Liz Montague, a freelance artist in Washington, D.C., is the first black female cartoonist to be published in the New Yorker. Her drawings deal with important topics, “like race and gender and what it’s like to be in America in this body at this time,” she says. Here, Liz shares her favorite cartoons, a game-changing hair tool and the cool thing she does when she’s home alone…
I’m sure everyone asks this, but how do you come up with cartoon ideas? Are you always thinking of them?
Definitely from my own life. If you’re able to laugh about something, that’s half the battle, even if it’s a deep subject.
When did you start drawing cartoons?
My sophomore year in college. I literally was sitting in my dorm room one day and I needed a way to check in with myself that wasn’t super overwhelming, something I could do in 10 minutes. I started drawing small pictures with whatever words, captions or phrases I had on my mind that day. As I kept doing it, it became easier to expand on topics outside of myself — not just how my day went or that so-and-so didn’t text me back, but bigger issues, like race and gender and what it’s like to be in America in this body at this time. It’s a very weird time.
What are your favorite cartoons you’ve done?
I liked my last one for the New Yorker — about how to teach your parents’ sustainability. Climate change is something I care about. Given the platform of the New Yorker, I knew I had to do a cartoon that was also a piece of activist art. That’s a thin line — how do I make a subversive message that’s still a cartoon that still fits the audience and that this publication will run? That’s a lot of boxes to check.
Let’s talk about beauty. Do you wear makeup when you’re working?
With freelancing, there isn’t that obligation to leave your home. Sometimes I’m the only person that I see all day. But I like the idea that I’m someone I can look good for — thinking, no one’s going to see me, but I’M worth brushing my hair for. I also spray rosewater face oil on my face whenever I need a pick-me-up. It has a light but very pretty smell and feels refreshing.
What products do you swear by?
The Hourglass Veil setting powder — I like it way better than Laura Mercier, which makes my face look too matte. And I go very extreme to find concealers that match my skin tone. I have a summer shade, a winter shade, a winter-but-I’ve-been-in-the-sun-a-lot shade, a summer-but-I-haven’t-been-in-the-sun-a-lot shade. Right now, I’m using NARS radiant creamy concealer — in chocolat for my face and amande under my eyes. And I live for Glossier cloud paint, especially for those times when you’re going out the door and want to look decent. Fenty is also incredible — I use their liquid eyeliner in black and their bronzer in mocha mami.
What about your hair?
I’m historically very bad at taking care of my hair. But I’ve gotten good about using sulfite-free shampoo and masking on a regular basis and making sure I don’t use a ton of heat. I got the Dyson hair dryer on a resale site — it’s a GAME CHANGER, especially for natural hair. It’s the first hair dryer I’ve used where I’ve been able to dry my hair on the cold setting, so there isn’t that heat damage.
Are there hair products you’d recommend?
Yes, I use the Macadamia hair mask, which is really, really good. The shampoo and conditioner I usually use is from Trader Joe’s, but when I’m trying to be fancy, I’ll use the Macadamia shampoo when it’s at T.J. Maxx and Nordstrom Rack.
How do you mix things up for special occasions?
I always think I’m making dramatic changes to my makeup, and my friends are like, you look exactly the same. But I really like glitter eye shadow. I’m an eye shadow novice, so my approach is to put on as much glitter as possible and think, yup, this is drama, I have achieved it.
What’s your bedtime routine?
My nighttime routine is that I’m checking my email and it’s suddenly 2 a.m. and I think I better go to sleep. But I do always wash my face! And I have a tub of vaseline for my lips and hands on my bedside table. It makes my hands greasy but really, really soft.
Do you moisturize your face?
Yes, I like Josie Maran whipped argan oil face butter because it makes my skin look healthy. Not necessarily bright — which is sometimes meant as, it makes skin look lighter — but my skin looks bouncy like I’ve been in the sun and like I actually leave my apartment!
When in your life have you felt beautiful?
When I moved into my first apartment, I felt, like, gorgeous. I had just graduated from college, I had my own apartment in a new city where I knew no one, with a new job, and I was like, I just did this! I felt like I was glowing from the inside out. I love living by myself. Sometimes it’s like, oh crap, all of this depends on me, but then it’s like, all of this depends on me and I do it!
Do you have any secret single behaviors?
When I’m alone, I listen to audiobooks on my speakers. When I work, I have on a Harry Potter one because I know what’s going to happen so I can tune in and out. I also started Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, which I’d already read, but I want to have her audiobook on so I can be her by osmosis.
What else in your life brings you joy?
My cat, Cleo, is a big part of my life. I was lightly considering getting a cat and I went to the shelter — and once you’re in the shelter, game over. As soon as they get you in there, you’re leaving with something. I saw Cleo and was like, okay, I can do this. I got her back in August and she’s the greatest thing ever, the light of my life. She’s quite sassy. She’s five years old but only five pounds, so she looks like a kitten. She runs this place.
Last but not least, what’s your overall beauty philosophy?
Taking care of my skin, hair and body is my time for myself. Even I’m busy on deadline, I deserve my own time; it doesn’t have to go to everyone else.
Thank you so much, Liz! Please stay tuned to see some of her fantastic cartoons on Cup of Jo.