Now, after writing it, I think I’ve found more of a balance. I question things that I buy more, and I feel like I’m not as susceptible to marketing gimmicks and trends. Everything that I purchase, I’m trying to honor myself as I am and my ancestors. So I am less jaded now. The wellness industry is as evil as we want to make it—by giving it power—and hopefully this book questions that power. I sometimes joke that this will be a nonfiction book in a few years. Some of the treatments that I thought that I invented I later found out were already a thing, and then I had to go back and try to invent something scarier.
When did you realize that your relationship with beauty and wellness was becoming too consuming, or even unhealthy?
I have a history of eating disorders, and I work pretty hard not to slide back into that kind of behavior again. Well, I realized I was backsliding. It is so natural for wellness to be entangled with beauty and looking a certain way, and that started affecting me. I was also spending way too much money that I didn’t have. I think I went to a concert and I was like, I forgot that I love music, which had been my career for so long. I was trying to remember other aspects of my personality and I was kind of like, I don’t even know who I am. If the whole day you’re thinking about what you’re going to eat or drink and what you’re putting on your skin, very quickly there’s no space for any other thoughts.
What does your wellness routine look like now?
I think a lot of what I loved about skin care and beauty and wellness was that there was always new stuff to try and just so many promises being made to you all the time. Now I try to get that fix in other ways, whether it’s through podcasts, reading, TV, or just finding new ideas. I’m trying to make that as sexy as new products in my life. I spend a lot more time outdoors and that’s really great—there’s almost nothing about a hike that’s homogenous. There’s no tree that looks similar. I have paired down my skin care in the sense that I don’t look for new products—I just use my three things, and I use those only if I feel like it. I try to listen to my body and eat whatever it wants to eat. So it’s a really different and new kind of relationship. I’m trying to be intuitive.
What would you say to somebody who’s working in a place like Holistik—a med spa or beauty store or even in another industry that’s very intense or looks-centric—and is feeling like they’re not enough, or are losing that sense of self?
Your career, or your job, is not the sum total of who you are. You’re a more complex person. We’re all enough as we are. I really believe that.
What are your favorite horror books and movies?
I love directors Julia Ducournau and David Cronenberg, also Ari Aster. Midsommar was just really transcendental for me. I didn’t know that what I wrote was body horror—it was just when I started meeting with producers for the TV show that they were throwing those words around and I was like, yeah, totally. Incorporating horror was so natural to me when writing, because if you’re writing about a woman’s body in America, of course it’s going to be a body horror. So it wasn’t really intentional to work in that genre, but it’s one that resonates the most with my experience here.
What’s your favorite book of all time?
Probably The Waves by Virginia Woolf. The second one, I’d say, is the entire Neapolitan novels collection by Elena Ferrante. They have been so influential to me in terms of how I relate to women in my life. The third is Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. I just missed that main character so much after reading it.
Do you listen to music when you write?
I listen to a lot of Beethoven—his late quartets and slow movements. I listen to symphonies. And then besides that, I love Frank Ocean, James Blake, Dan Deacon, and Mitski.
What’s the best wellness treatment you’ve ever had?
I’ve had some pretty amazing body work massages. There’s a package you can get at Pearl Spa in San Francisco—it’s three hours long and there’s no part of you that’s untouched. They scrub away everything until you’re a brand new person. It’s wild—you’re just their play-thing on the table. I loved that. I did have an amazing facial at Biologique Recherche in Paris—I wanted to do the mothership thing.
Have you ever experienced a wellness horror story of your own?
Something that happens to me often is what I call “avocado face.” This happened a lot when I was working at the store: I’ll try something new and within a few moments, my skin would raise and become red and leathery. It would really feel like an avocado. And then I would have to go on steroids—it wouldn’t go away by itself.