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My Beauty Uniform: Carmen Maria Machado

My Beauty Uniform: Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado first grabbed our attention with her essays and short stories on women’s minds, bodies, sexuality and mental health. Her highly anticipated first book, Her Body and Other Parties, came out to rave reviews and is a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction. Carmen, who lives with her wife in Philadelphia, is a fragrance enthusiast with a penchant for bold fashion. Here, she shares her love of offbeat scents, literary tattoos and horror movies…

Beauty Uniform: Carmen Maria Machado

When did you first become interested in beauty?
Growing up in the suburbs of Allentown, Pennsylvania, I found beauty very interesting and mysterious, but it never felt meant for me. I always did it wrong — too patchy, too heavy. I never liked how it looked. My grandmother would sit at her vanity, which was littered with vials and jars, and put herself together. It felt very ritualistic, noble and dignified — even a little witchy. I was completely hypnotized as a kid. She whetted my appetite for gorgeous bottles and beauty artifacts.

Beauty Uniform: Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen’s grandmother.

Like what?
Well, I’m obsessed with perfume and have a growing collection of beautiful bottles. I love how each fragrance smells a certain way in the bottle, but different notes get thrown off on your skin. It’s petrichor, then jasmine, then smoke, then musk, then the memory of musk, then nothing. It’s like its own little universe, coming to life and living and dying in miniature right on your body. I love complicated, dark, strange scents with notes of booze, wood, water and smoke. My current pleasures include Imaginary Authors’ A City on Fire and Zoologist’s Bat. I discover new independent perfumes through The Dry Down, an amazing newsletter all about fragrance.

When did you start wearing makeup?
It wasn’t until I was a little older — out of college, really — that I started thinking that beauty, skincare and fashion were things that I could fully participate in. But now I’ve become comfortable experimenting with different looks. I no longer feel accountable to anyone but myself, and that’s exciting and freeing.

Beauty Uniform: Carmen Maria Machado

On vacation in Ireland.

How did you get there?
I used to feel uncomfortable in my body, which I hated for such a long time. Now I’m trying to make it up to her, because she is the vehicle that ferries my weird mind through this world, and that’s pretty amazing. Discovering fat fashion blogs in college helped. Before, I dressed plainly and never wore makeup, and nothing ever fit quite right. I guess I didn’t think I deserved to look nice. But the blogs made me realize I had fashion choices! That I could actually create an outfit that I wanted to wear, instead of just settling for something in or near my size. It was really liberating, and made me want to experiment with makeup, as well. Now I’m obsessed with clothes, and I’ve become good at dressing my body. Most of the fat fashion blogs I read back then are no longer active, so nowadays I go to Instagram. I love Gabi GreggBeth DittoIndia-Haylee Alex BartonJessamyn StanleyDenise BidotNaomi Watanabe and Lizzo, I also hop on The Curvy Fashionista pretty often.

Where are your favorite places to shop?
I love Universal Standard, Beth Ditto’s line, Modcloth and Pinup Girl Clothing.

Do you wear makeup regularly now?
I’m lucky that my skin is fairly even-toned, and I have a lot of natural color in my cheeks and lips. When I was a kid, my female relatives would swipe a finger over my lips because they were convinced I was wearing lipstick, even though I never was. So, day-to-day, I don’t wear much makeup, except a bit of concealer if I have a zit. Sometimes I’ll throw on a lipstick that can fade naturally throughout the day, like Clinique Black Honey.

My Beauty Uniform: Carmen Maria Machado

What about special occasions?
When I’m in makeup mood, I’ll put on some gold eyeshadow, but I avoid mascara because it smears and flecks my glasses. My favorite lipstick, hands-down, is the Sephora Collection Cream Lip Stain in Always Red. It goes on easily, smells lovely, and stays on for hours through eating and whatever you’re doing. The color is absolutely stunning — a classic red that’s super flattering.

Do you have any drugstore finds? 
CVS has been carrying a Frida Kahlo makeup line in those little bins near the front. The packaging is utterly gorgeous. I pop into every CVS I see to track down the colors I don’t have.

Beauty Uniform: Carmen Maria Machado

What’s the most drastic thing you’ve ever done with your look? 
Getting tattoos. On my left arm, it says “Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.” On my right, it says “She didn’t look back, but stepped off the edge of the known world.” The former is a quote by Clementine Paddleford, who was this badass food writer from the 1950s; the latter is the final line of Kelly Link’s short story “Flying Lessons.” They’re reminders of how to conduct myself when I stand still, and when I move.

Beauty Uniform: Carmen Maria Machado

Can you tell us about your job?
I’m a writer and teacher. Right now, I’m the artist in residence at the University of Pennsylvania. My book, Her Body and Other Parties, is a collection of short stories that uses pop culture, science fiction, fantasy and horror to meditate on women’s bodies, sexuality and mental health.

Horror?
Yeah, I teach a horror writing class and love horror movies — like Alien, The Descent and The Others. Watching or reading horror is not that different from, say, sex, or running. Your adrenaline goes up, you’re flooded with endorphins, your blood flow increases. When writing horror, you try to harvest your own fears and vulnerabilities. It can be very freeing as an artist.

Horror seems like one of those things people either love or hate. Is your wife into it?
The movies stress her out too much. But she does like me to recount the plots, beat by beat, after I watch.

My Beauty Uniform: Carmen Maria Machado

What’s your favorite piece you’ve written?
Probably “The Husband Stitch,” a retelling of the urban legend about the girl with the green ribbon around her neck, followed closely by “Especially Heinous,” a reimagining of Law & Order: SVU. My favorite essay I’ve written is the “The Trash Heap Has Spoken.”

In that essay, you wrote: “Every day, I look for myself in other women’s bodies.” What did you mean by this?
I think people are hungry for visions of themselves in the world. If you are, for example, a fit white dude or a conventionally beautiful, thin woman, those images are very easy to find. But for me, they’re not, so I’m always looking at folks when I’m out and about. I’m an incurable people-watcher. 

Beauty Uniform: Carmen Maria Machado

Tell us about your skincare routine.
I take long showers and use that time to meditate on whatever I’m working on. We even have a waterproof pad of paper in the shower so I can jot down notes. I use Lush Angels on Bare Skin and afterwards I moisturize with Celestial. I used to work at a Lush Store, so I’ve been converted to their products. If I’m breaking out, I’ll use a metal blackhead remover and a little tea tree oil. If I’ve got stray face/chin hairs, I pluck them with a tweezer or use Nad’s Facial Wax Strips. About once a week, I use Cure Natural Aqua Gel to exfoliate.

What about at night?
I’ll use a cleansing towelette — right now I’m loving the Burt’s Bees with White Tea Extract. Then I’ll rub Gold Bond Rough & Bumpy on my elbows and feet. I’ve been trying to go screen-free before bedtime, so often I’ll listen to a podcast until I’m tired — like Sawbones, Stuff You Missed in History Class, Racist Sandwich or Dear Prudence.

Beauty Uniform: Carmen Maria Machado

How do you care for your hair?
The Cuban side of my family has very curly hair; both my siblings have luxurious locks. But I’m halfway in between — my hair is heavy and easily pulls itself out of curl, but then I get ridiculous frizzy ringlets around the edges if there’s the slightest bit of humidity. I have yet to figure out a shampoo that gives my hair the kind of curl-encouragement and volume it needs. (Do any readers have suggestions?) If it’s a non-shower day, I’ll spritz ColorProof HumidityRx Anti-Frizz Weatherproof Spray to keep the frizzies away.

How do you style it?
I put it up in a bun or topknot every day. My wife jokes that I’m like a Victorian lady — only she gets to see my hair down, and even then only at bedtime.

Beauty Uniform: Carmen Maria Machado

You recently got married. Tell us about your amazing pink dress!
I got my Maggie Sottero at Curvaceous Couture, which is the only dedicated plus-sized wedding dress store in the U.S. (When I was younger, I discovered that bridal shops usually only carry sample sizes, and most of them were far too small for me. I had to just hold the dresses up and imagine what they’d look like on. I didn’t want to do that for my own wedding dress. Novel concept, right?) Anyway, I spent a while trying on dresses, but nothing was clicking. One of my friends yelled, “MIX IT UP,” so the woman helping us picked up this huge, fluffy, pink thing. I immediately knew that it was my dress. It was so romantic and dramatic and ridiculous, and I looked beautiful. I kept strutting back and forth in front of the mirror like a peacock until I had to take it off because they had another appointment.

Beauty Uniform: Carmen Maria Machado

Beauty Uniform: Carmen Maria Machado

What vibe were you going for with your wedding makeup? 
Since my dress was so intense, I wanted my makeup to be understated — soft pink lips and cheeks and a little gold eyeshadow. The result was equal parts romantic, glam and elegant.

Beauty Uniform: Carmen Maria Machado

Do you have any beauty inspirations?
Yes! I love Frida Kahlo for her bright colors, body hair and surrealism. Beth Ditto for wearing high fashion on a fat body. Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby for those feathered and polka-dot floor-length robes. Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for her pink, diamonds, houndstooth, leopard print and every curve showing. Also, Ms. Frizzle. I have been known to wear themed clothes when teaching. I wear constellation pants and a star blazer for sci-fi writing, and a haunted house skirt and ouija pin for horror writing. Beauty is about your pleasure and satisfaction, and no one else’s.

Beauty Uniform: Carmen Maria Machado

Thank you so much, Carmen!

P.S. More women’s beauty uniforms, including a eight grade teacher and a restaurant owner.

(Photos courtesy of Carmen Maria Machado. Wedding and engagement photos by Samantha Jay. Portrait by Tom Storm.)

  1. Carly says...

    I just saw this morning that Carmen is a National Book Award finalist for Her Body and Other Parties. Can’t wait to read it. She is just the coolest!

    http://www.nationalbook.org/

  2. Amanda says...

    I’ve been returning to this piece in my mind all day, so much so that I’ve decided we’ll use it for our next Article Club :)
    On that note, Cup of Jo inspired me to start an article club over three years ago and it’s been going strong ever since. The rotation of women regularly changes, and when friends move away they earnestly request to be kept in the loop of what we’re reading and discussing. We jokingly refer to it as the Assembly of Smart Women and the general requirements are that you have opinions and preferably don’t know everyone (or almost anyone) in the group. The last one ended in a circle of women in tears over the recounting of a first pap smear. I can’t quite explain how our Article Club came to be what it is, but I can say it’s the most heartwarming and uplifting group I have ever had the privilege to be a part of.

  3. Curly Girl: The Handbook by Michele Bender, Lorraine Massey, Deborah Chiel will absolutely reveal the hair you’ve only dreamed you could have. It’s involved but if you’re serious then seriously: GOLD STANDARD.

    • Also, dammit, I just spent a ridiculous amount of money on samples from the perfume companies she suggested. *sigh* This interview was awesome and financially devastating, ha!

  4. Kate says...

    HANDS DOWN, favorite beauty uniform ever! I think it ranks up there with Toby’s week of outfits for my favorite post ever on CoJ.
    Seriously, being a curvy girl makes it feel like every single fashion trend out there seems to exist just to shame you and your body. It feels like middle school 24-7. I LOVE her outlook! After two pregnancies and two babies in three years I’m trying to be proud of my body and every wonderful, magical thing it can do.

    Also, those perfumes sound uhhhh-mazing!

  5. Laurel says...

    Carmen, you are a total babe and like all the other commenters, I am in geeky fan girl mode where I want us to be besties. I too went through my adolescence hating my oddly shaped body and now am on the path to making amends with her. She gave me two beautiful babies and I owe it to her to treat her like the goddess she is. Thanks for sharing your words, so many of us connected with them.

    Love from Australia,
    Laurel

  6. Kim says...

    this is great.

  7. So Carmen, we have identical taste in makeup! I think it’s a glasses gal thing. I love your work!

  8. This:

    “I used to feel uncomfortable in my body, which I hated for such a long time. Now I’m trying to make it up to her, because she is the vehicle that ferries my weird mind through this world, and that’s pretty amazing.”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      LOVED this, too.

  9. Nikki says...

    “Every day, I look for myself in other women’s bodies.” Thank you Carmen for allowing me to see myself in yours- in such a beautiful, inspiring, creative and intelligent way. It means so much in days where it feels like a war between my mind and body.

  10. Kathryn says...

    This is the most inspiring thing I have read in months. Loved all of it.

    Carmen, thank you for being such an excellent human.

  11. Her Bodies and Other Parties is one of my favorite books of the year. Carmen, you’re a sparkling ray of authenticity and hope! Thank you for sharing your talent and your amazing self with us!

  12. Morgan says...

    This profile is the best thing I’ve read in a while. Carmen, you’re an inspiration!

  13. I just have about 100 bonkzillion things to say about this post but I’ll narrow it down: 1) how true it is to have grown up when it was NOT. ACCEPTABLE. to be overweight and you feel like you don’t deserve to have clothes that fit you, be beautiful, or feel pretty. Then you feel like crap and how can get ANYthing done like that? It is a MUCH better time to be a big girl these days and while it makes me sad I didn’t have that support from the fashion world as a fat kid, I’m so glad there are options out there for girls now and they can feel pretty. 2) I also love Nicolette Mason’s Instagram, Studio Mucci, and Alex Michael May for more super body positivity. 3) Your pink dress is HEAVEN. 4) I also love to theme my outfits!! 5) Ok can we just be friends?

  14. Ellen says...

    Have you tried DevaShan shampoo, conditioner, and gel? If not you MUST. You must!

  15. Nancey says...

    Ok, this one really was the favorite, though I always say that – I really mean it this time. Love her, love her stories (I went right over to read them). What a wonderful, beautiful, strong, vibrant woman. wow is all, just wow.

  16. Naomi says...

    The finalists for the National Book Awards were just announced, and Carmen Maria Machado’s book is one of the five finalists for fiction!! So awesome!

    • Michelle says...

      Yes! Read that this morning and immediately thought back to this profile. Two great reasons to check out her writing!

  17. Bip says...

    OMG! Love her and want to be friends with her so bad. Carmen, you are awesome. Love this series too.

  18. Sara Wakefield says...

    Thank you for this! Agreed – Universal Standard is so effing great.

  19. Erin says...

    Carmen! You rock lady! What an inspiration to read about you! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with beauty, writing, and body image so openly. Excited to look for the Frida Khalo makeup in CVS and to pick up your book. Hair! So, I too have frizzy/half curly situation and I used to love the Bumble + Bumble Curl Conscious line for medium to thick (they also had fine- med) texture hair but now…but they lumped it in to one line and it just isn’t as good or worth the price :( Now, I use Rudy’s Barbershop Shampoo and Conditioner (comb with a wide tooth comb while conditioner is still soaking in for like 5-7 minutes) and Rosemary Oil (after a few minutes of air drying). Sometimes I put coconut oil on my hair the night before I wash it too for extra conditioning…this was a tip from a friend who also has curls and dry hair, it’s a good one :) I feel like it has been almost as good as the previous routine I had.

  20. Jessica says...

    A lot of commenters have already covered great tips for naturally curly ladies, so I’m probably just echoing their great advice but I’d also agree that naturallycurly.com is a great resource, including for finding stylists in your area who are experienced in cutting curly hair or trained in the Deva Curl method. Hands down, the best thing I’ve ever done is find stylists who actually know curly hair inside and out because they not only give you a great cut, they can also completely educate you on products and styling techniques that make all the difference in your hair’s health and appearance. There are great product suggestions in these comments at a nice range of price points. My personal favorite is the Shea Moisture line available at Target because it’s incredibly hydrating but surprisingly light (especially the Coconut and Hibiscus line), which is perfect for my very curly but very fine hair. Good luck, Carmen!

    • A MARTIN says...

      I love that Shea Moisture line, so good!!

  21. What a great feature! I absolutely loved her perspective on beauty. I can’t wait to snag her book!

  22. Jess says...

    I JUST LOVE HER

  23. Paige R. says...

    I rarely post comments here (or anywhere), but I’m partway through the first-linked story (with the green ribbon) and I think this is my new favorite author. I’m so engrossed, and as someone who’s overly sensitive to both pretentious and overly safe or boring writing, I’m just in awe of how she tells a story. Kudos to Joanna and Megan for introducing us to such interesting people, and kudos to Carmen for your talent.

  24. Netti says...

    I’m in love with your My Beauty Uniform series – what an amazing variety of inspiring and absolutely badass women!

  25. Hanna says...

    First thing I thought was, “wow, amazing skin”

  26. Preeti says...

    I check in at the blog everyday as my mid-work day ritual. Being a person who has always looked fro my answer in the written word, this has a been a wonderful place where real gorgeous women talk or are talked about. Helps get back to the real world with renewed spirit and answers.
    This post has been my favourite of all times, and that is saying a lot, considering I read and enjoy every post here. Her words, the tattoos, the bridal dress and the sheer joy of accepting and being her very own person. Think I found my touch stone to joy in your Beauty Uniform article.

  27. mika says...

    Beautiful profile on Carmen!

  28. Niamh NicGhabhann says...

    Amazing. Beauty is about your pleasure and satisfaction. Words to live by! What a total babe in body and mind!

  29. Jill says...

    Oh wow I love her! And what a quote – Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be. Definitely writing that one down.

  30. ECH says...

    Bravo! Beautiful and badass! XO

  31. Meredith says...

    Oh, that pink wedding dress! And, HER WRITING. I read some of her sentences over and over they were so gorgeous. So excited to try her book!

  32. Zakia says...

    “Beauty is about your pleasure and satisfaction, and no one else’s.” I love this. I throughly enjoyed learning about Carmen. I’m going to read her book. Thank you for the introduction ?

  33. Ashley F. says...

    I just read The Husband Stitch and it was so gripping and good. EVERYONE CLICK ON THE LINK AND READ IT! I was transfixed while reading it. I love a creepy tale during this time of year!

  34. Love your ink…love your themed writing attire…and love this line: “Beauty is about your pleasure and satisfaction, and no one else’s.” Yes, please! Beautiful post, beautiful person!

  35. cassie says...

    LOVE EVERYTHING about this! Carmen, you are glorious! you two look so happy and lovely! congratulations! I was a plus sized bride, and it’s hard. thank you for being you!

  36. Nicole Brant says...

    LOVE this! I wish I could meet her. I’ll have to settle for her book.
    I used to avoid mascara for the exact same reasons, until I discovered Blinc’s tube formula mascara. It is amazing. Pricey but worth it. It doesn’t bother my sensitive eyes and never smears, even if I cry, and comes off easily with warm water.

    • Kate says...

      Ooooh, thanks for this. I have glasses AND super sensitive eyes, and could never ever wear mascara. I’m trying this!

  37. Meg says...

    Amazing amazing! This one was so full of beauty, beautiful words and a beautiful woman and message but…. waterproof shower notepad??? They exist? I want one?

  38. Abi says...

    My favourite beauty uniform post yet. Thank you Carmen, I have never truly understood my constant people watching, and here you so clearly put it in words for me. Of course! I am looking “for myself in other women’s bodies.” I shall be searching out everything you have written, there is more I hope you can explain :) And tomorrow? Tomorrow I shall wear lipstick and let it ‘fade throughout the day’

  39. Tara says...

    This whole post is everything!!!!! ❤️

  40. miri says...

    I’ll be buying her book this weekend. Loved every bit of this.

  41. Brooke says...

    Such a breath of fresh air! I love her vibrancy and self awareness! I wish I knew her!

  42. Jamie says...

    Thank you for this post! Carmen is beautiful and interesting. I love your blog, but sometimes I feel like it’s directed to “conventionally beautiful, thin woman” (to quote Carmen). Seeing this post made me feel more of a connection to your page.

  43. Cynthia says...

    What an awesome quote- “Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.” Will be sharing with my little niece when she is old enough to understand the message.

  44. Kirsten says...

    What an awesome woman. I want to be friends with her :)

  45. Haylee says...

    “It’s petrichor, then jasmine, then smoke, then musk, then the memory of musk, then nothing. It’s like its own little universe, coming to life and living and dying in miniature right on your body.”
    Gosh, how lovely. She brings life and experience to all of these everyday things, it’s wonderful.
    Also, Hairstory has been working great for me! I know it’s received a lot of hype lately, but it’s honestly the first shampoo I’ve tried that has dealt with that frizzy curl that borders my face and neck (I can relate…previously untameable frizzy ringlets even in dry climates, accompanied by stickly straight hair in random splotches on the back of my head :| it’s glorious). Hairstory is nice, too, because it’s only one bottle in your shower, then one add-on after (I use the balm), and you don’t have to deal with some sort of lengthy hair concoction to even things out. It’s a little on the pricier side, but I highly recommend it for hair with mixed textures. It’s been about a month, now, and this last wash was when I most noticed a more even texture. I hope it only goes up from here.

  46. Christine says...

    What an awesome wedding dress Carmen — best wishes to you and your wife! I’m a hair-off-my-face girl too (I even sleep with my hair up). Have you tried the gnatural brand of hair care products? Hands down the best shampoo and conditioner I’ve ever used. Thanks so much for a great read!

  47. Robin says...

    Love love love. Especially that last line.

  48. Jessica says...

    You’ve gotta love a woman who cites both Marilyn Monroe and Ms. Frizzle as beauty inspirations!

  49. Jess says...

    YES.

  50. AJ says...

    One of my faves yet! This series just gets better and better. Carmen your wedding dress is just sublime! And that final line about beauty being about your own pleasure and satisfaction and no one else’s…. so so true and good.

  51. B says...

    Loved this. I wear my hair up everyday for the same reason. Loved the thoughtful tattoos, loved the glasses under the wedding veil, would love to have seen one of her themed teaching outfits. One really gets the sense that she belongs to herself. What a thing to embrace and aspire to!

  52. Susan says...

    Carmen is new to me. I love her! Definitely going to grab her book!

  53. Elizabeth says...

    Deva Curl, Jessi Curl, Raw curls!

    • Jill H. says...

      YES! For my thick curls, I swear by Deva Curl ‘No-poo’ co wash and then for styling, a little Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel. Ditch the shampoo… co-washing is life!

  54. Christy says...

    Great interview and I just added her to my list of need to read authors. It does seem that a lot of the Beauty Uniforms don’t feature women who wear a lot of makeup (even though makeup is not needed to be beautiful). I’d love to see more makeup “heavy” profiles, too. Maybe Justina Blakeney? I think she does a good job of balancing natural beauty and getting dolled up.

  55. Amanda says...

    Carmen! What a lovely post and such a beautiful person, inside and out.

    And Sephora Cream Lip Stain is the BOMB. ‘Always Red’ is a go to for me too – but try ‘Mandarin Slice’!

  56. A MARTIN says...

    OMG Carmen!! I am sooo excited for you to go on your curly hair journey!!! It will be like discovering a hidden secret that has been in front of you this whole time…well..in this case, on top of your head this whole time :) I highly recommend finding out your hair porosity. Sunkissalba is one of my favorite curly girls, she explains the porosity test: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=jnjicHoZrJY

    Then, if you go on Naturallycurly.com’s website, you can take a texture quiz: https://www.naturallycurly.com/quiz/

    Knowing your texture and curl pattern (which you can also find on the naturallycurly.com website) is super helpful in finding the best products for your hair and how best to care for it. You can also google “devacut” and see who in your area is a certified devacut stylist. Once I did this..oh man it was another world of gorgeousness. My family would always call my hair a rat nest and now that I discovered its true beauty and I care for it as it deserves, it is yet another way for me to connect with my body. I am now at awe with my hair texture, like “dayyuuummm I had NO idea it could do all this all these years!!” Cheers to you!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love this comment! :) :) :)

    • A MARTIN says...

      Joanna, you and your team are the best!! I would love if you guys featured different curly girls – with different curl patterns and porosity. Curly girls are always looking for holy grail products and tips and tricks :) it is funny to say but our hair has its own personality and there is a feeling of peace embracing the curls and loving them. I used to associate curly hair as messy and unkept or a crunchy gel helmet so when I had important meetings/events, I thought I looked best with straight, flat ironed hair. Hiding the curls as if they were an awful family secret. Then I went to a hair salon that a friend recommended in San Francisco. I thought I would leave with my traditional blow dried/flat ironed hair. Instead, they actually specialized in curly hair and th stylists were certified to cut “Devacuts.” The hair stylist cut my hair dry then taught me to how to take care of my hair. I was blown away. I went from dry, frizzy hair to healthy, springy glossy 3A curly hair. I felt so sexy and alive, so hard to put into better words. That is when I fell into the curly world rabbit hole and I love it! The curly community is made up of awesome men and women who speak this special language and share their techniques with the hopes it will help someone else – plopping, LOC method, no-poo, cowash, sensitivity to protein, low / medium / high porosity, apple cider vinegar hair rinses, silicones and sulfates aren’t our friend, scalp massages with castor oil, dry your wet hair with a tshirt or microfiber towel, cotton towels on wet hair is a no no, don’t detangle wet hair with a brush, use a wide tooth comb or your fingers….unless it is a denman classic styling brush (9 rows) which is used as a styling tool and helps with curl patterns on wet hair….I’m tellin’ ya…it’s a fascinating rabbit hole.

  57. Hey! Fellow curly haired Cuban here. I’d try a co-wash rather than a shampoo most days, nothing but conditioner/shampoo motions a few times a week, then a shampoo day or two to remove any residue from products. You also need to find the right products! Deva Curl is widely available and great. I’ve also found the Miss Jessie’s (sold at Target) to be wonderful too– for us multicultural girls, they cater to different types of curly hair. An oil is essential, as is a finishing paste, especially for humid days. Curly hair gets SO dry, and needs the extra TLC even when it seems counterintuitive to do so.

    Wrote this article many moons ago– hope it helps!

    xo
    nadia.

  58. Erin LaDue says...

    Her clear glasses look a lot like a pair I got at Zenni online which I love. The frames are called Tamalpais and are way less then Warby Parker.

  59. Cindy says...

    One of my favorite posts to date. I wish Carmen could come to Illinois to speak at my library! I am getting a new tattoo and was searching for THE PERFECT quote…found it, thanks to you Carmen! “She didn’t look back”. absolute perfection. And you are such a gorgeous woman and in that pink ruffled romantic wedding gown? STUNNING. Keep being you!

  60. Sasha says...

    I was about to give my wavy/curly hair advice ( wash only once a week, Beauty Without Cruelty shampoo, conditioner and leave in) but then I read another comment and remembered humidity. :(
    Sorry, don’t have it out west where I live. Its like cheating.

    Honestly though, your hair is gorgeous. I wouldn’t change a thing. Every single thing about this post was so fun and enlightening and unique and inspiring. I just requested your book at my library.

  61. Lucy says...

    Lovely post, I know what she means about looking for myself in other women’s bodies. I am a curvy, tall girl and I am always on the look out for women shaped like me so I can see what suits, I am desperate to figure out what sort of pants my body shape would suit for example, as I want an alternative to tights or leggings, or standard black pants at work.

  62. Shannon says...

    She has the most beautiful skin!

  63. Kara says...

    Love this! The strutting like a peacock scene made me laugh (I mean who hasn’t done that when they’re like “I look GREAT in this!”), and I love the line at the end about beauty being for your own pleasure.

    I highly recommend figuring out what type curl you have (I imagine yours is 2-something) and then learning what products work best for that type! I find that products meant to tame frizz make your curls less defined as they build up, which would be the opposite of what you want with your hair, so knowing your curl type should be vey helpful. Also I love Devacurl products, like their Low-Poo shampoo.

  64. Sarah says...

    OMG, Carmen, you are awesome! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, and speaking to how much representation matters! So glad you shared your revelation that expressing yourself through fashion and beauty is for EVERYONE (who wants to). And I think you succeeded in making all of us want to read your book, so win-win!

  65. Natalie says...

    Loved this interview so much! Her “Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.” made me tear up! What beautiful advice to give ourselves and other women!

  66. nora says...

    I always enjoy this series, but Carmen’s story has gone above and beyond the regular beauty uniform interview. Every decision has a reason and story beyond just looks. When I came to her quote “Every day, I look for myself in other women’s bodies”, Carmen had put into words what I felt from the moment I started reading. Here is someone like me, only much more interesting and eloquent! I want to be like her! Lovely story.

  67. Sarah says...

    Curly girls! Try the Davines line of love shampoo/conditioner and their serum that comes in the pink packaging. Best products I’ve found and I’ve really tried a lot of them! Also, less frequent washing=less fuzz!

  68. JB says...

    AWESOME!

    Can totally relate on the wedding dress shopping. I’m 6ft tall and a dress size 18 and was told by multiple bridal boutiques to “not even bother coming in.” Luckily, Toronto has Kleinfeld’s now and they had so many great options. I was able to find my dream dress and the seamstress’ there made sure it fit like a glove – though it was NOT inexpensive, to be fair (props to plus size brides that can find vintage and deals)! There are brands and stores out there trying to do it right!

  69. Someone who loves Kelly Link as much as I do!

  70. Alice says...

    She has a quote by a bad ass 50’s food writer – just swoon. I’m putting that quote up in a frame in my office. Loving her wedding dress, joining the Dry Down, ordering her book.
    What a totally unique person. Thank you so much.

  71. Karen says...

    Beautiful, funny, smart- the whole package and so inspiring! Thank you, Carmen!

  72. Nicole says...

    “Beauty is about your pleasure and satisfaction, and no one else’s.”

    Swoon!

  73. Corinne says...

    Lovely post.

  74. Jessie says...

    Cup of Jo ladies, you have been hitting it out of the park lately with showcasing these gorgeous, diverse women for your beauty/fashion uniform series. Thank you & keep it up!

    • Colleen says...

      Yes!1 totally agree, absolutely love it!

  75. Erin says...

    Loved seeing this beautiful woman who isn’t as “oh, I just threw on these perfectly distressed jeans and denim shirt with trendy sneaks” as one so often sees on blogs like this one (which I love!) :)

    • Rachel says...

      totally agree. ME TOO!

  76. Charli says...

    This just made my day!! Thank you!

  77. Liz says...

    I’ve come back to read this like three times. I’m so inspired!!!

  78. Jen says...

    This is so good.

  79. That Sephora lip stain is LEGIT.

  80. j says...

    HA! I love that Ms. Frizzle comment. My earring choices make me feel like her too.

  81. Lauren Adelman says...

    Hi Carmen!

    After years of straightening my hair and putting back in buns, I’ve finally started embracing my natural wavy/curly texture, and it”s taken a lot of finessing. I find that my hair is a bit too fine for most heavy and waxy drugstore shampoo/conditioner combos so I alternate between Aveda Naturally Curly co-wash or a new product called Function of Beauty. They make customized shampoo and conditioner formulas based on a questionnaire where you tell them what your five hair “goals” are. I believe mine are along the lines of “de frizz, curl, volume, length, and strength”, and I’m totally in love! I only wash my hair once or twice a week, so my first set is still going!

    I also live and die by Deva Curl Frizz Free Volumizing Foam and their Light Defining gel.

    Stick with it, I know the curl journey can be an extremely frustrating one!

    • Emma C says...

      A second for Aveda products. My hair does exactly what you said, it’s heavy so while it will curl beautifully immediately post wash, the curl falls flat really quickly. It also frizzes a LOT. Aveda ‘be curly’ curl enhancer is hands down the best product I’ve found. I use it like a leave-in conditioner.

  82. Hannah says...

    Who can read this and not want to buy her book immediately? I want every girl to read about loving their body because “she is the vehicle that ferries my weird mind through this world.” Stunning!

  83. Heather D. says...

    FYI: Tea tree oil used “neat” on the skin (without being diluted) is bad for your skin and can actually make acne worse. Try a tea tree hydrosol or mixing a little of the oil in some aloe vera instead for a safer application.

    • Paula says...

      Thanks!! I was actually wondering how to use it, as someone once told me never to apply essential oils directly to your skin.

    • Heather D. says...

      Plant Therapy has a great blog with tips on safe use & other oil-related topics. This is where I buy my oils. =) https://www.planttherapy.com/blog/

  84. Laura says...

    This post totally made my day. Thank you, Carmen and CoJ! ;)

  85. Kyla says...

    I love them all the Beauty Uniform posts but this was a great one Cup of Jo. She’s lovely in all the ways. Will never commit to a tattoo but that Clementine Paddleford quote – heart clutch! Off to put some version of it in my daughter’s room.

  86. jac says...

    Her and her wife are super cute. <3

  87. Cynthia says...

    Her pink wedding dress is breath taking! Clinique’s Almost Lipstick in Black Honey is one of my favorites, and I’ve been wearing it for years.

  88. AK says...

    Clear glasses frames — love! Where are they from?!

    • Taylor says...

      Warby Parker carries a lot of clear frames!

  89. Katelyn says...

    Okay, I haven’t thought “ME TOO!” so often in a Beauty Uniform before…the Victorian lady hair comment is perfection!!

    • Steph says...

      so funny, I use the same thing and have noticed my naturally curly hair doesn’t frizz as much if I use this shampoo and conditioner!

    • lauren says...

      Just checked this out and they have great reviews on Amazon too. Added it to my cart- thank you!

    • Hannah says...

      Yes!! I have extremely curly hair and I agree! That and the Loreal EverSleek leave-in cream. I can’t find it in stores anymore so I have to buy it off Amazon. I pray it’s not discontinued!

    • LaurenB says...

      I don’t have curly hair — mine is fine, limp, and frizzy. I have a keratin treatment to smooth the frizz, but that means I have to keep it very conditioned….which always used to make it too heavy and flat. I I could have written the same exact comment — it is the BEST by far. Sometimes I dream of trying fancier products, but I always regret it and come back to this feeling like I wasted my money. I use ever-pure volumizing shampoo (purple) and ever-creme conditioner (brown/gold).

  90. Karla says...

    Thank you for this! Carmen is so beautiful and poetic. Totally inspiring!

  91. loved this beauty uniform feature. “looking for myself in other women’s bodies” – i totally related to that. keep up the great original work, ladies!

  92. OMG I’m so obsessed with her!! What a gem of a human, what a great beauty uniform. I can’t wait to read her book and wiiiish I could take her horror writing class!

  93. Leah says...

    What an amazing human being. Can’t wait to read her book!
    I love how these beauty uniform posts dive so much further than skin deep :)

  94. Rae says...

    Oh, this one ended too quickly. What a joy to read. I especially loved the description of what the experience of watching & reading horror is akin to–spot on. And Carmen, your wedding dress is a dream!

  95. Ana says...

    SO nice to see a Latina!

  96. Um, can we be best friends? I felt that way through the entire piece, but the end really got me. I’m planning on leaving my miserable corporate job soon to become an elementary school teacher, and the other day I literally texted my sister “OMG I CAN BE MS FRIZZLE!”

    I’ll also definitely be checking out some of the perfume selections, and going back in time to get married in a pink dress.

  97. Amanda says...

    Wow, that paragraph on perfume convinced me that I need to read her book. What beautiful writing.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i felt the same. she speaks in poems!

    • Lisa says...

      Me too – so beautifully wrktten. I’ve never thought of perfume in that way.

      I am seriously jealous of her wedding dress – so gorgeous

  98. karen says...

    OMG! I was so inspired by Carmen’s interview. Especially this quote, “I think people are hungry for visions of themselves in the world. If you are, for example, a fit white dude or a conventionally beautiful, thin woman, those images are very easy to find. But for me, they’re not, so I’m always looking at folks when I’m out and about. I’m an incurable people-watcher. ”
    I am such a people watcher. I am forever wanting to be 5′ 7 and weigh 20 pounds less than my current weight, because you know, life would be perfect (ha!)……so I’m clicking around my library’s website to put her book on hold and I’m thinking, wow it would be great to see her speak. SO I CHECK the author events to see if maybe she’s coming to Philly to speak and it turns out she is coming TONIGHT! And I have a ticket.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, that’s amazing, karen!!

    • karen says...

      Joanna, I literally gasped! I bought the ticket to see Jennifer Eagan, the two are speaking together. I had not heard of Carmen. Thank you so much for this post, Megan! Now the real questions, should I mention “Cup of Jo”….. should I buy her a Frida Kahlo lipstick……decisions, decisions.

  99. shannon says...

    The tips in this post were super helpful for my (wavyish, frizzy) curls: http://laracasey.com/2017/03/31/embracing-my-curls-how-to-wear-your-hair-curly/

    I also had good luck with the banana plantain hair milk from SheaMoisture. I work it into damp hair after showering and then reactivate it by spritzing with water whenever I need a hair boost but don’t want to wash it again just yet.

  100. Yet again another beautiful style profile! I love the diverse group of women you choose! Her writing sounds wonderful, and that wedding dress!! I was really taken by the part where she expresses self love at her body after spending so much time at odds with it. The last year I have been struggling with infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss and and now starting to remind myself daily to appreciate my body for all that it CAN do. I love the positivity your blog brings to the world :)

    • Sasha says...

      Colleen, ((hugs)). Wishing you luck.
      Your body CAN do amazing things.

    • xo says...

      I know this post isn’t about this topic, but had to add this for you, Colleen. Please get tested for anti phospholipid syndrome if you haven’t already. After multiple losses, my Dr realized I have this. I was able to carry my baby to term once we knew this/could treat it. Best of luck to you.

  101. Emily says...

    OK this is what you do for the hair. I have hair like you. Go to a ‘float center’ and float in the pod full of epsom salts, water, and no senses for one hour. When you get out, wash your hair with the combination body wash / shampoo that they have in the dispenser in the shower. Then, in the getting ready area, mix a little of the provided conditioner with a little bit less of the decidedly manly extra firm hair gel on the counter, run through your hair, let it dry- et voila, the best hair for the next 3 days.

    • Christina says...

      This is the funniest and best curly-hair instruction I’ve ever read in my life! Emily, you da bomb.

  102. Katherine says...

    So much wisdom and positive influence here – bravo, Carmen! Her confidence is inspiring and I’m eager to pick up her book. Great feature!

  103. Emily says...

    What a magnificent, gorgeous human! This is my most favorite Beauty Uniform yet!
    This is outstanding:
    “I used to feel uncomfortable in my body, which I hated for such a long time. Now I’m trying to make it up to her, because she is the vehicle that ferries my weird mind through this world, and that’s pretty amazing.”

    Off to buy her new book! xo

  104. Carmen, you have hair I would die for! Have you heard about “the curly girl” method? I have straight scandinavien hair, so it’s not at all relevant for me, but one of my favorite danish bloggers have written about it, and it’s something about washing your hair not very often, using specific shampoos without sulfate and silicone, letting it airdry, and then using coconut oil as conditioner. I think that might help with the frizzyness.

  105. Katie says...

    I immediately ordered a sample of that Imaginary Authors perfume! It sounds right up my dark and sexy alley!

  106. Candice says...

    I have wavy hair that’s not as thick as yours, so I’m not sure if this will help but I find that my hair has to be clean clean clean (I use my husband’s shampoo once a week to clear out hair goop), and use a mid-weight conditioner. I use OGX’s Keratin for Straight hair shampoo. It really tames frizz and helps curls takes their shape. Aveda’s curl cream is the best and have been loyal to that product for nearly a decade. I put it on wet hair and when it dries, it’s weightless and soft. I’ve not found anything comparable, including expensive goops. Also, the honest best thing for wavy/curly hair is living out West. It was a game changer for my hair not to get all frizzed up by humidity. Unfortunately something you can’t buy at the store!

  107. Kimberly Jewel says...

    So AWESOME!

  108. Alexandra says...

    LOVE! And I love that one of Carmen’s fashion idols is Ms Frizzle!

  109. Andrea says...

    this was wonderful. Off to pursue all those blog and podcast recommendations as well as her writing (and to order another tube of Black Honey)!

  110. Lindsey says...

    “It’s like its own little universe, coming to life and living and dying in miniature right on your body.”

    This sentence alone made me a life-long fan.

  111. Lisa says...

    I was fully intrigued by this post based on the description of Carmen’s work and even more so when I saw she was from Allentown – near my hometown!
    Carmen – I work at ArtsQuest in Bethlehem and if you ever have an interest in doing some work with us, please let me know!!

    • Emily says...

      This is what I was going to suggest too! The cleansing conditioner is specifically for curly hair and you don’t use a shampoo prior so your hair doesn’t get weighted down. Kristen Ess posted a tutorial on her Instagram recently on how best to use it. I have had good luck using it with my heavy, wavy hair.

    • Sarah says...

      What?!?! I’ve never heard of this line and now I feel I must try it! Thanks!

  112. Kelsey says...

    Carmen that wedding dress is so gorgeous and you are wonderful in it!!! Thank you for sharing!

  113. Julie says...

    “Beauty is about your pleasure and satisfaction, and no one else’s.” <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

    • Lynn-Holly Wielenga says...

      Yes! I loved this definition of beauty. How freeing!

  114. That wedding dress is INSANE! I absolutely love it. And thank goodness they pulled it out, because if it had been me I would have never tried it (glad you’re more bold and adventurous).

  115. Rachel says...

    Love this, such a wonderful honest inspiring woman!! I have similarly frustrating curly hair. If you haven’t tried it the CurlDiva cut and hair products have changed my relationship with my curly hair (from resentful to fabulously happy!)

  116. Nataly says...

    What a lovely human and fellow Sawbones fan! <3

  117. Noelle says...

    Official friend crush on Carmen! Her line about looking for herself in other women’s bodies really resonated with me – I have one of those “in between” bodies that’s not model thin, but isn’t plus size either. I’m trying to become more self-aware about how I look and what kinds of clothes are flattering to my body type, so I’m always watching to see what size 10 hourglass figure women are wearing :)

  118. Abbie says...

    I now must read everything she’s ever written! What a wonderful new perspective for this blog, THANK YOU CUP OF JO!!! Carmen, you’re delightful!!!

  119. Denise says...

    I love her tattoos. I love her themed outfits for teaching different writing classes. I love the pink foo-foo wedding dress which she looks stunning in. Her style is all about personality, not convention, and that makes this the best beauty uniform yet! I had already added Her Body And Other Parties to my reading list but now I’m definitely moving it up.

  120. Michelle says...

    Fun beauty uniform. Absolutely love her wedding dress! Also, I want to be her grandma when I grow up.

  121. Dominique says...

    Hi Carmen!
    I wanted to recommend a curly hair product line that my curly haired friends swear by. Jessicurl, it’s actually a local to me product. Here is a link
    https://www.jessicurl.com/
    Hope it works for you!

  122. Allison Cloyd says...

    I LOVE this series, and I love it even more now that I get to take inspiration from a gorgeously diverse group of women!! That pink dress :heart_eyes:

  123. Heidi says...

    Wow, I audibly gasped at that pink wedding gown… so gorgeous!

  124. Cindy says...

    What a great article! I loved the image of older women in her family swiping their fingers across her lips — such a lovely, intimate image.

  125. “Beauty is about your pleasure and satisfaction, and no one else’s.” Wow. So simple and so brilliant.

  126. Jillian says...

    “Now I’m trying to make it up to her, because she is the vehicle that ferries my weird mind through this world, and that’s pretty amazing.” + “They’re reminders of how to conduct myself when I stand still, and when I move.” — WOW! Thank you, Carmen. I wrote both of these down in my Beautiful Sunbeams of Words from Articles to Remember folder — incredible!

    • Susan Magnolia says...

      I need one of those folders- such a great idea. I feel like I would copy half of this interview. Such rich imagery that I would want to revisit again and again.

  127. Love it.

  128. Roo says...

    LOVED this beauty uniform. A string of gorgeous, happy photos. And that wedding dress? WOW.

  129. Katie says...

    Love this one-so fun and lovely!

  130. Chelsey says...

    What a beautiful wedding! I’m trying some of her suggestions her skin is flawless!

  131. Brittany says...

    Can’t wait to check out her book. I love her wife’s wedding dress too!

  132. Okay, I love Carmen!!! Her confidence and sense of humor are truly inspiring to me. (Also, I love seeing women writers; I’ve been in a bit of a writing funk lately, and all these lady writers are coming out of the woodwork of the internet at just the right time.)

  133. Hayley says...

    Love!