Being an Editor-in-Chief in 2019 is a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week gig. Especially if you find yourself at the helm of a storied publication like beauty bible Allure. Michelle Lee took over at Allure in 2015, and since, has been at the forefront of making the mag more inclusive — banning words like “anti-aging” and pushing topics like body diversity. And she’s done all this all while having two growing kids: a 10-year-old daughter, who you’ve probably seen on the EIC’s instagram, and a 14-year old son. Here, she talks parenting, beauty, and power.
How has motherhood evolved as your two children have gotten older?
When kids are little, parenting is a lot about taking care of their immediate needs: they’re hungry, tired, energized, bored, hurt, etc. Then at some point, around age seven or eight with our kids, you find yourself having these really cool, deep conversations with them and realize that parenting is becoming more about helping them navigate life and communicating and learning. My son (age 14) and daughter (age 10) are intensely good kids–really kind-hearted, funny, just really good little people.
What does 7AM look like in your home?
I’ve already been up for an hour, reading, maybe exercising if I’m up for it. My husband makes breakfast for us every morning so he’s usually in the kitchen making eggs. The kids’ alarms are going off at that hour but they’re hitting snooze a few times!
What does 7PM look like in your home?
I’m usually still driving home from the office at that hour. Both of my kids play soccer, so they sometimes are finishing soccer practice or doing homework. Dinner is a struggle. I try to prepare food on Sundays so that meals are ready to cook during the week, but we’ve definitely been known to order in on occasion. I like to spend time every night talking about the kids’ days. If there’s time, we’ll cuddle in my bed for a bit and watch a show like The Great British Baking Show or something.
What does one free hour to yourself look like?
I love a glass of red wine and a Netflix food show.
An unexpectedly awesome aspect of parenting?
I love exposing our kids to new things, like traveling. We’ve spent time in France, Spain, Germany, Japan, Portugal, and the UK. It’s been so fun to see their worlds open up.
An unexpectedly NOT awesome aspect of parenting?
I think it’s the never-ending quest to find “balance,” whatever that is.
Advice as a powerful working mom?
When my son was a baby, I definitely felt some working mom guilt. And I had a mom frenemy at the time who was badmouthing me behind my back because I was a working mom. It was a tough time because I found out about it and it fed into every one of my worst feelings of inadequacy. But…I not only have to work, I also enjoy work. And over time, I began to understand how important it is for me to show my son (and later, my daughter) what a strong, successful woman looks like.
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So much fun at @createcultivate NYC! Got to talk about work, success, and beauty for a keynote with the amazing @rosiehw. And ran into some friends like @anastasiasoare from @anastasiabeverlyhills, and chatted with @marthastewart in the green room. Congrats @jaclynrjohnson on another amazing event! (And this incredible dress is by @prabalgurung FYI!)
Real talk. Does your daughter steal your beauty products?
Yes! She loves makeup brushes the most. Her collection is way bigger than mine at this point. She also loves eyeshadow palettes. She and her friends like playing with makeup during playdates. They always ask me to do winged liner on them!
What’s the most important thing you hope your daughter knows about beauty?
I’m already teaching her that beauty is fun and creative BUT that no one should feel forced to do these things either. I strongly believe that makeup, skin care, hair, etc, can all be wonderful sources of joy, self-expression and self-care but we as women need to be mindful that we’re engaging in it because we enjoy it—not because we feel pressured by society or friends or anyone else’s image of who we should be. I’m also teaching her the importance of owning your own personal beauty. I’ve always told her how beautiful her Asian eyes are, and how it awesome to be different and look different.
Who is a tougher boss? You or Mini Michelle Lee?
Mini ML is an insanely sweet kid. She always wants to take care of other people and keep the peace. I think of myself as being really fair and level-headed—she definitely takes after me in that sense. But she’s a tough negotiator when she wants something!