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My Beauty Uniform: Clair Farley

Beauty Uniform: Clair Farley

Clair Farley is a transgender advocate, actress and the director of economic development at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center. She loves beauty products — especially if they’re Chanel — but she won’t pass up a good drugstore buy. “My femininity isn’t tied to makeup, but with it, the world sees me the way that I see myself,” she says. Clair and her husband, Jim, who is also transgender, live in Oakland, California, with their cats, Bert and Ernie. Here, we chat about her work, the best nude lipstick and the role makeup has played in her life…

Beauty Uniform: Clair Farley

Clair (right) with her twin, Mark.

Where are you from originally?
I grew up in Montana with an identical twin, Mark, and an older brother. My twin and I both came out as gay when we were 13 — our older brother came out later. As kids, Mark and I were inseparable and always had each other for support, which was so important at that time.

Was there a moment growing up when you realized you were a woman?
My first boyfriend and I went to a queer prom — which was surprising that they even had in Montana. It was a costume party, so I went in drag, which was a first for me. I had this bad wig — it wasn’t the best look — and my date said I looked like his mother. I remember thinking, ‘I want to be prettier than your mother!’

My Beauty Uniform: Clair Farley

When did you start transitioning?
I came out as trans to my family during high school, but I didn’t start my transition until I graduated. My mom was not comfortable with my living as ‘Clair’ in Montana. It was before there was much transgender visibility in the media, and she thought we would be judged. So I moved to New York in hopes of finding a more accepting community. There, I started living full-time as Clair. It took a while to feel comfortable in my own skin, but as I met other trans folks, it got much easier.

Was your family supportive?
My dad was super supportive, but it took my mom longer to come around. She’d gotten used to my being gay, and it took time for her to readjust. Many parents with trans kids go through this. You have all these memories of someone, but in my advocacy work I try to remind families that you’re not losing anyone. The person you love is still the same, they just haven’t been able to fully represent themselves in the way they want to the world.

Beauty Uniform: Clair Farley

How did you learn about makeup?
When I first moved to New York, I learned everything I could from Old Hollywood movies. I was also inspired by women kicking ass on TV, like Peta Wilson in La Femme Nikita and Jennifer Garner in Alias. At that time, makeup felt like life or death — getting the right look and passing was important for my survival. Even with an Ivy League education, I had trouble finding a job in retail or at a restaurant. I’d get interviews but was never hired because I didn’t look like the expectation of a woman.

Do you wear makeup every day now?
Yes. Women are beautiful with and without it, of course — but for me, makeup helps me express the real me. Five years ago, my totally gorgeous glamazon friend, Sabrina, took me to the Chanel counter to get a facial. I’ve been hooked ever since. Their products are worth the splurge. My favorite base is the Chanel Hydra Beauty Flash, which creates a soft-focus effect and evens out my skin. When my skin is dry, I also use Chanel CC cream with SPF. For foundation, I use Vitalumière Aqua, which gives a natural dewy look. I love Tarte’s Amazonian Clay Waterproof Bronzer; and for the perfect highlight, I turn to Les Beiges Healthy Glow powder.

What about eyes and lips?
For my lips, I prefer a simple nude — like Boy — that I can reapply throughout the day. All of the Coco glosses and Ink tints are great, too. For eyes, I like the neutral tones in the Matte Eyeshadow Palette by Tarte. And I never skip my brows; I use Benefit’s Gimme Brow fiber gel and Chanel brow pencil in blonde.

Beauty Uniform: Clair Farley

How do you amp it up for special occasions? 
I love changing up my look for a night out. I play up my eyes with liquid liner, as well as fake lashes. I think they’re fearless! I also love a red lip; my favorite is the cult-favorite Ruby Woo.

Do you have any beloved drugstore finds?
I can get trouble at the drugstore — I’ll walk in for one thing and leave hiding the receipt! I use cucumber facial wipes to remove my makeup at night. Also, Maybelline’s Baby Lips creates the softest lips and has SPF.

Beauty Uniform: Clair Farley

When did you start working on behalf of LGBT rights?
In college, I got involved in human rights activities on campus. I was inspired by all the stories of women who had stood up against oppression, and I learned about the amazing trans women of color who marched in Stonewall and the Compton Cafeteria Riots. Now I run the day-to-day programming at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center. We work with the low-income LGBT community by helping people build confidence, find housing, get back to work or start their own businesses. I also travel around the world to advocate for increased trans media visibility. I’ve gotten so much joy working directly with people on the ground.

Does being transgender affect your beauty routine?
One thing that always got me down was shaving my face — especially after spending thousands of dollars on laser and electrolysis. Then one day, I read an article about a cisgender girl that had to shave her face. I did some more research and found that lots of women shave their faces, and in fact it’s a great exfoliant. I still don’t love shaving, but I’ve come terms with it — plus, I get to save money by not buying a face scrub.

Beauty Uniform: Clair Farley

How did you and your husband first meet?
We were both at a conference on a panel about being trans in the media. I asked him if he’d ever found true love. He said he was always looking for it. We had chemistry right away. That night, I was stalking his YouTube channel and saw that he had posted this video saying, ‘I think I met somebody, I really like her.’ I freaked out and was like, ‘Oh my god, is he talking about me?’ A couple days later he called me at work and invited me to come down to Los Angeles. For some reason, I trusted the universe and took a flight down to L.A. to meet a complete stranger. We’ve now been together for nine years, married for seven.

Beauty Uniform: Clair Farley

Was it important for you that your partner was also transgender?
No, I actually had never dated a trans person before Jim. Many of the guys that I fell for would say, ‘I’m not gay.’ They didn’t understand that I was a woman. When I found Jim, it was refreshing not to have to explain or define myself into some construction. He fell in love with me as a person, outside of my gender identity. Our story shows that relationship love is really so much more than anatomy — it should be more. I hope that more cisgender guys [cisgender refers to someone whose gender identity corresponds with their sex assigned at birth] can step up, share their openness for loving trans women, and get past some of the stigma about bodies.

Beauty Uniform: Clair Farley

Do you have a signature scent?
I love anything thing that’s soft and fresh with hints of jasmine and grapefruit. One of my first anniversary gifts from Jim was the fragrance Chance. Now, he surprises me with a new perfume every year, just like his dad does for his mom on their anniversary!

Do you have any other non-beauty rituals that make you feel great? 
I love being in nature — taking hikes through forests or by the ocean. Our favorite spot is Redwood Regional Park. The trees are breathtaking and bring me back to life.

Beauty Uniform: Clair Farley

What role has beauty played in your overall journey?
As a queer kid growing up in Montana, I never felt beautiful. I know how it feels to feel ugly and not good enough, so I’ve been inspired to work to help other people feel beautiful, live their truth and go after their goals. In doing this work, I have in turn realized that I am also beautiful and that being different is okay. The only way forward is equality for all.

Thank you so much, Clair! If you’d like, see Clair in the documentaries Red Without Blue and American Transgender.

P.S. More women share their beauty uniforms, including a head-wrap designer and novelist.

(Photos courtesy of Clair Farley. Interview by Megan Cahn.)

  1. Of course Clair is beautiful here, but did you ever see her with zero make up? She is 5 times more gorgeous! I love the natural look. I am a cisgender female. I have never developed a fascination with the changes that make up can provide (I know other women have, cis or trans), but when Clair is 95 I think she will look back at her photos with no make up (she was cute as a button in Red without Blue) and say to herself “I was so cute! How come I thought I had to wear make up????”

    • LP says...

      Agreed! She’s gorgeous with makeup but oh my god, so stunning in the first photo with her brother. Like a 1970s model. Those pale eyebrows and sleepy eyes! I can’t!

  2. Lauren says...

    Wow! This is really a beautiful piece. Thank you to Clair for sharing! You and your family are beautiful!

  3. K.C. says...

    Beautiful! Thank you COJ for another fascinating installment of this wonderful series <3

  4. Laura says...

    I missed this post when it originally went up, but I wanted to echo everyone else’s sentiments here—as the partner of a nonbinary trans woman, I really appreciate that there is room in your beauty uniform series for trans women. I know firsthand how makeup and beauty can be anxiety-inducing when they influence a person’s survival in the world, and this conversation is really valuable.

    I’d also love to see a post in your motherhood series from people who are not cisgender—I know you had that post from a mother whose child was trans, but it would be especially lovely to open up space for trans motherhood in that series.

  5. elizabeth says...

    I’ll be honest, I almost didn’t click “Read More” about Clair’s Beauty Uniform, primarily because the feature photo did not catch my eye or appeal to me. However, I’m so glad I did because I just learned a lot about trans beauty. Clair is beautiful (as seen in the rest of the photos of her), smart, and a great representative of the trans community (along with her husband). I am humbled and inspired by her life’s work.

  6. Krisanne says...

    My sister is trans, and I love you for posting this. Thank you.

  7. Shannon says...

    Awesome!!

  8. Rachel says...

    THIS! This is so great, I love the widening inclusiveness I’m seeing on Cup of Jo. This warms my heart, well done!

  9. Jennifer says...

    Thank you for this, Cup of Jo. It is truly wonderful.

  10. Love this so much! Thank you CoJ!

  11. Carol says...

    Thank you so much cupofjo for posting this. My daughter is dating a trans woman and I feel so grateful that you are portraying relationships that challenge the status quo but are stories of love and acceptance. KUDOS!

  12. Thank you guys for posting content that highlights the humanity (and beauty) of all people. I’m realizing that you are so much more than lifestyle blog–that must be why I like you so much and keep reading!

  13. Ellen Weber says...

    This is such an excellent interview. Thank you!

  14. Jessica says...

    This blog and community of readers never fails to make me feel better about the world. Thanks COJ!

  15. Becky says...

    My heart is bursting with love for this beautiful woman. Thank you for sharing your story (and beauty tips!)

  16. stylingfun says...

    Love the amazing story!

  17. Thank you. And all the suportive comments made me cry. Reading content like this gives me hope for humanity when there is so much hate out there. We need posts like this now more than ever. Thank you Joanna.

  18. What an absolutely beautiful story!

  19. Lindsay says...

    As an elementary teacher who has colleagues, friends and students who are transgender, thank you. Thank you for your responsible reporting on crucial issues that move readers towards inclusivity and equity.

  20. Lo says...

    She is a beautiful, strong and inspiring woman!

    I’m really happy you chose to feature someone from the LGBTQ community, your portfolio of work is already so diverse and this is another string to that!

    Really enjoyed this, thank you!

    Lo

  21. J'Lyn says...

    Cup of Jo is rocking it with these “beauty uniform” posts. Thank you for being so inclusive. I have really enjoyed getting to know how other women live and how they view beauty.

  22. sherry says...

    LOVE everything about them. Beautiful, inside and out.

  23. Theresa says...

    Love!

  24. Johanna says...

    I love this so much, I hope Cup of Jo continues to offer this kind of thoughtful inclusion on future posts.

  25. Sandra says...

    This may be Cup of Jo’s best Beauty Uniform post yet! (They are all so great, though.) Loved Clair’s tips and appreciated hearing her story.

  26. So much love. I feel like her quote at the beginning – “My femininity isn’t tied to makeup, but with it, the world sees me the way that I see myself” – applies to all females, whether born that way or no. I’ve had people try to tell me, oh you’re so pretty without makeup. Well, thank you, but that’s not why I wear it. I wear it to present outwardly how I feel inwardly. If that makes sense.

  27. Lauren says...

    This series has become my absolute favorite. The women you’ve featured over the past year are inspirational and I can’t wait to “meet” more!

    Thank you, Clair, for sharing your beauty tips. And for your advocacy work.

  28. Jess says...

    Clair – your skin is stunning! As is all of you! Cute pups, too. : )

  29. Jamie says...

    The Youtube story is too cute! Also I love her husband’s smirk in the wedding photo, the typical “yeah I know my wife is hot” guy look :)

  30. Veronica says...

    This was wonderful! Thank you so much for this! Brave is Beautiful!

  31. Shirley says...

    Clair is GORGEOUS! When I first saw the beauty uniform post and picture, I thought to myself, Oh great, another beautiful white woman, what could possibly be interesting about this. But I still clicked, and I’m so glad I did! As a future counselor and LGBTQ ally, I am so proud of COJ for using your platform to expose others to new understanding, and to make positive social change. Also, Clair and Jim look so incredibly comfortable in their skin and make an amazing looking couple. I bet they are a blast to hang out with! Your blog has just upped the ante to a whole new level in my book (and it was already extremely high to begin with- you are the only one I read daily).

    • Yes, white women don’t have anything to offer unless they are queer. Duh.

  32. Beautiful couple. And thank you so much for profiling a makeup girl. I too use makeup so the world will see me as I see myself. Chanel forever.

  33. Sarah says...

    Thank you for this. What a beautiful post, and what beautiful, kind comments.

  34. Robin says...

    Love love love this series.

  35. Deidre says...

    I love, love, love this. Thank you, Claire!

  36. Gemma Burgess says...

    She is so beautiful. I just love this. Also, I need more Chanel in my life. xxxxx

  37. Esther says...

    Just want to thank you Cup of Jo. You really make me feel that there is hope. Thanks for sharing beauty in all it’s forms.

  38. Linnea says...

    Love how inclusive this series has become. It’s beautiful and inspiring to see such a diversity of perspectives through a lens that all women can relate to – beauty routines!

  39. I say this every beauty uniform, but this is my favorite! (Until the next one, probably) Clair, you are courageous and gorgeous. And COJ, you are absolutely killing it.

  40. Shawna says...

    Well done. What a great piece!

  41. Sasha says...

    As a Montanan, I hope my state can earn the right to be a place that someone like Claire doesn’t want to leave, feels at home in and truly feels like she is part of what makes us great. When you leave, it’s that much more lonely for everyone else that needs to know they are not alone. And we desperately need ALL the good people. (I absolutely understand why someone leaves and no blame on their part for wanting to feel safe and included, I just want MT to be the place that you can stay. I would love to call you neighbor or friend.)

  42. Sasha says...

    Your story makes me feel proud to be a Montanan! It is getting better, even here.

    I hope you come visit often and feel welcomed.

    Thank you CoJ for an awesome piece.

  43. Emily S. says...

    This is really amazing! She and her husband are beautiful. Thanks for this diverse post :)

  44. Kim says...

    So much great stuff here…but I have to say that Bert and Ernie are the best cat names EVER!

  45. Gorgeous! Sending love from a fellow Montanan!

  46. Brooke says...

    This was an amazing post on so many levels! Thank you for showcasing Clair and her beauty inside and out!

  47. Darina says...

    Love this, ESPECIALLY since we also live in Oakland and actually quite near the Redwood Regional. We hike it all the time. Clair, let’s hang out :) How fun to read about someone who is practically your neighbor on one of your favorite blogs.

  48. Elizabeth says...

    What a beautiful post! Love this. xo

  49. Beth says...

    Awesome welcoming post – nice job Cup of Jo-ers!! Clair sounds so down to earth, a real girls girl :)

  50. Aga says...

    Looooove this post! Thank you Clair for sharing! You are beautiful! I am posting this to facebook.

    I live in Canada and we like to say that the world needs more Canada. Well, the internet needs more COJ!

    • elle_dee_em says...

      Yes! This fellow Canadian wholeheartedly agrees with you!

      Clair, you are beautiful and your outlook on life is nothing short of inspirational. Thank you for sharing your story ♥

  51. Clair, this is the best how-we-met story I’ve heard in years! I’m a screenwriter in Los Angeles, and I would LOVE to talk with you about possibly making this into a movie!! Please get in touch!

  52. Who knew how moved I’d be after a Beauty Uniform post?!? Well done COJ! Well done!!

  53. Joanna, This blog just keeps getting better and better. Thank you so much for making your beautiful little slice of the internet such an inclusive and welcoming place for all. <3 <3 <3

  54. BW says...

    Cool post about inside/outside beauty. Personally I like that it’s a mix about products and her philosophy about embracing her natural self. (The best beauty uniform posts all do.)

    One interesting issue to me is the contrast b/w what’s considered a feminist approach to appearance, e.g. Alicia Keys’s no-make-up look, and the positive role make-up has played for someone like Clair in expressing herself in a way that’s true to her identity. Food for thought.

    • Courtney says...

      Yes, that is great food for thought. For me feminism is about doing what feels right for you regarding your appearance–and letting others do the same, without judgement. While certainly the tradition of wearing makeup is tied to the male gaze, it is still empowering for many people, and doesn’t make them inherently less feminist. I think the current wave of feminism is less ‘either or’ and more about inclusivity for all the ways women choose to represent themselves–whether that’s makeup-free, all done up, or somewhere in between. Thank you COJ for a wonderful space to have these kinds of discussions!

    • Zoe says...

      This is neither here nor there but Gabby Blair from design mom said once on her blog that how you are used to seeing yourself has a big influence on your acceptance of your appearance. For instance, there was a time when everyone wore hats outside the home. Now some people might say “I don’t like the way I look in hats!” But that may simply be because they aren’t used to seeing themselves that way. I think it’s similar with makeup. I don’t wear makeup regularly – I’ve never been good about he habit even though I much prefer the way I look WITH makeup. But I’m used to seeing myself without makeup so it doesn’t really bother me to see myself that way. I don’t know. I’m not sure that makeup is generally used to make a statement feminist or not but is more simply a reflection of how we want to see our own reflection.

  55. Tatjana says...

    Loving you and your team even more now, Joanna! Kepp up the good work!

  56. Hayley says...

    I’m a longtime reader and also rarely comment, but I just wanted to give a high five to the Cup of Jo team for creating such a supportive space. Loved seeing Clair’s story here.

  57. Jen says...

    She’s incredibly beautiful. I would love to learn how to do makeup like that! Jim’s a lucky man!

  58. Everyday I love your blog more and more. Thanks for sharing Clair’s story!

  59. Amy says...

    This is my first time commenting on Cup of Jo– just wanted to say how much I appreciate you advocating trans visibility and supporting LBGTQ+ communities. Lovely article and a beautiful couple.

  60. Jenny says...

    I also noticed that this post focused more on Clair being transgender than on specific products, routine, etc. However, I enjoyed that! I loved reading about Clair’s experiences with beauty as a transgender woman. I felt that it put the focus more on beauty as a concept of self and feeling at home in your own body, rather than on products alone. Those are always my favorite Beauty Uniforms. :) That said, I would also love to read a post telling the “bigger story,” as Carly says. I feel so grateful that so many amazing and diverse women are willing to share their stories with us. It’s one of the reasons Cup of Jo is my favorite!

  61. <3 <3 <3

  62. Mandy says...

    this was very touching and informative. thank you for sharing and for being an advocate for the LGBTQ community!

  63. Peggy says...

    More beauty tips! How does she do her hair??

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      she told us that she is terrible at hair, so her husband usually does it :)

    • Jeannie says...

      Stinkin’ adorable. Total husband/partner points!!!

  64. Maggie says...

    This is amazing :) Thanks for sharing!

  65. Victoria says...

    gah now I want to go to a chanel makeup counter but I know it will ruin my income for the rest of my life

  66. Love! People can be so judgmental about makeup usage, but people should just wear what they feel best in!

    xx, Hannah

  67. Colleen says...

    Thank you Clair for sharing your story and tips and Cup of Jo for being so inclusive. Love is love is love. Beautiful, memorable and awesome.

  68. Sarah says...

    So beautiful! Clair, the post, her words, and the comments!! Thank you, Cup of Jo!!! Also— saving for some of that Chanel base, ka-pow!

  69. Sara says...

    Amazing and beautiful and wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing.

  70. Happiness shines on you, Clair!

  71. Allison says...

    Holy crap that photo with the blue sweater and the eyes like WOW. I loved this post, thank you for sharing Clair!!

  72. Catrina says...

    YAS! get it team cup-of-jo. celebrating all our sisters, not just out cis-ters.

    • Caroline says...

      cis-sters! Love it!

  73. Jenny T says...

    Love this post so much. Clair is just beautiful.

  74. Tania says...

    You guys are awesome. Thank you for continuing to feature people of all different shapes, colors, gender identities and backgrounds. Gives me some faith in humanity at a time when it is in such short supply.

  75. Kim says...

    Thank you for using your platform to spread awareness and love.

  76. How beautiful and inspiring. She is definitely one of those beautiful-inside-and-out people. I love, love, loved this.

  77. Molly says...

    Oh my goodness – I loved this! Not only is Clair just so beautiful & open, I actually know her husband! He was one of my favorite people I met in college (at OSU in Columbus), & I am so diggity dang happy to see the calm and happiness in his eyes. So happy you two found each other! And Clair, if you see this, please tell Jim I say hello!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a small world!

  78. Jami-Lin says...

    Wow, truly beautiful. I love their CONFIDENCE! Especially knowing from Claire’s story that it was hard-won. Brava!

  79. Sara says...

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story it brought tears to my eyes. Truly Gorgeous inside and out!!!

  80. That was really interesting. The picture of Clair with her twin is stunning and amazing. She is so beautiful. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to grow up as a boy if you are really a girl inside, especially as a teenager. I am happy for her that she has been able to create the life and look that she is happy in…if only we could all do that.

    • sans says...

      that picture is so amazingly wow. As a mom it’s the kind of photo of your children that is so burned into your retinas, you see it when you blink. I have one like that of my daughter and son, it’s part of my brain’s visual vernacular. Like ‘oh that reminds me of her dress in that photo, or his expression is just like that photo…’

      also she’s so ridiculously beautiful, as my daughter would say, the happy just seems to leak out of her.

  81. Loribeth says...

    Didn’t expect a Beauty Routine to make me tear up! Wow. So good. Clair is STUNNING and kick ass!!!

  82. Olivia says...

    Gah crying over a beauty uniform post. Thanks so much for sharing the stories of all kinds of women!

  83. cca says...

    Beautiful!

  84. Nicole says...

    So much love for this!

  85. Roz says...

    Clair, you are inspiring and beautiful!

  86. Meaghan says...

    There is a lot of backlash about “diversity” lately. This post shows that beyond being a good thing because it is the moral thing, diversity is good because diverse perspectives are interesting, thought provoking, and less boring. And I don’t just mean this post is diverse because she is trans, she also wears a lot more make up than the usual beauty post–that is interesting too.

  87. Ileana says...

    She is absolutely stunning! Love this post.

    • I do too and OH MY GOD WE HAVE THE SAME NAME AND SPELL IT THE SAME WAY. This is very rare in my life!

  88. Jackie says...

    What a badass!!! Clair thank you for your advocacy work and thank you for sharing your story.

    Cup of jo team thanks for the wonderful stories shared through this ongoing feature it is my favorite series you write!

  89. Kate says...

    Lovely and inspiring words! Thanks for sharing!! <3

  90. Heather says...

    Thank you for sharing this! Clair is gorgeous, and I will now be saving more spending money for Chanel makeup…

  91. Emma says...

    I love this. The article and the comments. It’s heartening to know that our children will have a more accepting world thanks to the work done by people like Clair.

  92. Mara says...

    ????????????

  93. Bridget says...

    A beautiful woman and an inspiring role model. Thanks to Jo and team for featuring diverse women in this series. Thanks to Clair for sharing here and for her important work on behalf of the LGBT community.

  94. Kristina Terrell says...

    This gave me all the feels. I truly believe Clair is so “glowy” because she is living a life that feels (and is!) authentic to her. Chanel maleup doesn’t hurt either and she wears it beautifully. I love everything about this feature. Well done Cup of Jo!

  95. Dee says...

    What a beautiful couple. Thank you for sharing your story.