My Beauty Uniform: Maya Jankelowitz

Maya Jankelowitz Beauty Uniform

Maya Jankelowitz and her husband Dean are the geniuses behind the New York restaurant establishments, Jack’s Wife Freda (named after Dean’s grandparents). Not only is their food comforting (mmmm, matzah ball soup), but the homey vibe makes you want to stay a while — and take a million Instagram pics. You’re likely to see Maya on the floor, a flash of bright colors and a welcoming smile. Here, the mother of two chats about taking selfies before “selfies” were a thing, the fun of dressing up for work and getting pedicures with her son…

Maya Jankelowitz Beauty Uniform

You have such amazing style! When did your love of bold fashion start?
When I started working in restaurants at 21, I got really into dressing up for work. Being in New York and exposed to all the fashion, it felt natural to get dressed up. But I was working 60 hours a week as the maître d’ at Balthazar (which is where I met my husband), so I didn’t have much time to go out. So the restaurant became kind of like a stage — and dressing up made it much more fun to be there. In the late 90s, before there were iPhones, I would put my film camera on the windowsill and use the 10-second function to take a selfie of my outfit before work. It became a side hobby.

Maya Jankelowitz Beauty Uniform

So you were basically fashion blogging before fashion bloggers. Do you still do it?
Taking fashion really seriously — and taking photos every day — is basically another job. I have two restaurants, a cookbook coming out next year and two kids, so I don’t have as much time for it anymore. But I still have fun with fashion. Working on the floor is the best excuse to get dressed up. It’s kind of like having a big dinner party every day: your friends come, their friends come, and their friends’ friends. You want to make sure you’re the hostess with the most-est and everyone is having a great time.

Where do you shop?
I like color, patterns, mixing and matching. I like volume. I shop anywhere and am open to everything, from designer to vintage to things I’ve had my whole life to Old Navy. 

Maya Jankelowitz Beauty Uniform

Maya Jankelowitz Beauty Uniform

We’ve noticed that the staff at Jack’s Wife Freda all wear stripes.
Everyone wears their own horizontal sailor striped T-shirts. The day before the restaurant opened in 2012, Dean and I realized that we didn’t have uniforms. We had so many striped shirts at home, so we brought everything we had in our closet to the restaurant that morning. Some of the busboys ended up wearing my lavender striped T-shirts, and some of them still have theirs from that first day.

Maya Jankelowitz Beauty Uniform

So cool. We also love the music there!
Our playlist is very personal and dear to us. The songs are from certain times in our lives, or just give us a feeling. We have lots of different soundtracks, including from movies our kids love, our wedding songs, our waiters’ bands, our waiters’ favorite songs, musicals we liked…

Maya Jankelowitz Beauty Uniform

You have a very distinct hairstyle. How long have had it?
I have worn my hair like this for about 17 years, ever since I started going to this salon — V Beauty — in Chinatown (ask for Kenny!). After I moved from Israel to New York in the 90s, a co-worker took me there because they did $10 blow-drys, which I thought was awesome because everywhere else was like $50. I started getting my hair washed there once a week and getting Japanese straightening perms once every three months. They wash your hair, they massage you, they’re really chill. They do it perfectly using Japanese products and a ceramic flat iron. It’s my favorite place, it’s very under the radar, not very fancy. I feel super comfortable there.

Maya Jankelowitz Beauty Uniform

That sounds like the vibe of your restaurants.
Yeah, exactly — people often stop by the restaurant without even wanting to eat. They just come in to tell us something that happened to them or ask for advice about a relationship crisis, and then end up getting a drink or a coffee or a juice.

What do you style your hair with when you do it yourself?
I’ll wash it with anything: Pantene, Herbal Essences, L’Occitane, Head & Shoulders… Then I straighten it with a ceramic flat iron that my salon special orders for me from Japan.

Maya Jankelowitz Beauty Uniform

What was your hair like before you adopted your signature look?
I have naturally wavy hair, but I’ve always straightened it. Growing up in Israel, I would wake up at 5:30 a.m. to blow dry my hair before school. I experimented with lots of different looks, though. I went from long hair to a shaved head, I did it all.

Wait. Tell us your shaved your head story.
I was 17 and I don’t think I put too much thought into it. It was one of those teenage things. My mom wouldn’t talk to me after, but my first boyfriend fell in love with me because of it.

Maya Jankelowitz Beauty Uniform

Were you always adventurous with your style?
Yes, but as a teenager, it was hard. We lived in a suburban environment, and you were expected to look like everyone else. I had to rebel — and really brave it out — to be the way I wanted to be. I hope that I can raise my boys in an environment where it’s okay to be who they are. 

Maya Jankelowitz Beauty Uniform

What about when you moved back to New York?
When I was 20, I came to New York City for what was supposed to be a few months (I had a round-trip ticket), but I never went back. I fell in love with the city. After 17 years, I still get that feeling, like when you’re a tourist and your eyes are wide open. It gets hard sometimes and you need a break, but I very often feel the magic of the city. Not just with fashion, but with all the people, humanity, food, struggle. You know, it’s full of life.

Maya Jankelowitz Beauty Uniform

What about makeup?
I’m not a big makeup person, although I always have a lipstick in my pocket. But when I put it on, my kids will laugh at me and tell me there is something on my mouth, or it gets all over everything, so I really only wear it when I want to look a little better. I’ll do a red lip for date nights and pictures. I love anything Chanel and lately I’ve been obsessed with Kjaer Weis lip tint. I also wear foundation, powder and lots of blush.

What’s your go-to blush?
I really love the look of a flushed cheek, so once a month I’ll buy a new blush just to see what’s out there. Right now I’m loving Nars Mata Hari, which is a really rosy pink.

Maya Jankelowitz Beauty Uniform

Do you have tips for wearing makeup with glasses?
The only trick I have is using those little brown Japanese papers from MUJI to dry my skin on my nose under the glasses. I always carry them around, they’re like $2 a pack. 

What’s your skincare routine?
Two extremely friendly ladies who worked at the La Mer counter at Bloomingdale’s started coming into the restaurant. They would give me samples and we became friends. Now I use a lot of La Mer products. I use the face wash every morning, as well as the serum and moisturizer. As for my nighttime routine, I need to get there. I usually pass out with my kids in their beds before I wash my face!

Maya Jankelowitz Beauty Uniform

Do you ever do any beauty treatments?
My 5-year-old son Bennie loves pedicures — every time we walk by a pedicure place, he says “Oh, let’s get a pedicure.” So when my older son, Noam, is in Hebrew school, we’ll get them together at this place in Tribeca. All the ladies know him. He loves to get different colors. I never get polish, I just get the foot cleaning and the massages. If I get any polish, I’ll get clear.

Maya Jankelowitz Beauty Uniform

Do you have a signature scent?
A friend of ours, Winnie Beattie, has a store on Mott Street called Warm. She is the sweetest lady — she has little boys, too. Their fragrance that smells like summer. She smells like that, the store smells like that, and I’m happy I can smell like that sometimes, too.

Do you have any other rituals that make you feel good?
My husband and I try to go to Yoga Shanti a few times a week — it helps us find that peace within the chaos of the city. I also go to a rolfing specialist regularly as I have developed chronic feet pain from all the years working on my feet. 

Maya Jankelowitz Beauty Uniform

How does food play a role in your beauty philosophy?
I love eating and I’m not the healthiest eater, but I’m trying to become more aware of what I put in my body. As I get older, I’m trying more and more to stick to what makes me feel good. We try to leave bread and French fries for special treat days. We don’t necessarily do that all the time, though. 

Well, your french fries are amazing.

Maya Jankelowitz Beauty Uniform

Thank you, Maya!

P.S. More women share their beauty uniforms, and the best fall lipsticks.

(Photos courtesy of Maya. Top and bottom photos by Bridget Badore. Interview by Megan Cahn.)

  1. Love this! If summer were a style this would be it.


  2. jessie says...

    i know this is an old post, but maybe you check comments? i need to know the brand of her straightening iron PLEEEEAAAASSSEEEEEE. :)

    • Jessica says...

      There’s a link to the salon in the story–I’d try calling them and asking, if it were me! (And, it sort of is me, but I’m trying to embrace the curl, dammit!)

  3. I’ve been to her restaurant a few times and the food is amazing. She is usually around and her style is really unique. Excited to read this feature on her!

  4. Alexandra Baye says...

    Where are those red ankle-strap shoes from? So beautiful!

    I love Jack’s Wife Freda. Great vibes/great Mediterranean-inspired food.

  5. MC says...

    I’m a little late to the game here but Maya, if you’re reading, as a fellow flush-cheek nut I highly recommend Vapour Beauty’s multi-use stick in the shade “Torch”. My blush search ended there when I chanced upon it a few years ago! I really enjoyed your interview, thanks for sharing.

  6. Geraldine says...

    I loved this. She comes across as a really chilled out person.

  7. nicole b. says...

    HER STYLE. Impeccable. Whimsical. In love. Thank you for sharing. xo

  8. I am in love with her personality and looks! I love to mix up things and it shows how even as a mom , wife and friend that you keep your identity and stay true to you!!! I too have a special flat iron from Japan. I use it to keep my hair straight when I get my dominican blow out every few months after keeping my hair natural. I am now going to visit this lovely restaurant. I never leave too far from home ( bronx) when I visit unless its to the japanese bookstore, so this is worth a trip!!! thanks for sharing.

  9. Kim Leake says...

    I think I just found my style guru. Absolutely in love with her style

  10. Samantha says...

    Doesn’t have much to do with the beauty aspect of this post, but I just love the fact that her kid goes to Hebrew school. I went to Hebrew school myself and it’s an amazing way to learn about and stay in touch with your culture and religion even when you’re far away from Israel, and hang with kids with the same background :)

  11. Kate says...

    Love this series and her story! Bookmarking this restaurant for my birthday dinner. Great french fries, great style, who could ask for anything more?

  12. Such an amazing style. She really makes colours and prints work!

  13. What a fun couple. I also love the name of their restaurant. Maya’s style is so classic.

  14. Angela says...

    I have to say that I fall into the jeans and neutral-colored shirt camp. Even though we obviously fall into different style camps, gosh darnit if she doesn’t look like the nicest lady around! I would totally love to just go and hang out at her restaurant and make friends with her! Someone already asked if she would ever go back to curly hair… I would love to see it if she did because I think she would look KILLER with hair like her younger son’s: short, curly, crazy! Love it! This was a great beauty uniform. Thanks!

  15. Emily says...

    My son and her son played soccer together, the way I found the soccer group was, I saw her on the field and she was so stunning, so I stopped and asked her how we could join the soccer group:) She is so inspiring! And very warm and down to earth.

  16. Jess west says...

    Agree agree!! Best yet. So inspired by her amazing style. Thank you thank you. Also wow what a great looking restaurant I wish I could take a trip across the ocean for dinner here! Living the dream!

  17. Maya I love your confidence! I need to take a page from your book. Would you ever go back to wearing your curly hair? Your kids look adorable with their curls. I have fought my curl for years and now its more of a weird texture so my signature look is a ballerina bun & red lip (or have to flat-iron it as well).


  18. Elizabeth R says...

    I would love to nominate her for a home tour. I bet her place is adorable and funky.

  19. Lilipotomus says...

    Many cool and stylish women you’ve featured but Maya is my favorite beauty uniform feature to date.

  20. Roxana says...

    Oh, I LOVE her style! Wish I was daring enough. She is inspiring. And I absolutely love her hair!

  21. Lisa says...

    I love Jack’s Wife Freda! I had read about it and ended up eating there as I chanced upon it while in NYC. They were playing Boney M which took me right back to my grandmother’s living room in Durban (South Africa) and the waffle was awesome. What was even more awesome was that Bryan Adams was at the next table on my second visit, and babysat our son while we ate breakfast! (I’d highly recommend him as a babysitter. He clearly knew what he was doing and was very nice)

    • Megan Cahn says...

      I love this story! Thanks for sharing! xo

  22. Really love this interview, it makes me want to go back to New York City! And I always find it interesting to see how busy woman/mums take care of themselves, just because their beauty routines are always simple yet very effective!

  23. Emma says...

    The best of all time.

  24. Rachel says...

    Love! Any idea who makes the cross body handbag she is carrying in one of the photos, it’s beautiful.

  25. Abesha1 says...

    “Hostess with the mostest” (or, most-est) is the phrase; a rhyming play on “the hostess having the most.”

    Lovely style.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you! i knew something looked wrong there! ;)

  26. Love love love this! Her style is amazing. Bold and fearless. Great post! :D

  27. Michelle A. says...

    Such style!!!!!

  28. going to japan on Friday and need to know the products and flat iron you use so i know what thing to buy (sounds like you’ve got it down to a science, Maya!).

  29. going to japan on Friday and need to know the products and flat iron you use so i know what thing to buy (sounds like you’ve got it down to a science, Maya!).

  30. Katrina says...

    love that print skirt, her style and shoes– but where does she shop?! I need to find a funky store!

  31. Megan says...

    This girl is so cool. But wait, I need to know the name of the special flat iron she orders from Japan!

    • same! most of the flat irons i’ve used makes my hair so frizzy.

  32. Jocelyne says...

    Sorry if it’s been mentioned, but there’s a typo in the P.S., ‘women’ rather than ‘woman’.
    She is a beautiful woman though!

    • Anna says...

      :-) I’ve noticed a few to several typos per week on here for the past few months, and I’ve never been sure if it’s okay to mention it. ;) I’m a writer and would want to be corrected, but I’m never sure if other people do. :) Are there rules about this kind of thing in the modern, online, insta-publish era?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you!!

  33. Emily S. says...

    I love Jack’s Wife Frieda– so fun to see that the woman behind it is equally warm, vibrant, and welcoming! Love this one. xo

  34. Love! She is so interesting and cool. Such bold outfits, wow!

  35. Can I just once again say how much I LOVE this series and that Maya is a total style icon! A+ on this article!

  36. cooper says...

    I’m obsessing about her haircut – I just made an appointment for a cut six-weeks from now so I can work up the courage to try something equally bold!!! I love the idea of a signature hairstyle!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      omg you should!!! how fun!

  37. I wish I could be so bold in my fashion here in DC without feeling like everyone thought I was crazy. I literally had a shirt dress over gauchos yesterday (with clogs) and changed because who does that in DC….at work? Ugh! Take me to NYC now please.

    Analog House

    • I lived in DC for 7 years (until 2015) and would regularly get WTF looks for my sometimes purple hair and bold style choices. I eventually started taking it as a compliment when I realized people were usually just wishing they could “pull that off.” The secret to pulling anything off is just believing you can — plus, SOMEONE has to push the city’s style limits! You rock those gauchos and clogs to work girl XO

    • Stephanie says...

      I totally feel you! I felt the exact same way in DC – like everyone is watching and judging you if you break outside the “norm” of J.Crew/Banana Republic/Ann Taylor.

    • Turtle Toms says...

      Advice from a 60 year old- wear what makes you feel like you. The first few times people may look twice, but soon your style just becomes part of who you are, and is accepted. If you are effective and professional at what you do, being a little quirky simply helps people to remember you. Life is short. Live it as yourself.

  38. Jill says...

    Love this series! I love that someone always identifies the current profile as their favorite!

  39. Jean says...

    I love her distinctive style!

  40. What a wonderful profile! I have loved reading about Jack’s Wife Freda ever since Leandra Medina of Man Repeller started blogging about her in like 2012! I have been a couple times when in town visiting friends, and the food is wonderful. Such a cool and relaxed vibe, perfect place to mellow out in the busy city! And the colors are wonderful!

    Really enjoyed reading this!


  41. lauren says...

    This woman is my new style icon! Love her playful way of dressing, mixing bold unexpected pieces, and her quirky devilish smile. What a freakin’ woman!

  42. isavoyage says...

    WA-O! I love love love your style Maya. Yours is my favorite”beauty uniform”.

  43. Ahhh! She is so amazing! I really admire women with bold fashion sense, and find them so inspiring. There’s a confidence there that just can’t be beat. I’m just loving this series.

  44. I LOVE this and so inspires me to wear different colors and silhouettes!

  45. I love the way she talks about the city! She describes it perfectly. I feel the same but I only visit every few years. It’s so cool that she can still feel that way after living there for so long.

  46. ooh her fashion sense is so fun!

  47. These posts are usually mainly helpful for me because my mom never taught me how to do my hair or makeup, but Maya’s personality is totally what hooked me with this one! She has such a fun and freeing spirit!

  48. The Beauty Uniforms are one of my favourite posts on the site. They are always about so much more than beauty, it’s so fascinating to read about these amazing women and their philosophies.

  49. I highly recommend nerd wax for wearing glasses with makeup! It’s all natural and stops your glasses from slipping :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’ve never heard of this, thank you, lisa!

    • Emma says...

      My fiancé got my mom hooked on nerd wax, now the entire family uses it. Ha

    • kaela delgado says...

      Whatever souls are made of, HERS and mine are the same. Genuinely. The simplicity and the whimsy of her just rings so true to me. This series will always be a favorite… Thanks! xo

    • kaela says...

      And nerdwax!!! Incredible. I had no clue such a thing exists. Nerdy, but so necessary. Adding to the list. :)

  50. This post makes me want to go shopping for colorful clothes! And smell like summer. Her restaurant sounds amazing :)

  51. Maire says...

    I have a new style icon. Her outfits are amazing!

  52. she’s the coooolest.

  53. Megn says...

    I liked that this Beauty Uniform post didn’t necessarily focus on products, and focused more on living a good life. Thank you!

  54. Jeannie says...

    She is inspiring!

  55. Sierra says...

    Haha, “I’m not a big makeup person”…except for a blush a month, foundation, powder, etc.

    • Jill Palumbo says...

      I know! That’s about all I wear too so I guess I’m not a big make up person either. She is adorable but I looked up her skin care and makeup items and they are very pricey! A little beyond my budget. Her boys look very sweet.

    • Stephanie says...

      I thought the same, haha.

  56. Lena says...

    Yay I love her style!! Bravo!

  57. I love that she wasn’t afraid to dress how she wanted even as a teenager. Wish I had the same bravery back then, but better late than never :)

  58. beautiful. I love her red shoes. she has a style that will look amazing for years to come.

  59. Summer says...

    Her 90’s pics are EVERYTHING! Made my day, and makes me want to rummage through my stuff. :P Loved this genuine uniform. Thanks for sharing, Maya!

  60. M says...

    I love her and her restaurants. THE BEST! I love how she’s so down to earth (shops everywhere – value in everything) but her style is intrinsically her own! There is nothing haughty or uptight about her. So refreshing. Too many fashionistas take themselves crazy seriously (and it shows in their writing and blogs). She is a true representation of confidence!

  61. kate says...

    Maya is a breath of fresh air! Thank you for the many lovely moments your stories give me. I am in a very remote, rural area and your words and pictures just transport me……..You are appreciated!

  62. So excited to see this feature! I’ve never been to their restaurant but I began following their Instagram because I was instantly drawn to her style!!!

    • Kelly says...

      Ooh! Adding them now onto my IG now! She’s got ah-mazing style. Major heart eyes.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      the restaurant is SO delicious.

  63. Natalie Brennan says...

    OMG where has this woman been all my life? Love her and this beauty uniform.

  64. Kendra says...

    Ohmygoodness she is adorable! I love her! Great post, Jo.

  65. She is just the coolest! Her style is amazing.