When you look into Cynthia Bailey’s eyes, what you notice first isn’t how beautiful or intelligent she is (and she is); because with heart and soul, she radiates a warmth and kindness that overwhelm her two most famous characteristics. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Cynthia since she came to New York to become a fashion model—let alone a businesswoman and reality-TV star turning heads weekly on The Real Housewives of Atlanta. So she was a natural choice as our inaugural Glow Up Goddess.
Now in her seventh season with the hit show that rightfully returned her to the spotlight, Cynthia’s got a lot to celebrate: After a well-publicized divorce, she has a new home and a rumored new man in her life; and in addition to her thriving modeling empire, her name graces multiple product lines that are catching fire—literally. And recently, Cynthia reached a major milestone: turning 50 years old while looking fresher than ever.
Now, in my new role as editor of The Glow Up, I had the opportunity to catch up with my friend and fellow modeling phenom to talk about ageless beauty, second acts and how she makes 50 look so fly.
The Glow Up: Happy belated 50th!
Cynthia Bailey: I’m celebrating all year—my tagline is “50 Cynt,” and I dressed as 50 Cent for my birthday. People didn’t even recognize me.
TGU: Nobody thinks of you as a thug rapper.
CB: If you come at me too hard, I have to be able to bring out that 50 Cynt now, because this is a hard group!
TGU: That’s some tough talk. So let’s talk about your kick-ass beauty routine. At The Glow Up we say, “We gloss, we floss, we boss.” Tell us about your gloss; how do you get your glow up?
CB: People say “Black don’t crack”; I say it will take a lot longer to crack, but eventually it will crack. I do something every day to make sure that my glow up stays glowing. I get a little Botox in my forehead area and in between my eyebrows; laser facials and filler under my eyes every four months. It’s all about not overdoing it. When I’m not working, I do not wear makeup. I put on heavy moisturizer, wear my natural hair up in a bun and throw on some big Cynthia Bailey sunglasses.
TGU: When was the first moment you knew you were beautiful?
CB: The moment that I did not require validation, approval or acceptance from anyone else was when I began to feel my most beautiful.
TGU: Do you have any rules when it comes to beauty?
CB: The only rule I have is my beauty has to represent me, feel like me and look like me.
TGU: What do you wish your younger self had known about beauty?
CB: When it comes to makeup, I wish I would have known that less is more, and it’s never too early to start a good skin-care regimen.
TGU: What are your favorite new products?
CB: The older I get, the better I take care of my skin. I use an organic virgin coconut oil from head to toe—I use it in my hair, all over my body to moisturize and drink it in my tea. I use [home acid peels like] Melanopeel Indulgence Eye Crème and Melanopeel Epi Firm.
TGU: What’s your best hair hack?
CB: Step your wig game up! It’s just healthier for my hair at night; I can take my wig off and take care of my own natural hair. I can be the glam girl and then go to the gym without my lace-front wig on and be comfortable. You can do different colors, textures or styles very easily without actually damaging your own hair.
TGU: Now that you’re single and dating, what’s the most exciting part of your beauty ritual?
CB: At this point in my life, I’m excited about embracing my natural beauty. I only wear glamorous makeup when I am working, filming, at events or on the red carpet. As a single, dating woman, I think it is important for the men in my life to appreciate my natural beauty just as much as my glammed-up beauty. I personally feel more beautiful without makeup, weaves, wigs and over-the-top styling.
TGU: How does your idea of beauty mature with you?
CB: The older I get, the better I take care of my skin. Skin care becomes even more important as you age. I use anti-aging creams to help minimize dark circles, fine lines and wrinkles. I get minimal fillers and Botox two to three times a year as needed to help keep me looking younger and refreshed.
TGU: You’ve said that when modeling became limited, you had to “boss up” and make your own lane, and you’ve certainly done that. Tell us how you did it.
CB: I am a beauty and a fashion brand. At the end of the day, the only other thing I’ve ever done—other than be a (Real) Housewife—is be a fashion model since I was 18 years old. That’s where I am an expert. I paid attention to career direction, hair, makeup, photography, lighting, clothing and fashion. I had a hugely successful modeling career, but I always knew that at some point, it was going to end.
TGU: Is it a big transition to go from working for other people to becoming a CEO?
CB: It is a big transition. There was a void in the field that the Bailey Agency filled. Because of my history, people from all over the world [who want to be models] know that I’m giving them the right information on how to legitimately get into the fashion business. They know they can trust me.
TGU: Did you have any reservations that you might not be taken seriously as a businesswoman or as a CEO?
CB: In terms of fear, at this point in my life, I just have a “go for it” mentality. I don’t do risky businesses. I stay in my lane, where I know I will have success.
TGU: What about failure?
CB: You can’t be afraid to fail, because every new vision of yours is not always going to work. Every new business is like a child. If I don’t feed that child, it’s going to die. I want all my babies to flourish. It takes a business at least a couple of years to see any real profit. People fail because they take on too much.
TGU: Where do you see your businesses going ? Are you the Martha Stewart of “Lake Bailey”—as you call your home in ATL?
CB: I love that idea! I see myself as a lifestyle brand that stands for quality and affordability. I see my products living very well on home-shopping networks; that’s a very relevant audience that spends a lot of money. I love celebrating, but I’m never going to be the girl you see on Real Housewives of Atlanta just talking about excessive labels. I’m all about personal style, and how you put it all together.
TGU: But you do always look so put together, and there’s no shame in a little flossing, is there? Tell us why it’s important to give yourself permission to treat yourself.
CB: Because I am a woman first and foremost. As a businesswoman, I want to be be able to live a life of luxury. It’s not all about just work, work, work. I still want to look and feel good, and beautiful things make me feel good. You know, I don’t think any woman doesn’t want nice things. It’s a bonus.
TGU: On that note, I know you’ve got business to attend to, so I’ll let you fly ... but thanks for speaking on the next phase. As I’m starting a new phase myself, I completely identify with that.
CB: You’re doing great, Veronica.
The Real Housewives of Atlanta airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo.