Illustrator Leah Goren has garnered a cult following for her cool illustrations (think: cat prints and naked ladies) and her work has appeared everywhere from book covers to ceramics to The New York Times. Here, she talks about the world’s easiest eyeliner and the secret she was nervous to share…
What’s your daily skincare routine?
I wash my face every morning with Dove bar soap. After I cleanse, I use Glossier Priming Moisturizer. It’s almost more about the packaging than the product — the moisturizer is good, but the design is great. The whole Glossier set looks neat on your shelf. At night, I take my makeup off with The Face Shop Bright Cleansing Oil. You rub it all over your face, then rinse it off with water. It was introduced to me by a Korean friend — apparently it’s everywhere in Korea, but is harder to find here. It takes everything right off and moisturizes at the same time.
How about on your body?
On my body, if I’m in a hurry, I’ll use the cult favorite Kiehl’s Crème de Corps whipped body butter, which is thick and great for winter. It smells like milk and honey — sweet but not overpowering. If I have more time to get ready, I’ll use a body oil instead of lotion. It feels light and silky, but needs to sink into your skin for a few minutes before you get dressed. My favorite is a coconut oil blend by Cocooil, or if I want something floral scented, I’ll use this Rosebud Multi-Use Oil.
Have there been any important women in your life who taught you about beauty?
Everything I know about beauty I learned from my best friend Desene in fifth grade in San Diego. She had a young, cool mom and was also taller and more developed than the other kids at age 11, so she had an air of authority about these things. She taught me how to pluck my eyebrows into a thin, straight line, curl my eyelashes, and wear white iridescent eye shadow — basically everything I needed to know at that point in my life.
Do you have any other beauty inspirations?
I love Nicole Richie! I’m five feet tall, and I love that she’s tiny like me, but still loud-mouthed, hilarious and a savvy business woman. I don’t think we’re very alike beauty-wise, but I read that she uses my favorite Kiehl’s lotion and tons of coconut oil. So, we’d probably be best friends.
I’m also five feet tall. Do you ever find it challenging to be small?
Finding clothing can be difficult. Most clothes are designed for taller people. Sleeves and pants are always way too long. I’m a size five shoe, which is also limiting. I do like shopping at Aritzia. They use nice materials, like wool, and carry lots of sizes, including XXS. Recently I’ve also been getting really into jeans and finding vintage pairs on eBay or Etsy, sometimes for $5 a pair. I’ve always had a hard time finding non-stretchy denim that fits me, and my favorite right now are Levi’s 550s in boys’ sizes.
And it can be hard to look young at work.
I’m 27 years old, but people have told me I look much younger. Sometimes I worry about not being taken seriously. For work, I do most things via email, so when people reach out, everything is fine. But sometimes I get nervous when I meet new people. I had to do an event in December, and I was in a room full of publicists and strangers, wondering “What do they think of me?”
What’s your everyday makeup routine?
I love The Face Shop BB cream, for good even coverage on most days. But when I’m on the go or want less coverage, I’ll use Glossier’s Perfecting Skin Tint, which goes on in a very thin layer. It’s good for summer or when I’m at the beach and don’t want a lot on my skin. I top it off with a dusting of bareMinerals powder. Then I lightly fill in my eyebrows with Anastasia Beverly Hills powder, which is known as the best, and finish it all off with mascara. Any drugstore mascara is fine with me. Lately I’ve been using L’Oreal Miss Manga because I think the name is funny.
Do you have any tricks for days when you want more oomph?
On most days, I’m just going to work at the studio and like two people will see me, so I don’t spend much time on my makeup. But if I’m going anywhere else, I’ll wear a cat eye. A lot of my friends have been sporting cat eyes, and they showed me how to do it. I just use an eyeliner with a marker point, and start with the skinny part, then make the line grow wider as it extends outward. I’ve tried a lot of liquid liners, and my favorite is the Stylo Eyeliner by NARS. The pen makes it a lot easier.
What do you do to unwind?
I started reading as a ritual this year. For the last few years, I hadn’t been reading books or cooking or making the time to do enriching things because I was really focused on work. So this year, I decided to make the time to do more things that feel good. Right now I’m reading The Prince of Tides, which I got for Christmas. My friend said no one’s read it since the 90s, but I like it. I also do almost everything in bed when I’m at home. I live with a roommate and our apartment has limited options for where I can do things — there is a couch, the table or my bed. I’ll usually burn a candle while I’m hanging out in bed; right now I’m making my way through a rose-scented one from Diptyque.
When do you feel most beautiful?
I grew up in San Diego, and I still feel the best when I’m at the beach. Last summer, I spent every single day I possibly could at Rockaway or Fort Tilden. If I could be tan and almost naked every day, I’d be really happy.
How do you usually style your hair?
I never know what to do with my hair! I usually either blow dry or air dry and leave it down. Otherwise, my recent favorite style is a bun with a scrunchie around it. It happened by accident when a friend gave me three black scrunchies as a random gift when she got back from a trip to London. I realized that a bun with a scrunchie was an easy hairstyle, and since it’s black, you can’t see it.
What about when it comes to hair care products?
Since middle school, I’ve had psoriasis, a condition where your skin develops scaly, dry patches. I have small patches on my elbows and legs, but it’s mostly concentrated on my scalp. It can get itchy and annoying, so I’m forced to use a prescription shampoo or Kiehl’s Scalp Purifying Shampoo. For conditioner, I’ll use Kiehl’s Hair Conditioner and Grooming Aid 133, but I like to use it as leave-in conditioner. I’ll put a tiny bit on when I’m getting out of the shower, and it makes the bottle lasts forever.
What is your signature scent?
I’m overwhelmed by fragrances with dramatic names or gaudy bottles, but Diptyque’s Eau Rose is the opposite. It smells like pure roses. It’s simple but beautiful.
What types of projects do you get most excited about?
I get excited about all of my projects right when they come out, and then eventually they feel dated and I get excited about the next thing. I did a couple book covers recently — Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore and Modern Lovers by Emma Straub. That’s been exciting because book covers are new for me, and I really like how they turned out.
Do you have any advice for people looking to break into a creative career?
I’ve worked really, really hard — I’ve been working constantly because I love what I do. Even before people were willing to hire me, I was doing what I loved just for me. If you’re not sure if you’re meant to do something or not, try putting everything into it. You’ll realize pretty quickly if it’s right. Also, making connections is a really important part of breaking into a career path. I loved school, and tried to take the classes of young teachers who were in the scene and working. They ended up being people who continue to help me out.
You recently shared the story of your recovery from anorexia. How did it feel to share a secret with such a big audience?
Jessica Walsh hired me to do the illustrations for the site Let’s Talk About Mental Illness. She said she was going public with her struggle with anorexia and I was like, “Me, too.” So she asked if I would be willing to write something. It was scary, because I have a lot of good friends who didn’t know about this part of my life. I went to rehab ten years ago, and it sometimes seems like it didn’t really happen, but of course it did. It made me nervous, but everyone has been so nice about it. It felt good getting it out there. There were a bunch of comments from people saying that had gone through similar experiences. I think everyone has their own thing, their own struggle. I’m still aware every day that this is a huge part of me and who I am. But I also feel proud. Through everything that has happened, I learned so much. I wouldn’t be the person I am now without having gone through that.
Do you have any rituals that help you feel great?
I was not an athletic person growing up, but over the last five years or so, exercise has become an important part of my life. My second summer in New York, I had nothing to do one afternoon, and my best friend was going to a yoga class a few blocks away. I remember being so scared, because I didn’t know anything and had never been to a fitness class before. But I think just showing up for the first time is a good lesson for other things in life you might be scared to do. When you get there, you see that everyone is immersed in their own routine and no one is watching you. That yoga class was a gateway activity to more intense workouts, and now I regularly take circuit training classes at Sync Studio and Pilates reformer classes at Brooklyn Bodyburn. Doing the same thing at the same time every week keeps me sane. I also like doing something that’s hard and doesn’t get easier. The Pilates classes have made me truly strong.
Thank you so much, Leah!