“I came to New York six years ago from Poland to study film, media, and political science at Hunter College and to learn English. I was working at Cafe Gitane to pay my tuition and my bills, as a waitress at first, then I became a floor manager, and then the general manager. It felt like home there—it was such a neighborhood place. I made all of my friends and met my boyfriend, Albert [Hammond, Jr.], there.
Now I work in operations at Juice Press. A while ago, I did a 10-day cleanse and felt so great...although I’ll admit I was a bitch to everyone for those 10 days. [Laughs] But after that, I stopped eating meat—only fish—and it became hard for me to eat at Gitane, so I would go get a chia pudding or a juice every day at Juice Press down the street. Their owner eventually asked me if I wanted to be the area manager, which meant being in charge of stores and helping develop everything. They've been growing really fast, so it was an exciting opportunity.
Juice changed my life. You don’t worry about calories and you have so much more energy. The cold-pressed kind is the best because it has the most vitamins and enzymes. I balance my diet with juice and solid food. Albert and I buy a week’s worth of food from local farmers to cook at home. I quit eating cheese, and then I stopped eating these bagels that I was addicted to from Olive’s. Your body just gets used to it, and eventually you stop craving it. Sometimes it’s hard for me to drink juice, but I just plug my nose and chug it. It clears you up, and the next day you won’t feel sick or bloated. It’s amazing. And when I do eat things that aren’t great for me, like bread, I get breakouts. I also don’t feel very good. The other day I ate Lay’s chips and I was like, ‘Oh man! These taste so good!’ But after, I felt so sick. I’ve learned my lesson for a little bit. [Laughs].
When it comes to beauty, I’m really curious. I get to talk to so many people in a day, and I’m always asking everyone at the store, or back at Gitane, what they use—that’s how I’ve found everything I use. I only wear a few products, so I want them to be great. In my everyday life, I prefer to look like I’m not wearing any makeup. I basically just use a little bronzer, some concealer if I need it, and maybe a tinted balm on my lips. I like Nars Bronzer in Laguna because it looks natural, but I don’t need it in the summer. Under my eyes, I use Stila Perfecting Concealer, which I tell everyone about. It has a good consistency, it’s easy to apply and blend, it’s not too sticky or oily, and it really covers blemishes and the dark circles under my eyes. It’s truly great.
On my lips, I love Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment in Passion to give them a little tint and sun protection—it has SPF. If I decide to put lipstick on, it’s most likely going to be Nars Vesuvio. But I like to mix it with something else to moisturize my lips because it can be drying. But the color suits me—it’s not too orange or too pink; it’s right there in the middle. And I think it brings out my eyes.
For my skin, I use a lot of Mario Badescu. Someone told me to go to their spa, and, since I’ve been using their products, my skin has felt amazing. Albert and I both wash our faces with Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel because it isn’t soapy, and it’s easy to wash off. The Cucumber Cleansing Lotion is basically a toner; it's so good, you don’t even really have to moisturize after you use it. But for moisturizer, I like the Mario Badescu Oil-Free Moisturizer with SPF 17. And, for a refresher during the day, I spray the Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs, and Rosewater. I keep it in the fridge so it’s extra refreshing.
My skin is pretty normal, but I get zits here and there. The Mario Badescu Drying Lotion is amazing for when I have some kind of blemish—the zits will be dried up and gone the next day. And their Healing & Soothing Mask is great for breakouts. I also love the Flower & Tonic Mask because it makes my skin so soft, and whenever I use it, Albert tells me, ‘You look so radiant.’ He influences a lot of what I use. [Laughs]
We also share shampoo, the Wen Cleansing Conditioner, which I tried by accident and thought, ‘This is so great.’ It’s all-natural, and makes your hair really shiny and so soft that you don’t need conditioner—it’s all-in-one. You just put it on for five minutes and wait—I use that time to brush my teeth. I have thin hair that gets tangled very easily, but the Wen makes it so much easier to comb through.
It takes me no time to style my hair; I wake up 10 minutes before I have to leave the house. [Laughs] I don’t dry it, so I usually leave the house with it wet. If I want beachy texture, I’ll use a little Evo Salty Dog Cocktail Beach Spray. And in the summertime, when I know I’ll be outside, I spray in Sun-In for extra highlights—sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m not really sure what’s natural—just from my hair being in the sun—and what’s from the Sun-In. I also like Bumble and bumble Styling Lotion, because you can use a little bit and still have your hair looking natural.
In the shower, Flying Fox from Lush is my favorite body wash. And the best exfoliator I have ever used is Fresh Brown Sugar Body Polish. The oil in it really absorbs into your skin and leaves it feeling so soft.
I’m also really big on steams. I did one yesterday. I was looking at products at Whole Foods and a lady told me to try Dr. Singha’s Mustard Bath Salts because they’re good for your bones, joints, and muscles. They really relax me. Sometimes we’ll go to the Russian Baths on 10th street and spend, like, three hours there. We'll take vitamin B3 and Niacin, which is a mood elevator, to increase blood flow—you'll feel warm from your head to your toes. When you take it in higher doses, it pushes out toxins and makes you sweat. You have to drink a lot of water, but everything comes out in a long steam.
I just changed my perfume for the first time since I was 15. I used to wear Eternity by Calvin Klein, which I stole it from my aunt. Everyone wore it back then; I loved it. People would always tell me my perfume reminded them of something, because they probably used to wear it, too. But, recently, I just wanted something different, so I’ve been trying Diptyque Eau Rose.”
—as told to ITG
Justyna Sroka photographed by Emily Weiss in New York on October 10, 2013.