Location: Croton, NY
Marital Status: Married
Education: B.A. in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design
Pretty is what pretty does. FOF Lois Joy Johnson is pretty and does pretty for a living. In fact, this former Ladies’ Home Journal and More magazine beauty and fashion editor is probably one of the world’s leading experts on looking gorgeous. For over twenty-five years, she’s reported on the best in beauty. She interviewed supermodels, socialites and leading actresses and has top beauty execs on her speed dial.
But in 2008, as the media world began to change drastically around her, Lois saw that her expertise could transcend the printed (magazine) page. She left her job at More and reinvented herself as a beauty guru for women over forty. She quickly landed beauty writing gigs across the web and authored The Makeup Wakeup: Revitalizing Your Look at Any Age, a book that brilliantly and clearly explains everything you can do to look really great when your FOF—whether or not you’re willing to go under the knife.
“Every time you turn on the TV there is another cosmetic procedure,” says Lois. “It’s an irritant in a way because it’s really making women feel bad about themselves. And I’m all about making women feel great about themselves.” Pretty amazing, right?
Where did you grow up?
I grew up on Long Island. It was a very idyllic life… convertibles, the beach, dating. But, I always had one foot in Manhattan and preferred to spend my time trolling museums and sketching. My goal was to be involved in the fashion world.
You eventually became a beauty and fashion editor at two major magazines, Ladies Home Journal and More, how did you do it?
Most beauty and fashion editors come out of journalism school but I went to Parsons School of Design in the late 60s to become a fashion designer. At the time, Donna Karan was a student there and there were teachers like Oscar de la Renta. It was really a very creative group of people.
Did you go into fashion design when you first graduated from Parsons?
When I graduated Parsons, I had a very successful career as a fashion illustrator. I illustrated for Franklin Simon, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale’s and for fashion magazines like Glamour, Redbook and Seventeen. Then, I started working at Mademoiselle magazine as an assistant beauty editor.
You gave up the illustration?
I continued to work with my freelance illustration clients, but I decided that I wanted to be working full time. I was divorced and had a baby. I thought ‘I’ve got to broaden my life’ Within three years, I became the beauty and fashion director of Ladies’ Home Journal. It was an astonishing jump.
Do you attribute that to talent, pushiness, connections?
Guts. Also, I’ve always had very deep interest in both beauty and fashion. I was always information gathering. Even when I was an assistant I’d ask, ‘How are you doing that?’ ‘Can I help you with that?’ ‘Can I interview that person for you?” I was always doing much more than my job. I wanted to be successful and I wanted it fast. And I did it.
How long were you with Ladies’ Home Journal?
I was the beauty and fashion director of Ladies’ Home Journal from 1984 to 1998. Myrna Blyth who was the Editor-In-Chief for many years became one of my mentors. She and I were the founding editors of More magazine.
How long did you stay at More?
I stayed at More until June 2008 when there were several changes of leadership.
Is Myrna still the editor?
Now Myrna is the Editor-In-Chief of a website called ThirdAge, which I write for sometimes.
Tell me about your book.
When I left More, I started talking to my good friend, Sandy Linter. She and I had done all the More model searches together from 2000 to 2008. We both felt the beauty books that existed really didn’t talk to women over 40. The details were missing. I wanted to talk about the demons, all the crap we go through—menopause, hair loss, hair on your face, sun damage, skin cancer… And I thought, this is an opportunity. So Sandy and I started shopping the idea for a book around and we were very fortunate; we found Running Press or they found us.
Give me an example of advice women can find in your beauty book.
Instead of just saying ‘wear eye liner,’ we have an eye liner lesson in our book. You can learn about layering the liner and how to lift it at the end… all the teeny little tricks that makeup artists never tell you.
What else are you working on now?
Well, I have a beauty column for USA Today’s Your Life site. I’ve written millions of columns for them. I’m also writing for a website called Vibrant Nation. I wrote two e-books for them, a hair guide and “The Best Products For Women Over 50,” which is where my heart is.
Are you married?
Yes. I’ve been married many times.
My first husband was a really nice guy, and I think I was way too young. I just should never have gotten married that early. My second husband should never have gotten married. He was traveling with rock stars. You really can’t have a relationship like that.
And when I met Robert, he had been married 35 years and he was in the middle of a hideous divorce. Neither one of us was really looking to be married, but we just kind of clicked.
How long have you two been married?
Six years. We’re very happy but we’re very different. I think when you get married in your 60s you have very different needs and expectations than in your 40s, 30s, and 20s. You’ve come with so much history.
Do you have children?
Yes, I have two daughters from my previous marriages. Jennifer is 36 and Alexandra is 26. They’re both elementary school teachers.
What did your father do?
My father had a very successful company in bed linens for hotels.
Did your mom work?
No, but she should have. She’s in her 80s and has the most active lifestyle. She does yoga and Pilates and when my dad died about ten years ago and she began joining organizations and reinventing her life. Can you imagine what she would have accomplished if she had worked?
Was she your inspiration?
My parents always encouraged my artistic abilities and told me that I could do anything. My mother was a clothes fanatic. We were the only family I knew that had a subscription to Women’s Wear Daily.
Did she inspire your style and beauty?
Yes. She’s flawless. She gets her hair done, her nails done, a pedicure every five minutes. She called me last week and she said, ‘I am so glad coral is back.’ Somehow I managed to get a mother who is a beauty-fashion junkie.
How do you define your personal style?
Simple. Since I stopped working full time in the city, I wear leggings or skinny jeans with ballet flats, a t-shirt, and in the winter I throw on a cashmere sweater. I have always made it a point to stay in shape because I want to be able to wear whatever I want.
Do you exercise a lot?
I do a combination of yoga and ballet stretches every day. I don’t go to the gym, I just do it at home for an hour and a half. I also walk my dog five times a day. I hate sweating so I don’t really do anything that extreme.
Do you have a favorite designer?
I love Hermes accessories. I have a lot of Hermes belts and bracelets. For clothing my favorite is J. Crew!
Have you had cosmetic surgery?
Well, I’ve had a lot of sun damage taken care of and I had my nose redone after I had a serious bout of skin cancer. This fabulous Dr. Daniel Baker recreated it. I also had my eyes done back in 1984 but it had nothing to do with age. It was a genetic thing where I had an overhanging lid and it was making it hard for me to put on eye make up.
What’s your stance on plastic surgery?
I’m not opposed to it at all, I think it’s a great option for women, but I do think there’s too much of it. There’s too much pressure on women to look young. I think looking youthful is very different from looking young.
Who is your favorite hairdresser?
Brad Johns was the guy who turned me into a blonde from a brunette about eight years ago. Brad took one look at me and said “You want to be a blonde?” He has a special gift. He’s the best colorist on the planet.
What’s your haircare routine?
I have curly hair. I blow dry it straight and I nip my bangs myself. A haircut is not that big of a deal to me—the color is.
Tell me your passions besides beauty and fashion?
Art. My husband and I go to Paris every single Christmas simply because I need that nourishment. I love the d’Orsay and the Louvre and just walking around Paris and soaking everything up.
Where do you stay in Paris?
We stay at the Pont Royal on the Left Bank. We’ve stayed there every year for the last six years. It’s very central.
What’s your favorite restaurant in Paris?
We’ve been to all the fancy-schmancy places, but I’m happiest sitting at Cafe Flore and just having a bowl of soup, some cafe au lait or a glass of wine.
What do you use to wash your face?
I’m very lucky, I am connected with every cosmetic company so I have cupboards and closets full of beauty products at my house. I love the Cle de Peau cleanser. It’s expensive, but it’s great for my sensitive skin.
I am never without La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 sunscreen.
I’m very loyal to Chanel Sublimage and Roc’s Retinal Correction Sensitive Night Cream. If you can’t tolerate retinal because it usually stings and burns, this is the way to use it. I also wear Natura Bisse The Cure and Bobbi Brown Extra Tinted Balm, which are moisturizers with a teeny bit of tint in it. I hate foundation.
You don’t wear a lot of makeup?
I consider my hair color my biggest cosmetic.
Do you have a signature piece of clothing?
Wolford bras, no underwire. I can’t stand underwire bras. I’m very simple. I like J. Crew skinny jeans, and I have an enormous collection of cashmere sweaters. I feel good in them so I wear them all year around. Shoes and boots and bags are what I spend money on.
Whose shoes do you like?
Manolo Blahnik. Ballet flats for when I’m wearing leggings… or boots. If I can wear boots I’d rather wear Manolo Blahnik flat riding boots. I don’t wear heels anymore. I have an enormous collection of heels and at some point I just said, “this is too stupid. This is really stupid. Stop doing that.”
Do you have a favorite restaurant in New York?
Fred’s at Barneys. Eating there gives me an excuse to graze through the store. I don’t have to feel guilty about it. I’m there for a lunch. The other place that I like, just because of the people watching, is the restaurant on the 7th floor of Bergdorf Goodman.
How do you stay so grounded with a career in the beauty industry for so long?
As I interviewed celebrities and supermodels over the years, I never was envious. I never wished I was six-feet-tall. I still don’t.