“Fashion didn’t really pique my interest when I was growing up. Instead, I went to museums all the time—mostly ones on the Upper West Side, where I lived. Then I would go to the Nuyorican Café to see slam poetry. It was like hip hop—I loved Black Star, The Pharcyde, and The Roots. I kind of hated high school, but the school I went to was pretty alternative. Arts were encouraged, and I was really into photography. I spent all my free periods in the darkroom. For my senior project I interned with a still life photographer called Richard Peters. He did all the Irving Penn-y tabletop Clinique stuff. Then I took a year off in between high school and college, and I went to an art school in Florence where I intended to work on photography. But I was just kind of burnt out from it. I have a good eye, but I have no idea how to control an image. I got frustrated with that, and I did book binding instead. Oh my god, the paper stores [in Italy]. You go into these little stores, and it’s just rows and rows and rows of paper. After that I came back and interned for my high school boyfriend’s mom—an art consultant—before going to college and studying art history. After I graduated, I found an internship at a fashion PR group called Bismarck Phillips. So I interned there, and then they offered me a job.
PR wasn’t really right for me, but then the economy crashed, so I just stuck it out for a little while longer. I worked for Maryam Nassir Zadeh while I was figuring things out, but when I left Bismarck, my boss was like, ‘You’re going into styling, right?’ Styling had never occurred to me. My boss put me in touch with Lawren Howell, who is a stylist based out of LA and a contributor to Vogue. She needed an assistant while she was in New York, and I was like, ‘Look, I have no experience, but I’m smart and I’m a fast learner. I’ve done PR so I’ve been on the other end of requests, and I worked at Pier 59 so I kind of understand the bigger picture.’ And then I just started doing that when Lawren was here. Later, someone who had freelanced at Bismarck was starting a PR agency and asked if I was interested in joining. I wasn’t interested, but I sent my resumé to show her what I’d been up to. She and Kate [Young] are very good friends, so she gave my resumé to Kate, and that was that. I was Kate’s assistant for four years. It went by really fast—I mean, Kate is wonderful. It was exhausting at times, but I also learned once leaving Kate how poorly people treat each other in this industry. There’s no reason for it, it’s just a power game. Leaving was scary, but I knew I was ready.
I like a certain amount of practicality. I hate street style—the peacocking, and all the over-the-top stuff. I mean, yes, there are some people who get photographed who genuinely have good style, but the blown out hair, with the crazy mirrored sunglasses, and the open-toed heels in the middle of winter when there’s snow on the ground… For the most part, I’m very much a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal. I liked these pants, and they’re super cheap, so I bought them in every color they have. I wear these, and I wear vintage denim. Sometimes you feel like you have to look more or less like a fashion editor. I’ll dress up a little bit, but I need to be practical—you’re on your feet a lot. I like heels for sure, but I can’t wear them all day. Styling is an incredibly physical job sometimes! But I’ve always cared about how I dress. My mom always said when I was a kid she thought I would be a clothing designer, because I was just so incredibly picky. I have a lot of beautiful vintage dresses that never get worn, but I pull from my closet all the time for shoots. And I have done consulting with brands, and they’ll be like, ‘We’re looking for a dress like this,’ and I’ll have it, and it’s from like, the ‘40s. I particularly like the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘70s. And the ‘90s.
I have eczema, so I have very dry and sensitive skin. My eczema’s kind of morphed through the years. I’d get cracks on my fingers and stuff when I was a kid, and then in high school, my entire body would be a rash during the summer. Stress does not help, and humidity is not great for me. It’s been primarily bad on my hands the past couple of years. None of my prescriptions seemed to work, and I didn’t like to use them for prolonged periods anyway because they were steroids, which thin out your skin. I’ve tried everything under the sun besides acupuncture. One day I was Googling eczema specialists, and I found one at Mount Sinai. For the first month I had to do a UV treatment twice a week, and it helped a little bit. At the same time they were also developing this new eczema drug that had just been approved by the FDA. It can be prohibitively expensive—I somehow got a $0 co-pay—but it’s something that has changed my life. It’s called Dupixent, and I inject it every two weeks. Before I would sleep wearing cream and gloves, and my husband would have to stop me from scratching in the middle of the night. My hands were bleeding all the time—it was just excruciating. But then I started taking this drug and it is amazing. Other things I do to manage my eczema—don’t wear wool, and stick to cotton. I don’t wash my hands very often—I know people find that disgusting, but I can’t. If I get anything wet, I’ve got to put lotion on it. Cetaphil is the only thing that’s ever helped, lotion-wise. Probably up until my late 20s I was just using Neutrogena soap and Cetaphil on my face, and I was fine. Now Cetaphil’s mostly for my body—the lotion in the summer and cream in the winter—morning and night. I usually get Eucerin or something from the pharmacy for my hands. I can’t use anything with fragrances or dyes, and I don’t test things out too much because I’m worried I’m going to irritate my skin.
At night I like this Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser. I saw something where [Tata Harper] said you should put it on dry, because there’s an exfoliant in it. So I started to do that, and I feel like it exfoliates better. I also have the Three Cosmetics Oil Cleanser, which I like as well. And then I use some sort of toner. I use the toners primarily to get my neck— sometimes face wash doesn’t get everything off, and toner kind of gets to the rest of it. And then I like the cotton balls that are a little exfoliating—these are just from Duane Reade. In the morning I won’t wash my face—I’ll just go over my face with that. At night I use The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion. I’m not as young as I look, but maybe that’s why! Then I use the Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair on top of that. I don’t know if I’m not supposed to do that—I honestly know very little about skincare. It’s milky and serum-y. It seems to be working, so I just stick with it. And I’ve been using this Ultimate Wrinkle Solution to keep [wrinkles] away. I just got this Prem stuff because I heard it’s really good for sensitive, dry skin. I like the Tata Harper Contour Eye Mask, and I just pat it under my eyes.
During the day I just clean my face, and then I use some Glossier Super Pure. And I like this Tata Harper Beautifying Face Oil—I let that sink in for a second. I’ve also been using this Tata Harper Repairative Moisturizer, or I’ll just put on Cetaphil. In the winter I’ll use the Weleda Skin Food, but it’s too thick in the summer. And then sunscreen. I really like the Glossier sunscreen because it’s not white, and I also like La Roche-Posay Anthelios. I try to be good about putting sunscreen on my face. I like this Chantecaille primer SPF, too. It just feels really nice. I go to Mario Badescu for facials—it’s easy and the price is right. I try to do that once every couple of months. Otherwise, I like the Glossier Moisturizing Moon Mask, I like the SK-II sheet masks.
I try to stay active—I started taking Pilates about a year ago, and I really like it because it is meditative. You just focus on your breathing for an hour, and you don’t really think about anything else. I go to East River Pilates, and they have two studios. I should do something that maybe gets my heart rate up a bit more, but I try to go as often as I can—usually a couple times a week.
When it comes to makeup, I don’t really wear that much. I like this Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer. I use very little of it—I put a little on my forehead, but it’s mostly on my cheeks and my chin to even out my skin tone. And then maybe just around my nose, or to cover up a zit. I like the Glossier Cloud Paint in Dusk, and I’ll use the smallest amount on the top of my apples, just to be like, I got some sun! And then Glossier Boy Brow in Brown. That’s really it. I don’t like mascara. I sometimes curl my eyelashes if I look particularly tired. I have a lot of lipsticks, but I don’t really wear them. I just like the packaging—they’re so pretty! There’s a Barbie-ish pink from MAC that I’ll sometimes blot on my lips a little bit—I want to say it’s called Snob. I feel like lipstick looks good for the first hour, and then all the dead skin just comes out, and then it looks like shit. So I’m like, meh. I like Vaseline, or the Eight Hour Cream. Just kind of whatever I have. I feel like I look five years older with a lot of makeup on.
I don’t really wear fragrance. I like perfume bottles a lot, but I always feel like perfume just smells too much on me—too strong. I do like the Chanel Gardenia. It’s light, it’s nice and floral, but it’s not sweet. I don’t like the muskier stuff. I wanted to try the Le Labo Jasmin that’s like 200 bucks, and then I was like, ‘Hmm, maybe not.’ If I do use fragrance, I spray it up high and walk through it. So, just a little bit.
For my hair I use Head and Shoulders—I think it’s good for my eczema, too. My hair used to be stick straight, and the past couple of years it’s gotten so wavy. I’m pretty low maintenance, so I just kind of leave it. I was complaining to a hair stylist on set about how my hair was getting really greasy—I used to be able to wash it like once a week, and then I felt like I had to wash it every day. He recommended this really fancy shampoo and conditioner that cost me like a hundred bucks. And it was awful! My hair was greasy within a couple of hours. Another hair stylist had recommended Head and Shoulders when you kind of need to reset your scalp, so I’ve just been using that. I put the Pantene conditioner on my ends, and I comb it when it’s wet. I have the Oribe stuff because I love how it smells, and I have this cream pomade from Baxter I bought at a friend’s store. If my hair is being really frizzy, I can put a little in my palms and run it through, and it just tames down the frizzes. But other than that, I don’t style my hair very often. I tried to before, but I could never get it to do what I wanted it to do. Now I just let it be.”
—as told to ITG
Lilli Millhiser photographed by Tom Newton on July 15, 2018 in Brooklyn.