Karen Lord, Founder, Karen Lord Pilates Movement


"I don't consider myself a typical fitness person. I was born in Massachussetts but grew up in New York, and my exercise involved dancing on tables until 4 o'clock in the morning. [Laughs] But then I was seeing this guy, a musician, who hurt his back really badly on tour. I was like, 'Maybe you should try Pilates?' I had done it before but I didn't plan on going back. But he went to a class and dragged me with him, and I kind of fell in love with it. I saw a change in my body—I looked in the mirror and my collarbones were open. I could feel every single muscle come to life. That was awesome. And I kept going. I became addicted in the best way.

It just felt like time for a change. I found a studio I could walk to and studied for a year—training, anatomy, plus every add-on course you could take. I was doing anatomy coloring books and learning every muscle name. It was so mentally stimulating, and my body had never been stronger. After the course I said, 'I'm going to open my own studio,' and they said, 'Nobody does that right after.' And I did—two weeks later. At first it was all of my friends, but it quickly outgrew that. Now we're in the Tribeca studio, and it's a dream come true.

Everybody’s like, 'Pilates is so easy!' But there's nothing easy about what we do. For me, it’s a mind and body experience. I know people are saying that a lot nowadays, but when you feel strong, you’re almost floating—for me, it frees up a lot of mind space. It’s like a moving meditation. And it's also a pretty intense workout. It wakes up your neurotransmitters, and you elongate your spine, which leaves a lot of room for the discs in between. If you have scoliosis like I do, your discs have more room, and then all those nerves can fire better. It's magic for me.

So hell yeah, I do Pilates every day. I do a self-workout in the morning and at night. I don’t need anything, I could do it in bed. I just have a little space, and I use a mat and a couple props and weights. Then when I go to my studio, I have all that glorious space and all the machines. I’m working right now and honing in my own personal mat practice, and my clients are really loving it. It feels good.

Dry brushing is another thing I do daily—I'm in love with my dry brush, which is Japanese, and I got it from Tortoise General Store in Venice Beach. You always brush towards the heart, right before you get into the shower, and you slough off all of the junk. It's incredible for ingrown hairs, and it's good for the lymph. I also make my own body scrub out of salt and sugar and whatever oils I have on hand, but if I don't have anything, I'll just do the dry brush. After that I'll use this Strange Invisible Perfumes Body Wash, which smells like neroli, and I pat the Kahina Body Serum on all over. That has a some neroli in it, too.

My favorite thing right now is this CBD oil. It’s cannabis-derived, but you can buy it in California at the health food stores without having to go to a dispensary. It calms my nerves so much, but I mix it with my beauty oil and it’s really really good for the skin, too. My friend gave me this L-Phenylalanine—she says it’s like herbal Xanax, and it helps me sleep. I always hand them out to people. It’s nice because it can completely help you sleep, but without that hangover feeling that sometimes comes with melatonin.

I also do B12 injections at home—I get them from my doctor. But I don’t believe in just ‘taking taking taking’ supplements. I think our bodies change all the time, so I tend to just take vitamins when I need them. Especially when I'm in New York, I make sure to take liquid vitamin D—I think we're all a little vitamin D deficient. You could be in the sun all day, but it doesn't mean your body's absorbing it perfectly. It keeps me feeling well.

My diet is pretty healthy, but I’m not obsessive about it. I eat vegan and I just happen to love it. When I grew up, my parents were definitely not vegan by any stretch—although, I’m getting them into it. I just grew up in rural Massachussetts where no one was doing it, and I was this health food store nerd. That’s where I get my beauty products.

I do a facial steam with a Conair steamer, and I put something really weird in—it's called Swiss Kriss, and it's an herbal laxative. I learned about it from my rock 'n' roll days, from somebody who partied their face off and should have honest to God looked 20 years older than they were. I was like, 'What do you do?' And she was like, 'Swiss Kriss, baby.' It smells really nice, and it wakes you up and tightens the skin. I've been doing it for so long and I barely know why. It's my favorite.

Then I have these Ursa Major face wipes I use in between steams. I'm very particular about wipes, but these don't have a strong scent, and they don't leave a film. I always have a couple of those in my bag. I also love this Dr. Alkaitis Organic Purifying Facial Cleanser. All of his products are really good, but this is the best. It resets my skin. If I'm working out, I put on this Grown Alchemist Hydra Mist with Desert Lime. I mostly use oils instead of creams—I like this argan oil from Kahina Giving Beauty, which is an amazing company. When I do use creams, I like something heavy. May Lindstrom's Blue Cocoon fixes everything. I also like Egyptian Magic, which is so cute. That's more for my body when I need to hydrate all over.

But this May Lindstrom Problem Solver Mask is the star of the show. It transforms. When you mix it it's all frothy, and I love painting it on. I make everybody do it when they come over. And it doesn't dry out your skin, or make it so you can't talk—you wake up the next morning with perfect skin. It pulls everything out. If I have a little blemish, I use this Pratima Sandalwood Soothing Lotion. It's incredible for spots, and it's pretty. The Sandalwood Rose Mask is awesome, too. It calms, it's woody—I'm a Virgo and it's very grounding. [Laughs]

This Givenchy Mister Eyebrow is probably my favorite thing in the world. It's such a silly name, but whatever. I’ve gotten all my boyfriends into it—everybody will use it. If I could only have one makeup product, it would be this. It’s a nice taupe-blond, and it really seals, so I can go swimming in it, or I can work out, and it stays. Genius. My mascara is Diorshow Waterproof Blackout because I always work out, and it's awesome for Pilates. It doesn't move or irritate my eyes, and it comes off pretty easily, too.

My YSL Touche Éclat is shade 2. I just do it under my eyes and around my nose. That's for shoots or events—it's less natural looking, so I won't wear it to work out. I use something like RMS Un Cover-Up instead. I've been loving Kjaer Weis lately, especially the bronzer. It screws in and out and there's a mirror in the compact. My skin loves it, and that's good for working out, too, because it's a creamy formula. I used to use powders and my friends, who are so sweet, would just be like, 'Do you want to blend that?' [Laughs] With this, you just kind of pinch your cheeks and go.

Olaplex was just recommended to me. I do it once a week to restore [the color] and make sure it stays healthy. I also love Revive Conditioner Under Luna, which smells like a banana smoothie. I mix in a little bit of the Oribe Bright Blond, leave it in for 20 minutes, put a Muji hair towel over it, and then wash it off. That keeps the color fresh.

I go to Danielle Viscuso at Marie Robinson for my blond. She's amazing-mazing-mazing. I'm so fussy—we've gone through champagne blond, buttery blond, and dream blond, and she keeps it alive. Which is incredible, because obviously, I'm not this blond in real life. [Laughs] Jess Gillin also at Marie Robinson is the best cut. Her cuts grow out so beautifully. I could get a trim from her, and six months later, even with my dead ends, it still has a gorgeous shape. It took a long time to find them, but these are my people. I'm pretty consistent with how I wear it, too. I want to play with it, I want it blowing around, it's a fun accessory. Almost like a crown."

—as told to ITG

Karen Lord photographed by Tom Newton at her home in New York on April 6, 2017.