Cup of Jo’s associate editor Stella Blackmon has an effortless style that everyone in the office covets. How does she always find the perfect pair of high-waisted jeans?! Ahead she talks about her holy grail fragrance, a sweet cure for homesickness, and why Bruce Springsteen is her style icon…
When did you first start wearing makeup?
I discovered foundation in early high school and would buy shades that were five times darker than my skin. All my friends were going to tanning booths and I thought I could achieve that look with heavy dark-orange foundation. It took seeing my makeup line in photos to realize I was wrong! Any foundation that isn’t exactly my shade takes me back to those days. Now I use Almay Smart Shade Makeup. It’s light like a tinted moisturizer, and has sunscreen.
What other makeup do you wear?
For my eyes, I use my finger to smudge the dark Revlon brown eyeshadow on my lash line instead of eyeliner and finish with a swipe of Maybelline Falsies Mascara, which I recently discovered. I’ve tried a record number of drugstore mascaras, and this stuff packs a punch. It gives my lashes crazy volume, and it’s surprisingly non-clumpy. After that, I pat a little e.l.f. Blush and Bronzing Cream onto my cheeks. It has a pretty, sheer matte color. I like Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Red Dahlia for the same reason.
What’s your daily skincare routine?
I only have a nightly skincare routine — in the morning I don’t do anything besides brush my teeth. I use Tatcha’s Pure One-Step Camellia Cleansing Oil to clean my face. It’s ridiculously luxe, but one bottle has lasted me almost an entire year. With dry hands and a dry face, I massage one pump into my skin and around my eyes. I rinse with water, and everything — waterproof mascara, long-wear foundation, you name it — melts off like butter. It’s gentle enough for my sensitive skin, and my face feels creamy soft. This stuff is the reason I started taking off my makeup every night; I actually look forward to it.
Do you have any tricks for troubleshooting blemishes?
Whenever I feel really stressed, it shows on my skin. I’ve started experimenting with Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Peels, which are presoaked pads, and a retinol night cream for sensitive skin. Since they can both be drying, so I’ll put a little almond oil afterward on my nose and forehead. I heard giving up coffee helps reduce blemishes, too, but I’m not sure that’s worth it.
Has being in a long-distance relationship affected your beauty routine?
My boyfriend, Andrew, is back home in Missouri. We see each other every eight weeks or so. The days leading up to it, I’m nervous and have butterflies. I don’t know how to channel it. I shave my legs. That’s what I do to prepare. Sometimes I’ll buy a new dress for a date. The first couple days of his visits I try harder, meaning I’ll wear eyeliner. But by day four, it’s back to no makeup when we’re hanging out. I also never like to FaceTime him when I have almond oil on my face. On those nights, I’m like, “I’m going to bed now!”
How do you change your look for special occasions?
There’s an episode of Girls where Lena Dunham’s character proclaims, “I wear mascara every Saturday!” I really laughed because that is exactly my relationship to eyeliner and lipstick. Even though they take only five minutes to apply, I save them for special events. I’ve been using Almay’s liquid eyeliner in black for five years. It never smudges and it’s incredibly easy to apply. I start on the middle of my lid and flick it slightly up after I hit the end of my eyelid. If I’m going out at night, I add extra mascara to my bottom lashes.
Do you ever wear lipstick?
I have been really into soft red lipstick with brown undertones. It reminds me of what my mom wore when I was growing up. There’s also something more flattering about brown on my skin (as opposed to pink, which magnifies any redness). I have been using NARS Pure Matte Lipstick in Moscow.
What do you do to style and care for your hair?
I’ve been trying to wash my hair only twice a week. Because my hair is so thick, I like the way it lays a couple of days after I wash it, compared my puffy ‘do after the shower. I actually get my hair thinned every couple of months. The stylist takes shears and cuts down through the middle part of it. You can’t tell that it’s shorter, but it gets rid of the bulk. At home, I rotate between two different shampoos to prevent any build up of residue. I always use Suave Naturals for one, and then I buy another. I use Suave Naturals conditioner and will just put a teeny bit on the ends. When my hair is feeling dry, I like to dab VERB serum on the ends to combat frizz.
Do you and your friends ever share (or steal) each other’s products?
At this point, we all use the same things, since we’ve all tried each other’s stuff and liked it. One friend makes DIY beauty treatments once a week, and I’ll usually join in. Last Friday, we ordered takeout and did homemade masks and watched Brokeback Mountain.
Do you have an all-time favorite drugstore find?
I stumbled upon NUXE Huile Prodigieuse Multi-Purpose Dry Oil at Target one afternoon and I’ve been in love ever since. Apparently, it was so popular in French pharmacies that they started selling it in the U.S. a couple years ago. The subtle scent has notes of sandalwood and floral, like if you were to take a nap under a blooming tree on a sunny spring day… next to a man wearing a light, musky cologne. You can use on your body, face and hair, and it gives you a glossy glow. I’ll sometimes put it on my cheekbones instead of highlighter.
Do you ever wear perfume?
When I moved to New York a year and a half ago, I was reading a giant issue of Elle Magazine on the flight. There was a fold-over tab of perfume for Giorgio Armani’s Si and I rubbed a little on my jacket. When I was in the car from the airport, the windows of the car were rolled down, the lights of the city were twinkling, and I kept getting wafts of the fragrance. I bought my own bottle the day after I signed my apartment lease.
Are there any little luxuries you have in your apartment?
Homesickness strikes me at night every now and then. I’ve found a temporary cure: I’ll turn on my side table lamp, crack my window, light a woodsy candle that reminds me of Missouri, eat a couple squares of dark chocolate and open one of the many David Sedaris books I have lying around. His quirky stories remind me of my family. I really like Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. And his essay Let It Snow makes me laugh out loud. I’ve read his stories so many times, but his words always strike the right, familiar note.
What’s the one thing you’d bring with you to a desert island?
When I first starting working at Cup of Jo, Lexi revealed the holy grail of deodorants. (I know!) She described smelling T-shirts to determine if she should wash them, and not being able to tell what was dirty, because her deodorant was so good. I hesitantly splurged on Donna Karan’s Cashmere Mist, thinking a deodorant can only do so much. Let me tell you, it is that great. It lasts through anything, smells divine — even a little sexy — and it never irritates. I turned my mom onto this, too.
What did the women in your family teach you about beauty?
Beauty was rarely discussed in the physical sense in my family. I learned how to apply mascara and use boxed hair dye by watching my mom and her sisters through the years. But mainly, I’ve learned to associate beauty with feeling good. There are the things everyone says, like drink enough water, take walks and get plenty of sleep. And then, on another level, it’s about creating space to find yourself and discover charm in the everyday chaos.
How did coming from such a big family influence you?
My grandma came from a family with 10 kids, and my mom came from a family with nine kids. Growing up, her family didn’t have a lot of money, but they made it work. And even though they didn’t have a lot, my grandmother always encouraged them to help other people. One Christmas, my mom went to help out with a local present drive, and the car went to her own house. She had to drop off presents for her own family and act like it wasn’t her house.
Do you have any other major beauty inspirations?
Hear me out, Bruce Springsteen’s confidence and outfit in his music video Dancing In The Dark is literally everything I aspire to. It’s also the exact look I’ve been trying to achieve for years! I loved the video growing up, and when I came across it again two years ago, I’ve been obsessed with it since. I just ordered his memoir.
Do you have any other non-beauty rituals that help you feel great?
There’s nothing better than a long walk around Brooklyn, but when the weather is gross, I will ride the dorkiest stationary bike in my room. I had one back home in Springfield. When I’m not riding it, I drape my clothes over it. It helps me wake up and gives me a boost of energy throughout the day. To get through a workout, I justify watching an episode of Real Housewives of New York or Orange County. It’s actually a blast.
Last but not least, do you have an overall beauty philosophy?
The more I shift my attention to people and places around me, whether it’s chatting with a stranger on the subway or listening my little cousin Goldie practice her ukulele with her hamster on her shoulder, the more beautiful I feel. When I catch myself worrying I’m not pretty enough, I force myself to take in all of the wonderful things around me. Life is larger than what you stress about in front of a mirror.
Thank you so much, Stella!
(Photos courtesy of Stella Blackmon.)