going to be sharks at our feet, and wildlife popping up everywhere.”
Outspoken in everything she believes in, and taking a completely opposite route to the celebrities’ usual ‘keep your cards to yourself’ persona, Ruby was definitely a breath of fresh air. She encourages people to talk to one another, and seek advice when needed without bottling everything inside. “I tend to first look within myself, because I feel the answer is inside us, for whatever question that we have. But I think that sometimes, when I’m looking into myself, and I still don’t feel like I can find the answers, I have a great group of friends that I can turn to, and I love the fact that no matter where they are in the world, or how busy they are or what they’re doing, they’ll always make time to help me get through it, and give advice. Then I also swear by therapy. I think everybody should be in therapy, whether you’re in a great place, or not; I think that having the perspective of somebody that can demystify some situations that feel really overwhelming, and they can just say “it’s just this”, and you’re like “oh, my God.” That’s it: my mind is blown. I think it’s important to have a lot of different places that you can get advice and support from.”
Sometimes it’s just helpful to talk to someone or say it out. “Honestly, it really just comes down to just saying it out loud. I like to write a lot, I have a lot of journals, so sometimes if I feel like I don’t necessarily need any advice on a situation, but I just want it to be out, or if I want to reflect on it, I’ll just do some writing, and meditate and it will sort itself out.”
Saying something aloud, or having someone to talk to is one thing; but having the world watch your every move, and with every single person you have never met having an immediate relationship with you, and everything else that goes on in your life through social media, is a completely different ball game. “Yeah, I think I’m pretty well-adjusted to the pros and cons of social media. It’s very immediate. I think you can kind of get a direct response to something you’re putting out there, whether you want to or not. I actually turned off my comments on Instagram a couple of months ago. Not that because anything happened. I just kind of thought, I really like being creative. I really like putting things out there that are personal or artistic or maybe it’s a quote or a poem or whatever it might be. I don’t necessarily need to have everybody’s opinion on it. I think it can really hinder the risks that you want to take if you feel like a lot of people are watching and when it’s 12.3 million, or whatever it is, I just pretend nobody’s watching. That’s how I do films as well. Sometimes I forget after I’m film it, people are going to watch these things. But I think that’s the best way to live, is just to live in the moment and not wanting that immediate gratification. Because if you’re going to take the compliments and the lovely things people say on social media then you can’t not take the bad. I just rather not take either.”
Before we concluded our conversation, I asked her what advice would she give to other young women that could empower them when following the pathway she had paved. “I always think like, what advice would I give myself, or what are things that I learnt through my journey that has worked? I’ll definitely say that if you have an idea, that’s everything. Hard work is the biggest counterpart of how you’re going to have success, but I think that having an idea is key. Some of these people have amazing ideas, but they get insecure about it, or they don’t know how to execute it, or we get lazy and self-sabotage. But we have these ideas, and sort of think like ‘oh, somebody else will do it,’ or ‘I’ll get to it later.’ I think if you have an idea, just sit down and start it, don’t think about the complexities of how you’re going to get it right, or get it perfect and all the rest of it. Just think about the idea you have and get started, because once you start, then you just go from there.” She spoke with such determination. “I think that if you’re not willing to put in the hard work, then it probably isn’t your dream. I think you’d know if it’s really your dream, or calling, or purpose. That’s how I feel like when I’m working, and focused on something. If I have a great idea, I start writing, or want to do a short film, or whatever it is, and then I feel like I’m in my element, doing what I’m supposed to do in this crazy world. If you have a mentor or something like that, that’s amazing. But I think that we’re all so unique, and it’s like that Oscar Wilde quote; be yourself, everybody else is taken. If you have an idea inside of you, if you have something that you want to do, then you can do it. You just have to make that your goal. And make sure every step you take every single day, is getting you closer to that. It’s not always an uphill trajectory. Sometimes you can go left and right, or up and down, and eventually you’ll get to where you want to go, as long as you’re really adamant on what that end goal is.”
I’ll end this article with a powerful quote from a speech she made years back, when she received the Favourite Female Personality award at the pay-TV awards.”This award goes to my mum. She is the shining star more than I will ever be. (And) to all those girls who bullied me in high school, where are you now?”
Q&A with Ruby Rose
Let’s talk style; I love everything that you put on, whether it’s on-set, or off-set. Tell us what catches your eyes when it comes to fashion?
I love things that are comfortable. I love things that are unique. I like mixing vintage with high fashion, and high fashion with street style. Just having like, I know its very cliché, but just having eclectic taste. If it looks good and feels good, then I want it. I don’t really follow trends or look into much of what is in trend right now, or what’s going to be hot. I just sort of wish for the best. There are times when the fashion that I love is what technically is popular right now, and that’s fantastic, and then there are times that it’s back to being high-waisted bell-bottom jeans, and I just don’t understand it. I’d love to, but it’s just like, it doesn’t look rad on me. So I think I just make it work, for whatever I think is going to suit my personality and vibe. I think it’s sort of like art, like another representation, a way of expressing how you feel. Sometimes I’ll be conservative, other times it’s sexy, or other times I’ll be a bit more out there, I’d be a bit more punk rock, and then I’ll be feminine. I feel like there are no limits to what you can do with fashion.
What do your days look like?
If I’m on set in the middle of shooting The Meg, the days off were water training, diving training, and they were hardcore, I’ve done stunts for so many different films, I had to learn all new skills that I didn’t possess, but this was maybe the hardest. Which was funny, because part of the reason I chose this film was because for once, I’m not doing just an action. Well, all of this before I did Pitch Perfect, obviously. I’ve done a lot of fighting; I’ve done a lot of that particular skill set. In this one (The Meg) I was going to be an engineer. It was wordier. It was a different kind of character, and then I ended up doing just as much work on the stunts even though you wouldn’t notice it in the film as much, but for me, it was a lot. We had to practice swimming in our clothing, every single day, and that was hard. Full clothing, because when you get thrown off a boat, you’re in your clothes and you have to know to swim and it’s heavy, and it drags you back and no one could breathe. I’m looking at Jason “how do you do this?!” and we had to. We did a lot of martial arts and everything like that as well, just for breathing and fitness, and a lot of wirework. On my days off, that’s all I got to do. Basically just did that and reading the script. But then, when I’m not doing a film, my days are very different. I try to take some time to celebrate how many films I’ve done, and what project I’ve completed. Enjoy that. Reflect on that. Take a trip. Just recently I went to Palm Springs with a couple of friends, and I just went to Paris.
When you first started, or when you’re first getting your name out there, what was your best piece of advice that you got about the fame monster, as Lady Gaga calls it.
I was 18 when I started to get a name in Australia. I just started on the entertainment industry. I think I probably got a lot more advice than I can actually remember, but I think that it’s such an interesting situation to be in, it’s a strange human experience to have. Everyone’s experience of it is different. Some people, they thrive under the same circumstances that might make someone else think like, “Why do I do this?” When I was younger I had some difficulties adjusting to it, and it was all pretty wild. Now, when I came to the States, and sort of started over, I kind of went through a kind of second phase. I got to do it as an adult, whereas before, I was doing it as a kid. For me, I didn’t really need any advice─ I learnt lessons the easy way or the hard way. I’ve seen what worked, or didn’t work, I’ve seen what it’s like to have so much, and to not have that much anymore, like getting every single job and everything nonstop, and then a few years down the line, you’ve got to work a bit harder to keep recreating yourself. So to have that feeling of having to start over and do this thing again, I just went into it with a lot more gratitude for every single opportunity. When I was 18, I was like ‘yeah, of course I’m doing this. Why wouldn’t I be?’, and at 28 I’m like ‘Thank you, God. Let me do this for one more day.’ So I think, it was all life experience and figuring it out, because we’re all figuring out in life, everything. I’m figuring out what I’m doing right now. We just tell ourselves we know how to do it, and assume that people would believe us, and for the most part, that’s what works.”