Karrueche Tran: The Super-Humble, Super-Talented Superwoman

Photographer Augusta Sagnelli

Karrueche Tran needs no introduction, considering she’s been a household name for those who are into celebrity gossip for nearly a decade. “Hi, it’s Karrueche” is the first thing she says when she calls me from her cell phone, quickly followed by an apology for being like, three minutes behind for our scheduled interview.


Important note: In my phone-interview-with-celebrities experiences, 99% of the time their publicist is making the perpetually late call, lifelessly greeting me verbatim with “I have [insert celebrity here] on the line.” Annoyingly often the publicist will require that I submit questions in advance for approval, which I do. When I throw in non-approved questions during the actual chat, the celeb offers a nervous, meh-media-trained responsethat is, if the publicist, who has been listening to our conversation in an intense manner on mute all along, doesn’t interrupt and shut that shit down.

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Karrueche wears dress by Disney Villains x The Blonds, headpiece from Century Girl Vintage

That is not at all the case with Los Angeles born-and-raised Karrueche Tran. Whew! She actually wanted to talk, and was enthusiastic, humble, and filter-fucking-free during our nearly 40-MINUTE conversation. The 30-year-old was just finishing up at a gym in New Orleans, where she’s currently filming season three of Claws. Tran acts opposite the perma-fantastic Niecy Nash in the psychotically amazing, women-led (both on and behind the camera) dramedy that’s been described as Steel Magnolias meets Breaking Bad. In short, Claws is about five fierce manicurists who work at a nail salon in Manatee County, Florida and find themselves laundering money from a strip mall pill clinic in hopes for a bigger, better life. Tran nails it (sorry, had to) as Virginia, an unapologetically-herself ex-stripper. Her scene-stealing one-liners are simply everything: Virginia’s response to “Does it always have to be about you?” is “Uh yes, girl. I’m a millennial.” Tran has been immaculately executing the okurrr as Virginia long before Cardi B trademarked the phrase, and her maximalist, millennial-pink-heavy, Cher Horowitz-rivaling numberswhich, in the forthcoming season, will include a bedazzled eye-patch as a, spoiler alert!, style choice due to Virginia taking a bullet in the season two finaleare unrivaled.


Thrown involuntarily into the scrutinizing spotlight in her early twenties for reasons that we won’t entertain mentioning, the then-mysterious Tran could have used the frantic fascination around her for a career in reality television and Flat Tummy Tea-sponsored Instagram posts. But “As if!” to promoting the aforementioned laxative, which is clear to her 8+ million Instagram followers, where she’s very open about her body image struggles, self-acceptance, and self-love. Tran talked in detail with me about that and so much more, including her thoughts re: her wild journey, from those damn TMZ headlines to her breakout role on TNT.


Forgive me, but the slogan from the early-2000s MTV program, Diary, came to my millennial mind after we said goodbye: “You think you know but you have no idea.” Below, Tran introduces the (very) real herthe girl who once worked at a boutique on Robertson Boulevard and who dreams of starring in a box office blockbuster. She’s definitely got what it takes, and I, like so many others, will forever root for (a.k.a. stan) this super-humble, super-talented superwoman.

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Karrueche wears dress by Kelsey Randall, earrings from Century Girl Vintage

You’ve been very open about your body image struggles, self-acceptance, and self-love. When did you become comfortable with your body?

“It took me a long time to be comfortable with who I am. Especially with my previous relationships or just with men in general, I knew what they liked and I knew that I would never be that because I’m a small, petite person. I think curvy women are beautiful, and I would love to have that, but that’s not how I was created. It took awhile for me to realize This is how you were born. This is how God made you. If you want anything close to it, then you need to work for it in a natural way. That’s why I workoutI don’t workout to stay thin. I workout to stay fit and healthy, but to also build muscle.”


So many women can relate, and I’m sure so many consider you a role model.

“That’s why I try to be very vocal. There are a lot of girls out there who are having the same problems as me. They’re always told, ‘Oh, you’re so small. You’re so tiny. You’re so cute and little.’ It’s like, Shut the fuck up. I’m 30 years old and I can pass for a 15 year old, which is a blessing because I look young, but it’s like, I’m a grown woman and I want to be treated as such. For me, and for a lot of people, having a butt and boobs signifies being a woman. It is hard, but I’ve learned to work around it and accept who I amand keep doing my squats!”


I just have to say, you’re perfect. I’m not being creepyI’m gay!



Heyyy! By the way, you and your boyfriend make such a cute couple.

“Thank you. He makes me feel very comfortable with who I am, which is great because it makes me feel more confident and reassured that he cares and loves me. It’s really great to have that support from him.”


You’ve been in the public eye for almost a decade, but 2017 was the year you had your breakout role as Virginia in TNT’s Claws. Was it difficult to make it in the acting world?

“My story is quite interesting. The way I was first introduced to the world was from my past relationship that was obviously very publicthat’s how a lot of people knew of me and recognized me. I do remember one time very early on in my career when I first started going to auditions. The casting director was like, ‘What do I know you from? Your name sounds so familiar… Oh yeah! I’ve seen you on TMZ.’ At that time, there was still so much press I was dealing with. I was like, Oh lord, I can only imagine what this woman has seen or heard about or read about me, which may or may not be true. And I was like, Fuck, that’s not the best first impressionbeing the girl on TMZ that has this relationship drama or whatever the fuck it was at the time.


“When I made the decision to be an actor, I wanted to be taken very seriously. I had a lot of opportunities to do reality television and make big money, but it just didn’t feel right. I really wanted to have some sort of longevity in a career. I didn’t wanna bullshit around just to make moneyI believe in doing things that I actually stand for.”


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Karrueche wears dress by Disney Villains x The Blonds, headpiece from Century Girl Vintage

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Karrueche wears dress by Disney Villains x The Blonds, headpiece from Century Girl Vintage

Can you tell me more about your acting journey leading up to this breakout role in Claws?

“I had a very, very small role in a horror film. I had like one line and I was very nervous, but from there, I was intrigued. I worked hard and took a lot of group classes where I could break out of my shell and not be so embarrassed around other people. With acting, you have to be vulnerable.


“Once I was in those classes, that’s when I booked Claws. In between that time, I had done a lot of different shows and low budget, independent films. But Claws was the biggest production. So I went right back into classes, because if I’m on a show with Niecy Nash, Carrie Preston, Jenn Lyon, Judy Reyes, Harold Perrineau…all of these amazing, experienced, well-known actors, I’m like, Look, I’m not gonna be looking like the new girl! [Laughs] Going into it, I made sure to study with my coach and just really focus. I’m 30; I don’t have time to fuck around and just figure things out. It’s pivotal for me to focus on something that I love and to just keep working at it and perfecting my craft.”

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You’ve been famous since your early twenties, but I’ve never seen photos of you stumbling out of the club or anything wild. How have you dealt with “the fame?”

“It’s weird, because I just see myself as being Karrueche from LA. Before I was introduced to the world in a very public way, I had jobs, I was hustling, I was figuring my life out. This journey that I’ve gone on…sometimes I think about it and I’m still mind blown. I was once working at a boutique on Robertson and now I’m on a TV show.


“But I try not to think about it too much and let it consume my mind. I never want to change who I am because I’m famous now. I don’t believe in that; I believe in being true to who I am and adjusting to this new life, but still being humble and genuine. I’m lucky to have a great family and I still have friends that I’ve known since middle school and high school. It’s a blessing. My friends and my family are my foundation.”


Let’s talk about fashion. You pumped down the catwalk for The Blonds’ New York Fashion Week show. How was that experience?

“It was a lot of fun. I was so nervous. I’ve always been intrigued by runway models because they’re just beautiful, tall, lean, confident, and strong, and I never thought I could ever model because they’re at least 5’9”. I’m 5’1”! I was like, Oh my God, I feel like a little shrimp right now! But it was a great experience; I had fun. I don’t know if I’d do it again because I was just so nervous and in my own head, but it was a great time and I love David and Phillipe [Blond]. I appreciate them having me be a part of their show.”


Well, Lil’ Kim has to be shorter than you, and she strutted down the runway and shut it down!

“Oh. My. God. Yeah, she was so dope and her energy! She came out and I was like, Oh shit!


Now for some random questions. If you could spend a few months anywhere in the world, where would it be?

“If I could spend a few months in New York and work during the summertime, I would love that. For a year, I would love to live in Jamaica or Turks and Caicos or Belize. Somewhere very tropical. This is my retirement goal.”

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Karrueche wears dress by The Blonds, earrings from Century Girl Vintage


That should have been the question! Where do you see yourself when you retire?

“Living somewhere very tropical, owning a jerk chicken shack where I’m cooking the food myself. And I’m super tan, smoking weed, and in a great mood. I’ve been to all these places and I was like, I see myself here. Everyone is so nice and the energy is so good. I could live there forever and be content.”


If you could wear only one designer for the rest of your life, who would you want it to be?

“Oh, shit…I would probably say anything that Virgil [Abloh] makes. He is so talented and he is dominating the world right now. Killing it. I would wear anything that man put on me.”


And if you could raid anyone’s closet and steal their shit, whose would it be?

“Do you know who Aleali May is? She can pull anything off and she’s just really dope. I would love to be able to wear all her clothes. And she’s also from LA!”


How would you describe your personal style in a few words?

“Crazy, sexy, cool petite panache.”


And sorry, the question that everyone asks: Where do you wanna be in five years?

“In five years, I want to be on the beach. No, I’m just kidding! In five years…it’s kind of around the corner. Time flies.”


It sure as shit does.

“I would love to be continuing on this path of growth and success and self-love. Just taking care of myself. I’d also love to be in a couple of huge box office movies.”


I can totally see you playing a superhero.

“Oh my gosh! I don’t know what it freaking is, but you might be the 20th person that has said that recently. I would love to as well. That is the fucking dream role. I’m knocking on some wood right now that hopefully that comes true one day.”

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Karrueche wears dress by The Dolls House, headpiece from Century Girl Vintage, shoes by Manolo Blahnik

I can see it now. The new Storm and/or the new Catwoman…

“Oh, fuck yeah! Hopefully in a few years! [Laughs]”


Is there any actor you would die to work with?

“Halle Berry!”


Who has played both Catwoman and Storm…!

“Mm-hmm! That’s why I laughed when you said that. I see so much of my character Virginia with her character from the movie B*A*P*S.”


Speaking of Virginia, how did you prepare to play her? Where did you find your inspiration to bring her to life?

“Well, because Virginia came from the strip club, before we started shooting, I stayed in Atlanta for a week. They’re huge on their strip clubs! I went to the strip club daytime and nighttime and studied the girls, their movements, the way they looked at other strippers, the way they looked at customers, and the men that were there. I was trying to envision myself as one of them, which I think helped a lot for figuring out Virginia’s mindset.”


Virginia’s been through a lot, and the show doesn’t shy away from it, like when she chooses to have an abortion and must confront the pro-life protesters.

“A lot of shows would shy away from it or are too afraid to acknowledge that topic because it might be sensitive. But we’re bringing light to reality and to things a lot of women go through. It’s very empowering for us to relay a storyline that’s not always talked about that people can relate to and connect with. That’s why I love this show.”

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