'I don’t have those stories where it’s like, oh my God I’ve known since I was a kid that this was what I was going to do. It was accidental—I started writing my blog, Slutever, when I was 21, and people liked it. I had moved to London when I was 17 to go to drama school, but I dropped out after one semester. At the same time, I met all these people who were squatting in a South London abandoned mall, and they were having amazing parties and doing a lot of drugs. And I was like, wait that’s so much more fun than going to school. So I literally just abandoned school and moved into their squat and lived in a stairwell for a year. It was a genuinely weird situation. There were 15 of us and we were all living rent-free, so there would be all these drifter people and artists who never made art coming through.
So I started the blog as a written record of what was going on in the house. I never like, had a long-term goal for it. But then I started freelancing for Vice— Dazed and Purple, too—and got a little bit more of an audience writing about sex. After that, Vogue started asking me to do a few one-off pieces because they were growing their site and wanted to have thoughtful commentary about sex that didn't feel trashy. And that’s not really easy. So I did a few freelance pieces for them first and eventually it evolved into a column. I’ve been doing that for almost two years now in addition to Slutever.
My going out philosophy is about restrained YOLO—partially because going out can sometimes be a part of my job. Right when I moved back from London, I was working on a profile of a dominatrix for Vice, so I started following her around. We’d go to S&M parties and she’s like, ‘Hand me that butt plug!’ We actually became friends and would go to other sex parties that were more like swingers’ parties at hotels or at peoples’ apartments, too. There’s one that’s really famous called Chemistry that moves around—the last one was in Williamsburg, and it’s usually around a hundred people. There’s the first part of the party where you drink and you sort of like, mingle for a few hours, and then there’re allocated sex rooms and you go into those. As far as you can see, it's just mattresses on the ground. And there’s a hundred people having sex on these mattresses. It was actually amazing. The first one I went to, which I wrote about for Vogue, was in joined penthouses of this hotel. And that was more classy—I preferred that one to others I've been to. It's interesting—I was with a friend recently and we went to a party in a penthouse with close to 200 people. I was like, 'There’s so many people here!' And she just said, ‘Yeah, but I mean, if you’re in this scene for long enough you'll have fucked everyone who you’ve found attractive in this room already.’ You know?
Where I go at night depends but I like to have excuses to dress up. I genuinely believe it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. And I feel like there’s so many beautiful places in New York, and I should take advantage of them. I really love old school New York French bistros. Like, Lucien. Or Raoul’s. One of my favorite restaurants is a place called Café Loup on 13th and 6th Avenue. It’s really old and has a long literary history—a lot of my editors have taken me there. And I like places with age diversity, where you can go and be with students, or people in their 30s, or people in their 70s. And that’s not dive bars.
I go through phases with how I dress. For a while I wanted to look like a slutty first lady, and I was buying a lot of two-piece Escada power suits and pearls and heels. Then I wanted to look like an Italian movie star. I used to bring Monica Vitti’s picture to my hairdresser and be like, 'Make me look like this!' But it didn’t look that good on me. She’s like my ultimate icon still. And now I feel like I want to look sort of more ridiculous. Like, a bit of like The Nanny and a bit like Elle Woods. High/low, definitely.
When I’m getting ready, I usually listen to podcasts. I don’t like music that much—I feel like it dictates moods too heavily, and I just don’t care that much about it. Like, of course sometimes I appreciate great music, but I never know what music is good. Or what's new. I just like don’t follow it. Instead, I listen to Radiolab a lot. Or watch The Daily Show. For me it’s about knowing what’s going on in the world. But I also like Dan Savage. I put that on and in 20 minutes, I’m ready.
But I'm actually a little obsessive about my skin at this point. I'm 29 and I feel like around 30 is when some people start to look old and some stay young. I went to my 10 year high school reunion recently and some people looked exactly like they did in high school and some looked like they could be my mom. And I think that the people who look like they could be my mom tanned too much. I really avoid the sun and use Jergens Natural Glow instead. [Laughs] It stains all my clothes. But if you put it on every day, it works. My tan right now is completely fake.
A couple times a week I use the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel Original Formula and follow it with Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Collagen Boost. It’s like a vitamin C serum and I actually do think that it reduces fine lines because apparently it encourages the skin to regenerate. But it’s not a moisturizer really. It just immediately absorbs into your skin. Then I use Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion on top.
I’ve used Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse in Light 1 Porcelain Ivory for years, and I genuinely think it’s the greatest thing ever. I have dry skin, and this just feels really light on it. Whenever I get my makeup done, I feel like I’m wearing a mask, but this doesn’t feel cake-y. And I only use it under my eyes and lips. Or on my nose. I use Maybelline Full 'N Soft Washable Mascara, too, but I go back and forth on mascaras. Waterproof is bad because it rips your lashes out—that I know.
This is my thing— Wet ’n Wild lipstick costs $1.99 and it’s the greatest lipstick on Earth. I have a ton of colors. All my friends didn’t believe me and now they all thank me. Because they’re matte, they stay on forever. Sometimes if I’m wasted, I’ll pass out in them, and I’ll wake up in the morning and they’ll still be on. Also Wet ’n Wild Megaliter Liquid Eyeliner is the best liquid eyeliner ever made. It’s like, perfect brush, precise little line, it stays on forever, it only costs $2.99... And I’ve bought like, Dior, and whatever. This one’s better.
I either do a cat eye or a lip. Or some kind of sparkle. L’Oréal Infallible Eyeshadow in Silver Sky is good for that. I’ve never bought blush in my life—I think it’s stupid because you can just use lipstick. My mom used to do that, too. When I was young, my mom used to put my little brother’s markers on her lips. And it would stay! I just recently bought a Sally Hansen Eyelash Curler. I’m trying to look more '70s.
My hair is highlighted. There’s this woman, her name is Silvia Cincotta, and she’s the greatest hairdresser who works out of her house in the Lower East Side. She used to live with my friend Petra Collins, and she does a lot of people’s hair—a lot of good blondes. My color is better when it's warmer instead of ashy, so I use John Frieda Radiant Red because I think it gives a golden tone to your hair. And I use SheaMoisture Superfruit Complex 10-In 1 Renewal System Hair Masque and a ton of Moroccanoil Argan Oil. And then I use René Furterer Vegetal Styling Glossing Spray to make it shiny maybe like, twice or three times a week. Before I go out I use a lot of Klorane Extra Gentle Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk, too. So much. Really.”
—as told to ITG
Karley Sciortino photographed by Tom Newton in New York on September 2, 2015.