“When I last spoke with Into The Gloss in 2017, I was still at Vogue.com. I left later that year. I’ve often talked about this publicly, so this isn’t taboo, but I was very burnt out. It was very fast, and it was becoming very quota-driven. I didn’t have time to do meditative, long writing. I was probably the smallest I’ve ever been because I wasn’t eating or sleeping, and I was constantly on call. I didn’t really feel encouraged anymore either. As a Black woman, it was obviously very, very difficult, and I had to overcome a lot of things just to get through the day. I was broken at a certain point, so I stepped away.
I lived a cautionary tale—there was no plan when I left. A lot of young people always ask me for advice around career pivoting, and I always say to them, ‘Definitely have something lined up. It doesn’t take anything away from you if you’re more pragmatic.’ And I don’t regret any decisions I made—I don’t want to live in regret—but I do think, in hindsight, it would’ve been really good if I had had some type of parachute because I basically had to start from zero and keep building.
I pivoted to consulting. In my experience, that meant building editorial content for brands. For example, for Fashion Fair Cosmetics, I worked with Quil Lemons back in the day when he was just a young teen, and we would interview fascinating women about their beauty routines. I’d create content around that and help them with social strategy. I also did freelance writing. I did a piece on white women’s tears for The Wing in 2019. I did a cover story about Lupita Nyong’o. I did a story on the evolution of wigs for Refinery29. I got to interview Kimora Lee Simmons. They were moments that helped me feel like I was coming out of a lull after having written myself into the ground.
I started my show, Your Favorite Auntie, in 2020. It’s an advice show from someone who you actually listen to. It started out with me going Live on Instagram one Sunday. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was fumbling through the whole thing. Actually, I had always made fun of people who did Lives. I thought, ‘Who are you fucking talking to? Read a book. Take a nap. Why are you talking into your phone to people you don’t see?’ So I was a little hesitant at first, but it became this space where we could talk about whatever we wanted to talk about for however long.
The show became its own audio and visual world, and so early this year, I pitched Cash App the idea of transforming it into a podcast. We launched during New York Fashion Week in September. I started with Christopher John Rogers, and then I had Jessel Taank from ‘The Real Housewives of New York.’ As a Bravo die-hard, that was my moment. I was like, ‘I am Andy Cohen.’ Also on this season: Ira Madison, Matthew Mazur, Kyle Luu, Evan Ross Katz, and Gabriella Khalill. It gives off talk show vibes—like, am I Oprah? [Laughs] I really would love to do that one day.
I’m not at a place where I’m seeing any evidence of wrinkles, but I started getting under eye filler in the fall of 2019. Then I was looking crazy during COVID with my under eye bags, so I went back for more. I also get Botox above my eyebrows for a little lift, and I even did cheek filler recently, which I think was nice.
Dr. Chaneve Jeanniton, who I consult for, has always done my Botox and filler. She’s very balanced with the way she does these treatments—she’d rather have to add more than have to dissolve. Dr. Jeanniton actually changed the way I look at these things. Before—I’m not going to lie—I was a little judgy. I didn’t understand why people wanted these treatments. I’ve realized that was because you hear and see horror stories more than you see good work, and that’s because good work is undetectable.
During a facial with Cynthia Rivas not too long ago, I realized I have rosacea—I honestly didn’t know people of color could get it. I’ve been going to her for almost a year now, and she’s changed my skin. She got rid of my entire routine and recommended I try iS Clinical products, starting with the Cleansing Complex and the Cream Cleanser. This was a lot for me because I’m pretty lazy with skincare, but the combination is great. Once a week, I add in the Cleansing Complex Polish—it really helps get the mess of the week off my face. After that, I combine the Active Serum and the Hydra-Cool Serum and pat it on my face. Then I use the Pro-Heal Serum Advance, which is what’s directly supposed to help with rosacea by taking down any inflammation. The Moisturizing Complex that I put on after has a slick sort of texture to it. I almost don’t know how to describe it, but it smells great and it’s not super thick. I’m still a toner girl because I want to feel like something is really getting everything off my skin, so I put on Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant after my moisturizer. And at night, I add in the iS Clinical’s Youth Eye Complex to my routine.
For sunscreen, I either grab EltaMD’s UV SPF 40 or Lesse’s Every Tone SPF 30. This summer, I was down in the Cayman Islands because I consult for Palm Heights, so I was in the sun a lot. Supergoop!’s Play SPF 50 and Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 really helped down there.
I grew up in the South and I’m a Black woman, so my mother would never let me leave the house without lotion on my body—that is probably the first beauty lesson I ever learned. So with that in mind, I’m really a stickler about ‘luxury’ brands. Like, are they actually giving me the moisture that I need? I really think that the Nécessaire Body Lotion delivers. The formula is really good, and I like the way that it feels on me. In the winter though, I grab the MUTHA Body Butter because my skin tends to crack more. It really makes you shine so I also really like it if I’m going out and having a red carpet moment.
The Neutrogena Light Sesame Body Oil is a really good drugstore buy for the summer. It’s usually $15 and you can put it in your bath—I love long baths—and it makes your skin really, really soft. I love the Costa Brazil Kaya Jungle Firming Body Oil, too. I actually ran into Costa’s founder, Francisco Costa, during New York Fashion Week. I wanted to let him know he’s created an incredible line. I wear it from head to toe.
Shannon Rodriguez always does my makeup if I have a photoshoot or a big moment in my life. I met her on a photoshoot in 2022, and we really bonded. We’re both Aries. [Laughs] I’m also not a girl that’s going to do the most, and she really gets that. I send her reference photos all of the time, and she knows my comfort zone—but she’s also great when I need a push. She really had to convince me to amp up my eyelashes. She was like, ‘Let’s add some individuals. Come on,’ and I finally gave in.
My usual look is very bronze and matte. My face is oily, so if you’re going to put more glow on me, I’m just going to look like I’m sweating. [Laughs] I use a lot of Fenty Beauty because I love Riri. Her Eaze Drop Blur + Smooth Tint Stick—I use shade 17—is amazing. Using it is kind of like Photoshopping your face IRL. It really does what it says and gives you this really smooth finish. I use the Pro Filt’r Instant Retouch Concealer in 345 underneath my eyes to cover my bags and circles. I use her Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation, too, but I need to figure out my exact shade because I’ve tanned too much and don’t know it anymore. Actually, the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer in Tan is a really good go-to when I don’t know what color I’m at.
I’m obsessed with the Sun Stalk’r Instant Warmth Bronzer in Bajan Gyal and the Pro Filt’r Instant Retouch Setting Powder in Cashew. The setting powder is especially fab. I usually apply it with a brush, but if I really want it to stay, I will pat it in instead.
Fenty’s Gloss Bomb Lip Luminizer + Plumper in Fenty Glow is just amazing, both the formula and the color, but sometimes I’ll grab the Ami Colé Lip Treatment Oil in Excellence. I was surprised by the color actually. I loved it, but I didn’t realize it gives you a little tint at first. It smells good and it’s not sticky either. I also wear Pat McGrath’s Lust: Gloss in the Flesh all the time, but it’s almost $30, and I get so annoyed when I lose a bottle. Like, it’s an investment. It might be my signature ‘me’ color now that I think about it. And drag me, but I really like Rhode and Hailey Bieber. Her Peptide Lip Treatment is a very good product, and I think she’s been very smart and strategic in working with Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali, a dermatologist, and Dr. Ron Robinson, a cosmetic chemist. It’s like, thank you for not trying to make us think that you came up with these products on your own.
I get my brows done at Pinkys in the East Village—I’ve been going once a month for a couple of years. I really like a neutral look on my eyes, and the best product for a little bit of color on my lids is Bobbi Brown’s Long-Wear Cream Shadow Stick in Cinnamon. For going out-nights, I like Victoria Beckham Beauty’s Satin Kajal Liner—it’s really sexy. If I want a cat-eye, I use Stila’s All Day Liquid Eyeliner. Then I finish off my lashes with Ami Colé’s Mascara. The brush is so great because it’s thin. It feels a little idiot-proof. [Laughs] I love Saie’s Mascara 101, too. It glides on really well, but it’s never clumpy.
I’ve never had a relaxer or anything because my dad wouldn’t let me when I was younger, which was really annoying growing up, but my curl pattern has changed as I’ve grown older. Right now, it’s a 4A, maybe 4B, but honestly, it depends on the day and where it wants to be. I used to straighten it and do presses, but since college, I’ve worn it curly and have been on this path to find the right products for it.
I like to keep wash day to Sundays because that feels like the start of a new week and I have more time. I start off with the Philip Kingsley Flaky Scalp Calming Toner or Charlotte Mensah’s Manketti Oil Salt Scrub and leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes. I’m dealing with dermatitis, so my scalp will have plaque or general product buildup, and it really lifts whatever has developed there. Then I’ll use the Carol’s Daughter Wash Day Delight Water-to-Foam Shampoo. I like that the bottle has a nozzle because you can really get to your scalp. It’s really, really lightweight, and it smells like roses. I’ve started using Charlotte Mensah’s Manketti Oil Conditioner. I met the founder Charlotte, who is incredible, recently because Palm Heights carries the product. My curls have been very dry recently—it’s just a part of aging, I guess—but this has done a great job.
I do the LOC method: leave-in, oil, and curl cream. I use the Kinky-Curly Knot Today Natural Leave In Detangler first, and section my hair with four with little clips. Then I use Bread’s Hair-Oil. I love the whole line—the Hair-Mask is another favorite; it smells like cookie dough—and the products smell really good. I think that we—Black women—have complained for a long time about hair products not having the right scents or the right packaging, and Bread has done a good job of addressing those concerns. I lock everything in with the Hair-Cream or Charlotte Mensah’s Manketti Oil Pomade. It’s great because it doesn’t leave a white cast or flake off.
After the LOC method, I do a two-strand twist. You can do this one of two ways. You can blow it out, put in a lot of mousse—I like OUAI’s Air Dry Foam and Nairobi’s Wrapp-It Shine Foaming Lotion—two-strand twist it, and let it dry overnight. Or you can not blow dry your hair. I have a Conair Pro Style Bonnet Hair Dryer, so I can sit under it and watch bad TV and just start doing the two-strand twist, air dry it, and then take it down in the morning. I like to run a little Bread Hair-Oil through my hair when I take out my twists.
Shelby Samaria—who cuts my natural hair—has done some great braids for me. I don’t do weaves as much because they’re too much maintenance. The last time I got a weave was last summer, but I was at the salon every other week and I just don’t have the time. I love wigs because I can just take them off at night and let my scalp breathe. You can get a synthetic wig if you’re just doing something really funny and trying to live your life for a day and keep it moving, but if you want an actual wig, you need to invest in human hair. I go to Indique for mine. Since I don’t want anything on my scalp, I always use Göt2b’s Glued Styling Spiking Hair Glue. I think head bangers used this shit because it would help with their mohawks, and then Black women were like, ‘We’re taking it.’ It’s a very temporary hold, so you can take it off at night with just a little rubbing alcohol. For definition, I use OUAI’s Curl Crème on my wigs, too.
I have gray hair, so I go to Mick Smith for a henna-based dye. She does all of my wig installs and helps with my scalp, too. She recommended Phyto’s Botanical Scalp Treatment. It comes with a roller ball and really stimulates your scalp. Over the summer, I kept putting rosemary oil on my scalp, which was a mistake because you cannot put more oil on your scalp when you have dermatitis—it just creates more sebum. All summer, I kept wondering what was wrong with my scalp until Mick told me about Phyto. Pure squalene is really great for activated scalps, too. It’s an oil, but it’s probably the only one I can put on my scalp. I also really like Cyndia Harvey’s This Hair of Mine Scalp Serum and Biologique Recherche’s Lotion P50 Capillaire.
I love getting my nails done. I don’t like how long it takes, but we do it to feel powerful. Every other week, I go to Primp & Polish for Apres Gel-X extensions. I always do oval-shaped—never square—but for two years, I got the same brown OPI color. It became my thing no matter the season. Then I got back from a trip this summer, and I wanted to try the French mani craze. I’m doing that now, and I like it. It’s called growth. [Laughs]
I use Aroma from Costa Brazil—I bought another bottle when Amyris [Costa’s parent company] filed for bankruptcy. And I just found out about Portrait of a Lady by Frédéric Malle. It smells like a really enigmatic woman, like a woman who’s got taste.
—As told to Daise Bedolla
Photographed by Alexandra Genova in Brooklyn on September 26, 2023