Actress and comedian Whitney Cummings is the smart, funny, outspoken friend you can always rely on to tell you the truth—even when it hurts—but always with a side of laughter. On a recent Zoom call, I got to chat with the 38-year-old stand-up pro and podcast host about her life growing up, her secret skin-care launch and why she decided to partner with contraceptive brand Annovera. And yes, I was giggling like a school girl the whole time.
What led you to pursue comedy?
Bad childhood. A lot of elephants in the living room. Where’s mom? Who’s this woman picking me up from school? I think in my generation, at least for me, the men in the family didn’t really know what to do with their daughters. It wasn’t until I started really seriously playing sports and going into locker rooms with other girls that I was able to say, OK that’s a tampon, that’s a pad, that’s sex. We didn’t have a “talk.” There were no YouTube videos you could watch to figure out, am I weird? Is this normal? We didn’t have any of that. That’s why I’m so proud to be working with Annovera on this campaign because the idea is “Just Say Vagina,” don’t apologize about it. This inherited and socially constructed shame around our bodies has got to stop.
I didn’t think I’d be a comedian. I thought I was going to be a lawyer or a journalist. I really just wanted to get to the truth of things. When someone would say “hoo ha,” I was the person at the table who would say, “Why not just say vagina?” I’m like obsessed with justice. I think a lot of comedians are like that. Like why is every birth control in a pink container? Why do all women have to like pink? What are we, five? And then I get stuck in my head over something. And when I’d say stuff like that, people would laugh, and I was like, oh, I guess I’m funny. I wasn’t trying to be funny; I was being serious. Then I started doing stand-up, and I wanted to say the most outrageous things, because that’s what we do, and I wanted to shock people and surprise people. I’d say “vagina” and the audience would go “eww” and all the comics would be like, “Ew, a girl talking about vaginas,” and acted like it was cheap, dirty and raunchy. Come on, do I really have to talk about airplane food? For me, I wanted to do stand-up because I wanted to be seen and heard. I wanted to stop feeling alone and weird. Saying something that people would never say out loud and then having people laugh, makes you think, OK I’m not crazy. We’re so conditioned to think that we’re crazy. For me, I get to have a bunch of friends for an hour. Then I did a [comedy] special about birth control, so it all sort of organically worked out with this campaign.
Most marketing campaigns for birth control are geared toward Gen Z and young millennials. Why is it important to you to be part of this now?
When I was younger, you just guessed. The doctor would give you whatever thing the pharmaceutical company was paying them to give you. Then you’d take it because you didn’t know, and you couldn’t research it on Google, and I couldn’t really tell my parents I was on birth control—it was like a nightmare. I’m just so excited for this next generation of women to not have to go through 10 years of migraines and pregnancies they aren’t ready for and stress and unnecessary anxiety. Now they have the tools. There’s a website called “Just Say Vagina.” How cool is that? There’s also an app with this one that tells you when to take it out and when to put it in and when to get a new one. And it’s annual, so I only have to think about it once a year, and I love that because I have enough plates spinning.
I just don’t want this next generation of women to waste their life force and their bandwidth worrying about, “Did I take it? What time zone am I in? I think I took one, but was that the placebo?” You have bigger fish to fry and you’re put on this earth to do more than deal with the rigmarole of a migraine because you didn’t take your birth control at the exact time you were supposed to because you were busy pitching an idea to an investor.
How do we make this conversation more mainstream?
I think we’re doing it. I think it’s about access, and Instagram is doing it and podcasts are doing it. Cardi B was in the back of her car just talking s***, and now she’s Cardi B. I think it’s happening. Everyone is like, “Women don’t have a voice.” It’s like, no, just use it! I went to your Instagram and there are no posts with you talking. You have one, use it! It’s knowing when you have leverage and power and then actually using it. On my podcast, we have women on and we talk about all this stuff like, “Was that a hemorrhoid?” It’s out there—you can find it now.
You’re a self-proclaimed open book about so many things, including beauty treatments. Thank you for sharing in a world where so many celebrities don’t.
My thing is, just tell the truth. On my [comedy] special, I said I got breast implants because of my eating disorder, and I talked about getting Botox here [points to her forehead] for migraines, which didn’t really work. I get filler on this side of my nose, and I got Ultherapy. I just don’t lie. I don’t want to pretend. I just don’t get it. No one gives you a check when you say you lose weight just by walking your dog on the beach. It’s like, you have a trainer, you only drink celery juice, etc. I think it’s so much cooler when you say all the things you do. I want to be like the Peter Pan of self-care and health and beauty—to get all the secrets and then share them with everybody else. I guess there’s some weird shame about being human?
What about skin care? What do you love?
I just did my friend Esther’s podcast, Glowing Up, and I said I’m coming out with a skin oil next year.
Wait, you’re coming out with a skin oil? Is that a secret?
Kind of. It’s not out yet, but it’s in the works. My mom worked in a department store, so when I was 10, I would go after school and hang out with all the cosmetic counter girls at Estée Lauder and Sisley and Shiseido. My mom would get all these amazing free samples and I would try them and play with them. My mom was just amazing about her skin. I would watch her apply skin care and she’d always go up, up, up, never down. She always had sunscreen on, and gloves in the car. I just watched her and got kind of obsessed with it.
Then I had a big struggle with acne and was on Accutane—I had an adversarial relationship with my face because your skin is your confidence. It’s not superficial to want to have good skin. It’s your first introduction to someone. I used to pretend I was sick and not go to school if I had a big cystic zit. Even if someone else can’t see it, it feels huge to you. I just struggled with it for so long and it got so boring. I realized that I was drying my face out with retinol and salicylic acid, and popping and squeezing. Then I started experimenting with oils, and I used this very odd combination of oils and it helped. With my product, I want to put all the oils in one place for $40 bucks—instead of five bottles.
Any other beauty products you swear by?
Grape seed oil is like my main thing. I just buy it at Whole Foods. I also use olive oil and coconut oil all the time. I put olive oil in my coffee. I love Epara—it’s a black-owned brand that I recently discovered—and they have an incredible oil. And Glycelene. Hilary Duff sent it to me after she did my podcast. It’s vegan, natural, organic. I didn’t realize a lot of the things I was using had lanolin in them and I was like, eh. I also keep oil everywhere, the way we do Purel. I have one in every room and I dab it on all day. In the middle of the night when I pee, I have one there.
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