What I’ve learnt: British Vogue’s Jessica Diner

Steadying the delicate seesaw of children and a career – isn’t that what most of us strive for? One refreshingly, relatable take, removed from the stereotypes surrounding one of the world’s most glamorous magazines, is British Vogue’s lifestyle and beauty director, Jessica Diner, (her Instagram is a must-follow)...

Having joined the magazine aged 22, and worked her way up to beauty editor, she moved to Birchbox as content and creative director in 2014, recently returning to Vogue. She has definitely earned the title of ‘industry beauty expert’.

Now she manoeuvres between her “dream job” and her adorable two-year-old son, Noah. “It’s less about balance, more about being an expert juggler and prioritising your time,” she said in a recent article on balancing work and parenthood for Vogue. “To be blunt: it’s about getting shit done.”

We caught up with her to discover how she does it (as well as find out her mum beauty must-haves). How could we not?

Words: Claire Brayford | Images: Gabby Laurent/@jessicadiner

Image: Gabby Laurent

What would surprise people about being Vogue’s beauty and lifestyle director?

I don’t get tired of receiving new products. People often ask me if I ever get bored of being sent new things to try, but it’s truly the part of the job I love the most – the discovery. I love learning about newest product innovations and trying them out, be that make-up, skincare or fragrance. Working for a magazine where you get to hear that information first before anyone else is a huge privilege.

And what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from working at Vogue?

Time-management. Deadlines are daily (for the website) and monthly (for the magazine), so to be able to meet them you have to be on top of things and be able to prioritise your day.

Do you think yours is a good industry to be a working mother?

Yes, definitely. In an office that is mostly made up of women, mothers are supported and championed. There is an understanding for the mothers in the office that we are expected to work hard but we aren’t expected to do so at the compromise of our family life. We also have a lot of dads who work in our office too and the sentiment is exactly the same.

What are your efficiency tips?

Don’t get lost in a black hole of scrolling on Instagram – it’s life’s biggest time-suck. I limit myself to doing it on my commute, catching up quickly while eating my lunch and then again for 15 minutes downtime when I am home in the evenings. Do what feels right for you, but impose some limits. That, and a to-do list that you stick to and don’t deviate from.

How do you get (so much) stuff done?

I am actually quite easily distracted, so staying focused is hard for me. The only way to get in the zone is to put some music on. When I am writing at work (emails or features), it’s headphones on, Spotify playlist on, and then people know not to disturb me. On the beauty desk at Vogue we call it a ‘library hour’. I do the same at home in the evenings if I have things I need to get done.

Do you feel pressure to dress a certain way at work?

I like to get dressed nicely to go to work. Evenings and weekends I am in mum mode and very casual, so when I go to work I like to dress up a little. I am very into dresses. They are so easy – it’s just one piece of clothing to worry about. I choose it the night before, so there is no guesswork or panic in the morning when I need to be focused on time with the baby.

How often do you travel? What do you like to pack in your hand luggage?

I travel about once a month. Key items to pack are my washbag (of course!  I also have this odd habit of collecting mini-products), my Macbook (I am never without) and a good book, because when I travel it is the only time I really get to read. I recently went to Tokyo for a skincare launch, which was pretty epic. I had never been before and it blew my mind.

Where is your happy place?

Anywhere by the ocean with my boys.

What has surprised you most about becoming a mum?

How I can function on such little sleep!

What lesson has been the hardest to learn?

When to say no. I am a ‘yes’ person, so when I had a baby I didn’t want that to change, but I quickly learnt that there were limits of how thin I could spread myself socially and work-wise.

Who are the mums that really inspire you and why?

Eva Chen – her Instagram makes me smile no end. She has the most incredible work ethic and yet could not be more dedicated to her kids. The definition of #MumBoss.

What do you not get enough of and how will you change that in 2018?

SLEEP (I am sure everyone says that) but I can’t envisage that will change that much, so my second answer is exercise. I need to start looking after myself better physically, so I am going to dedicate an hour a week to myself. It won’t give me the body of Giselle but it will be enough to make me happy to be doing something for myself.

What three things would people not know about you?

I was born in New York.
I used to have an American accent as a child.
When I dream, my voice has an American accent (so weird, right?).

What do you remember most from your childhood?

Apart from my American accent, I most remember family holidays, I think they were the real moments of my childhood. With an American father and a French mother, holidays were often spent visiting family. Being well-travelled gave me a real sense of adventure and made me realise how big the world is.

Who do you resemble most?

Someone told me I look like Penelope Cruz the other day. And whilst I categorically do not think that is the case, I think it would be remiss of me to not note it here.

Is there a book that has changed your view?

A Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. I was terrified to give birth. This book changed all that. It’s a bit hippy dippy in parts, but it’s a midwife who explains all of the natural births she has taken part in. It includes very empowering first person accounts that made me feel like I could do it. And I did! I give it to all my girlfriends who are expecting.

What is your favourite parenting quote or advice?

“Everything is a phase” – teething, reflux, night-wakings, tantrums – it all passes eventually.

What is your sight for sore eyes?

A nice creamy flat white coffee. Works like a charm every time.

What is your most treasured possession?

My son.

What do you want to know before you die?

How on earth it came to be that Donald Trump was voted in as President of the United States. I don’t think I will ever find that out.

Jessica’s beauty must-haves for mums

For eyes: CONCEALER – every mum’s best friend – the Bobbi Brown Longwear Concealer is one of my favourites.
For lips: I am never far from a good lip balm. Staples are the By Terry Baume de Rose and Lanolips.
For coverage: A good tinted moisturiser is a foundation without the fuss. I discovered Givenchy’s Teint Couture Blurring balm when I was on maternity leave and I have never looked back.
For moisture: Anything with Hyaluronic Acid. Favourites are the serums by Niod and SkinCeuticals.
For cleansing: Sarah Chapman’s Ultimate Cleanse. It cleans and nourishes my tired skin beautifully.
For nails: Shellac – the working mum’s essentials (treat yourself to a mani at DryBy the beauty editor’s salon of choice).
For hair: Dry Shampoo, I would be lost without. Sam McKnight’s Lazy Girl is the ultimate dry shampoo, plus it smells heavenly too.