Laura Bannister is a remarkably good writer (one of our favourites, in fact), and the editor of Museum Magazine. Reading her stuff is akin to traipsing through a bookstore; it will force you to take a good, hard look at how you choose to spend your free time (more books, less Instagram), and gently inspire you to be a better version of yourself.
When it comes to beauty, she keeps it chill. She doesn’t meddle with her “well-behaved” skin, preferring to let it do its thing with the aid of cleansing wipes, moisturiser, and an expensive eye cream gifted to her by a friend. She loves reality TV almost as much as she does the library, wishes we could all just get along with frosted lipstick like we did in high school, and welcomed the latest issue of Museum into the world today! (Purchase your very own copy here.)
To celebrate, we dropped by her apartment in NYC’s Chinatown and chatted about beauty mistakes and memories, and the books that are currently making her heart beat a little faster. As you can see, the results were pleasant. Thanks, Laura!
What’s your skincare routine? Tell us about the products you swear by.
I take my makeup off with Simple cleansing wipes and moisturise sporadically with Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Overnight Hydrating Mask. I own a bunch of Aesop scrubs I use to “replenish.” I once interviewed an artist who told me, in her youth, that she’d removed her makeup with watered-down turps. Made me feel better, even if it wasn’t true.
How would you describe your skin type? How did you arrive at the above skincare routine?
I used to select ‘oily’ when buying type-related skincare as a teen, for the sole reason that it sounded less decrepit than ‘dry’, and more urgent than ‘normal’. Since then, I haven’t given much thought to my skin. It just exists, like an arm or a leg, and does its thing. For the most part, it’s very well-behaved. I get the odd pimple, but I’ve never had bad acne, and so I leave my skin alone in the hope it stays that way. I wash my face with warm water and soap, remove my makeup with the Simple wipes, and use Burt’s Bees lip balm every day. I don’t use complicated products: No serums or cleanser or toner. After I shower, I lather myself in this fast-absorbing body oil with soybean and safflower. I don’t know if it does anything, but it smells like summer holidays. Oh, and my friend Mel Kenny recently gave me this caviar eye cream. I put it on right before I sleep and it makes me feel very wholesome — like a calm, clean mom who’s finally put the kids to bed.
Do you wear makeup? What’s your go-to product?
I do! I’m not fancy, but I am enthusiastic — which, by the way, is a fitting epigraph for my tombstone. It takes me 5-10 minutes to do my makeup; I slap it on at rough approximations that look convincing at a distance, suspicious up-close. I use Revlon ColorStay foundation, which I sometimes set with Chanel finishing powder. I use Boy Brow by Glossier in Black, because my eyebrows are not commanding enough in their natural state. Prior to Boy Brow I would use half-finished mascaras to thicken my brows, which made me feel very primitive when I learnt specific products existed for this. The beauty industry, hey! To be honest, I can be cynical about the efficacy of beauty products, but am too lazy/busy to research their ingredients. I would like to meet the product copywriters whose writing makes cameos in my makeup bag. My mascara reads PUMPED UP!, my bronzer is called DREAM SUN, the brown Revlon lipstick I’m currently using has been christened CHOCO-LISCIOUS. I think these people are paid too much.
What’s your haircare approach? What products do you use?
I would describe it as… minimalist. I wash it, dry it, and use KMS Moist Repair Revival Crème when it looks especially dead. My best beauty trick I learned from The Only Way Is Essex — I use a wet toothbrush to keep my ponytails slick.
What are your top five desert island beauty products?
Does tanning oil constitute a beauty product? (Can you tell that I do not treat my body like a temple?) I’d probably take that, and a bunch of fragrances. I wear perfume every day and have a rotating cast: Neroli Portofino by Tom Ford, Amour by Kenzo, Oud Royal by Armani Privé. I intend to purchase one of the Folie A Plusiers Music collaborations from the store at New Museum — probably Mechano, which is made to smell like “a sexuoerotic arousal triggered by cars or other machines.” Nice.
What are some of the best books you’ve read recently, and what websites do you visit daily?
I’m reading Maggie Nelson’s Bluets (a little late to the game), which comprises of 240 propositions seemingly organised through feeling, as opposed to chronologically or by theme. Before that, the best novel I’d read all year was The Sellout by Paul Beatty. On my to-read list are two books I’ve read plenty of extracts from but never read in full: Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Most Excellent Painters Sculptors and Architects, a gossipy 1550 biography of the Renaissance art community, and The Lucky Country by Donald Horne. I’ve been thinking about that acerbic quote from the last chapter: “Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck. It lives on other people’s ideas, and, although its ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise.” In regards to websites, I visit whatever relates to the stories I’m writing, and read the news in all the usual places: NYT, the New Yorker, The Guardian, Aljazeera, BuzzFeed. I listen to a lot of podcast interviews, too — slowly making my way through the BBC’s Desert Island Discs archive.
What’s the biggest beauty mistake you’ve made?
I trimmed my eyelashes as a child. Too long.
When do you feel your best?
When I’m working.
How do you unwind?
Reality TV. I worship at the temple of MTV’s Ex On The Beach.
How have you found living in NYC so far? Where do you like to shop, eat, and drink there?
It is good, this Big Apple! One of my great pleasures is the public library (I am a fanatical evangelist when it comes to this institution, please ask me more about it.) I recommend the 42nd street branch (noble ceilings) and 57th street (across from MoMA, great furniture).
Shopping: Dover Street Market, Printed Matter and McNally Jackson Books. Also, my sister-in-law Leah just opened a florist business in Manhattan.
Food: Dumplings at Lam Zhou in Chinatown
Drink: Bar 169
What do you miss most about home?
My boyfriend. The beach.
Netflix or Spotify? And what are you loving right now?
Spotify. Recently, I’ve been listening to Chemical Brothers/Y-Traxx/Underworld on the subway, and Tchaikovsky when working. I have played Catching Feelings by Mall Grab approximately 39 times this week. It may be my “summer anthem” (still TBD).
What’s your favourite travel destination? Why?
India, though I recently had a very fun, hedonistic time in Bucharest.
What’s your earliest beauty memory?
My mum cut all her hair off to make me stop playing with it.
If you could resurrect one beauty trend, what would it be?
What’s your most treasured item of clothing/jewellery?
A sheer Prada dress spurting tufts of hair.
Who is your biggest hero and why?
My parents — they are infinitely generous.
What does ‘beauty’ mean to you?
I tried to answer this (unsuccessfully) in relation to a routine or products — beauty in that context doesn’t mean that much. I think the most important quality in a person is the ability to give time and respect to people you do not ‘need’ to spend time with, and who will not necessarily be able to offer you anything tangible in return.
What are you most excited for in 2017?
Smelling the new issue of Museum when it arrives from the printer.
Words, Madeleine Woon.