“I’m from Virginia, but I’ve lived here for about 10 years, which I think makes me a formal New Yorker. I came here for college—FIT—where I studied Fine Arts with a concentration in sculpture. Now I don’t do anything remotely related to that. I write for a living, which is not something I trained to do. I would say that up until I had a real career, I have been notoriously bad at my jobs. [Laughs] I have been a shampoo boy twice, and I was terrible at that. I’ve been an ice cream sales boy, I worked at McDonald’s for a summer... Anything I’ve done just to make money, I wasn’t particularly good at. When I was in college, I got a job at Warby Parker as a seasonal associate on the retail floor at their pop-up shop. Of course I was terrible—I was always on my phone on the sales floor. But very early on, my manager needed somebody to do illustration and messaging on the chalkboard out front, and they were like, ‘Who wants to do it?’ Obviously I wanted to do it, so I did a chalkboard for them. I continued to do it any time the messaging needed to change. The creative director at the time saw the chalkboard and was like, ‘Who’s doing these?’ And when my manager told her it was me, she was just like, ‘Cool, can we meet with him?’ And that turned into what they call at Warby Parker ‘a special project.’ So I, for 20 hours a week, started doing illustration with the design team. At some point, I started doing more time with the design team than I was doing on the sales floor, so eventually a job was created around illustration. At first they were like, ‘Nobody hires an in-house illustrator,’ which is true, but it turned out that they needed an in-house one, so I did that for a couple years. Now I write full-time on their copy team.
I have been interested in beauty since early in high school. One of my closest friends in high school lived just a couple doors away from me, and I was just constantly doing her makeup and somehow convincing her to let me dye her hair. It’s something that I used as my version of sports. It was the one thing that I thought about a lot, and the one thing that I thought I was really good at. For a while I thought I would grow up and become a makeup artist. I did it for a few years, and it’s hard! It’s really hard. It involved waking up really, really early and working in really sudden spurts and then sitting around and doing nothing for extended periods of time until it was time for a touch-up. And I was bad at that—like, I was good at makeup, but I was bad at everything else like professionalism, punctuality. [Laughs] I think that all of my skill sets—whether it’s writing or art or makeup—revolve around getting someone else to feel something from something you make. I write because I enjoy reading, so I want to make other people feel the way that I feel when I read. Now that I write about beauty, I'm aware that there is a certain responsibility that comes with writing about it, because it’s like inherently political, you know? That's new for me.
My skincare routine exclusively exists at night. I don’t even put water on my face in the morning. Unless I’m shaving. I use an electric shaver, and I use it wet because I feel like it gets a closer shave. I razor-shaved for years, but I disliked how hot it made my face feel afterwards. So I recently switched to an electric razor, which I much prefer. After I shave and brush my teeth, then I will use a really light water cream. Right now I’m using the Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice—it doesn’t make me shinier than I am, but it does remove tightness. I’ve also liked Tatcha’s Water Cream and Herbivore Pink Cloud. That is literally all I do in the morning.
At night I’m constantly acid exfoliating. Texture, and improving texture without exacerbating it, is sort of a long con. It’s something that’s fairly new to me, but I have no idea how I got by without it. To think that I genuinely used to pick up any physical exfoliant and think that that felt good in any way is insane to me. I use the Grown Alchemist Enzyme Exfoliant every few days. It’s the strongest acid exfoliator that I have. On an almost daily basis, and when I’m not using the Grown Alchemist one, I use the Ole Henriksen Invigorating Night Transformation Gel. It is right down the middle—it’s stronger than a toner you put on a cotton pad, but it’s not as strong as a mask you leave on for 10 minutes. For cleanser, I bounce between this zinc soap that I use every other day and the Tom Ford cleanser. The bar of soap is very serviceable. It doesn’t dry my skin out too much, and it has emu oil. It’s super hideous. The Tom Ford one I’m pretty sure is for men, and I hate products marketed towards men. I try to limit the number of ‘man’ products I own because I feel like that sends the wrong message—I don’t know who I’m sending it to, but it’s not a message that I like.
After that I use Curology, which is something that has changed my skin entirely. It was my first story for ITG, and it’s actually made my skincare really simple, which sometimes I find to be a bad thing because I am a beauty writer and I’m constantly looking for ways to complicate my skincare routine. [Laughs] I don’t know if this counts as skincare, but Burt’s Bees Lip Balm is something that I genuinely would be lost without. I have them in each of my bags. I like the regular flavor, and I’ve ventured out into like Pumpkin Spice and Vanilla, but the menthol is key.
If I have anyone I want to impress, I’ll use makeup. The best way to fake smooth skin is, I think, a silicone-based primer. Dr. Brandt Pores No More is an oil-controlling primer that has this effect where, rather than getting oily in my t-zone, it diffuses it around my face. That’s not actually what happens, but I notice my whole face getting dewier instead of just in parts. And then I use the Tatcha Silk Canvas Primer for all the pores that weren’t successfully covered up by the previous primer. I could genuinely stop there. I actually feel like more people should try using smoothing primers on their own, because once you create a smoother surface, you don’t need much coverage.
Bronzer is something that I care a lot about. I use that big Marc Jacobs bronzer—it’s so impractically sized, and it doesn’t fit in my dopp kit. I get that it’s really glamorous when it’s left out on a vanity, but I don’t have a vanity. In the summer, I use Too Faced bronzer—they have a whole line of bronzers that smells like chocolate. I’m pretty sure they’re marketed towards people like 15 years younger than me, but the dark one is a really nice color because it pulls red. I’m a really red person in general, so sometimes if I have dermatitis, or if I have rosacea, I’ll use blush the same color as my dermatitis to even it out. It’s my way of rolling with it instead of attempting to cover it up, because that’s not a look I love. The one I use is by Tarte, and it’s called Seduce. It’s genuinely my skin color but just a touch rosier.
Hair is a big thing for me. Most of my energy goes there. My mom is Filipino-Spanish, and my dad is English-Dutch. Neither of my parents have curly hair, but I think my grandfather had curly hair or something—it clearly skipped a generation. I was blonde for most of high school and the first couple years of college. In my heart of hearts, blonde was my color. In the way that like, Jennifer Aniston is probably like, ‘I’m not a blonde but I’m just going to live my life as a blonde because I look better as one.’ Now I get my hair cut every two weeks at the Blind Barber. I save myself from having to do too much in the morning by getting it cut every two weeks into a shape that I like, which is square. I only wash it a couple times a week—I don’t use real shampoo anymore, only co-wash. Joico has one that is really great, and it dispenses like shaving cream. It’s also incredibly difficult to find, so I recently found a new one by L’Oréal. It’s fantastic, and it smells like Aveda or something.
After cleansing, I use Bumble and Bumble’s Curl Control Cream to add weight back in. I use that with a few drops of hair oil. Then I don’t touch it. No one is allowed to touch it. I always yell at [my boyfriend], because he always tries to affectionately graze my hair when it’s drying—when you have curly hair, or hair with any sort of a wave, the less you touch it, the better. In the morning it usually looks exactly the way that I want it to look, but if I do need it to be more refined, I’ll use the Sage Styling Cream from Malin + Goetz.
BODY & FRAGRANCE
My face is oily, but the rest of my body is really dry, so I use a moisturizing body wash as much as I can. Right now I’m using this Petite Marseillais one—it’s a French cream cleanser, and it’s orange blossom-scented. It’s $3 a bottle and it’s great and gigantic and does the job. I also use the serum that comes with the body toning device by NuBody because it has hyaluronic acid in it. It's a conducting gel, but I use it without the microcurrent. I do a squirt of Body Hero and that to cut it, for whatever reason, and I use that all over my body. If I know the next day I’m going to wear a backless loafer, I’ll use the Amlactin Foot Repair, but it’s really strong. If you use it too much, you can wear away your calluses—you need some calluses though. Year-round, I am fake-tanned in some capacity. I do think that there’s something so appealing in looking like I just got back from holiday. The one I use is this Neutrogena mist, and I’ll bounce between the Deep or Medium.
I have a lot [of tattoos]. The count is in the 40s. I’ve gotten some of them in batches, but I have all these little ones. I have sort of a funny attitude about tattoos because I think I have an irreverence about my body and I’m willing to do a lot of things to it. Whenever people talk to me about my tattoos, they say like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I love anything or believe in anything strongly enough to get it on my body forever.’ But I have this point of view on them that’s like, if something was really important to me at a time, and I do decide to commemorate that with a tattoo, even if that thing stops meaning something to me years down the line, it very much is a landmark. It’s a milestone rather than something that I expect to be a shrine forever. I get I haven’t gotten a fresh tattoo in a while, but I get them at Black Square—they’re really good at line work. I’ve designed all of [my tattoos] myself. You can kind of trace how over the years my illustration style has changed and what my preferences are in terms of line art.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been wearing this scent called Jackal by Goest. Typically I stray towards sport fragrances, like a citrus. There’s something really clean about them that I really like. Jackal is unique because it has a really strong bitter chocolate note. But it reads as more of a richer, smoky skin scent. It’s a little bit counterintuitive to wear in the summer, because normally you want something more citrus to cut the smell of scent, but I feel like instead of cutting it this kind of elaborates on it.
I started getting Botox pretty young, preventatively. People have this idea that you can’t get it to look natural. But the whole thing about Botox is that there’s confirmation bias. Like, if you can tell someone’s had it, that means they’ve had too much of it. I had gotten it for years, and I find that, in very small doses, it can do a lot to make people look softer and more well-rested. But what I’ve realized is that actually, as I’ve gotten older, there are some aspects of aging that I have actually kind of enjoyed. Like, my smile lines have become a lot more pronounced. Since it has been a while since I’ve gotten [Botox], I’ve sort of found that it’s a cool choice to make. Like, whether or not I decide that this summer I’m going to have highlights, or something. It can be a lifelong thing—I did it because I wanted to avoid wrinkles for as long as I could but now I'm worried less about that. This absolutely isn’t to say that when I get my tax return next year I wouldn’t go back and get more, but aging isn’t something that I fear. It’s more like, ‘If I want to look that way, I can look that way.’”
—as told to ITG
Or Gotham photographed in his home in New York by Tom Newton on July 6, 2018.