“I achieved my ‘lifelong dream’ when I was 18 years old. Standing on top of that podium with a gold medal around my neck at the Olympics, there were so many different thoughts going through my head. Obviously you’re excited—it’s surreal. But at the same time, it’s so scary, because you’re now thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, now what? I have the rest of my life, what do I do now?’ This thing literally defined who I was as a person for 22 years of my life. When that was kind of over—even though it was on my terms—I did feel like something had been taken away from me…that I didn’t have any identity anymore. That’s when I moved to New York, to go to school at NYU. Those four years were the greatest transitional phase that I could’ve had in my life. I was able to finally just be Nastia, and not Nastia Liukin, the Olympic gymnast. Or the girl from Dancing With The Stars. [Laughs]
While I was living here, I met my now-fiancé. His background is hockey. We bonded on many things, but one of those was the importance of having both inspiration and a good role model—on the field of competition, but also in life. Over the years, he came to some events with me, and he witnessed these young girls who just want a little bit more from me—they want to be able to ask you a question, they want to be able to engage with you. While social media is awesome for that, in some ways the engagement doesn’t feel real—you wonder, is she doing that? Is her team doing that? Who’s behind the screen? You don’t know. We started brainstorming, and we came up with Grander—it’s a global community to inspire the next generation of women by connecting them to mentors and industry experts. We started in sports, specifically gymnastics because that’s my background, and we created an app. We’ve also created a live event-slash-experience called the Grander Summit. Really we’re just trying to provide our attendees with inspiration, knowledge, education, and also some networking. We’re trying to inspire them to go after whatever their dreams and their goals are—whether that is to become an Olympic athlete, or to be a founder of your own brand, a CEO, a scientist, a lawyer.
A lot of beauty comes from confidence. When I transitioned from being a professional athlete, my confidence went completely out the window. I didn’t know who I was as a person, and then I gained 30 or 35 pounds right away. It was like cold turkey—I went from training seven hours a day, six days a week, for over 15 years, to nothing. I wasn’t taking care of myself properly. Even certain things like skin—obviously a lot of it is genetic, but I also didn’t realize that I was kind of allergic to dairy, so I was drinking milk lattes and then wondering why I didn’t feel good. I used to wear super baggy clothes and lots of sequins, because I thought I was distracting myself from the fact that I wasn’t confident in my body and myself. Everything was out of balance. It took a few years—it was a trial and error process, particularly with beauty and fitness. Now I have a trainer, and if I’m not with him, I do hot yoga or Pilates. Every once in a while I add in some intense cardio. But I hate running with a passion. I had to run every single day, two to three miles, when I was training for the Olympics. I absolutely hate it, because I feel like I’m back in that mental state. My fiancé just ran the Boston Marathon, and that is not for me. But, never say never, I guess.
These days, I’m on a plane anywhere from three to five times a week. I’m lucky if I’m in one place for a full week. It can be hard to eat healthy on the road, but I have all these things you can put in your coffee—they’re all mushrooms. Four Sigmatic Chaga Mushroom and Reishi Mushroom... Four Sigmatic actually has an amazing matcha, too. Some wake you up, some help you sleep—it’s all good for getting over jet lag. When I fly, I actually try not to eat anything. Obviously eat if you’re hungry, but if you can manage it, it really helps get on the right time zone the moment you land.
My other thing is that I always travel with a candle—a full-sized one. For me, it’s about feeling a sense of being at home. When you’re in hotels so often, you’re not in your own bed, you’re not in your own bathroom. Scents, I think, trigger good, happy memories. Diptyque Baies is one of my favorite ones, and Le Labo Santal 26 is my other one. I go back and forth between the two.
When I did Dancing With The Stars, we had an insane amount of makeup on our faces. We’d start hair and makeup at 7AM—the live show wasn’t until 5PM, so it was that entire day of being caked in makeup. And then I’d have to take a red-eye that night to New York to come back to school. The first few weeks, there were times where I was rushing to make my flight, and I didn’t have time to take my makeup off. You walk onto a plane looking like you’re absolutely crazy, because it’s costume makeup basically. I was like, ‘I can’t do this.’ Now I always take off my makeup before I board a plane. I use the Neutrogena Hydrating Wipes—they’re the best, especially with eye makeup. Mascara, eyelash glue, eyeliner—whatever it is, they take it off really well. After that, the Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Lotion is an easy, pretty neutral moisturizer that I always have in my bag.
On the plane, I love doing sheet masks or these Peter Thomas Roth eye patches. I have jumped on the Summer Fridays bandwagon. I just feel like it’s a great hydrating mask for traveling, even just under your eyes. You can look a little crazy on planes, but I feel like I’m finally at the point where I don’t give a shit. I do this for a living, so I’d rather feel good about how I look than care what my seatmate thinks of me. I’m most likely never going to see them again. [Laughs]
My mornings start when I wash off all the product I put on the night before. If I work out in the morning, I do a full cleanse in the shower. Right now I’m using the Sunday Riley CEO Cleansing Oil. Then I use the Kiehl’s lotion again, and this Ole Henriksen Truth Serum. The Algenist Genius Liquid Collagen is a new one I just got. I go to Sephora like two times a week—it’s so bad, but yes, I do. And also, you can’t walk in and walk out without anything! Got to buy something. I don’t know what all my serums claim to do, but sometimes I’ll add collagen to a smoothie or bulletproof coffee, so why not add it to skincare. The other thing that I use pretty consistently is the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, which is really interesting. I had tried it and liked it, and then I actually did a partnership with them so I started using it regularly for a few months. Even after the partnership, I use it religiously—my skin really did fall in love it with. It’s helped with resilience and pore size. Even my facialist was like, ‘Wait, what have you been using?’
After my skincare, I like to use the Hourglass No. 28 Base Serum. It also smells like a spa. That’s nice, and then I do the Estée Lauder Double Wear. My shade is 2W2 Rattan. I’ve gone back and forth and tried so many different brands and that’s been my favorite. I like the finish—it’s kind of matte. My skin’s a little bit more on the oily side, so I like that. Then I like the YSL concealer, just under eyes and a little bit on spots. I use the Glossier Haloscope—this one is Quartz. I have two brow pencils—either the Bobbi Brown pencil in Taupe or the Anastasia one. My favorite mascara ever is just the L’Oréal Voluminous Carbon Black. This is better, in my opinion, than any expensive mascara. It elongates and curls—everything all in one. Whereas some make it too clumpy, this one’s not clumpy, which I love.
I got way too obsessed with spray tans, thanks to DWTS. I think it has to do with the fact that the girl who did them was amazing. It was just part of my routine for 10 weeks—you go in, you have rehearsal Sunday, and then you go get your tan. And then you’re tan for a week. When I lived in Texas, I spent a lot of time outside swimming, by the pool—now, I don’t, and I don’t have time. After I moved New York, every time I came home to Texas my mom was like, ‘Are you OK?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah! I just haven’t seen the sun.’ Now I like the Nars Body Glow for that, because if I’m wearing shorts or a short dress, or something sleeveless, it gives me a nice little glow.
Right now, I only have travel-sized shampoo and conditioner, but typically I love Living Proof. It's a Boston-based company and I like supporting local brands. And I don’t use hotel shampoo and conditioner unless it’s a really good brand, or I really don’t have anything else to use. I used to not care at all—I definitely have gotten pickier about that. Dry shampoo, always—I use Living Proof PhD, the Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray in the black bottle, and the mini Bumble and Bumble one. I try not to use that much hairspray, because I think it’s not necessarily great for your hair. So I use those instead.
I recently went through this phase where I really wanted short hair. I chopped it off right above the shoulders…and then I was very quickly over it. So I got extensions. They’re taped in right now. I get them done in Boston, with Jana at Acote Salon on Newbury Street. You can wash them—that’s why I love these. You wash and brush right through them. I was using clip-ins for events, but I couldn’t do them myself, I felt like you could totally tell it wasn't my hair. On Thursday I'm getting them out, but then you can just reapply them—use the same hair multiple times. That's what I do. It's definitely my guilty pleasure when it comes to beauty.”
—as told to ITG
Nastia Liukin photographed by Tom Newton in New York on August 3, 2018.