Episode 119: Jane Larkworthy, Brand Consultant and Beauty Editor-At-Large for The Cut

When our guest, Jane Larkworthy, brand consultant and Beauty Editor-At-Large for The Cut, was a young intern and then a full-time member of the beauty staff at Glamour magazine, she dared to inquire of her new boss if she could try her hand at writing. It didn’t go well. This unenlightened woman cut Jane down with a stinging response that echoed in her head for years and kept her from sticking her toe in the writing pool again for ages.

Cut to much later when Jane was hired as the first Beauty Director at the brand new Jane magazine with the following mandate: “Write in your own voice. Write in the first person. I want our readers to get to know who you are.” After she recovered from the whiplash of these oh-so different approaches to nurturing (or not nurturing) a writer, she vowed to be that talent scout, that door opener, that mentor for others. She sums it up, “If you have a boss who breeds competition versus a boss who says, ‘If you fail, it’s okay. Do it again because I know you can do it,’ that makes all the difference.”

Join us for Jane’s story of where she started and how she got here.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzHey everyone, it's Jodi Katz, your host of WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® Podcast. I am so grateful that you tuned in. This week's episode features Jane Larkworthy. She's a beauty writer with The Cut and also a brand consultant and a super fascinating woman. And if you missed last week's episode, it featured Amy Schecter, she is the CEO of Glamsquad.

Hey everybody, welcome back to the show. I am so excited to be sitting with Jane Larkworthy. She's the beauty editor at large, The Cut, and also a brand consultant. Welcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®.
Jane LarkworthyI'm so happy to be here. Thank you.
Jodi KatzWell I want to start off with a topic that we didn't get to chat about on the phone when we got to know each other. Bagel Shiksa.
Jane LarkworthyShiksa Bagel.
Jodi KatzShiksa Bagel.
Jane LarkworthyOr Shiksa Bagels, I think is what the handle is. Yeah.
Jodi KatzTell me what this is about.
Jane LarkworthyWell I am a shiksa and I love bagels but it's not as thought out as that. I was making bread one weekend and I'm a horrible bread maker but I like to try. And I had left over dough and I woke up the next morning and looked at my leftover dough and thought, what if I boiled this and turned it into a circle and put a whole in it? Would it taste at all like a bagel? And it did. And so I started putting it on Instagram and people asked for them so I would deliver them to friends and that was a big fail because it's really not a monetizing effort to spend your morning delivering bagels to your friends. So they'll come to me. Nevertheless, the handle was free, surprise, surprise. And a friend of mine bought the name for 25 bucks, whatever. And then another friend sent me about 100 thermal bags. You know, they're lined. Keep things hot essentially.
Jodi KatzLike what the pizza delivery people use?
Jane LarkworthyI suppose. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And with shiksa bagels written on the outside. I know, it was a really nice gift. And so I don't think I'm very good at it. I think people get a kick out of it. I think once I get through the hundred bags or even 50 bags I'll be done, but that's sort of a side hack that is not going to make me rich.
Jodi KatzSo for our listeners who don't speak Yiddish, can you tell us what a shiksa is?
Jane LarkworthyA shiksa is ... I believe a non-Jew.
Jodi KatzRight. When you Google it, it's actually written as a derogatory word for non-Jew.
Jane LarkworthyOkay. I didn't think it was. Are you Jewish?
Jodi KatzYes. But I think it depends upon-
Jane LarkworthyDo you think it's pejorative?
Jodi KatzI know people who use it in a way that like it's not okay that she's a shiksa. You know that ... Like he's dating a shiksa. This is a problem-
Jane LarkworthyThat comes with opinions.
Jodi KatzYes. There's a lot of judgment attached to it.
Jane LarkworthyIs goy better?
Jodi KatzNo. I think that it's the same people doing the same thing.
Jane LarkworthyBut I think it's kind of like if I'm calling myself shiksa bagel it's okay.
Jodi KatzOf course. You can call yourself whatever you want but I wanted our listeners to understand that they don't need to start calling their friends this unless they want to be called this.
Jane LarkworthyCall your friends a bagel, don't call them a shiksa. How about that?
Jodi KatzI love this. So there's another handle that you have that's outside your other handle.
Jane LarkworthyWhich is The Fraudulent Chef. And that is kind of where the bagels were begat from, if that's correct grammar. So I started a blog a couple years ago, I believe I have maybe seven followers now, called The Fraudulent Chef, which is basically about my husband and my gastronomic attempts at our house in the Berkshires. We have a big kitchen. In our apartment in New York City it's tiny. So in the big kitchen up in the Berkshires we kind of going crazy and I document our escapades.
Jodi KatzAnd you love it? You love to cook?
Jane LarkworthyLove to cook. But I do think I'm a fraud. So I have so many foodie friends who ... One of my best friends is the editor of Cherry Bombe Magazine and she owns restaurants and I just have a lot of friends in the food world and there's something about it with a lot of them that is very precious about food. And my husband and I are like, just chop up some garlic, get some good olive oil, and you're done. And so we just kind of fake it and our friends like to come to dinner.
Jodi KatzIsn't it about who you're with and not what you're eating?
Jane LarkworthyI think it's both. We've definitely had some guests who've never been invited back. Oh yeah. There's a lot of politics to a dinner party. It's fascinating. A very popular one is the couple, one of whom you love, the other one you're like ... Any person I tell that to, we all relate with that. It's just kind of funny. And if the food's a fail then I'll be the first one to say like, "Oh guys sorry, we tried. I guess we're not going to make flan again or whatever."
Jodi KatzI was breaking up with a girlfriend many years ago. I went into my 20s where I was not a good friend to anybody and she wasn't a good friend either. And we were breaking up. She borrowed my shoes and never game them back, you know one of these stories.
Jane LarkworthyRight. Right. Right.
Jodi KatzAnd she's like, "Well that's fine. Your lemon chicken wasn't good anyway." And I was like oh my god.
Jane LarkworthyHysterical. Yeah.
Jodi KatzThat's when I'm like, I'm not a restaurant.
Jane LarkworthyRight. Right. But she was like I'll hurt her that way.
Jodi KatzShe held on to this. I mean that dinner was months or even years before the breakup of our friendship and this is what she threw at me. And I was like, you're crazy.
Jane LarkworthyIt runs deep.
Jodi KatzIt does.
Jane LarkworthyFood like beauty. I can't believe I'm about to compare them but it has an emotion that is connected to it. So you equate a lot of feelings with food.
Jodi KatzYes. Well thank you for sharing these notes about your other Instagram handle.
Jane LarkworthyOh, thank you for asking.
Jodi KatzI love getting so see different sides of people.
Jane LarkworthySure, yep.
Jodi KatzGina Way who's been a guest on the show is like amazing.
Jane LarkworthyI was just going to bring her up.
Jodi KatzAmazing. I'm in love with her Instagram. I mean I adore her also, but I get this little window into her humor and soul.
Jane LarkworthyRight, right. Although, someone else has been doing 30 days long before Gina Way has. But you know, whatever. Whatever. Hi Gina. She better be laughing or yelling at me right now. One of the two, she's a very good friend.
Jodi KatzWell she's getting advantage of all the SEO and us talking about her name when we put the transcriptions of this episode on our website. So if she Googles herself she's find this.
Jane LarkworthyOkay. There goes one friendship.
Jodi KatzSo one of my favorite questions to ask on this show is completely mundane, which is how will you spend your time today?
Jane LarkworthyOh, that's a great one. Fighting jet lag. Because I was just in Mexico which isn't ... It's only an hour difference but boy I could not fall asleep last night and I am struggling today. Fighting jet lag, staying out of the rain, meeting a few deadlines at The Cut, and probably going to see one of my clients and waiting until I can get home and go back to bed.
Jodi KatzAnd when you do work for The Cut, are you always working from home or do you have to go to an office?
Jane LarkworthyIt's kind of 50/50. They very nicely found an office for me, which is a euphemism for closet. But it makes me very happy because The Cut is for the most part cubicles under florescent lights and Jane does not do overhead lighting. And so in this little closet I am so cozy and there are these little desk lamps and I ... It's not great for meeting everyone else, because I kind of hide in this little closet. But the way I'm working it out right now is two to three days a week. I love working from home.
Jodi KatzThis idea of freelancing, this is pretty new for you in your life?
Jane LarkworthyYes.
Jodi KatzDid you ever envision yourself as a freelancer?
Jane LarkworthyNo. I never thought I could succeed at it because I always looked at work like school. Like it was the law. It was something you had to do. If you didn't do it the truant officer would come find you. I got a job right out of college. But also I always thought that I was ... I am preternaturally lazy. I just am. And I thought, I'm not going to be able to hustle, I'm not going to be able to reach out to people and be like I've got a great story idea. And I feel extremely fortunate because knock wood, that hasn't happened yet. And I love having my plate full of about 10 different things all the time. And I love being asked to do a project. Whether or not I like it or hate it, it's something I can cross off my list and be like, wow I never want to write about purses again but boy I really like monitoring panels. So it's about reinvention and you learn a lot about yourself.

I know this is a very long answer, but the hardest part for me, and I think you and I discussed this, was when I first went freelance not having an office to go to because my fear of freelance, along with not being able to hustle, was not having the interpersonal communication with a staff. Many of whom become your closest friends. And so that was one of the biggest hurdles for me. But I figured it out. I joined the wing. I joined a couple libraries, rode my bike a lot. And now I can't imagine going back full-time.
Jodi KatzSo you described work as school. Like you're expected to be there and these are the hours.
Jane LarkworthyOh yeah.
Jodi KatzThat type of mindset is always very challenging for me. I never understood ... I had a boss whose dad was a school principal. And just it's how she felt about work. You get to work, you get there on time. You don't get there not on time. And you stay until you stay. You don't leave earlier than you stay. And she really believed that, and I was so challenged by hierarchy that I didn't understand her.
Jane LarkworthyWell how old were you when you had this boss? Because I think-
Jodi KatzLike 29.
Jane LarkworthyOkay. I wonder if it would have affected you differently if it was your first job and then you from there-
Jodi KatzI mean I was a jerk at my first job because of the hierarchy.
Jane LarkworthyOkay. Okay.
Jodi KatzThat's sort of my story. But I never understood the way that people appreciate the rhythm of work until I met her because she just ... She didn't question it, she didn't need to question it, there was no question in her head about it. And I really watched her as a curiosity because I didn't understand. So it's interesting that you talked about it as school, because I feel like for her it was the same. Like her dad's a principal. You go to school.
Jane LarkworthyI feel like ... And this is a really broad statement. But don't you feel like the climate of the office obviously starts at the top. And that influences ... If you have a boss who breeds competition versus a boss who says, "You know what, go figure it out. If you fail, it's okay. Do it again because I know you can do it." And I had ... I didn't have a boss but she was sort of a manager so I guess I reported to her, years ago whose desk was right in line with the elevator banks and so you'd get out and you'd see that she took mental tabs of who arrived late, arrived early, left early. And it stayed with me. And I'm not going to say who this person is, but I still have her on my shoulder. Even when I'm doing a freelance project because way back when at Conde, you couldn't freelance if you were a beauty editor. If you wrote press releases for a company it was clandestine. You did not share that. And now it's like, do what you want. But I still have her on my shoulder being like, "Uh-uh (negative), did you run this by your boss? Are you sure you can do this?" Get away, get off my shoulder.
Jodi KatzHow can you get her off?
Jane LarkworthyBy saying to myself what I said to you. And also sharing it with other people. Suddenly I'm at the age where I'm a mentor and so I dole out advice and I say things like that. And the more you say it ... It's like learning a vocabulary word. The more you say it out loud, the more you believe it.
Jodi KatzA friend once told me, because I would struggle with things like that too, like old stuff. And she'd say, "Tell yourself that was then, this is now."
Jane LarkworthyOh I like that.
Jodi KatzRight, so that was then. That was the reality right? So I had to endure X, Y, and Z for whatever reason. These are old feelings, it's not my now. And I have to write it on the refrigerator. I have to do a lot of work to remember this. But it helps me. It comforts me when I'm having these old feelings creep up.
Jane LarkworthyThat's a good one. Can we also point out that when you and I spoke on the phone, it was like a therapy session? She asked me all these questions and it was very introspective and you really made me think about myself. I got off the phone like wow, I think I just saved like 500 bucks. Anyway, I just had to tell you that.
Jodi KatzWell I hope that I wasn't overstepping.
Jane LarkworthyNo, no. It was lovely.
Jodi KatzI want to talk about your career journey, because it's so interesting and it sounds like it starts with a great temp job. And temping has been very good to me. In my early years I worked at a manhole cover factory as a temp. I worked at a gum manufacturer as a temp.
Jane LarkworthyWow.
Jodi KatzYeah. I had good temp jobs. I was a really good temp. Because this is 25 years ago-
Jane LarkworthyWhy were you a really good temp?
Jodi KatzI would want to plow through these tasks. These tasks that had been sitting around this office for six months, no one ever got to them. I was there for the week, I was going to boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, done. Because I needed to get if off my list. It felt really good, and to be productive. I guess I was temping because I wasn't productive. I needed to-
Jane LarkworthyThe irony. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jodi KatzRight, because I didn't have the job that I wanted or I was in between semesters at school or whatever it was. So being productive and efficient and effective was really exciting for me.
Jane LarkworthyAnd was praise involved?
Jodi KatzNo. As a temp I don't think ... I was never a part of the culture, which actually helped me quite a bit because I wasn't good with hierarchy.
Jane LarkworthySo they probably also gave you a good report card back with the temp agency.
Jodi KatzYeah. But you know, the bar was really low. They just wanted someone to answer the phone. That I was not good at. Like the answering the phone and what's it called when you transfer it?
Jane LarkworthyTransferring the call.
Jodi KatzI mean I was awful at that but like give me that messy file cabinet room that needs to organize press clippings for the past 10 years, I was so good at that. I was just able to not have the hierarchy impact me, I was not part of their politics, I was actually getting paid quite well. So yeah, I was a really good temp. So tell us about your temping journey.
Jane LarkworthyIt was similar. I worked at ... To backtrack for a minute. So my sister had worked at GQ for a number of years. And I don't think she was there by the time I graduated college, but she said "You're a great typist, all of our temps at Conde come from Career Blazers. Go to Career Blazers." Shifting here. So I went to Career Blazers and they sent me on these random jobs, not as interesting as a manhole cover, but banks and organizations where I really was basically the receptionist. And that was the summer before my senior year of college, I became friends with everyone at the temp agency. They were a nice bunch. I go back to college. Christmas break I come back to the temp agency, I'm like, "Hey, I want to make a couple hundred bucks. I got two weeks. Where do you want to send me?" And they send me to Glamour Magazine's beauty department and the rest as they say is history. But I did not follow up with a thank you letter. I didn't think I would get the job.

I was kind of insecure about it because I had never done any official internships. But while I was there it was great. And the beauty closet was this nirvana and I stole I think an eye pencil and a shampoo and a shower caddy, and a press release from Ralph Lauren Fragrances for the fragrance Lauren. And it was like this preppy plaid hardcover press release cover and I literally stuck it in my bag because it was theft. So the world of beauty was never something I was really that interested in but Conde Nast, wow shiny. Chic and beautiful you know.
Jodi KatzWas that alluring to you?
Jane LarkworthyIt was very alluring to me. It was a perfect world to this girl from Long Island who was pretty unfocused and not really sure what she wanted to do and didn't really have the confidence to think that she could get a job at such a fancy place. I got in through the back door, which I advise a lot of people to do. Because not everyone knows someone at a company. Yeah, my sister had worked there but she hadn't been there for years.
Jodi KatzSo when you were in high school or college, did you have the dream of working at a place like this?
Jane LarkworthyNo. I wanted to be on Broadway. I was a voice major. I studied music. I got to Ithaca and it was the classic, small fish, big pond kind of syndrome. And not to get too personal, but my mother died at the end of my senior year. And so in retrospect I was a mess without really realizing it. Because I just didn't want to deal with the fact that my mother died. It was like I'm going to college and I'm going to be on Broadway.
Jodi KatzYour senior year of high school she passed?
Jane LarkworthyYeah.
Jodi KatzOh wow.
Jane LarkworthyYeah. The day before the prom. But I didn't want to deal with the mess or the depression. So I turned my life kind of into a made for TV movie. I become close with my father with whom I was never close. And sort of became a defacto wife. I helped organize his house. I didn't live at home anymore but we developed a closeness, a friendship that I'd never had with him. Which was fraught with its own things because we had no foundation for it really. Wow, where was I going with this? Oh. So yeah. So I studied music. I quickly failed out. I switched to English and writing.
Jodi KatzYou failed the music program?
Jane LarkworthyYeah.
Jodi KatzYou mean got an F and they said leave?
Jane LarkworthyThey said, "This is not working and you can stay, but you can't stay in the music department." And by then I realized I was not going to make it as a professional. But I always did like to write. I was always interested in it. So I kind of like switched to English classes and then started taking some writing courses and then my grades got better and better and better. And I kind of found my people.
Jodi KatzCan we go back to this conversation where the professor says to you leave the program? Was it hard to hear that?
Jane LarkworthyI honestly can't ... I do remember the dean calling me and then saying, "Your grades are not making it here." Other than that I honesty can't remember what the conversation was. I do remember telling him like I told everyone, that my mother had just died to elicit sympathy and to elicit interest. I mean I think it was almost like a ... Dare I call it a pickup line at a bar. Which is like a horrible thing to say, but it was like, pity me. Wounded bird syndrome. Whatever. I'm digressing way too much. But yeah, I kind of wanted out of there anyway. The music school to me was almost what I imagined sort of ... This is ridiculous, but like medical school. Like I'd never studied music theory. I'd never studied all of the science and math, frankly, of music. I just sang. I couldn't read music. I had a really good ear and I could sing it after two times hearing it. But being in a classroom of students who were focused and diligent and already knew music theory, I didn't have a leg to stand on. So there you go.
Jodi KatzI was asking because I was curious as to why that conversation doesn't sit on your shoulder the way that this woman at the desk. Right, but it maybe you just-
Jane LarkworthyOh at Glamour, yeah that one?
Jodi KatzMaybe it just ... You knew.
Jane LarkworthyI knew. I knew and I have no bad feelings about it whatsoever.
Jodi KatzCan I ask ... Back to this personal topic. Did you go to prom?
Jane LarkworthyI did. I did and again, like made for TV movie. And you know what, no screw that. My mother would have wanted me to.
Jodi KatzRight, right. Of course she would have.
Jane LarkworthyI had a boyfriend for the first time in my life and he was a great guy. I did it for mom. And then the funeral was a couple days later up at her mother's in upstate New York.
Jodi KatzThat's so tough.
Jane LarkworthyYeah.
Jodi KatzAnd your sister was out of the house at this time.
Jane LarkworthyAnd brother.
Jodi KatzOkay so we can fast forward. You got the job. Well you had the temp job.
Jane LarkworthyI had the temp job. I had two weeks more experience than anyone else did so I got a job as the assistant at Glamour magazine's beauty department.
Jodi KatzAnd did you know what that would mean?
Jane LarkworthyNo idea.
Jodi KatzIsn't that pretty awesome that you got this coveted job and actually didn't even know-
Jane LarkworthyWell no, I ... I mean I knew it would be answering the phones and filing.
Jodi KatzOh okay.
Jane LarkworthyAnd cleaning the beauty closet. Two of which I was very good at. Beauty closet filing and cleaning, I was terrible at. And then I got a talking to one day and then I stayed til midnight and cleaned everyone's offices and showed them. I'm a little vindictive if I'm criticized.
Jodi KatzAll right, really? Does it feel like a personal attack?
Jane LarkworthyYeah. I don't take criticism well at all. I'm not great with edits to this day. Not that I think all of my work is the shit, not that I think I'm great at everything, but I think a lot of writers are this way. I think criticism is a little like huh, you don't like that headline, wow really? I thought that was a great headline. You know that kind of thing.
Jodi KatzI understand that through the eyes of my daughter who's eight. She does a lot right all the time, so the criticism really comes very infrequently. And when it's like you put your pillows or dolls in the wrong place, like she does not like it. She cries, she feels so wounded.
Jane LarkworthyWell how do you take it? I mean are there people who are like, oh okay great thanks, really?
Jodi KatzI think some people I've learned to roll things off my back more. Think about is this really a personal? Sometimes it's not really personal at all.
Jane LarkworthyAnd it's not really important.
Jodi KatzRight. It used to hurt me a lot. I've worked really hard to build my muscles up to realize that most of this stuff is not personal. There's very few people in the business world who really are looking to attack me personally.
Jane LarkworthyExactly. Exactly. That's what I always say to myself. It's like it's not you. It's not you.
Jodi KatzSo the work they don't like or this they don't like, or whatever, they're feeling wounded that day for whatever reason they said something. But it's really only my family who's going to criticize me personally, the people in the world are not. It's just about other stuff.
Jane LarkworthyExactly.
Jodi KatzOkay. So there's just so much to talk about with you. I want to fast forward a little bit. At some point you got the courage to ask the managing editor for a chance to write.
Jane LarkworthyYes.
Jodi KatzThis was at Glamour?
Jane LarkworthyThis was at Glamour. I had been there probably three or four years and my bosses had both left and so a new boss was coming in so I took this time of transition as an opportunity to move into writing, because back then beauty departments didn't write. They took notes and then a copywriter ... There was a whole stable of copywriters, would take our little outlines and turn them into fancy stories. And I wanted to write fancy stories. And so I made an appointment with the managing editor and told her what I wanted to do. And she said, "Jane, I don't think you see the forest through the trees." And that is a sentence I will take with me to my grave.
Jodi KatzAnd what did it mean to you?
Jane LarkworthyYou're not good enough. You do not have talent. I see no reason to give you a chance to do this. Go back and unpack shampoos. So yeah I took it really personally and I'm sure there was a little gumption in me that thought well I'll show her. But that was definitely overshadowed by she's right, she's right, I have no talent. What was I thinking? And I didn't bring any story ideas to her. I didn't bring a spec story for her to read. I just thought she'd give me a chance and possibly a more confident young woman would have said, "Well let me write something for you and then tell me what you think." And instead I was like, "Okay, sorry to bother you, okay thanks, thanks." And probably went and cried and had a cigarette around the corner.
Jodi KatzSo how did that impact you moving forward? When did you start writing?
Jane LarkworthySort of quite a while. I moved to Mademoiselle where the same setup existed where the beauty department did not write. And I suppose what this managing editor said to me translated to me putting my writing ambitions on the back burner I suppose. And so I didn't write at Mademoiselle and then when Jane magazine was created in 1996 or '97, Jane Pratt hired me as beauty director and one of her initial mandates was write in your own voice. Everyone. Everyone write in first person. I want the readers to get to know who all of you are.
Jodi KatzThat was such an out of the box-
Jane LarkworthyI know, right?
Jodi KatzYeah.
Jane LarkworthyAnd now it's ubiquitous. So thank you Jane. And I thank her 100%. And that just got my writing muscle going and let the beast out. So yeah. I take that with me today, like just encourage people. If they can't write then you know, they'll figure it out.
Jodi KatzI want to just dive a little bit into this idea that you were taking this statement to the grave as you said, I believe. Because we had this conversation when we first got connected and I made the suggestion that this woman who ... My guess is she was very overworked and underappreciated or overworked and maybe didn't really deserve any appreciation, depending on her demeanor. It's possible that she was just being a jerk and an asshole, and that it had nothing to do with you. Do you think you could start to believe that?
Jane LarkworthyIf you tell me that one more time, which would make it three times, maybe I would. Yeah I think I am at the age where I need to turn the pity party off and realize yeah, she probably did have a bad day and it all kind of worked out okay anyway.
Jodi KatzAnd not everyone's nice. You mentioned that you think people should be nice in the workplace, but a lot of people are real giant assholes. I think that's a reflection on them and not the person they're being an asshole towards most of the time. But they come with a lot of baggage. Everyone's human and some people have a harder time dealing with the frustrations of family and life and work. So my guess is she just felt miserable and she wanted to make you feel miserable.
Jane LarkworthyI will add to that, she probably didn't need this new request. No. I have enough writers, go back to counting the lipsticks. And back then I don't think Glamour's beauty department was highly respected. I had heard that Ruth Whitney referred to my boss as the keeper of the lipsticks. You know I get it. I get it. We're not writing about women's issues. Especially back then, it was how to look gorgeous, how to look younger, stay younger. You know it was not enlightened back then.
Jodi KatzHow nice that the tides have turned on that.
Jane LarkworthyOh, wonderful. Very liberating.
Jodi KatzSo let's fast forward a bit. You then had your own voice at W. Right, you were able to be your voice at W, which is actually sounds strange when I say it out loud. That W would let you have your own voice. How did that happen?
Jane LarkworthyIt probably had to do with advertisers and it was probably ... I don't know who came up with the idea so I'll credit Stefano Tonchi, who's still the editor-in-chief. But he brought me into his office one day and we said, "We want you to write your own page, call it Jane's Addiction." And this was pre-Instagram but it was take pictures of yourself getting this facial, take pictures of yourself meeting this person, blah, blah, blah. And it did really well and it was a really interesting place to be within a big fat magazine full of total fantasy high luxury fashion, to then turn to a page where it was like, does this happen to you when you try to apply eyeliner? You know, whatever. And it worked. And you know I just kind of sat there amid all the glamour and explained why I though this beauty product was really cool.
Jodi KatzDid you have responsibilities beyond that column?
Jane LarkworthyOh yeah. Not a lot though. The beauty pages in W were not plentiful.
Jodi KatzSo this is a good job?
Jane LarkworthyYeah. It was a great gig. Lest you think that all I had to do was write one page a month. Maybe that was true an issue or two. But as soon as the web came in then I was productive, productive just like-
Jodi KatzRight. I mean churning out-
Jane LarkworthyChurning out, yeah.
Jodi KatzMultiple articles a day to stay competitive and relevant.
Jane LarkworthyWell I wouldn't go that far.
Jodi KatzThe people who are just starting out at a digital publication have all these like quotas and numbers to hit and blah, blah, blah. Makes me sort of want to vomit. But it's really cool before the digital age where you could just focus and meet people and learn things.
Jane LarkworthyTrue. But you know what? In that defense it was also very frustrating to be able to write about everything that I wanted to write about in this tiny amount of real estate that I had. And a lot of it would be a little ... I don't think bait and switch is the right term, maybe it is. Like all right, you got four pages for June. A week later, oh we're down to two. Oh we're back to three. Oh, one. And there were a couple where I'd have zero. So we would do the work but then it was more of a fashion magazine than it was a beauty magazine.
Jodi KatzSo what is the mindset when you're trying to relate to the reader when she's in this aspirational fantasy world of fashion and lifestyle and then you're switching gears to talk about real stuff? Is the magazine doing that because they know that she's a real woman? Like are they acknowledging through your work that she's actually the regular woman who lives in Kansas City and takes her kids to school like-
Jane LarkworthyNo. I think it's more that beauty is so personal and so connected to emotion. And sure, a Vuitton purse is connected to emotion too, but how your skin looks and how your hair is behaving, that hits you to the core. So with beauty, I think it was a natural connection to make it so personal. And the other thing that I was responsible for ... It wasn't just I love these products, it was holy shit have you heard about this dermatological procedure? It involves needles and threads and a trampoline. I'm just making that up. But this crazy thing we heard about, we wouldn't say be the first on your block to try it, but we would want our reader to be the first on the block to know about it. With its caveats, talk to your doctor about it. So that was really fun too. But it was all about emotion, whatever we were talking about.
Jodi KatzSo in leaving W, was that the first time you left a job that you didn't want to leave?
Jane LarkworthyYeah.
Jodi KatzWhat did that feel like?
Jane LarkworthyIt was the first time I ever got laid off. It was shocking. I remember the first day. I remember being told. I remember walking out. I remember calling my sister. But I also remember just thinking it is a tough time for magazines. And the phone started ringing pretty darn quickly. So, like I said before, the interpersonal communication of being in an office ended up being the hardest thing for me. But honestly, they would have dragged me out on a stretcher at whatever age, 99, whatever, if it hadn't happened. So I thank them.
Jodi KatzIn your time as a person who has, I guess, more control over their time because you don't have that regimented schedule, do you write when you're not being paid to write?
Jane LarkworthyOh, like projects that don't pay me?
Jodi KatzMm-hmm (affirmative).
Jane LarkworthyLike the book I was telling you about?
Jodi KatzSure.
Jane LarkworthyNot very well. Don't you love when you hear interviews of writers saying, "I get up at five in the morning and I write until my kids wake up." I get up at six in the morning and I write for the people who are paying me. I just finished reading Sally Rooney's book Conversations with Friends. Have you heard about that? So I met with a book agent about three months ago who said, "Read Conversations with Friends and get me 50 pages." So I did one of those two things. Writing is just hard and everyone is coming out with a book. And I just don't know if it's worth the investment at this point. I have too much fun writing everything else I'm writing. And as my sister pointed out, she's like, "Well if you put the Instagram down for a day, then maybe you could write that article for the New Yorker that you've been talking about." And I'm like, "You're right. Oh, hold on I just thought of a really funny caption."
Jodi KatzRight.
Jane LarkworthySee, you don't even know the caption and you're laughing.
Jodi KatzBecause I understand how seductive it is.
Jane LarkworthyIt's ridiculous. It's such a waste of time.
Jodi KatzBut don't you feel like you have an audience?
Jane LarkworthyYes.
Jodi KatzDon't you almost feel like you're doing standup?
Jane LarkworthyWell said.
Jodi KatzYou have an audience and when they get to it, whether it's 2 a.m. or 2 p.m., you know that they're giggling.
Jane LarkworthyYeah.
Jodi KatzIt's really seductive.
Jane LarkworthyIt's really seductive.
Jodi KatzSo when you feel that feeling, that pull, for the book, it will happen. You can make it happen. Maybe you're just not ready yet.
Jane LarkworthyI have little notes. And then I have experiences that make me think oh, that would be a good premise, that would be a good plot line. They're usually about people I know so you have to be careful. But, yeah. I mean, I'm in this interesting space that I guess I'm a micro-influencer, which is a really broad number between 10 and 100,000. So apparently my engagement rate is high as a micro. But I'm certainly not known enough to be like, Jane Larkworthy tells it all. Like, who the fuck is Jane Larkworthy?
Jodi KatzRight. I think that I would consider you what we call an in-betweener. So in between a micro and a macro, because when you say something it has a lot of value. So for that, a publicist ... Because publicists can take your story and make it spin into something much bigger.
Jane LarkworthyBut are you going to know who the hell I am if you see my book at Barnes & Noble? No.
Jodi KatzWell, the PR team will make sure that we do.
Jane LarkworthyRight. Well this book agent said no, not yet.
Jodi KatzI think it can be done. I mean I know who other people are and I didn't know them before they had books, you know?
Jane LarkworthyRight. Oh, that's a good point.
Jodi KatzSo when you're ready, it will happen.
Jane LarkworthyOkay.
Jodi KatzAnd Instagram will be there too. It will be part of your journey.
Jane LarkworthyIt is very interesting to watch peers come out with books and the way that they are publicizing it and hustling them. And you know, it looks like fun. To me it looks like fun. It doesn't look like oh god, poor her or poor him. So yeah, when I'm ready.
Jodi KatzRight, and think about how things are pitched to you in your day job right?
Jane LarkworthyYeah, right.
Jodi KatzSo, so and so worked once somewhere and it's part of the sell because, well, it's part of their backpack of experiences. It's meaningful in some way and it's relevant now. So I think that could be done for you in a very big way when you're ready.
Jane LarkworthyOkay. Thanks mom.
Jodi KatzOkay, my last question for you before we close out is what do you think is today's beauty aspiration?
Jane LarkworthyWhat are people aspiring for in the beauty world?
Jodi KatzYeah, or like what do you think ... Because you're a brand consultant now, how would you talk to a brand about what aspiration means in beauty?
Jane LarkworthyIt sounds so corny, but I really think it's about looking your best self. But I also think it's about experimentation. The great thing is beauty, especially makeup, is that it's completely transitory. I love seeing women, men, trans of all ages trying looks, posting them, and then you wipe it off if you don't like it. And the haters are always going to hate and there's the rage culture on Instagram. Don't even get me started. But it's about really embracing what you love about yourself. And it's never been more celebrated, which is wonderful to see. Although, I say that and I'm like oh, I can't do a selfie, not with these wrinkles. I got to put a filter on. Put a big fat filter on. That's my joke.
Jodi KatzBut are you actually putting filters on?
Jane LarkworthyHell yeah. So The Cut, perfect example. We have this thing called ... I think it's we tried this. Sorry guys. I'm still new. But it's like a road test of products. So Kathleen Hou, the Beauty Director, will be like, "Who wants to try the Gucci lipsticks? Who wants to try" ... And so I was on the Gucci lipsticks and she's like, "Can you include a selfie?" And I'm like oh goad, my lip lines, my crow's feet. You know, it took like 500 attempts to get the picture right. All right, it wasn't that many, it was five. But yeah, I'm celebrating age, but it's a daily struggle.
Jodi KatzWhat's the hardest part of that?
Jane LarkworthyI feel like I look so angry, which is why I do the goofy face all the time.
Jodi KatzSo you feel like when you photograph yourself you look like an angry version of yourself and not a joyful version?
Jane LarkworthyWhen I look in my phone selfie mirror to do something, I'll be like ... Warn a girl first, you know. Yeah, I just look sort of angry so then I'll put my little phone on a shelf, turn the timer on, make a goofy face, and then it's okay.
Jodi KatzAnd when you are taking this picture of yourself and you think that you look angry, are you smiling?
Jane LarkworthyOh yeah, yeah. In other words like resting Jane face looks a little angry to me.
Jodi KatzBut do you ever try putting a smile on that face?
Jane LarkworthyOh, of course, of course. I'm just saying if I'm holding my phone and I've got the camera and it flips by surprise and I look at myself without smiling.
Jodi KatzOh, I see.
Jane LarkworthyThat's all I'm saying. That's why I'm saying give a girl warning Jane. Like, whoa. But it doesn't ruin my day the way not seeing the forest through the trees ruined my day. Yeah, it's just kind of like okay, get on with it.
Jodi KatzHosting this podcast is quite fun because I get to see ... We do photos afterwards, which you'll see. We use for promotion. And it's really-
Jane LarkworthyUh-oh.
Jodi KatzIt's a really interesting experience for me to watch who cares, like who really cares about what this iPhone picture looks like and who doesn't. And this is a judgment free zone. I just get to be a fly on the wall in this. And to me it's so interesting.
Jane LarkworthyOh, I bet.
Jodi KatzI mean I don't write this down, but it would be great fuel for storytelling because it comes out when you would least expect it.
Jane LarkworthyYeah. I was going to say is concern about how they look a euphemism for like let's do this filter? Let's put the ears on. Let's put the cat nose on.
Jodi KatzOh, interesting. Well we don't use any cat eyes, but we do have props so you'll get to play with props.
Jane LarkworthyOkay.
Jodi KatzWell thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today.
Jane LarkworthyThank you for having me.
Jodi KatzAnd for our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Jane. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes, and for updates about the show follow us on Instagram, @wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast.
AnnouncerThanks for listening to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

Want to sponsor the pod?

Available On:

Apple Podcasts