“I’m only good at like three things: Oily skin, I’m funny, and I can write. I’m originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and while it was a good place to grow up, I always wanted to live in New York and I always wanted to be a writer. When I was young I thought I wanted to be a novelist or maybe a screenwriter, but once I got into high school I interned at a local magazine. I sat in the closet and fact checked the calendar and then wrote for the teen section and it was so much fun—I discovered that I liked writing about stuff with some immediacy. And also my mom was a news anchor for a long time, and watching her work when I was younger made journalism somehow feel more accessible.
EDUCATION + CAREER
I went to Emerson College to study journalism—honestly, I only really went there because I liked a lot of movies that took place in Boston. I interned at Oprah Magazine while I was in school, and then I started at Refinery29 as the editorial assistant for the entertainment team a week after I graduated. But actually, I feel like my career really started when I went to Sundance as a fellow through IndieWire. I wrote about a couple of movies, and then my editor asked me to write something about ‘Lemonade.’ I remember thinking, Wow, I’m a writer of the world. I wrote about Beyoncé. And then six months after I started at Refinery I met Neil [Janowitz, editorial director of Vulture] at a movie screening, and that’s how I got hired at Vulture shortly after that.
I can’t imagine writing about anything else. I get on the internet, crack a few jokes, talk about movies that I like. It’s really satisfying to obsess over something I’m passionate about, and right now is the best time to be having conversations about the industry’s warped perception of women and people of color, when a lot of stakeholders are really engaged. But being on the internet can be a weird thing. The internet is inherently performative. Even I get tired of my own jokes, my own voice. Every day I think, OK, I’m going to cut it back, but then something pops into my head and I’m like oh girl, this is too funny. On the other hand there are times when I tweet things that become story ideas later—the first draft is what always goes on Twitter.
This is going to sound canned but it’s not. I reread Nora Ephron’s ‘On Maintenance’ essay all the time, and it’s her going through her routine—getting her hair done, her nails, and it’s all such a chore. That’s how I feel. I’m doing stuff just to maintain feeling good and put together. Twice a week in the mornings I use either the Dr. Dennis Gross Extra Strength Peel Pads or Pixi Glow Pads—Dr. Dennis Gross is my white boy of the month. Everything he makes I will buy; you are seeing the result of his magic. I started using his products after I wrote about Eighth Grade and Lady Bird, and how they were the first movies I’d seen show a teenage girl with ‘bad skin.’ I was honestly too embarrassed to even pitch it because it made me so emotional, but then I wrote about it eventually and people liked it. Anyway, I started using his products after that and his pads exfoliate really well—my skin looks brighter after I use them, they don’t tighten, and they help with acne. I always keep one or two in my purse for really no reason, I just feel more prepared. And I alternate that with Pixi because Pixi is cheaper.
Cosrx’s Honey Ceramide moisturizer is really light and goes on smooth, and I’ll use that or Cosrx’s thicker hyaluronic moisturizer if I’m feeling dry. Afterwards, I’ll use Supergoop’s Daily Moisturizer with SPF, or the Unseen Sunscreen gel primer. I don’t do eye cream because I read Ashley’s Top Shelf and if Ashley doesn’t do eye cream then I don’t need to do eye cream either. I mean I have one eye cream, but I never use it.
For facials I go to Rowena Woo at Tribeca Skin Center. She finds blocked pores like I’ve never seen before. I’ll go in thinking my skin’s looking pretty good, and she’ll find all of this gunk in my face. It feels like a workout. What I want to try next is the Hydrafacial because I love seeing all the gunk that machine pulls out of your pores.
My favorite mask right now is the Benton Snail Mucin mask, and I do the Boscia Luminizing mask, too. I mask before a big event or if I’m feeling lazy and want to stay in. At night I use Clinique’s Take The Day Off to remove my eye makeup, and then I’ll double cleanse with either the Neutrogena Acne Face Wash or Dr. Dennis Gross. I take it day by day. If she’s behaving then we’ll leave her. Sometimes I like to use the AHA from Cosrx or Paula’s Choice AHA. Then, if I need to, I’ll use one of two prescriptions for breakouts—Tretinoin .05-percent and Clindamycin. I use more things in moderation since I started taking Spironolactone [a blood pressure medication]—it takes three months to start working but it really makes a big difference in clearing my skin. After that I’ll use Image Skincare Bio Peptide because it makes my skin feel so soft, but it’s pretty thick. I don’t do a lot of serums, and I don’t use oil because I’m scared I’m going to break out. Once a month I’ll do Dr. Dennis Gross’ Clinical Resurfacing Liquid Peel and it feels like a whole thing, but I love doing it and it really has helped with the hyperpigmentation on my cheeks.
Those are all pretty harsh, so I’ll pick and choose the products I use to space things out. Though I have to tell you the craziest thing I’ve ever done. I have bags under my eyes—you can see every movie I’ve stayed up late watching—and I used prescription retinol under my eyes thinking that it would really help. I was crying. The first day I thought, I can do this. The second day I was like, whatever, and the third day I admitted to myself that it was the most painful feeling in the world. That was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.
When I was younger I wore braids all the time, then I stopped for a bit, and started back up when I was older and too lazy to deal with my hair. I go to this salon in Flatiron called Nappstar. They’re so fast, so nice, and always on time. If I’m not doing box braids I’ll go to another salon in Ridgewood called Magic Fingers—they do a lot of hair designs there and that’s really fun. I go up to Harlem and buy human hair for the braids—I get three packs for $75 and it’s just easier on my edges. It’s also lighter. Using a spray bottle, I shampoo with Tea Tree Special Shampoo from Bed Bath & Beyond because it smells good and feels good on my scalp, and I condition with coconut milk from Creme of Nature. I’m pretty agnostic about leave in conditioners—whatever feels watery, I’ll use—and when I’m not in braids I deep condition with Briogeo. I sleep in a satin bonnet, and I also have satin pillowcases, just to double up. And for edges I use Shine Jam Nourishing Gel because it smells good. So much of what I do is because something smells good.
I don’t know a ton about doing makeup, so I just do what works for me. The foundation I’m using right now is Anastasia’s. It used to be a stick, and I like the stick better, but what I really like about it is that it goes on pretty light, I don’t get too oily in it, and more than anything shade 355N is a perfect match for my skin. I use shade 10 Vanilla Bean concealer from Sephora because it’s cheap, but also I love it—it’s thick but easy to blend. I tried YSL’s Touche Éclat, but it doesn’t do anything! It’s like a highlighter for under your eyes! I only bought it because Zoe Kravitz was selling it, but there’s a reason she’s using it and I… I need something stronger. Using a shadow brush, I’ll dust a little powder under my eyes so my concealer doesn’t crease. Then I’ll do Fenty Bronzer in Private Island on my cheeks and below my cheekbones, and for blush I like Clinique’s Chubby Stick in Amped Up Apple.
Eyebrows are important, so I always make sure to take care of mine. I like overgrown, brushed up brows, and I don’t like them too dark. Natural but dramatic. I get them threaded every six months at Thread in Fidi, and at home I have a daily brow routine. First I use Mary Kay’s Volumizing Brow Tint [Ed note: discontinued]—got that at work from a beauty sale. It has the most inefficient brush in human history—it’s like a mallet—so with the lightest touch possible I’ll use that brush to go over the ends of my eyebrows. You know how in photographs, your brows kind of disappear? This is dark enough without looking fake. I try to focus on the outsides of my brows with that, and then on the insides I use Benefit Gimme Brow or Boy Brow, depending on how I feel about the spoolie. I’ll let that dry and put on blush or something, and then I’ll use a clear brow gel. Right now I’m using Anastasia’s and that brush is a big ol’ freak.
Then I do mascara, which is from Il Makiage right now, but I’ll use whatever has a long brush. My eyes water all the time so it’s kind of a racket to put it on. I don’t do eyeliner because I don’t know how, and I don’t do eyeshadow because I don’t know how. But for lips I like pinky browns. Day-to-day I don’t wear lipstick at all and just use Aquaphor because I had lunch with Elizabeth Chambers Hammer, and she is beautiful and she said she didn’t use anything but Aquaphor. Or I have Chapstick. Sometimes I’ll rub the Chubby Stick on my lips if I need some pigment, and my newest thing is Charlotte Tilbury’s Foxy Brown. But that’s not an everyday thing.
BODY + FRAGRANCE + FITNESS
In the shower I have Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash Body Clear, or I’ll cleanse with Aesop’s A Rose By Any Other Name Body Cleanser. It’s so expensive, but it’s one of my true luxuries. I’ve been using my shea butter lotion from Jergens since I was in the third grade, and I use Aesop’s Body Balm mostly just on my hands because it’s so expensive.
I don’t wear fragrance because, as a kid, they used to get me in trouble all the time. I would take my mom’s and close the door and try them out, and I would accidentally drop and break them. Now I go to Primp and Polish for my nails. I always do a nude or a white or a deep brown. The only thing that really bothers me is when my nails aren’t all the same length. And as for working out, I don’t really do it. I went to a stretch class for the first time at Outer Reach recently. But yeah, I don’t work out—I just walk really fast.”
—as told to ITG
Hunter Harris photographed by Alexandra Genova on February 21, 2020 in Brooklyn, New York.