Welcome back to Power Figures, our series profiling ladies at the top of their game who are kindly enlightening us as they ascend. This month, we had too much fun chatting with Alyssa Hertzig, a beauty editor at some of the world’s top magazines who recently had the vision and courage to leave the world of glossies for a turn as a full-time lifestyle blogger and freelance writer.
The Sparkly Life follows her passions both professional (your new source for beauty reccos from someone who knows a BB cream from a CC cream) and personal (scientifically proven fact: no one throws a Pinterest-worthy party like Alyssa), candid (fair warning, grab a tissue before reading “The 3 AM Struggle is Real”) and chic as all get-out. She’s equal parts aspirational and attainable: a “cool” mom, a thinker of deep thoughts yet a self-proclaimed fluff junkie. She optimistically makes the daily juggle look damn good, one bouncy hair blowout at a time, and for that, we salute her.
(Have a suggestion for Power Figures? Email email@example.com to nominate someone.) Without further ado, meet Alyssa…
Alyssa Hertzig, founder of TheSparklyLife.com
Q: Tell us about yourself and how you got into journalism.
A: I grew up in a suburb of D.C., then went to Indiana University. After school, I moved to Minneapolis to work as an assistant buyer at Target HQ. I can’t say enough good things about that company, but the job was not for me—too much number-crunching—so I moved to L.A. to work at an entertainment website. After two years, I went to grad school for magazine publishing at Northwestern, then I went to Hong Kong to intern at Time Asia before picking up and moving to New York to try to find a job in magazines. I met a guy (who became my husband three years later) and worked retail (Anthropologie, represent!) until I landed an unpaid internship at Harper’s Bazaar.
I was lucky in that I only had to work there a few weeks before a job opened. My title was editorial assistant, but I was mostly a receptionist. I started to see all the fun products coming in for the beauty editors, and I thought, I want to do that! In my free time, I volunteered to help them open packages. Soon, I was sending them story ideas, and a few months later, when an editor left, I lobbied hard for her job—and got it. I never looked back.
After Harper’s Bazaar, I became the beauty editor of Vitals (the awesome, short-lived fashion/shopping magazine helmed by Joe Zee). Literally two weeks after I got there, though, the magazine folded. I was devastated. But I soon got a job at Lucky, then eventually Good Housekeeping, then Allure, where I worked on and off for six years. Most recently, I was the beauty director of Brides.
Q: How did you start blogging? What’s your mission on The Sparkly Life?
A: I started blogging back in 2011 because I loved reading blogs! It was also an outlet for me to write about other interests, since my day job was focused entirely on beauty. I felt, at the time, that there was a hole in the blogging world. There were bloggers and there were editors, but no one was doing both. Hard to believe now, but there were very few editors who were even active on social media at the time. My mission is to create a fun, no-pressure place for my readers to hang out. I love to highlight things that delight, entertain and inspire my readers, who are mostly young moms—but I have plenty of single, millennial readers, too!
Q: What about the beauty industry resonates with you so deeply?
A: I love the beauty world because there’s always something new, always something exciting, always something that holds the promise to make you, in some small way, just a little bit happier. I also love beauty because it’s definitely not just fluff. It combines science, innovation, interesting people, art, and yes, some fluffy stuff, too!
Q: How do you keep it all in perspective in a high-pressure, looks-matter business?
A: I would actually say that looks matter in this business less than you’d think. I’ve worked with people of all shapes, sizes and ages. Are there some who judge? Of course. But I don’t think most people really care. Maybe that’s the “older” me talking, because I definitely worry less about that sort of thing since getting older and having kids. Kids put things in perspective. I no longer sit around worrying constantly that I’m not as skinny as I’d like to be, or that my brows aren’t as full as I wish they were, or that my skin isn’t glowy enough or whatever. I’m not saying that I don’t think about these things at all or that I’ve let myself go—not at all! It’s just that, at the end of the day, it’s no longer what’s really important.
Q: What’s changing about the business, for better and for worse?
A: Publishing has changed so much in the 13 or so years I’ve been in it. If you had asked me two years ago if I thought print was dead, I would have said absolutely not. But now, I feel differently. It’s not dead, but it’s dying. We are going to see fewer and fewer magazines, and the ones that remain are going to employ fewer people. When I worked for magazines, often the information would feel old—like we’d read it before, because often we had!—by the time I was putting it on paper, never mind that it still had to go to print and hit the newsstands a month or two down the road. Plus, and I hate to say this, but the very nature of being a disposable physical product is a downside of print. I feel guilty buying magazines because they make me feel stuck. I don’t want to throw them away when I’m done reading, because that’s wasteful, but I also don’t want to keep them because…clutter! It’s sad, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the industry does next to evolve. Because it will have to evolve.
Q: How do you find balance with so many competing priorities?
A: Well, first, I don’t think I ever successfully find balance! I always feel like I’m juggling a million things and doing all of them okay at best. I just keep trying and keep going the best I can.
Q: What are you passionate about?
A: It’s boring to say that I’m passionate about my kids, but…my kids. And I’m passionate about finding new stories to tell, then telling them. I’m passionate about connecting with people—through my writing, through social media, in real life. And my Facebook friends would probably add that I’m passionate about politics. I feel particularly strongly about women’s rights (reproductive rights, equal pay), the environment and gun control. This election cycle is definitely an exciting if stressful time for me.
Q: Walk us through a typical day in your life.
A: My daughter wakes me up around 6 AM. I check emails, shower, help my daughter finish getting ready, then fetch my son, who wakes up around 8. My nanny arrives soon after, so she usually makes my son breakfast while I take my daughter to school. At that point, I’ll either go into the city for an appointment or event, or I’ll head to a local coffee shop to write for a few hours. If I’m writing, I’ll come home around noon to eat lunch and hang out with my son before he goes to school. Then, it’s back to work at home.
Q: How do you destress?
A: Usually watching TV or scrolling through blogs. I wish I was someone who de-stressed by, like, going for a run, but…alas.
Q: Do you have a workout routine?
A: I do two private Pilates sessions every week. I discovered Pilates two years ago, and for the last year or so, it’s all I’ve done! I love it so much. It’s incredibly effective, and it’s working out WHILE LYING DOWN. What’s not to love about that?!?
Q: What would you tell someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
A: People always ask me how to break into magazines, and my advice today is different than it was a few years back. I used to say that you needed to move to New York and get an internship. Now, I say: Start a blog. You’ll learn valuable skills, you can do it from anywhere, and you’ll get a chance to practice writing. And when you do eventually apply for a job, you can point people to your blog as an example of your work. It’s an unbeatable calling card.
Q: How do you feel about perfection?
A: What’s that? 😉
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO ALYSSA
Wardrobe staples: Dark-wash jeans (my favorites are by Rag & Bone and Paige) and black moto boots.
Best bra: Chantelle T-shirt bras are my all-time favorite! They’re beautifully made, invisible under clothing, and so, so comfy.
Style icon: I wouldn’t mind having Olivia Palermo’s closet.
Go-to beauty product: Amazing Cosmetics Amazing Concealer. It’s awesome! The absolute best thing I’ve found for completely erasing dark circles.
Greatest extravagance: Blowouts! I get at least one a week. Sure, they’re $40-$50 a pop, but the confidence I get from them—and the time I save not having to style my hair in the mornings—is priceless.
Superpower you wish you had: Invisibility.
Biggest mistake: Not studying abroad in college. I was having too much fun at school and didn’t want to leave my friends. So dumb! (This is basically the one thing Lauren Conrad and I have in common: We’re both the girls who didn’t go to Paris.)
Long-term plans: My dream is to eventually write a book.
Best way to unwind: I love a good deep-tissue massage. I mean, I can’t stand a barely-there Swedish. I need to be pummeled!
Current obsession: A homemade Grady’s Cold Brew iced latte. SO. YUMMY.
Favorite vacation destination: Santorini, Greece.
Best TV show: I don’t think I could pick one! I recently discovered Billions and now I’m hooked on that. I’m also a longtime fan of Game of Thrones, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or New York, and The Bachelor. And I never, ever miss an episode of Real Time with Bill Maher.
Favorite magazine: I barely ever read them anymore (is that sad or what?), but when I do, my go-tos are Domino, Elle or Allure.
Heels or flats? Flats. I like to look cute, but I prefer to be comfy while I’m looking cute.
Favorite emoji: Smiley face with heart eyes and the one that looks like a woman fluffing her hair with one hand. I use it to symbolize a blowout.
Perfect day: Some time alone, some time with the people I love, and lots and lots of pasta.
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