“I’m from California and Seattle. My parents are divorced, so I went back and forth when I was a teenager. My dad and my stepmom lived on the peninsula, so I’d ride the ferry over and go see shows. To me, Seattle was the epitome of everything. I was a musician growing up—I started on clarinet and I also sang. I wanted to move [to Seattle] and play in a band. I went [to college] for vocal jazz and studied that for two years at Central Washington University. I wasn’t really sure [if I wanted to be a singer], I just wanted to be a musician. I kind of hopped around a bit—I went from music to philosophy to languages to science. I finished a degree in Spanish and then I also got a degree in science. I volunteered in ERs, and I worked in two research labs. I wanted to be a medical doctor, but I was too intimidated and I chickened out before the MCATs. I continued working in research and after a couple of months I was like, ‘This isn’t really for me.’
Josh [my boyfriend] was bartending when I met him in Seattle. And then we started playing music together two years into our relationship. I joined his band. He was really cynical about it. Matt, our old bandmate, was like, ‘Yeah! Join the band!’ And Josh was like, ‘I don’t want my girlfriend in the band.’ [Laughs] But it’s worked out. Josh and I are quite opposite, so I think in a weird way it really works, especially with our music. I have such a hard time describing [our music]. It’s melodic, it’s dreamy, it’s heavy and sad. My favorite songs and my favorite things are things that kind of reach into your chest and pull your heart out and give it just a really good twist. That’s what I want to do in every song. It’s probably really exhausting for people to listen to! [Laughs] And I didn’t realize how much it impacted people until we went on our first tour. Someone came up to me and said, ‘You make me cry!’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m so sorry!’
Josh and I moved to New York so I could pursue modeling. [My big break was 2 years ago], which was really miraculous. I was signed to an agency in Seattle, but originally, no agency in New York wanted to sign me. I eventually signed with D1. I was working at this burger place in Seattle, and the owner was like, ‘You have to go!’ She was really into fashion so she gave me the whole month off to go to New York for Fashion Week. I met Henry Thomas, who was casting for Baja East, and he took some pictures and we had a chat. The next day he was like, ‘Come to my hotel, we’re doing the casting for Balenciaga here!’ I showed up to this hotel room and did my walk and the next day they requested me exclusive. I remember being so nervous to go to Paris because as much as I wanted to be a part of it, I felt like an alien and like I didn’t really belong there. I remember getting to the fitting, right off the red-eye flight, and Jane Moseley was there. It was her first show too and we had no idea what to expect. It was a really cool experience.
When you get into your 30s, I think everyone hits a hormonal change. I had this really terrible breakout on my face, and I just could not get rid of it. I think it was a combination of a lot of makeup being put on, and my face being washed like, 10 times a day. My face got so stripped, and every time [makeup artists] put something on, my skin didn’t have the chance to get used to it. I think that was just really shocking to my skin, and then my hormones…I got massively stressed. My new job was to look pretty, which I never cared about before! I listened to so many makeup artists, but was too poor to go to a dermatologist. A year ago I was like, ‘Fuck this!’ and I threw away all the expensive stuff and got Bioderma, because I know that doesn’t mess with my skin, and I stopped using water on my face—I just used thermal water to rinse it. The water is different in every city you go to—the chemicals leech, the piping is different. So I took a week of no washing and used Bioderma, and it fucking worked! I was just using the micellar water and the Bioderma Hydrabio Crème. It’s the nicest thing they have and it’s only like $30. And it lasts forever! It’s really, really rich.
That was all I used for months, and then I slowly introduced different things. I introduced Mario Badescu Rosewater toner, and for oilier days, Thayers Witch Hazel. It’s been a year and [my skin] has calmed down so much. Now I’m introducing serums. I use Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair on the plane, which is great. I had their eye patches, but now I just buy the cotton eye pads at Muji and soak them with serum if I want to give myself an extra treatment. I got this Pestle & Mortar Pure Hyaluronic Serum at Liberty London, and I’m kind of obsessed with it. Every time I use it I feel like my skin is so hydrated and happy. I use the Nutrients Renewing Oil Serum at night. I don’t really like the smell—it smells like licorice to me—but it’s calming and reduces redness. I’m Irish, so my nose turns red from anything—coffee, alcohol, wine. The only really fancy thing I use is the Chanel Hydra Beauty Micro Gel Yeux Intense Smoothing Eye Gel. I’m obsessed with it. Right before I use the rosewater spray, I’ll put on the eye gel and let them dry together. And then, because I’m a weirdo, I put the Mario Badescu Hyaluronic Eye Cream on, after the eye gel. I think because I travel a lot I really need it. The La Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 is really good. I don’t get a lot of zits, but when I do, they’re deep and awful and cystic. I’m also a picker, unfortunately. I try not to be, it’s something I’m working on, but when I’m stressed, I touch it. If I pop a zit and I put that balm on overnight, I swear to God, it heals it. I put it on anything—even cat scratches. It heals them because it’s antibacterial! I use masks sometimes, like the Dr. Jart Pore Minimizer. I have some bigger pores on my cheeks, so it’s nice for that. [I don’t use anti-aging products], but I do drink a lot of water. When I fly, I’m a big believer in drinking water. I talk to the stewardesses and I’m like, ‘What do you do?’ And they say, ‘We drink two liters of water every two hours.’ Typically my joints swell, and I get red, and that doesn’t happen when I drink a lot of water.
I like [makeup], but I don’t have much time for it anymore. I just shot with David Sims and they did a full smoky eye and curled my hair, and made it all retro. I was like, ‘Yeah, makeup!’ I think it’s really fun. I was really into makeup when I was touring a lot, and I’m sure I’ll get back into it when I’m performing more. I would get really anxious before shows, and so I would just sit there and do my makeup [to calm down]. It was really meditative for me. [For concealer] I use Clarins Instant Concealer in 01. It’s super neutral for sensitive skin. It’s got really good coverage, no one even knows I’m wearing it. I really like the Marc Jacobs eyeshadow palettes because they have colors that are so pigmented. It goes on pretty full force. I have brushes, but I’m really bad with them. I like to do a variety of looks but I rarely do a smoky eye because I feel like with my features, I’d have to be really strategic with it. Copper works well with my eyes because they have yellow in the center of the green. Reds and pinks work well too. I always stay really close to the eye line, and I use this Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Crayon on the waterline on the bottom. I wear Chanel Le Volume De Chanel Mascara. It goes on really chunky, and I brush it out so it looks really thin. It looks like spider webs, almost. For a red lip, I use the Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella. When I was in college I got into Lipstick Queen. My friend showed me this berry shade called Medieval. It’s based on how in Medieval times they used to smash berries on their lips. It looks good on everyone’s skin. I also use a coral-y one called Jungle Queen.
I got orange blossom oil in Morocco, and I don’t really know how to use it, but I love the smell of it. I got argan oil [to dilute it in] so I can use it as a perfume oil. The guy [I bought it from] said I could cook with it, too. It’s fresh, and not too fruity—I don’t want to smell like something you could eat. I like masculine smells, like the old Balenciaga perfume that was cedar-y, I loved that but I’ve had trouble finding it again. I also like Diptyque Do Son.
Balenciaga cut [my hair] for SS17. Holly Smith, who does the hair for Balenciaga, was so nice about it. I didn’t care about my hair before, but suddenly it was part of my identity, and also my job. I called all my agents to ask if they were ok with it. And they were like, ‘Yeah! It’s great! You should do it!’ I was like, ‘Oh no.’ My hair was so long and [Holly] cut it all off. She braided it, and put it in a little package, and wrote ‘With love, from Balenciaga.’ I had an identity crisis for a couple months. I grew it out a little bit, but then somebody complained, so I cut it again. After that, it really grew on me.
When I’m traveling, I wash it with the Lush Shampoo and Conditioner Bars, and when I’m home I use this giant Bumble and bumble Seaweed Shampoo. It’s a really light wash, so you don’t really need to lather or anything, just a good scrub around your roots. If I have a lot of product, it does a good job. I use the Bumble and bumble Super Rich conditioner—it’s lush and gives my hair a wave. I’ve always had this dry shampoo from R+Co, but someone talked me into the R+Co Badlands Paste Dry Shampoo for second day hair and it’s great. It has dry shampoo and a styling paste in it, so it’s a multitasking product. I also use the Cream Primer and the Rockaway Salt Spray. I just spray that at the roots and it gives it a little lift, and the cream gives it a little moisture. The R+Co Motorcycle Gel is good for when your hair gets gross because you can just add the gel to it and it gives it a wet look. I’ve scrunched it in curls and it looks really good too, but if you use a lot of it you can do a really sleek ponytail. It’s very malleable.
I asked a stylist once, ‘If there’s one thing I should do for my hair, what would it be?’ And he said, ‘Get a nice brush.’ So I got the Bumble and Bumble brush, but I spent a year thinking about it before I bought it because it’s so expensive. I love it. I could have my hair sprayed down with Elnett, and this brush takes all the product out of it. It’s quite amazing. You have to wash it, which I’ve been not great about, but it’s the best.
I do lots of yoga. Hot Vinyasa, preferably. I’ve tried Bikram and I absolutely hate it. [With Vinyasa], I’m always moving which is great for my mind and my muscles. The heat helps with the stretching and you burn like double the calories in a hot room. I don’t like working out and not breaking a sweat. I haven’t found the perfect studio in New York yet—in Seattle you throw a pebble and you hit 10. I’m also a sauna person. I love being in unbearably hot situations.”
—as told to ITG
Jennae Quisenberry photographed by Tom Newton on February 16, 2018.