We’re excited to debut our new series, The Close-Up, where we take a closer look at celebrities, influencers, and pop culture phenomena. You’ve read about them on the Internet and clipped their photos out of magazines—but now you’ll have the chance to get to know them personally through fun Polaroids, handwritten beauty advice, product recommendations, and so much more.
We all feel like we know Kendall Jenner, yes? The 20-year-old model has 52.5 million followers on Instagram and just recently joined Snapchat (with the help of a true social media pro, her sister Kylie). I’ve watched her keel over laughing with her sisters and fight just as hard on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. I peer up at her picture on billboards in SoHo and Times Square on a weekly basis.
And yet there’s still an air of mystery around her. She seems effortless in her beauty and strangely unaffected by her fame. As Michael Kors told Vogue, “She’s sophisticated but laid-back. She’s both. She’s chic. She’s the Ali MacGraw for the Instagram generation.”
So when I got the chance to meet her face to face for the launch of the new Estée Edit collection by Estée Lauder, I jumped. I walked into a small back room sectioned off from the public at Sephora’s Fifth Avenue store. I peered down from the balcony at all of the unsuspecting shoppers, tickled by the fact that they had absolutely no idea about the mega-celebrity sitting a mere 10 feet away from them. Her team motioned to me from behind a blue curtain, and I timidly entered the same space as the woman herself, Kendall Jenner.
I was immediately struck by her beauty. As we shook hands, I couldn’t help but get lost in Jenner’s big, sparkly eyes. I’ve seen her face hundreds if not thousands of times over the last decade, but there was something shocking about her IRL. Her legs practically reached my forehead (she’s 5’10”), and a picture of her skin should be included with the dictionary definition of glowing.
I sat down and got to business—it was my personal mission to learn all her beauty secrets in the next 20 minutes. We began by chatting about the Edit Eyeshadow Palette ($48), a mix of matte and shimmery shades Jenner helped curate. It’s made up of browns, classic black, and purples—all designed with a glow-in-the-dark effect under a black light. (This certainly would have come in handy during those college dorm-room parties where black lights illuminated posters of the Grateful Dead bears and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. But I didn’t mention that to Jenner.)
“I love a good, natural brown smoky eye, so there’s a good amount of browns in there. And I had to throw in the classic black smoky eye, and purple is one of my favorite colors. It’s fun! There’s a black light set up too.” Much like the model herself, the palette is classic with a fresh twist.
Jenner calls the likes of Gigi Hadid and Cara Delevingne her best friends, so naturally I inquired about any supermodel tips she may have picked up from them.
“You know what’s good for your own face,” she answered. “Everybody has something different—they’ve learned what’s best for them, and I’ve learned what’s best for me.” Drat. It seems their gorgeous-looking faces are courtesy of really good genes and not an easily shareable tip. Such is life.
As we continued talking, I couldn’t help but notice her hair was super textured and much more voluminous than it looks in pictures. Usually it’s straight and parted down the middle, but today she was rocking a bit of Kate Moss–style bedhead.
“My hair is so stick straight and silky,” she explained, “so when I sleep with it wet and wake up in the morning, it has this nice texture to it. That’s my version of doing my hair.”
I asked if she would ever switch things up, perhaps abandon her signature ’do for something more drastic. “I don’t think so,” Jenner quickly answered. “I’m comfortable with my hair right now, so we’ll see what ends up happening.” Then, as if remembering that her every word ends up permanently etched on the Internet, she exclaimed, “Never say never!”
The subject of skincare came up (duh—I want my skin to look exactly like hers for the rest of my life), and Jenner admitted that her effortless look is just that: effortless. “I’m very simple and lazy with my beauty routine. I wouldn’t say I’m that daring. But I’ve always been super OCD about washing my face—and that’s even before I started modeling. But it’s definitely enhanced now because I wear so much makeup all the time. I wash my face at least two or three times a day.”
I asked if her famous sisters had anything to do with her routine. Admittedly, she’s the most natural of the bunch, but I imagine it’s really helpful to learn from women who have been there—they too had to learn to navigate red carpets and smize into a camera lens at all hours of the morning.
“My sisters," Jenner said, “since they’re a little bit older than Kylie and I, they’ve always wanted to help prevent anything that they’ve gone through when they were our age. So they’re like, Never touch your face, never pick your face, always wash your face, and wear eye cream. They literally give us everything that we should do. So ever since then, we’ve started taking skincare really seriously.”
So which products are her favorites? She had trouble choosing. “Estée has a lot of great skincare products. They have this night-care cream that’s amazing. But I can’t pick just one!”
It’s clear that Jenner loves a good smoky eye (her makeup look during our interview was super sultry), but she spends a lot of her free time sans product. She mused, “I’m cool to go makeup free, but usually to make myself feel better, I’ll throw on a light foundation and some mascara.” In terms of her getting-ready playlist, the model loves dance music and ’90s hip-hop. “I know every word to ‘Hypnotize’ by Biggie. Anything upbeat and fun makes you feel good while you're getting ready and putting on makeup.”
We moved on to diet and exercise, as she clearly has a covetable bod. I had read in previous interviews that Jenner barely works out, and she recently starred in a video where she gorged on a heaping stack of pancakes. I wanted—nay, needed—to know if her figure was a result of rigorous workouts and clean eating, or if, like her skin, she was just that lucky.
“I hate cardio,” she said with a laugh. “I’d rather just stand there and lift some weights than run in place.” She paused for a moment. “But I’ll do it!” Jenner discussed how she mostly favors exercises that work out her abs and her butt, like squats and planks. When she’s being healthy, Jenner eats a lot of grilled chicken with rice. “But I love everything unhealthy,” she said. “Pizza, fried chicken, everything.”
For more easy-to-handle diet and exercise tips, see how I completely changed my body in only three months.