"I’m the Senior Fashion Writer at Vogue.com now but the road to this point in my career has been really topsy-turvy and interesting. I came out of school with a Gender Studies degree, and I wanted to write and do something with fashion, but I didn’t know how to do both at the same time. I ended up working PR for a little before discovering that I didn’t really like PR. So I fumbled around for a few years and I did retail before I went back to grad school for African American Studies. That was where I really started thinking about writing seriously. That’s when my professor took me aside and was like 'You should be a cultural critic, that’s what you should be doing.' After I graduated, I worked in ecommerce for Net-a-Porter, then Moda Operandi, then Saks.com while I started freelancing. For one story, I interviewed Solange, which propelled me to start working at Saint Heron as Arts and Culture Editor there for a spell and then I left and I freelanced for like a year and then I wound up first at Fusion and then at Vogue, like six months later. That’s the whole stint of it!
One of the coolest things I’ve ever done is go to Nigeria for Lagos Fashion and Design Week. It’s so important to get out from behind your computer and we saw it as a good opportunity to broaden the Vogue.com reader’s horizon and introduce them to something new. Then I did this story with Gucci Mane where he reviewed the Gucci show for the site. For me, it’s interesting to create diverse stories about people, women of color, and also rappers! [Laughs] The whole gambit! I like niche people, the unusual suspect. Find the person who is under the radar, who doesn’t get the press, who doesn’t get as much shine, but is so cool at doing their own thing. You don’t have to just stick on the conversation on one person, one thing, one note. That’s not interesting, that doesn’t move the conversation along.
My main focus in beauty has always been my hair. It’s where I put in the time, I put in the money, I put in the research…let’s start at the beginning. My dad has a very interesting philosophy that he then prescribed to me and my mom when I was growing up. He didn’t want me to get a perm because he would hear people talking about how so many black women were suffering from scalp issues after the chemicals. So I always was natural, but I would constantly straighten it. That meant I didn’t know what my curl pattern was because it was just blown out. It wasn’t until college that I wore it natural and really saw it doing its thing. My natural hair pattern is curly, and pretty tight—like 4A.
Now I’m a hair chameleon—I think that I’ve gone through every single hairstyle. But always with the same hairstylist! I’ve been seeing Leona Wilson for eight years and she’s taken me from a little curly afro to the angular Rihanna bob… I had a pixie cut, then I colored it, and then I got into wigs and weaves. What I’m wearing now is a weave that’s sewn on to my head. It’s human hair and that’s the thing—if you want to do a weave, you have to do it right. And it’s a lot of money to buy the hair and get it installed. This will last me around two or three months and it dries wavy. I also have a wig that I originally got for the Met Ball. Wig guru Lacy Redway created it for me—she did Amandla Stenberg’s hair for the Marc Jacobs show and I loved it, so after that I was like who is this girl? What is she doing? I followed her on Instagram and we started working together. After the event, Lacy showed me how to texturize the hair, how to rick rack the hair, how to maintain it… I keep it on a form in my closet.
Obviously culture has given a stigma to weaves and wigs… I’ve thought about this a lot and I think it’s a way to shame women and deny a person beauty by saying that’s not actually your hair, you don’t actually look like that, and your beauty itself is a lie. It’s also something that’s stratified on racial lines because white women wear weaves and wigs on TV all the time. Black hair is fraught with discussion about acceptability and whether you can go and be a corporate lawyer and have an afro or dreads. Sometimes it feels like you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. For me, I just want to try everything. I see it as another way I get to express my identity and style. I think my natural curls are great, I just also like to play with it.
My routine right now is simple. I wake up in the morning and I use Mizani Miracle Milk and combine it with water in a spray bottle. There’s also the R+Co Twister Curl Primer that is what it sounds like. Vernon François is a really great hairstylist and he just came out with a line—I use his Moisture Spray for that oomph right before I leave the house. That one was really good on my natural curls over the summer, too. Recently I ran out of the Moroccanoil Dry Scalp Treatment, which is so important because you really should be keeping your scalp nourished. Other favorites are Cantu Shea Butter Moisturizing Curl Activating Cream that’s like 10 or 12 bucks. And Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie is amazing! When your curls are really parched and sad, it’s perfect to put in. Bumble and bumble Curl Style Anti-Humidity Gel-Oil is really great to put on wet hair. Don’t put a lot though because it’s a heavy duty. Then of course I love Elnett, it’s a classic. And Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk Styling Foam. If my hair is dry and it needs some help, that’s really good to help style your curls. I sleep in a silk bonnet and keep Jamaican castor oil around to manage my edges. When you have something pulling at your scalp, it’s easy to cause breakage.
I start my day off with a Dove Beauty Bar. I really believe in that. It’s the only thing that makes me think my face is clean—a bar of soap that has been around for hundreds of years. So I make sure my face is clean and then I started using this Chanel Sublimage. I like to go from a dollar soap to a $400 moisturizer. It’s a good modern balance! [Laughs] I have also started using Glossier Super Glow, so I put that on before the Sublimage. And then I take a shower because I don’t like to actually wash my face in the shower.
It’s important to maintain my skin’s health because I really love to tan, but I have to remember that people of color still need protection in the sun. La Mer Broad Spectrum SPF 50 is amazing. My friend put it on to it when I went to visit her in St. Lucia. The Caribbean sun is no joke. I also brought the Glossier Soothing Face Mist with me to Nigeria because it’s so hot there, you need to keep misting to keep your skin hydrated.
I didn’t wear makeup in my early 20s, but now I’m finally getting into it. It’s really quite simple—I put on Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer in Tan and then I do Glossier Boy Brow in Black. Mascara is Chanel Inimitable Waterproof. That’s for every day. And then you have your special occasion stuff. Diorskin Airflash is like Photoshop, and it’s really beautiful. You look Facetuned with it. With the weave, I’ll sometimes put some of that on a Q-tip or brush to make sure your skin and your scalp match. People do it with concealer but I don’t use concealer. And the Airflash is just so beautiful.
My favorite lip right this moment is MAC Satin Lipstick in Verve. Really love that. I also have the Christian Dior Art of Color lipsticks in yellow, green, and purple, so I want to try those at some point. I love a bold lip, but for nails, I like neutrals. I do get a weekly manicure and I’m just not into crazy color. There’s Chanel Le Vernis in Organdi that I’ll bring with me. It’s nice to go every week and do that—it’s a moment of reprieve from daily stress.
Even though these are empty, I do love the Helmut Lang perfume. I use way too much of it. It’s musky and that’s what I like about it. Then I just tried the Balenciaga Paris L'Essence and it’s not my typical thing, but I like it! It’s moving me out of my zone.
Staying hydrated is important so I don’t look ashy. My favorite lotion for body is Marley Natural Hemp Seep Body Salve, which is actually created by the Marley family. They have a whole line now. And then I also really like Johnson and Johnson Baby Oil right when I’m out of the shower. Recently, I was changing my niece’s diaper and I noticed her skin was so good! And then I realized it’s because she’s a baby and this oil is amazing. It’s for children, but adults should be using it. It’s really, really great."
—as told to ITG
Marjon Carlos photographed by Tom Newton at her home in New York.