“I always wanted to be a writer. And for the most part, I work from home, which is nice, writing about books and culture for magazines and newspapers. Right now I’m working on a few things for T, The New York Times Style Magazine, and an article about cattle auctions for Harper’s. For that, I went to Texas to see a cattle auction and then spent the spring watching all these auction reality tv shows. None of my writing is fiction, which makes it easier. I actually have assignments, a job to do, and a deadline. I could never be a fiction writer because, not only could I never make anything up, but I also couldn’t just tell myself, ‘Oh you have three years to make up an entire universe.' I like deadlines.
That being said, I have to be sure to structure my day, which I’ve gotten pretty good at. I usually wake up around seven and read some of a book or the newspaper on the [Brooklyn Heights] Promenade a few blocks away. Then I come back and make myself breakfast, shower, and get coffee—I like to start my day with some kind of transaction, like buying coffee. And after that, I work for the day, either at home, the New York Public Library, or a nearby coffee shop.
I’m always trying to find ways to regiment myself. Like, I recently downloaded an app called Freedom, which disables your Internet for a period of time, so you can't get distracted. But, if I need to Google things for work, I like the Waste No Time browser, which you can personalize. For example, if I go on Twitter, it says: ‘Shouldn’t you be working?’
I’m used to working and being by myself, but in terms of self-presentation, I go through phases where, for example, I’ll find myself wearing soccer shorts and a t-shirt, drinking a can of soda, and writing, and it’s disgusting. After a few days of that I’ll feel bad and I’ll try to swing the pendulum the other way and I’ll get dressed and wear makeup and present myself as if I was going into an office. It’s pretty schizophrenic. I know it's the feminist line to say, ‘I wear makeup and get dressed for myself and not for men and not for other people,’ but I don’t find it to be true for me, personally. Because if I’m not going to see a person all day, I would never wear makeup and I would never get dressed—I pile my hair up, put my glasses on, and brush my teeth.
One thing I do wear at my desk are these stripper heels, which I use like house slippers. They are new and shockingly comfortable. I saw some slideshow on [NYMag's] The Cut of Helen Mirren wearing stripper shoes. She apparently swears by wearing stripper shoes on the red carpet and for events—I’m serious. So I bought them just to have them because I love Lucite—just look at my tables and chairs. I’ll just sit here and wear them as I’m writing. It’s better than being barefoot, because my feet get cold easily. And look how small this apartment is. I don’t have to walk very far to get anywhere.
When I do go out in the world, when someone’s coming over, or when I feel like I have let myself go for too many days, I have a bare-bones makeup routine. For coverage, right now I’m wearing NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer. I used to wear Tarte’s Amazonian Clay Waterproof Concealer, but it was too shiny. 'Dewy' is basically a euphemism for shiny, and I don’t want to have anything to do with it. I put it around my nose to cover redness—which might be caused by my glasses—and under my eyes. I have chronic dark circles that I’ve had since I was three; I’ve seen pictures. And then I go over the concealer with Benefit Hoola, the bronzer with no sparkle at all, to make it a little bit darker to match my skin. To contour, I put Estée Lauder blush in Hot Sienna under my cheekbones and along my jawline.
I wear mascara, but I’m not very loyal to one kind. I’m currently using Wet n’ Wild’s Megalength. It’s fine. I’ve never really been able to tell the difference between mascaras. I mean they all do the same thing, right?
When my lips are dry, I like Homeoplasmine because it’s not shiny and it’s not tacky. It has a matte, satin-y finish. I really like the way I look in lipstick, but I don’t particularly like the way it feels. So I lean toward stains. Right now I’m wearing my favorite—Revlon Just Bitten Lip Stain in Forbidden. I’m always looking for a red that's kind of brown, and this is just brown enough. I also use it underneath other colors in case they fade.
For lipsticks, I really like dark, kind of goth colors because they're objectively the most flattering on me, but I understand that they can look crazy and aren't for everyday wear. I love Chanel Vamp, but I’ve only worn it once because it’s too crazy. MAC Dark Side is purple-ish like Vamp, but a little less dramatic, and more brown. Clarins Dark Cherry is one that I feel like I can wear out into the world, since it’s lighter. And my absolute favorite of all of them is Cranberry Veil by FACE Stockholm, It’s sheer, like Clinique Black Honey, and I bought it because it reminded me of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy. Actually, a few years after I bought it, I read in a blog post—which has since been taken down—that, according to Carolyn’s friend, she actually wore Cranberry Veil. I’m not sure if it’s true, but that was so satisfying. I was beside myself. When I wear it, I feel like I’m channeling her.
In general, though, lipstick is funny to me. There’s an Andy Warhol quote where he’s talking about his Marilyn Monroe paintings, and says something about how Marilyn Monroe is not kissable but she’s photogenic. And I feel like that’s at the heart of all makeup, especially lipstick. You either admit to the world that you’re just a normal person who eats sandwiches and has a boyfriend that you’re going to kiss goodbye, or you want to pretend to be a little bit famous. It looks good from a distance but it’s not livable at all; it comes off on you and on other people. And in a close conversation with someone, there’s something almost grotesque about lipstick and face makeup, because no matter what, you can see it.
In terms of skincare, I use a Clarisonic in the shower with Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser, the one for oily skin. That’s probably not the correct cleanser for me, but I learned that the other, cloudier Cetaphil for normal skin is what they use to approximate semen in movies, so I just can’t. [Laughs] And also I exfoliate a few times a week with Kiehl’s Epidermal Re-Texturizing Micro-Dermabrasion. To moisturize at night, my favorite cream is Embryolisse Crème Anti-Âge Raffermissante, which my sister gave me in a suite of French pharmaceutical products she picked up while she was studying there last year. I like it because it smells like a clean mom, and it doesn’t have any stickiness or tackiness. And every evening I use NARS Total Replenishing Eye Cream in hopes of getting rid of under eye circles—I’m not so worried about future wrinkles—but I don’t think it does anything. Maybe it does? I’m kind of agnostic about beauty products in general; I don’t really know if anything works. But I’m charmed by faux beauty-product science, like I love those ads where a fake camera zooms into a hair follicle and engorges it. I mean, how would a lotion ever get rid of under-eye circles? But I still put it on every night.
For day, I’m really diligent about sunscreen on my face. I wear SPF 30 by La Roche-Posay and I wear a visor. See, I want my hair to get lighter from the sun, but I want to keep my face covered. And I walk everywhere, so I need major coverage. I’m actually really bad about sunscreen on my body, though. I like to tan—it’s horrible, because it makes me look healthier, but it’s not actually making me healthier. I know I’ll regret it. I’ll put on SPF 30 at the beginning of the day but I never reapply that. Later, I’ll put on Amazing Maui Babe Browning Lotion, which is an oil—not self-tanner—and it smells like a cookie. And I like Bain de Soleil Orange Gelée SPF 4 sunscreen, as well. I just love the smell so much I wish they made a perfume version of it, and the sheen is awesome. It’s like what retirees wear—I got it from my grandmother.
When it comes to my body, I just use the cheapest moisturizer I can find. I got this Global Balance Moisturizing Lotion on sale at some health food store. I always buy 'fragrance-free' because I feel like it’s just too much surface area to be washing a scent over. And it’s also too much surface area to create an expensive routine for. I use Egyptian Magic on my feet. My sister gave me that, too. She’s the person who supplies me with everything. I use it on my feet and put socks on over it. I don’t know if that works, either. [Laughs]
I can tell you that my deodorant works. It’s Kiehl’s Superbly Efficient Antiperspirant and Deodorant Cream. It fits in a bag, and it doesn’t leave a white residue. And I have the best razor—Mach 3—which I’ve been using forever. If I haven’t shaved in a few days, I’ll use it with my boyfriend’s Barbasol shaving cream.
For fragrance, I use Egyptian Musk perfume—it’s another thing that I got from that blog post about Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy. She’s basically my style icon. I think everyone choses their style crush by finding someone who is a prettier version of themselves—someone you could resemble.”
—as told to ITG
Alice Gregory photographed Emily Weiss in Brooklyn, NY on August 21, 2103.