Pandora Sykes, Writer


It's British Week right now on ITG. Why? Well, why not! But also to celebrate the UK launch of Glossier. Consider this a warm, editorial welcome to all our new friends over in Blighty. Starting with Victoria Beckham, we'll be sharing stories from our favorite Brits—plus a few discoveries we've made ourselves. Stay tuned... Cheerio!

"I was born and raised in Essex, in the countryside. From 11 to 18, I went to an all-girls boarding school. We had lots of time on our hands, so we would fake tan, do our hair, and pluck our eyebrows. It was the early '00’s, during that Paris Hilton fashion period. Then I went to university in Leeds, which is in the north of England, and then I moved here [to London] when I was 22. I knew I wanted to go into journalism, and it’s quite hard to do if you’re not based in London. There isn’t really a publishing industry outside of London unless you want to work at a newspaper. My mom calls me a pavement pounder—she thinks I’m happiest in a city. I love living around here because I’m right by Portobello Road and I love the vintage shopping there. If you walk down Portobello, there’s a place named Golbourne Road which has the most delicious delis, cafes and antique shopping. All the interior designers go there. It’s just brilliant—I love it. It’s the closest you can get to East London while still being in West London, if that makes sense.

When I was small, my mum used to take me to the library and I would take out the maximum number of books per week, which was about 14, and I would read them all. I wanted to write stories, so I used to write short stories. I realized I wasn’t very good at sustaining a fictional narrative, so I figured I would write about myself and what I see. I always knew what I wanted to do, but I didn’t study journalism in university. I believe you can learn journalism on the job, which is why I didn’t do it for a degree. I studied English and worked for my student paper. When I moved to London, I started a blog in 2009. All I remember was my page was black with hot pink writing. It was so visually offensive and there was no fashion on it, it was just social commentary. Today, blogs are aspirational, but back then it was like having a scrapbook. I wrote it because I needed somewhere to keep writing and I was also so desperate to do journalism. I hoped that if I applied to internships and had this blog that someone might read it. It was good practice.

I'd always wanted to be a columnist—I have a bunch of favorites. I love Emily Nussbaum and Ariel Levy from the New Yorker. I love Hadley Freeman and Eva Wiseman, who work for the Guardian. Janice Turner from the Times…Who else do I love? Any long read or any columns. I love the visuals just as much as the writing. I think it’s quite hard to do both, so I would probably pick up one magazine for the visuals—like Love—but I would pick up Vanity Fair or the New Yorker for the written content.

Fashion, for me, was sort of an accident. I was the Fashion Features Editor at the Sunday Times Style magazine for about two and a half years. I had a column called 'Wardrobe Mistress' where I talked to women about what to wear. That was great, but I really wanted the opportunity to write for different publications, and I love doing interviews, so I wanted to refine my skills as an interviewer. I’m trying to find my niche—I’ve only been freelance for five months. Now I have a really nice range of stuff that I’m doing, and it’s not just fashion. I did some cover interviews with Chloë Sevigny and Olivia Palermo and I’m also a contributing editor at Man Repeller. When I left the Sunday Times, I started a podcast with my friend Dolly Alderton. We want to help get rid of the shame that comes with, say, being obsessed with Kylie Jenner's nail polish, because that doesn’t negate an interest in politics.

I’m really interested in our kind of changing relationship with the sun. I’m absolutely obsessed with SPF and I remember being told that nothing above 30 works better. When I went to Ibiza, everyone was asking why I wasn’t using 50. I feel like there’s a lot of moral outrage about sunscreen and tanning. When I went see a dermatologist about a year and a half ago because of the awful breakouts I was having, she put me under the light and told me I have a lot of sun damage. She said, 'If you wore a sun hat, you wouldn’t have had freckles.' I was like, 'I’m going to be honest with you, I’m going to leave and I’m going to ignore you.' I like having freckles and I will not feel guilty about them. And I like having a tan. I love it when people look beautiful without having a tan—I’m so envious of that—but I look better with a tan. I feel better. I have no shame. I look back on the pictures from when I was 15, after going to the tanning bed, and I was actually mahogany. My mum looks great and has never worn sunscreen in her life, but when Brits go abroad, there is always a thing about us drinking too much and having sunburnt skin. In Europe, everyone tans heavily—it’s just that Brits tend to burn more. I think that it’s also because we don’t get that much sun.

That same dermatologist told me to trust all those French pharmacy brands. I wash with Avène Gentle Cleanser—my skin is noticeably better when I use Avène and La Roche-Posay, so I stick with that. In the morning, after I wash my face, I’ll put on The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% just under my eyes because I started to get really puffy eyes. I literally look like a toad these days when I wake up which is so depressing. Then I use The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% and I put the La Roche Posay Toleriane on top. I love the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser, but it’s too rich for my skin. If I have a really dry bit, I use the Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream. I don’t wear sunscreen everyday. I’ll use Hampton Sun Tanning Mist when I go on holiday or when I’m tanning, but to be honest, I’m quite a sweaty person and I don't really wear foundation either because I don’t like feeling so shiny. Discovering matte-ifier is probably the most historic relationship to date. Every time I would go to an event I would have a bar in the middle of my face. In the evening, I cleanse and take off my makeup with the same Avène cleanser. I like Bioderma Micellar Water as well—I use that for eye makeup. Calder Pharmacy in Notting Hill has Avène and Bioderma—La Roche Posay is not cheaper in Paris than it is here! I use The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid 2% and La Roche Posay Toleriane Ultra at night. I only started doing the anti-aging stuff, like retinol, when I turned 30 and I thought I needed to do something about my wrinkles. I never invested in that. I do have some lovely skincare, but that’s because brands will send me stuff. I’m not the type to go out and spend £150 on a face cream—I would rather buy a chair. I’m also obsessed with the Gradual Tan and I use that every five days at night. It evens things out and I use it as a replacement for foundation. It also never looks like a fake tan. I like the Avène Tolérance Mask and I’ve got into Bioré Pore Strips recently. My husband is more obsessed than I am. The first time we did it, it was like seeing grass—it’s disgusting...but I’m obsessed.

I kind of go through different phases with makeup. I didn’t wear mascara for about two years and I like no makeup in real life, but in pictures I look better with makeup. My favorite concealer is from Nars—the tube and the pot. I’ll put it on my spots and anywhere I have discoloration, which is usually around my nose. In the winter I use Vanilla and in the spring I use Custard. Right now I mix the two. The pot is waxier, and it’s really good for coverage if you have a really awful spot. I use the tube more like foundation. I either use Nars Orgasm for blush, or if I’m tan, I will use Nars Portofino. I also like the Charlotte Tilbury Bronzer + Blusher Stick in Ibiza. Then powder to try and de-shine. The Nars Pressed Powder in Beach is good. I don’t wear mascara everyday, but the Estée Lauder Sumptuous Mascara is really good. You get loads of coverage out of it in one swipe, and it’s not clumpy. I also like Charlotte Tilbury Full Fat Lashes. For eyebrows I will normally use Eyeko Brow Gel and the Estee Lauder Brow Pencil in Light Brunette. At night, I like using &Other Stories eyeshadow. I use the Dior Lip Glow everyday because it’s super natural. I have it in two different colors. I love the MAC Cremesheen Lipstick in Ravishing—I like pinky, coral makeup. When I’m tan I like doing a darker lip, like the Estée Lauder Pure Color Envy Sculpting Lipstick in Desirable. I’ll use pink lipstick on my cheeks and brow bones. Sometimes I’ll do a red lip—I like the MAC Lip Pencil in Redd and I also love the Nars Red Square Velvet Matte Lip Pencil.

I have a bubble bath every night and I use the Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin Bath Oil—that scent is quite iconic. My husband and I both use the Malin + Goetz Bergamot Body Wash, we love the smell. I’m obsessed with the Diamancel Diamond Tough Foot Buffer, which is quite gross, but it exfoliates your feet. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s amazing and it’s disgusting. The skin comes off in sheets. If I need to moisturize, I love Nivea for body cream. I’ll also use Weleda Skin Food even though it takes an age to sink in. For scents, I like masculine smells like Santal 33—but it’s so popular it’s kind of a joke, so I’ve moved on. I like Molecule 01—the mens' or unisex scents.

I have a complicated relationship with my hair. It’s barely even my own hair—I literally hate it. I wash it every other day. I got to Luke at Hershesons. He cuts Sienna Miller's hair so I ask him to make me look like Sienna every time I go. He’s great. My hair is naturally very curly, so I get a Brazilian Blow Dry. My hair is also highlighted. I wash it with L’Oreal Paris EverStrong because it doesn't have sulfates in it. My old beauty editor at the Sunday Times told me that it’s good. I will also sometimes use the Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Pre Shampoo Treatment. I don’t use any sea salt sprays because I don’t like when it feels sticky, but the Oribe Thickening Spray is amazing—it’s the only one I’ve ever used that I think makes a proper difference. I use the L’Oreal Elvive Extraordinary Oil to get rid of flyaways. The Shu Uemura Dry Cleaner is good, but I will also use anything other dry shampoo. I can’t give myself a blow dry, so I wear my hair up a lot. I scrape it back pretty severely and I’ll use Elnett Hair Spray when I put it in a ballerina bun. I can’t go anywhere without kirby grips and blister plasters!"

—as told to ITG

Pandora Sykes photographed by Tom Newton in London on June 20, 2017.