Helene Kuhn, Actress

“I studied acting at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts when I moved to New York. I was 19. I was born in Detroit, where my dad’s family is from—he’s French-American and my mother French, but I only lived there for two years before we moved to Paris, where I live now. My first year in school in New York was hard—it slapped me in the face. [Laughs]

When I started getting booked for job after job in Paris, I had to make the move back. And coming back after so long made me unconsciously change the way I put myself together.  I think it was about reconnecting with myself, my family and my history. I didn’t want to impose myself, i needed to start from scratch. Wearing make up here felt like i was lying to myself. The look in Paris is more classic, anyway. When I first moved to New York, it was pleasure to wear some lipstick or blush—you’re playing, being many different women. Wearing dark matte red lipstick puts me in this mood—it’s a feeling, an emotion. It made me feel powerful. You take more risks in New York, and listen to yourself more; you dress up because it’s pure fun. There’s a real exchange on the street in terms of beauty—people are really enjoying what you’re wearing and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a very unique vibe and totally different than in Paris.

I got back to basics here, even with skincare. There are three products that you should always have in your house : jojoba oil, honey, and lemon. Honey face masks feed and smooth out your skin; it’s antibacterial and balances your pH. And I will do lemon peeling once in a while—apply it on a cotton pad and wash it off with cold water after a couple minutes—and finish with an Evian facial spray. I use Melvita Floral Water sometimes, too. I put it on cotton balls, apply in on my eyes, lay down and breathe…

Now I don’t put on any cream. Instead, I use oil—borage, jojoba, and argan. Borage is a really good plant for cell renewal and wrinkles. You can use it as a food complement, too. I just like how it feels and it’s good for you. I always use sun-protection cream for the face. I also do yoga here, which, like any sport, is good for the skin. That’s my normal regimen, but when I’m filming and my skin get upset from the makeup, I use Egyptian Magic Cream on my face, hands, and hair. Of course what I eat affects my skin, too. I drink a lot of herbal tea and mineral water—there’s a lot of potassium and magnesium in it. And I eat fish—I’m not a vegetarian, but I’m getting there—I just love fish too much. Naps are good, too! [Laughs] I wish I could take them every day… Just take time for yourself and meditate. Life is too crazy.

I don’t wear much makeup-makeup. I just keep my lips moisturized with Rosebud Salve. When I do wear makeup, I take it off with Bioderma Créaline.

For fragrance, I have been using amber rocks since I was 17. I crush them, and smell them if I just want to relax. It’s part of my life—I always have one on me. I get them from my friends whenever they go to Marrakesh—they get it from this three-story spice store in the Medina. And I just got Roger and Gallet Jean spray, which smells really good.

Another thing that I got from visiting northern African countries is the practice of going to a Hamam regularly. It’s the best treat you can give your body and mind. The best way to do it is to get a black soap scrub and finish with a massage and mint tea…

We’re starting to get more nail bars in Paris—the French are Americanizing. But I usually do it myself—Chanel Beige Petale [Ed. note: shade discontinued], or a super dark blue.”

—as told to ITG

Helene Kuhn photographed by Emily Weiss in Paris, France on September 29, 2013.

Joe Zee, Creative Director, Elle

“I’ve been working in fashion since I moved from Toronto to New York for college. As long as I’ve been here, I’ve never felt like I have to live in a fashion bubble. I consider myself a storyteller more than a stylist. I tell stories through pictures, through my Elle column [A to Zee], through social media, and through my TV shows [All On The Line and Revealing, both on the Sundance Channel]—I love sharing. For me, reality television is about being able to talk, show, and generate ideas in a new way. It makes fashion democratic, which I’m happy about. I like pulling back the curtain and saying, ‘Hey, this is how it works, people. This is the glamorous part, this is not the glamorous part, and this is how we do things.’ I don’t need it to be so sanctimonious.

We just did an episode of Revealing all about beauty—how the perception of beauty has changed, and how men are held to a new standard as purveyors of beauty. They get botox and plastic surgery, they’re expected to stay as trim as they were when they got married. Even my own perception of beauty has changed, but I think it’s just part of getting older. I’m 45 now—that’s pretty middle-aged. I look in the mirror and think, ‘Oh my god,’ because I don’t feel old at 45, and I don’t really care, but I do have lines on my face and whatever.

I’m only beginning to take care of my skin. For most of my life, I was lucky if I even washed my face, and my theory was that maybe you have bad skin, you might have a zit, but that’s life, and it will go away. I just started going to a dermatologist when I got to Elle, because Robbie Myers recommended one to me, and I got my first facial last year. Even when I was 35, I thought it was fancy to go to a dermatologist. I still thought it sounded high-maintenance, but I started going to Dr. Dennis Gross, and he’s awesome. I realized that it’s just like going to a general practitioner. Now I wash my face with Fresh Soy Face Cleanser—it’s my jam because it’s so gentle. I don’t use anything fragranced out of fear of getting a breakout. And I don’t use a moisturizer, because my skin’s so oily. At night, I use Dr. Dennis Gross Extra Strength Alpha Beta Peel Formula, which I’m obsessed with. His products are amazing. I also had a Hydra-Pure Vitamin C Brightening Serum that I loved from him, but I’m all out. I need to get more! When I travel somewhere hot and sunny, I use Dr. Dennis Gross Powerful Sun Protection Towelettes on my face, but I was always the kid who sat outside with olive oil on my skin. When people talk about putting on SPF 70, I’m like, ‘Just stay home.’ [Laughs] I’m not going to St. Barths to wear SPF 70. On my body, I want Hawaiian Tropic. It feels like vacation, and smells like coconut, and that’s all I am about. I want something that’s $6 and smells like a my idea of Polynesia. [Laughs]

Like I said, my skin is very oily. I’m always looking for something matte to control it. Someone gave me Clarins Mat Express Instant Shine Control Gel, and it works, but it’s very temporary. I use Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets—I learned that from a makeup artist, because the Clean & Clear sheets are plastic and really mattify and other ones are paper. I hold people with insider information like that captive. [Laughs] Being shiny doesn’t actually bother me very much, but when I’m on TV, they’re always telling me to cover it up with powder. That was another thing I resisted—wearing makeup for TV, because I thought it was so vain. The film crew was just like, ‘Dude, we’re trying to make this look as good as possible.’ And they were right. I saw a playback one day and thought, ‘I look like I have an oil slick on my forehead.’ As soon as I could let go that it wasn’t about fashion, or about me being high-maintenance, I was on board. Do I love wearing makeup? No. Do I wear it outside of TV? No. But, when I’m filming All on the Line and we have 14-hour days, I powder.

I’ve learned how to apply makeup progressively from makeup artists on photo shoots. And now I can just crank it out, and I’m not shy about it either. I’ll put it on at the gym, right in the locker room, and you know what? I notice other guys putting it on, too—and I doubt they’re going to film anything. [Laughs] I use MAC Studio Finish Concealer in NW35 to cover blemishes and a birthmark on my face that the camera guys tell me just reads as dirt on TV. [Laughs] And my makeup artist friend in L.A., Jeannia Robinette, told me to use La Mer The Treatment Fluid Foundation on my T-zone. And then I seal that with MAC Dark Mineralize Skinfinish powder. I carry that with me all the time—the powder and the La Mer The Foundation Brush. Whenever they yell, ‘You’re shiny again!’ I can just pull them out of my pocket and powder myself. We joke that I start the day as Joe Zee and end the day as RuPaul. [Laughs]

So the makeup is new, but I haven’t changed most of my personal care products for decades. I shave in the morning with a drugstore razor and Edge Shave Gel, which I’ve been using since I was in high school. I use the Sonicare toothbrush and Colgate toothpaste. And I don’t wear deodorant. I got a major rash from it when I was a teenager, and was told I was allergic, so I haven’t worn it since. My doctor told me that I don’t actually need to wear it—it’s just a marketing thing. I’ve been washing my hair with Aveda Shampure Shampoo and Conditioner since I was in college. I’m just a creature of habit.”

—as told to ITG

Joe Zee photographed by Emily Weiss in New York on November 13, 2013. Read Part 2 of Joe’s interview (The Professional) here.

China Machado, Model

“I grew up in Shanghai—my father was from Macau, and my mother was from Hong Kong. During the Japanese occupation, we fled Shanghai on what could have been the last boat out. We moved all over—Buenos Aires, Spain—until I was about 20, when I ran away to Rome with a bullfighter, Luis Miguel Dominguín. He was the most famous bullfighter in the world and gorgeous beyond compare. While in Italy, I was asked to do bit roles in a lot of movies—Madame Butterfly, Casanova—non-talking parts, of course. My boyfriend eventually got swept up by Ava Gardner. What was I supposed to say? She was my heroine, but I was too young to know what was going on. They were players, all those people. Frank Sinatra was in there and Howard Hughes, and I had no idea what a mess everything was! I wouldn’t go back to that point in my life for anything.

Things got worse before they got better, and one day, I ran into a friend who invited me to come stay with her in Paris. I did, and at a cocktail party, I got asked to model for Balenciaga. I didn’t even know what a model was—I had never looked at a fashion magazine in my life. I went to Balenciaga, but he was out of town, so they sent me to Givenchy instead. At Givenchy, they thought I was filling-in for a sick girl, so they grabbed me, put me in clothes, and threw me into the room where they were showing the collection. I barely knew anything about walking like a model, so I just copied the girl in front of me. At the end of the show, gorgeous Givenchy comes up to me and says, ‘Would you like to be in the cabine?’—that’s what they called the group of models who worked for the house. That’s how it all started.

I worked with Givenchy for three years, and eventually became the highest paid model in Europe as a walker, not a press model. In Europe, you were either a photographic/press model or a runway model, and the runway models made more money than the press models. I was asked to come to America to do a show, and I thought, ‘Well, why not?’ The day I arrived, I was sent to Diana Vreeland. She took one look at me and started saying, ‘Exquisite! Charming! Charming!’ Mind you, she was walking sideways around me, and I was thinking ‘What is this woman doing?’ I was just standing there like an idiot. She put me in a show that night at the Waldorf Astoria. It was crazy, there were people yelling and 35 girls standing around naked waiting to be dressed. It was nothing like Paris! [Laughs]

Diana opened a show with me the next morning simply because I was the only girl who wasn’t white. I was totally exhausted, standing on a 20-foot ladder in Givenchy bat-wing hot pink pajamas! I was so nervous, I was essentially goose-stepping in the clothes. And that’s when Dick [Richard Avedon] saw me. The next day I went to his studio, and the rest is history. I’ve had such a crazy life. It was all fantastic luck.

I worked for Avedon exclusively for three years, and then he got me a job as Harper’s Bazaar’s Senior Fashion Editor. I said, ‘Are you crazy?’ I couldn’t type; I could barely even draw. But I got a call from Nancy [White, the editor at the time] offering me the job, and I did it for 11 years! Eventually I became the Fashion Director. It’s funny, because originally, Harper’s Bazaar wasn’t even going to publish the pictures Dick took of me. It was 1958, and the publishers were saying, ‘We can’t put this girl in the magazine. Everyone in the South will quit subscriptions and no one will want to advertise with us!’ But they were published in February 1959, because—and I only found this out 20 years later—Dick had threatened to quit [his contract] if they didn’t use them! The photos sent such a shockwave and sent me on quite a shockwave. I became a name, immediately. Dick had so much clout.

As a style editor, I knew when I saw something good and I knew when I saw something bad, but I never felt like I had an intrinsic sense of style. Growing up, I didn’t even know what fashion was. I always wore the same thing. And, even at Bazaar, I was always in pants. Nobody saw my legs for 30 years. [Laughs] Nancy White had white gloves and a white hat, and I was this crazy thing running around the office in pants. I’m a very practical person.

I’m the same way with skincare, I guess. I’ve heard so much bullshit over the years about beauty. I’ve never had a facelift, and I’ve never spent money on all of the creams and everything else. It’s also because I’m impatient—if a cream is going to take seven days to show results, I’ve already forgotten about it. How do I know it’s working? [Laughs] I use Pond’s Cold Cream to take off my makeup because it’s what my mother used, and it’s not too greasy.

I did my own makeup all the time in Europe, because there wasn’t anyone else to do it. You carried your own shoes, your own wigs, and your own makeup. I got to know my face very well. Of course, now I only put on makeup when I go out to see friends. I don’t need makeup. Even if I do, who cares? I haven’t bought makeup in probably 10 years, but my favorite brands are Chanel and Nars. I love Chanel packaging, and Nars is beautifully designed with wonderful colors and quality.

When I put it on, I focus on my eyes and mouth. I always put a thin line over my top lashes to open my eyes up a little bit. I look more Chinese if I do that without eyeshadow, but if I want to look more European, I’ll add eyeshadow and mascara. And I used to think my mouth was too big when I was a kid, but now it’s one of my favorite features. I always highlight it with cherry-red lipstick.

But after my evening bath is when I feel the best. I take a hot jacuzzi bath with Rite Aid Bubble Bath every night. It’s the best product, and it lasts about six months—plus you don’t even have to wash out the tub after. When I get out, I pull myself together and look in the mirror and say, ‘It’s going to be OK.’ It’s when I feel the most beautiful.

I have a home spa where I do my own nails and pedicures. And I dye my own hair—of course I do! I use Clairol Nice ‘N Easy Permanent Hair Color in Natural Black, and it costs $2.50 every time because I don’t use the whole bottle, I divide it into fours. I have no idea what my natural hair color is. When I was 14, I had a white streak that kept getting bigger and bigger, so I’ve been dyeing it for 70 years!

I move all the time but I never exercise, and I’ve never dieted. I can’t even touch my toes! But I love to dance and entertain. I also make myself go to bed every afternoon at about 4 or 4:30 p.m. I’ll go lie down and hopefully I’ll fall asleep, but if I don’t I’ll watch some silly television. And then I’ll get up and do something, like work on my autobiography or paint.

I like doing things myself. My first 16 years of life were spent in Shanghai learning how to cook, sew, knit, and crochet. I was sewing my own clothes by the time I was 11. I was cooking for a family by the time I was 14. It has given me the sense of ‘OK, What can I do?’ I’ve always had that. I brought up my two kids without a cent from anybody. I worked! And it was fabulous work. No one has ever paid my bills, and I liked it that way because it meant I was in charge and I made the decisions. The one thing I don’t do myself is drive. Listen, I bought a brand new car for myself after my divorce, and an hour later I rammed it through a picket fence. I haven’t done it since. [Laughs]”

—as told to ITG

China Machado photographed by Emily Weiss in North Haven, NY on November 21, 2013.