Jill Kargman, Actress & Writer


"I’m a born and bred New Yorker. I don’t know how to drive because I never had a country house or Hamptons [house]. I’m like the true, going-down-with-the-ship New Yorker. I don’t do well in small cities. I do love to travel, but it’s even better to come back. I could kiss the tarmac at JFK.

Back when magazines were a real force, it was sort of the dream job to go work at a magazine. I still believe in print, but it’s not what it once was. I went to Yale and I got my degree in art history—it was really writing-intensive. English majors were a third of the school at the time, and I thought, ‘Everyone wants to be a writer, but they’re not all gonna be writers.’ [Art history] is a visual language–you’re basically writing what the painting is and how it makes you feel. I got my first freelance assignment from Amy Astley at Vogue. She was the beauty editor [at the time]. We met at a dinner party and talked for three hours—we really, really hit it off. There was this whole thing going on where a journalist went to Singapore and keyed a car, and he was arrested and got corporal punishment. Singapore’s inner workings got a lot of press in America, and the Vogue writer who was supposed to go to Singapore for this huge beauty issue backed out. So I said, ‘I’d go in a heartbeat, I’d go to Singapore!’ And [Amy] was like, ‘Really? Seriously?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah!’ So Condé Nast bought me a ticket and I took my 20-year-old self to Singapore and wrote this article. I faxed it to her—on a fax machine. Then I got Kinkos business cards made because I was like, ‘I am a Vogue writer. I have the right to these fucking cards!’ I used that article—literally I had one clipping—to get a job at Interview Magazine as an assistant editor.

The bridge [between magazines and TV] is books. I didn’t want to work in the fashion world anymore because I didn’t really aspire to be a lot of the women I worked for. At Harper’s Bazaar, people were either married to work or just passing through. I didn’t want either. I wound up quitting and wrote a screenplay called Summer Intern with Carrie Doyle, who [I worked with] at Harper’s. It went to Sundance and that got us our agent. Our agent said, ‘OK, what’s next?’ We wrote a script called The Right Address about a building on Park Avenue and the different tenants in it—we wanted it to feel like female Woody Allen. We sent it to her and two days later she called and said, ‘Well, I laughed my ass off, but it’s just too esoteric—it’s so New York gilded cage and I don’t know if Betty Bowling Alley in Duluth will relate.’ Her words, not mine. I said, 'That’s bullshit, because look at Nanny Diaries and Sex and the City.’ And she said, ‘Well, those were novels.’ So we took our screenplay and novelized it–usually it’s the opposite process–and then that sold to Random House.

As a kid [living through] the all-American Christie Brinkley thing, I felt like the blonde and blue-eyed look was the 'best' and most beautiful. I looked at fashion magazines and it didn’t feel like I could even aspire to that look, because it was so not me. I went to a lot of fashion shows because my dad worked at Chanel for 25 years. I was definitely in a world in New York, and then in this job, where I was exposed to images of perfection a lot. I tried to be my best self and not morph. Changing and plastic surgery were like the Instagram filter of life—thank God we didn’t have social media then, because I think it’s harder to be a teen now. My ideal beauty was my mom, because she totally leaned into her look and she showed me that not being a blonde was really not something to worry about. She’s very French and effortless. My mom does not go to Food Emporium without being fully decked out.

For my 40th birthday, my friend gave me a gift certificate to Georgia Louise. She said, ‘She’s so amazing. She does Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista, and all these people.’ I was like, ‘I’m not them, but I wouldn’t mind being them.’ I wound up going, and [Georgia] said, ‘If you want to keep coming to me, you have to do this regimen.’ I learned so much in that facial, and I haven’t missed a month since—it’s been four years almost. She helped me get rid of all my age spots–they’re pretty much gone. She brings me all this shit from Korea, like a drug mule, and I can’t even read the labels because I don’t speak Korean. I use the Georgia Louise Cleanser, and twice a week I do her mask peel-y thing. I leave it on for 10-12 minutes while I’m getting the kids ready and then I wash it off in the shower. Then I go straight to serums. I have a whole bunch of serums that I layer and I just do a mix of whatever I’m feeling that day. I like the Medik8 CE Thione. It stings if I’ve done the peel, but I kind of like the sting—not that I’m a sadist, but I feel like it gets in there deeper. It actually says in the directions not to do it after a peel, but I do it, because I like to live on the edge. I also use the Georgia Louise Vitamin A Complex which is good for brightening. Her stuff’s really vitamin-rich. Then I use La Mer Cream that I got as a present, and I’m just nursing it ever so slowly because I don’t know if I can spend six-hundo on face cream. I’m really oily, like, BP could drill on my face, but I do have dry zones and I get really dry in the winter. [The La Mer] works–it evens me out–but I don’t use it on my t-zone. Sometimes, if I have time, I’ll use the Nuface Trinity. I call it the monkey balls. It really lifts your face. I also have this LED mask that stimulates collagen. Now that I’m going through menopause, it’s like Mount Vesuvius on my forehead, and it’s gone after I use [the mask]. It just zaps it.

I went to my dermatologist once and I was like, ‘Hi, I want some Botox.’ And he said, ‘I don’t do Botox, I think that’s disgusting—you need a scumbag dermatologist, I’m a medical professional.’ I was like, ‘Alright…’ so I went to a ‘scumbag dermatologist’ who was not a scumbag at all, and she gave me my Botox. While I was there I was like, ‘By the way, this mole keeps bleeding, and my other doctor said it was fine, but it’s annoying me.’ And she was like, ‘That’s weird. Did you tell him it was bleeding?’ And I had, but he said I was being hysterical, which is a super sexist word. I don’t think he would have said that to a male patient. She took it off, and it was melanoma. It had spread into my groin area. I was at Sloane Kettering a week later—it was a shit show. I was like, ‘What if I hadn’t gotten Botox?’ She said, ‘You would’ve been dead in four years.’ It spreads very quickly, and it’s very rare—it’s the kind Bob Marley died from—and it likes to travel. I would’ve been fucked if I wasn’t so vain! I never go in the sun—I actually really don’t believe in sunblock. I wore sunblock my whole life and got melanoma. I think the only sunblock that works is a building. I think [sunscreen] has too many chemicals, and putting it on and washing it off is too much for you. If you like to go in the ocean and play with your kids—which I don’t, I sit under an umbrella and am like, ‘Go! Play around!’—then you should wear sunblock. It’s not worth the risk for me.

I do the same look every single day—I never, never mix it up. I know myself so well at 43 that I know what my comfort zone is and what makes me feel like me. I wear black and white every day, it’s a like a uniform. I have one red dress I pull out for Valentine’s Day, or the holidays. Even if I wear no makeup, I’ll throw on a red lipstick. I love red lipstick. It’s in all my bags and I have a bunch flying around. I’ve found that part of aging is that your lipstick feathers by the end of the night. This Armani lip thing has totally halted that. It looks like a lip conditioner but you put it not just on your lips but also on the skin around your mouth, and it halts the spread of the lipstick. It’s really changed my life. I have like six Nars pencils in each handbag. My favorite is Palais Royal. I only use the Armani thing if I’m getting ready, and I have to make it last through an evening event. If I really want to go for it, I have the MAC Cremesheen and I like Dare You which is a cream, blue-toned red. I also wear Ultraberry [Ed note: discontinued] from Chanel. My sister-in-law, Drew Barrymore, started Flower Beauty, which is in Ulta now, and they have really good colors. I use Red My Lips. I use Armani foundation and I use the Hourglass Luminous Light if I’m going to be on a morning show because it’s heavier coverage. For powder, I use MAC Prep and Prime, and then this Make Up For Ever one.

I don’t mind a full brow on other people, but on me, when they’ve tried to really fill it in and give me that presence, I feel like two caterpillars crawled onto my face and croaked. I just tweeze my brows—no pencil. I go to the same woman who does my falsies lashes and tweezes, every three weeks. I get my lashes done at Beautiful Soul in NoMad by Soul Lee because I can’t wear mascara. I smear it all over my face and end up looking like Heath Ledger’s the Joker, even when they say it doesn’t budge. If I have an event to go to, I’ll just dip a brush in one of these MAC things, this one is Gilt by Association and the silver one is Cinderella [Ed note: discontinued]. They’re amazing, but they’re [old]. I just put a little metallic black on the lid and pat it on. If I’m going to anything with photographers, I use Glam Squad. I’m very fast because I don’t want anything on my cheeks, or brows. Bronzer has never touched my face. They’re done with me quickly.

I alternate between Philip Kingsley and Frederic Fekkai shampoo. I wash my hair every other day. Then I use the Fekkai conditioner, Pure Volume. I blow dry it straight, or on the day-to-day as soon as I get out of the shower I brush it and put it in a low ponytail. It dries straight on top, and then the bottom has a little wave. If I’m going out, sometimes I’ll do it straight, but sometimes my daughter Sadie tries to get me to step out of my comfort zone and do an old-school Hollywood wave which I’ve gotten into for once in a while. Naturally my hair is a really mousy brown but I’ve been dying it since I was 22. And I have grays, so I dye it every four weeks. Marie at Frederic Fekkai does it—she’s awesome, and fast. Another Marie cuts my hair, but she comes over. She is the head of the hair department at Jimmy Fallon, and she trimmed my hair on the fly right before I was going on the air. I was like, ‘I love you, I worship you, I need to work with you.’ I’ve been going to the same manicurist for years—also at Fekkai—and I get Shellac. I alternate between a tomato-y red, this red, a vampire red, and black. It lasts for two weeks, and it doesn’t fry my nails. When I did gel, they were like paper. I’ll never do that again.

I wear Jo Malone Red Roses most days, and Chanel No. 5. My mom wears this, so it smells like my mom, and it was the first perfume I ever had. The Jo Malone I smelled on someone on the subway, and I was like, ‘What the fuck is that intoxicating scent?’ And she told me Jo Malone Red Roses. I went and bought it like a single white female stalker, and now people stop me on the subway at least once a week asking me what my intoxicating fragrance is! As the Glossier pop-up said, ‘The missing ingredient is You.’ I think my body chemistry doesn’t work with a lot of the famous fragrances, because when I’m at a friend’s house and I’m like, ‘Oh, I have B.O., I’m gonna use some of your perfume,’ it never smells good on me.

There’s this Chinese place on the corner and I pay $50 for an hour and they walk on me. I go as needed. Harry and I do the IV Doc where they come [to our house] and drip you with water and nutrients, like B12. We do that twice a year, and weirdly, the side effect is that your skin is luminous after. I think you pee out most of your water and this hydrates you in a different way. I never tell anyone when I’ve done it, and people are like, ‘What the hell is going on with your skin?’ It really works. I’m trying to be particular about what I eat, but I haven’t been. We just went to Nashville, and I had fried artichokes and fried chicken, and I had to pay for it. I used to eat whatever I want, but now I try to not eat fried food. I still eat pizza twice a week, but I used to have it five days a week. I go to SoulCycle twice a week, and I walk around. New York is my treadmill."

—as told to ITG

Jill Kargman photographed in New York City by Tom Newton on February 28, 2018.