EXCLUSIVE: Rebecca Romijn Thinks Jerry O'Connell Should Host 'Live!', Disses Kendall Jenner & Gigi Hadid as 'Social Media' Models

by James Patrick Herman 1:25 PM PDT, April 26, 2016
Photo: Getty Images

Rebecca Romijn, who is perhaps best known on screen as the shape-shifting mutant Mystique in the X-Men franchise, has transformed herself into a reality show host as well as a TV producer of GSN’s Skin Wars, the body-painting competition that proves beauty is not only skin-deep.

ET caught up with Romijn, 43, over the weekend to talk about her take on Jennifer Lawrence’s interpretation of her beloved comic-book character, her husband possibly co-hosting Live!, role models on magazine covers (she loves Sports Illustrated but don’t even get her started on Vogue), Gigi Hadid and Kendall's Jenner's modeling careers and her unlikely lifelong style inspiration: Prince.

ET: What are some surprises we can expect from season three of Skin Wars, which premiered last week?

Rebecca Romijn: The show is about transformation and our producers are great at coming up with amazingly creative challenges. My two favorite this season? One is an underwater challenge. I didn’t even think that could be a thing. It required a lot of sealing of the paint, but it turned out so beautiful. My other favorite is a breast cancer survivor challenge. We brought in young breast cancer survivors and painted them as warriors. It was such a moving experience for everyone. A lot of these women have never looked at themselves in the mirror since having mastectomies. To be painted -- and I speak from experience -- is such a metamorphosis. When you see it for the first time, it takes your breath away. And watching these breast cancer survivors look at their reflections for the first time once they were painted as these beautiful warriors? There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

How long did you spend in the makeup chair to play the blue mutant Mystique in the X-Men movies?

The first time they did my makeup test for Mystique it was 12 hours. We eventually got it down to nine for the second movie [X2: X-Men United]. For the third one [X-Men: The Last Stand], we got it down to seven. But still, to be on set by 9 a.m.? My call time to get to work was midnight. 

Your personal history of body painting extends to magazines in addition to movies, correct?

I was the first model ever painted for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. They always have a section of painted swimsuits [on models] and the first year they did it was the year that I was on the cover. That was not even my whole body -- the painting was a swimsuit with a shirt tied over it. And that was a 13-hour paint job. 

Speaking of Sports Illustrated, Cheryl Tiegs criticized the magazine for putting a plus-size model on the cover of their most recent swimsuit issue. Do you have a different opinion?

Absolutely! Ashley Graham is one of the most beautiful women I have ever laid eyes on. She is incredibly healthy and I think it’s fantastic that SI is opening up our standards of beauty to include somebody that a lot more people in our country can relate to. Women don’t get sexier than Ashley Graham -- she is just as hot as can be.

As a former fashion model, what are your thoughts on the new generation of models such as Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, who are more famous for their social media presence than their runway experience?

No one has proven yet that numbers of followers translates to revenue. So it is frustrating. I know a lot of people -- legitimate fashion people -- can’t stand it. Hate it that these, you know, social media stars are now the supermodels in fashion. They are not true supermodels. And the thing is, I have always looked to Vogue magazine to lead the way, not be a follower. I rely on Vogue to set the standard, not follow what everybody else is doing. So I have been disappointed that fashion magazines have been supporting this trend of social media stars to set our style standards. But it will change; fashion always does. 

Photo: Getty Images

Your costar from the first three X-Men movies, Famke Janssen, has criticized the apparent “sexism” of the recent time-tripping films in which older versions of the same female character have not been brought back, unlike the older male characters.

I am glad that she said it and put it out there. 

Do you agree that this is yet another example of sexism -- and ageism -- in Hollywood?

I haven’t thought about it much because they signed us to these movies three at a time, so my contract was for the first three. It’s a contractual thing. I don’t have an opinion on whether or not there is some kind of double standard going with regard to bringing back the older men [Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen] but not the older women. I’d be happy to go back and reprise that role sometime but maybe they have moved on. Maybe they just want to keep going younger. People tweet at me all the time: “Would you ever go back and play Mystique again?” Um, do people realize that it’s not my choice? [Laughs] Have I been asked? No, I have not been asked.

How do you feel about Jennifer Lawrence’s interpretation of the character that you created?

Jennifer Lawrence is doing a fantastic job. I could not think of a cooler girl to share that role with. It’s not like I take issue with who has taken over the role of Mystique. She is a solid actress and she’s got an Oscar, so she is doing something right. 

Photo: Getty Images

Is there any truth to the rumor that your husband, Jerry O’Connell, is being considered as Michael Strahan’s replacement on Live?

I have no idea. The news is so new that it just blindsided all of us. He was in the rotation before Strahan was hired -- it was down to just a handful of people and he was definitely in the running then. 

How do you think Jerry would do as Kelly Ripa’s new cohost?

I think he’d be great. I love watching him and Kelly together. He and Kelly are awesome [together]. He was born and raised in New York City, which I think is really important for whoever fills that seat. That’s why people loved Regis Philbin so much -- he was a native New Yorker. It is such a New York show, even though it’s national. Jerry is a wholesome married man with children, and people can relate to that when they watch a morning program.

Would you two ever do a reality show together?

No, we would never. [Laughs] Just doing Skin Wars -- you know, hosting a reality competition series was not something that I was seeking out by any means. I am used to working in scripted [television]. But when this came my way, it seemed interesting. I love watching reality shows. I always get invested on my own sofa, so I thought: Well, if I have a front row seat to a reality competition show with subject matter that I feel close to, I wonder if I will be just as invested? And I am. I feel for these painters and get very involved. I am just a host, not a judge, but of course I’ve got my own opinions -- which I can’t always keep to myself. And it’s really fun. So that is the closest to a reality show I would ever get. Jerry and I would never put our private life out there like that.

Photo: Getty Images

I can’t help but wonder how Jerry feels about makeup, since he has appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Would he ever do drag?

He has never done drag-drag, but he did something with America Ferrera a few years ago. It was some sort of Broadway Cares charity event night where a number of performers were putting on acts to raise money. America and Jerry and two other guys -- the three guys were her backup dancers, and they were all in drag. That is the closest Jerry has come to actually doing drag. But yeah, I think he is open to the idea of being painted. 

Long before Jeffrey Tambor won awards for Transparent, you played a transgender character on Ugly Betty.

I loved playing Alexis Meade. And I was so proud to play her. You asked me if Jerry would ever do drag. There was one episode where Alexis got amnesia and had forgotten that she had undergone the gender change operation. So she couldn’t stop playing with her boobs. But she couldn’t remember how to dress herself or put on makeup or walk in high heels. I needed to know what a man who has never worn heels looked like trying to walk around the room. So I made Jerry wear my shoes for an hour. Oh, God. It was so funny! We are having an Ugly Betty reunion at the ATX Television Festival in Austin this June -- the whole cast is showing up for it. I am really excited to see everyone.

Your résumé includes singing as well as acting and modeling. In fact, you once performed a cover of Prince’s “Darling Nikki” for the 2005 album, Electro Goth Tribute to Prince. How are you coping with his death?

I am devastated and I haven’t stopped crying. My very first concert was Purple Rain when I was 13. I have had the honor of seeing Prince perform at least 20 times. I feel like everything I know -- everything I have learned -- about style, sex appeal, attitude and generosity in performance comes from him. I can’t even believe it. I am having a hard time wrapping my head around it still. I think we all are. My daughters [twins Dolly and Charlie] are already very familiar with Prince. My girls and I have been blasting Prince since we heard the news, which is what I think he would have wanted: for us all to have a party rather than to go into grief.

Finally, as the host of Skin Wars, I need to know: what is your favorite skincare product?

Oxygen Plasma from a company called KNUTEK. It’s oxygen-infused and I put it on my face all the time. It is a miracle worker.

Skin Wars airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET only on GSN. Watch an exclusive clip from episode two of the competition:

(Originally published Tuesday, April 26 at 6:15 a.m. PT)