An American Abroad: "How Moving to Cambridge Changed My Beauty Routine"

Amanda Montell

When Caroline Calloway stepped off the train at Cambridge University, she had one suitcase full of art history textbooks and another of Glossier beauty products. It was 2015, the fall of her junior year, and she wanted to be as prepared as possible. “I’m a big Glossier fan, and by ‘big Glossier fan,’ I mean I am their number one fan,” Calloway tells me with a laugh via Skype. “To this day, they do not ship to the UK. At one point, I was the recipient of an email saying, ‘You bought a lot of Glossier product at once; you realize you can’t resell this, right?’ But no, that was all for me.”

This image of Calloway with a face mask in one hand and a volume of impressionists in the other is an accurate representation of the then 23-year-old’s distinctly millennial identity: half scholar, half American It girl. By then, Calloway had nearly three hundred thousand Instagram followers, all moved to follow the young student for her whimsical photographs and lengthy captions detailing her Cambridge life in a quippy, yet personal way. But Calloway’s Instagram celebrity isn’t what brought her to Cambridge’s Saint Edmund’s College: Instead, it was a lifelong dream of pursuing art history at one of the world’s most prestigious institutions. As Calloway has proven, there is space in the world for both the old and the new.

From the moment Calloway began at Cambridge, the place enchanted her. (“Here’s the crazy thing about Cambridge,” she posted in the spring of 2013. “There’s not just one castle. There’s not just ten castles. Cambridge is a city of castles.”) As she continued her studies, so grew her dual identities: that of a serious academic and that of an online beauty icon.

In 2016, Calloway graduated from Cambridge with an art history degree and a book deal, plus some blond highlights and a set of eyelash extensions that she (almost) made me promise not to mention. (“Honestly, you can’t even write this because it has blown people’s minds over the past three years—they think I naturally have the most amazing eyelashes in the history of humans,” she whispers into the webcam. “Actually, you can print that. It’s hilarious. No one in Cambridge has figured out that eyelash extensions exist yet.”)

It’s no coincidence that Calloway picked up a love of Glossier and subtle cosmetic procedures during her time at Cambridge. Under the surface, it reflects an unspoken beauty culture that exists in academia, one that has everything to do with lies, sexism, and valuing high IQs over happiness. Intrigued? Keep scrolling to discover the untold beauty secrets of women at Cambridge, as told by Caroline Calloway.

No one in Cambridge has figured out that eyelash extensions exist yet.

Caroline Calloway

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