Monique, a Brooklyn childhood behavioral specialist, has the most amazing vintage style. Here, she shares her beauty tricks, including a weekly ritual for glowing skin and the inspiring lesson she learned while traveling…
Do you usually wear makeup?
I went to a girls’ high school, and the other students all wore makeup. When they took it off in private, they didn’t look like themselves! I didn’t want my “makeup face” to become the norm, so I’ve never worn a lot. But I ramp up in the winter months when the wind and cold can make my skin look dull, or whenever I don’t get enough sleep. My favorite things are MAC Mineralize Liquid Foundation, which has SPF 15, and MAC Pro Longwear Concealer, to even out my skin tone. The other thing I always wear is eye shadow. I have oily lids, and the woman at the MAC counter told me that shadow absorbs the oil and gives them a little bit of shimmer. Right now I’m using the L’Oreal Color Riche palette in Nude #2. I especially like the plum color, which goes on close to my skin tone. I usually just apply it with my finger!
What do you love most about your look?
My skin. I love how vibrant it looks after a few days in the sun. I was born in Queens, New York, but my parents are from Port au Prince, Haiti, and I feel a strong connection to both my Caribbean and New York roots.
How have your Haitian roots influenced your style?
People in Haiti want to put their best face forward. You can go deep into the countryside, and you’d see little kids wearing uniforms that have been ironed to a crisp. Haitian kids are taught to always present their very best self. People there are not into “casual.” Growing up in Queens, I was always overdressed, even in kindergarten! I had ruffly socks and my mom put ribbons in my hair. I would take them out on my way to school, then have the big kids help me put them back on the bus so she wouldn’t feel bad. To this day, I am never underdressed for anything.
Are there any family traditions that you’ve kept up?
I’m not sure if it was just my family or if it’s true of Haitian people in general, but growing up, there was a huge focus on earrings. All of our ears were pierced when we were babies, and you weren’t considered presentable unless you had earrings on. To this day, I never leave the house unless I’m wearing earrings. When I’m thinking about what to wear to a wedding or a party, I plan my outfit around the earrings. Two of my favorite jewelry sellers on Etsy are Fierce Deer and Moxie Scissorpants. I get tons of compliments when I wear their stuff. When my daughter was five months old, family members would say to me, “She’s so old and she doesn’t even have earrings yet!” I finally caved and took her to get her ears pierced.
What’s your daily skincare routine?
I love Clarins products and have used them for years. The Cleansing Milk with Alpine Herbs is really lovely. It’s a very soothing cream cleanser, and it clears away makeup without being drying. I also like the Toning Lotion with Chamomile, which is very light. Recently, though, I decided to switch things up a bit. One of my favorite YouTubers, Francesca of Hey Fran Hey, recommended an oil cleansing regimen, which I’ve been trying for the last few months. I cleanse with pure organic almond oil, then tone with Thayer’s Cucumber Aloe Vera Witch Hazel, which feels refreshing and balances out the oil.
Almond oil is such a miracle product! I use it for so many things.
Almond oil is so good! When I was pregnant, my cousin recommended I use it on my belly, and I didn’t get any stretch marks. I also used it on my daughter’s bottom when she was a newborn, because I knew it was pure. If you want to give it a fragrance, you can add a few drops of another essential oil, like lavender, but I like the way it smells on its own.
How did having two older sisters influence your style?
I remember learning the word “outfit” from my oldest sister. She would tell my parents she needed new outfits, and I wanted to have them, too. Her style was very Annie Hall — loose-fitting khaki pants, penny loafers and a lot of J. Crew. My middle sister went through a lot of different phases and trends, like hip-hop saggy jeans. We went to Catholic school, so weekends and dress-down days were our time to show who we really were. They would take me thrifting to find funky outfits to wear, and it definitely influenced my personal style.
Did you have any other inspiring beauty figures?
Growing up in Queens, I was one of the youngest girls on my block. Some of the other girls were similar to us in that they were first generation, and some were born in other countries, like Jamaica, Panama and Barbados. We would all go shopping at the mall, and there wasn’t any value placed on being thin or being curvy. One’s size was one’s size and that was that. It was more important that your clothes communicated your personality.
What body products do you use these days?
On my body, I moisturize with homemade oil that I learned about from another favorite YouTuber, Whitney of Naptural85. It’s a combination of olive oil, jojoba oil, castor oil, sweet almond oil, avocado oil and vitamin E oil. I make a big batch every couple months. In the summer, when it’s humid and hot, I’ll switch to Kiehl’s Crème de Corps, which is lighter.
How do you dress it up for special occasions?
For dates, weekends and special occasions, I’ll break out the red lips! One day, I went into a shop in Park Slope and the woman behind the counter had the same complexion and the most beautifully bold red lips. She told me it was Ruby Woo, and I ran right out and bought it. Since then, it’s been my go-to. I feel so good in it, and I like that it’s a classic shade that flatters so many different skin tones.
Do you have any beauty “secret weapons”?
I like to get facials from the Clarins spa. It’s amazing but expensive, so I only go a couple times a year. I like that they don’t do anything invasive or overly abrasive, but you leave with perfect skin. I figured you probably wouldn’t notice a difference the first time, but afterward my mom was immediately like, “Your skin looks amazing!”
How do you maintain that “facial glow” at home?
The facialist at Clarins told me you should masque on Sunday and scrub on Thursday. It’s a good way to make sure your skin is exfoliated and deeply cleansed without overdoing it. For my weekly masque, I use Burt’s Bees Intense Hydration Mask. For the scrub, I love Burt’s Bees Citrus Facial Scrub, because it’s not too rough and makes my face feel really clean. It’s great to travel with — when you get off a plane, your skin feels weird and dry and the scrub is so refreshing.
What’s the most drastic change you’ve ever made?
Chopping off my locs was certainly the most drastic thing I’ve ever done. I was planning to grow my hair to my waist, but felt I needed a change, so after ten years of growing them out to my mid-back, I cut it. I was a high school English teacher at the time and under a lot of stress, so I felt like I needed to start over. I kept seeing so many beautiful Afros and wanted to have one, too. It’s a lot more work than I anticipated, but I’m really happy I did it. Plus, sometimes I’ll get my hair professionally braided or twisted, which helps protect it and makes the journey a bit easier.
How do you care for your hair?
I have highly textured natural hair — on the spectrum of curls, my hair is the tightest of curls. I need to moisturize it daily. At night, I spritz my hair with a combination of aloe vera juice and water, and twist it using a combination of shea butter and homemade oil (the same mix I use to moisturize my body). When my hair isn’t styled into twists or braids, I’ll also do a weekly treatment — either a protein treatment using yogurt, eggs and honey or a hot oil treatment. My hair loves the Shea Moisture line of products — I use the Shea Moisture Deep Treatment Masque, and shampoo with Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus Curl & Shine.
Where do you find your amazing clothes?
I’m very inspired by 60s fashion and love vintage clothing. I’ll always search Etsy for “shift dress” or “high-waisted mini skirt.” These days, you can even type in “Mad Men dress” and lots of great things will come up. For a long time, I was channeling my inner Peggy Olson. She had the best clothes! Earrings and shoes are the only things I always buy new.
What else inspires you each day?
I’m a behavioral specialist, which means I help kids with special needs improve their social skills and learn to pick up on nonverbal communication. Some kids have trouble with things like subtleties and body language, and I help by shadowing them both in their homes and schools. I absolutely love working with kids — they’re so funny! They’re very honest and there’s a lot of pure energy. They’re not overthinking anything!
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
One of my friends grew up in Chinatown, and she taught me the wonder of a good foot massage. When we need a little treat, our “thing” is we like to go eat Chinese food and then get a 60-minute foot massage. It’s amazing.
How do you like to wind down at the end of each day?
In my twenties, I was a lot more anxious and would negatively overanalyze my every move. Now that I’m a little older, I like to end the day by thinking about what went well and what I can change for the next day.
How has having a daughter influenced your view on beauty?
Right now my daughter’s world is small — it’s limited to family and her tiny nursery school — but the women in her life all look very different. I don’t want her to buy into any one standard of beauty. I want her to appreciate the diversity of women. I want her to recognize that beauty is flexible and isn’t limited to a narrow standard.
Last but certainly not least, what is your beauty philosophy?
Fourteen years ago, I had the opportunity to work as a translator in Haiti. Every morning, another member of my team would wake up around the same time. We would brush our teeth and wash our faces outside, using the bucket we were provided. I’d ask him how my face looked and if there were any toothpaste marks on it, and I would do the same for him. That was the closest thing I had to a mirror. Stepping away from my own vanity allowed me to see so much beauty — I saw beauty in the smiles of children and in the way the community came together to support one another. What’s gratifying to me is noticing the beauty in others— not just in what they wear and how they look, but in the way they interact with others, or in the way a friend is raising their child or caring for their aging parent. So my beauty philosophy is to notice the beauty in others and to share it with them.
Thank you so much, Monique!