Hey ladies, it’s Anna again from Fash Boulevard, bringing you another edition of my interview series, Ladies Who Laptop. This month’s spotlight has made a name for herself as the go-to beauty expert for one of the internet’s most talked about websites. As Senior Beauty Editor of Gwyneth Paltrow’s famous goop, Megan O’Neill has earned her spot at the top of the beauty editor elite. From English major to assistant stylist, to impressive stints at both Lucky and ELLE magazines, Megan has worked tirelessly to turn her childhood dreams into a once-in-a-lifetime reality. Today, she’s opening up about her favorite beauty hacks, how she combats the fatigue of sitting behind a desk all day, and what it’s really like having Gwyneth Paltrow for a boss. Let’s dive in…
Let’s go back to the very beginning. Can you share your career path up to this point?
I was maybe 10 years old, flipping through an Interview magazine at a store waiting for my mom, and I came across a giant Kate Moss spread. She was nonchalant, her hair a bit disheveled—just perfect. I was mesmerized, but the thing I loved the most was her saying in the Q&A that she liked to smear Vaseline across her eyelids because she loved the glossy flourish. That was my moment—I knew I wanted to be someone who was in some way involved in magazines and words and fashion and creating beautiful images. That and the fact that my mom would scrawl vocab words on Post-its and stick them to my bathroom mirror (there were so many, they crowded out my reflection). She’s been a copy editor at The New Yorker for 25 years, so words and literature were very much a thing in our house.
I majored in English in college and then had quite a meandering path to becoming a writer. I worked at American Apparel (my best friend and I were managers at one point and would wear neon bodysuits to work with high tops and blast Gold Digger by Kanye all day); I assisted a stylist (he was great, but hauling garment bags around the city felt thankless); I was a production assistant (sometimes I wished I’d get hit by a car on the way to work, not to die but just to incapacitate me enough to not have to go in); and then I landed my first real gig, at Lucky magazine, where the beauty director, Jean Godfrey-June—who’s our executive beauty director here at goop and one of my favorite people—hired me as the associate beauty editor. After about three and a half years, I went to ELLE as the senior beauty and fitness editor. And here I am, six months in at goop.
You previously worked for Lucky & ELLE Magazine. What are some of the biggest differences working in print vs. the digital space?
In print, you have more time to work on a piece. With digital, and at goop specifically, the pieces are still thoughtful and the reporting excellent, but you don’t have the time to obsess and deliberate over every sentence, which is something I would tend to do. I actually love the pace here—it’s steady for sure, but we’re not churning things out like robots.
I think the question we’re all dying to ask is, what’s it like working at goop?
It’s sort of how you imagine “going to work” might be when you’re a kid, before you know anything about anything. I mean that in the best way—in the sense that working at goop is…fun. It really is! It’s intense and busy and everyone is hunkered down concentrating to meet their deadlines and produce beautiful, informative pieces, but the vibe is laid-back and decidedly un-corporate. There aren’t brownie points for staying late and being the last one in the office. We have a staff meeting that Gwyneth leads every week from the LA office (I’m in our NYC office, we Skype in), and I’m always surprised and delighted at how laughter-filled that meeting is. It’s actually quite uplifting, and I secretly look forward to it.
What’s a day in the life of Megan O’Neill like?
I’m most alive when I’m moving—so I try hard to work out three times a week to reap the head-clearing benefits. When I take a 7:30 AM Sculpt class at CorePower Yoga in Williamsburg—it’s like I’ve been dosed with drugs! I emerge sweaty (it’s hot yoga mixed with weight lifting), happy, and soothed from that steamy room, and my day is better because of it. (To go through your flow while Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” is blasting—as it’s been known to do at CorePower—is a special sort of bliss.) I also do regular yoga near my house at Daya, a studio in Bushwick, and non-yoga weight-lifting classes at Liftonic on Gansevoort Street. When it’s hot in summer, I love rollerblading up the West Side Highway to Harlem. And I’m almost always down for a woodsy hike.
On my way to the office, I stop at abcV—it’s airy and rustic and one of my favorite places on the planet—and get a Sencha green tea mixed with a shot of fresh-squeezed organic ginger juice–and I add heaps of delicious honey. I eat fruit and nuts and granola (I bake a gigantic batch on Sundays) that I pack from home for breakfast. Later, I make a point of going out for a walk to get lunch, because sitting all day is soul-crushing.
Cooking, like exercising and dancing, lifts my mood, so I’m good about making dinner most nights. Seared wild-caught salmon, roasted sweet potatoes doused in olive or coconut oil, and broccoli is one of my most satisfying weeknight meals. I bake a ton, too, so lately it’s been death by a billion slivers of the candied ginger-studded coconut-banana bread from the Cherry Bomb cookbook for dessert.
Do you have any beauty hacks you can share with us?
Night cream during the day and for plane rides is the secret to glowy skin. Smooth a balm—one that won’t clog your pores—onto your lids and cheeks to add the prettiest gleamy, Kate-Moss-y flourish. Braid your hair before going to bed for perfectly mussed, crinkly, everywhere-curls. And if you have hair like mine—a bit curly, a bit kinky—there’s no such thing as too much moisture—or too much hair oil.
What’s the biggest misconception about being a beauty editor?
That the job is just tinkering with beauty products all day! The testing happens largely at home, and during the day we do a ton of work! We go to events and participate in panel discussions to learn about new products and technologies, and then on top of that we write our pieces, pitch ideas for our columns, interview experts and MDs, and research new ingredients. There’s so much more than meets the eye when it comes to beauty—the science that goes into formulating these sleek products is intricate and impressive.
As Senior Beauty Editor of goop can you share a couple of your current favorite beauty products?
Vintner’s Daughter I love—it’s this gorgeous, skin-brightening blend of powerful botanicals (it has frankincense and turmeric, essential oils known for their healing, inflammation-soothing benefits). Every time I smooth it on in the morning, my coworker exclaims that my skin is glowing as I pass her desk.
If you want to be one of those miraculous people who emerge from planes looking impossibly gleamy, try the Replenishing Night Cream from goop by Juice Beauty. Obviously, I don’t only slather it on for plane rides—I slather it on before bed and sometimes during the day, in addition to Vintner’s, when it’s especially frigid and I need a hydrating boost (the night cream goes on as the first layer, then Vintner’s on top).
I’m also loving the Baby Love Balm Lip + Cheek Tint from Balmyard Beauty. It’s spiked with coconut oil, so it melts into your skin and is just insanely flattering on seemingly everyone. (Don’t be fooled by how deep-blackberry it looks in the pot; it’s perfection on lips and cheeks.) I sometimes even dab it onto my nose and eyelids, because I love the warm flush it infuses my skin with—like I’ve just been gallivanting on the beach in Jamaica. The line is Jamaica-inspired, and my parents are Jamaican, so perhaps my affinity for it starts there.
We’re all about healthy living here at LaurenConrad.com. What does a typical healthy day of eating consist of for you?
When I don’t pack my breakfast, I’ll eat half of a sweet potato and sautéed kale doused in balsamic vinaigrette or a zucchini omelet with toast and jam—or a plate of fruit and something decadent, like a chocolate croissant. (abcV’s are insane.) There’s a smoothie from goop—the Salted Caramel Date Shake—that’s heavenly! It tastes like a straight-up milkshake, but it’s sweetened with dates! (I can’t believe dates grow in nature! Their untampered-with deliciousness seems too good to be true!). If I have the smoothie, I’ll also have some fruit and nuts because I love chewing, and for that reason a smoothie isn’t satisfying on its own for me. For lunch, I love a soul-warming soup—like lentil or split pea—and I’m never without coconut water, a little bag of pecans and dried fruit, and an apple or satsuma orange to snack on. For dinner, I love wild-caught salmon (which is infinitely better for you than farm-raised), halibut, Mahi Mahi, scallops, shrimp, and duck from the Union Square Farmers’ Market. Before bed, I’ll often make myself a warm turmeric-ginger tonic.
How do you think social media has changed the beauty world?
There are so many videos on how to…create a sexy, smoky eye; apply barely-there blush; soften dark circles with concealer; contour—it’s incredible. The flip side of that—of it being easier to become an “expert” now—is that not everyone out there is an expert. But, yes, I do I think overall social media’s biggest benefit to the beauty world is making it more accessible. And that is both valuable and inspiring.
Can you share with us some of your favorite beauty influencers?
I follow a few makeup artists on Insta—Pat McGrath, Jeanine Lobell, Risa Hoshino, Katey Denno, Dick Page, Alice Lane, Aaron de May. Their posts aren’t necessarily beauty up the wazoo; there’s some food, lifestyle, and pets in there too, which I love. But their creations are gorgeous—and give me plenty of ideas and things to dream about. I also love following hairstylists Vernon Francois and James Pecis, colorist Aura Friedman, and Janelle Chaplin.
For someone who wants to follow in your footsteps to becoming a beauty editor, what’s the best way to get started?
Intern! You learn so much—you learn what’s expected of you, you learn that YES, YES, YES, this is what I want to do, or you learn that NO, this is not for me. Try to meet with people in the industry for an informational interview. I think usually people want to help those who are just starting out because they’ve been there, and they want to pay it forward. Anyone with a job you admire is there because at some point someone gave her or him a chance. And politely follow up! If someone hasn’t gotten back to you or answered your email, it’s probably because she or he is busy.
Who are a few celebrities that you think are slaying the beauty game right now and why?
I promise you I’m not just saying this because I work for her, but Gwyneth is very impressive. People ask me if I ever see her at work, and—YES is the answer. She’s in the office every single day, she’s involved in and leading absolutely everything. She’s not a figurehead, she’s real—and, honestly, she’s great. She’s smart and intuitive and has pivoted from one stellar career to another.
What’s the biggest lesson you have learned on your entrepreneurial journey? For all of the dreamers out there, the fresh-out-of-college future entrepreneurs, what advice would you give them?
Do the thing you love! I beg of you, do the thing you love. Life is so much sweeter if you’re working hard at something you enjoy. Work is work—it’s not vacation or the beach or drinking a cocktail. It’s effort and it will be frustrating, and some days you’ll wish it’s Friday before the week’s even gotten under way. But it’s so enriching when you love it!
Who would you like for me to interview for my next Ladies Who Laptop?
Let me know in the comments below!