I thank Us Weekly® Executive Beauty & Style Editor Gwen Flamberg, 49, for teaching me how to drink tequila. It was February of 2015, and we were headed to Arizona on a press trip to watch the Super Bowl® (a fragrance brand was sponsoring athletes). Part of our job was to interview a football player about his grooming routine, and the other was to enjoy a weekend of festivities — many of which included booze and late-night elbow-rubbing. (I distinctly remember being one banquet away from Chris Pratt and Anna Faris, back when they were still a couple.)
In her New York accent, Flamberg guided me through how to survive the chichi party scene without getting hungover. “Just drink tequila on the rocks with a bunch of fresh limes squeezed in,” she advised me. She explained that forgoing extra sugar in alcohol — be it in wine or a sweet mixer — helps the body metabolize the hard stuff slower. Plus, since it’s more condensed, you’re more likely to drink less of it and sip it slowly. So, I took her advice and nursed two tequilas over a long evening. Lo and behold, I woke up the next day not hungover and able to write the article I was on assignment to produce.
Flamberg soon became my Yoda. As a frequent world traveler (just before I interviewed her, she returned from a trip to Marrakech, Morocco), I desired to know her ways of exclusively packing in carry-on suitcases. “I swear, I could lead a Ted TalkTM on how to pack light. I even take a carry-on on 10-day vacations,” she says. “It’s just so much more efficient. I plan my outfits and take a few alternates, plus various tees that can be layered. I also pare down on shoes and bring pairs that can go with multiple outfits. It gives me great joy when I pack to leave a holiday and realize that I’ve worn everything I brought.” She also has a savvy tip for a cheap, effective way to get all of your toiletries through security — but more on that below.
While we sat side-by-side in business class and headed home, I inquired how she keeps her forehead looking so smooth. “Injectable wrinkle reducers,” she whispered in my ear. She told me to talk to my provider once I saw moderate lines etched into my face. (Back then, I had just turned 30 and had not yet dabbled in injectables; but, I mentally noted it away in my arsenal of potential treatments to try when the time came to temporarily improve the appearance of my forehead wrinkles.)
Injectable wrinkle reducers are used to temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face such as the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet. They should not be used more frequently than every three months. Like any medical treatment, they have potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you.
I am not the only one who leans on Flamberg for her wisdom. She has been doling out advice in the beauty and style editorial industry for almost 20 years. Although, technically, her career started at age 14 when she was a hair model for a salon in her hometown of Forest Hills, New York. (Flamberg is known for her mermaid-length red hair.) After working at prestigious places, such as Fitness® Magazine and Ulta®, she landed her current role as the VP of Beauty and Style for American Media Inc.’s® celebrity group. This means she oversees content for Us Weekly (where she is also the Executive Beauty & Style Editor), OK!® Magazine, and Star Magazine®. She embraces a multimedia content approach, putting her seasoned touch on glossy printed pages and dot coms, as well as hosting a podcast for Us Weekly called “Get Tressed With UsTM”.
When Flamberg isn’t jet-setting to luxe destinations as far as Shanghai to as close as the Hamptons, she can be seen out and about in NYC with her fabulous mother, Audrey; taking selfies of her lean physique in a leotard and legwarmers at her favorite workout, Ballet Beautiful®; or puckering up in the latest flaming red lipstick for her Instagram® followers — all the while, sticking to her personal goal of just being kind to others (she genuinely is).
Here, Flamberg shares everything she is using in her makeup bag right now, which medical aesthetics and beauty treatments she’s tried, and more genius travel hacks (like how to avoid washing your hair on a weekend trip).
Spotlyte: Your current job is VP of Beauty & Style at AMI, which sounds pretty fancy. What is the long and short version of what you do? What does that look like on a daily basis?
Gwen Flamberg: No two days are the same! I’m either planning content calendars, meeting with my team, hitting the latest beauty launch, or in the studio recording one of our podcasts. Basically, I oversee the beauty and style content in all of our entertainment magazines across all platforms. About 80 percent of my job focuses on Us Weekly and usmagazine.com’s Stylish [section] — as Us is our biggest brand with the largest reach. If you see it in print or shared online, chances are I had my hand in it at some point!
Spotlyte: What is the biggest perk of your job?
GF: Being able to be a storyteller and part of the big picture. I love inspiring readers with fresh ideas, and also helping the beauty industry move exciting new products and technology forward. It’s fun being consumer- and industry-facing.
Spotlyte: Most glamorous trip you’ve ever been on?
GF: I went to Geneva this year to meet the brand Bellefontaine®, which is just recently available in the U.S. We stayed at the Beau-Rivage℠, an old school glamorous hotel that’s hosted royalty, and I had a two-story suite that had an actual hammam attached to the bathroom. We visited a 13th-century chateau on the French-Swiss border, and had cocktails on Lake Geneva near where Coco Chanel lived — it was all pretty glamorous. But then I took an EasyJet® flight to a weekend getaway, so I kept it real. We are so fortunate to experience these moments of luxury in our jobs, but the reality is . . . thank god for EasyJet!
Spotlyte: What’s the behind-the-scenes tough part of the job people don’t get to see?
GF: Managing a lot of people with different personalities! But I credit the challenges of managing with helping me grow as a human and really strengthening my relationships in every aspect of life, including family, friends, and dating. Being able to not just see, but also appreciate the differing points of view and communication styles of others is really powerful.
Spotlyte: What was your big break moment in the editorial world? Advice for people who want to break in?
GF: My mom was an art director at Vogue® in the ‘80s when I was growing up in New York, and that inspired my love of magazines and desire to work at one. I pounded the pavement when I got out of school and landed my first job at Ladies’ Home Journal® as the assistant editor in the beauty and fashion department. I started the day after Labor Day, no lie! If you can intern, do it. I’ve hired interns when a spot opens up on more than one occasion.
Spotlyte: You’ve been through the ups and downs of the changing media landscape. How do you think the industry has changed? And what is your advice to other editors and content creators who want to stay in the game?
GF: The way we communicate has changed — when I first started in the industry as an editor, people read monthly magazines. The subjects they were reading about felt like they were on a pedestal, because a crazy amount of time and attention went into creating that narrative. Now, with social media, readers can be a part of the same conversation instantly — that’s what’s truly authentic and the preciousness has been taken out.
So the way we communicate has changed, but our goal remains the same — to service readers in the most meaningful way. Where and how we do that has shifted, and that’s OK. In fact, it’s actually really cool to be a part of the evolution of reaching readers in new and closer ways. I am intensely curious, and open to change, even though it scares the bejeezus out of me. I think being curious is the best quality for remaining relevant.
Spotlyte: You branched out into the world of hosting podcasts with “Get Tressed With Us.” How do you like working on that?
GF: I love it! I created the format. At the beginning, we thought hair would be the best focus, because other areas of beauty and style are more visual; but, we’ve branched out to cover makeup, skincare, nail art, fashion, and even lifestyle. We had Rori Sassoon, the matchmaker who has been on [The] Real Housewives® of New York, on to talk about what makeup and clothes you should wear on a first date to get a second. It was our highest-rated episode! The podcast is a lot of fun because it’s another way to bring our fans — our readers and listeners — inside the brand. And they can get even closer to their favorite celebrities’ lives via their glam squad pros. Lily Aldridge has been on and so has Maggie Q! Plus, the absolute top hairstylists, makeup artists, and stylists in Hollywood.
Spotlyte: How do your editorial skills translate to podcast skills? Do you think podcasts are here to stay?
GF: Podcasts really bring personality and those rich conversations to life. Each episode is rooted in the storytelling we engage in [with] the magazine and online. But it’s also a living, breathing conversation that is our most authentic mode of communication with our fans yet. I love it! The world of podcasts is starting to get a bit cluttered, but the ones that offer entertainment and service, and create desire will stick around.
Spotlyte: After seeing years and years of beauty product launches, what are the essentials you always come back to?
GF: Similar to how I approach my closet, with beauty products, I have tons of stuff. But the things I love, I stay loyal to forever. I’ve been using Shani Darden’sTM Retinol Reform® since I was introduced to it about five years ago. I use it every night after cleansing (which, by the way, happens with Garnier® or Simple® micellar water in the evening and CollosolTM in the morning — never an oil or foaming cleanser, unless I’ve got tons of TV makeup on or loads of sunscreen).
Editor's note Retinol shouldn't be used by women who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.
I have a signature eyeshadow that I’ve used for years that everyone compliments — Chanel® Illusion D’Ombre® in New MoonTM is always in my makeup bag. It looks great on everyone, and morphs with your skintone. On me, it just looks like a glossy, rose-gold sheen. And I do my DIY blowouts with a dab of Philip B.® Drop Dead® Straightening Baume and the Harry Josh® Pro Tools Ultra Light Pro Dryer — I get the fastest and best results with it.
Spotlyte: You get to travel a lot for work, and I know you have travel hacks! Talk me through the strategy behind packing all cosmetics and toiletries in a big clear bag.
GF: Oh wow – I’ve documented my beauty hoarding for travel on Instagram. I travel with a gallon-sized ziplock (unless I’m going to London; Heathrow doesn’t play!), and I take minis of almost everything. I’ll decant some things into travel containers from Muji® (they have the best ones).
Spotlyte: How do you keep your skin fresh on or after a flight?
GF: The funny thing is that my skin tends to look its best after a long flight! I overcompensate with so much hyaluronic acid serum during a long haul that I seem to arrive with a plump, glowy complexion. I swear by [Dr.] Barbara Sturm’s® serum.
Spotlyte: You also once told me you get a blowout before a trip and just pack a hairbrush. How does that work?
GF: I always get a blowout before a trip, and take a brush, a comb, and my Harry Josh Pro Tools 1.25-inch curling wand. I brush my hair through and pile it on top of my head to sleep. Then, in the morning, I use the wand to wave face-framing pieces. I’ll do a double-locked ponytail a couple times during a trip, too.
Spotlyte: Speaking of hair, is your color natural? How do you maintain that red and such a gorgeous long length?
GF: Yes, my hair color is real! It was very bright red when I was younger, and it has mellowed into a sort of auburn. I’ve always had long hair; I guess it’s my thing. I rarely wash it (I’m talking like once every 10 days or so), which cuts down on heat-styling. Every time I shampoo, I do a hair mask as a deep conditioner. I switch off between washing it with Neutrogena® T/Gel® (because . . . seborrheic dermatitis, sexy!) and Christophe Robin’s® sea salt scrub. Then, I condition with Christophe’s Chic Copper conditioning mask — it helps brighten my color just a bit. Serge Normant or Harry Josh usually cut my hair — they are truly the best in the biz.
Spotlyte: You’re open about your love of Ballet Beautiful (a ballet-inspired workout in NYC). Why is it the workout you chose and stick with?
GF: With Ballet Beautiful, I came for the wardrobe and stayed for the impeccable results [laughs]. I danced as a kid, and I couldn’t progress because my mother (wise woman that she is) wouldn’t let me “ruin my feet.” So, I just love tapping into the elements of ballet, and I love to wear leotards and leg warmers. Plus, I’ve learned that what I really love with workouts is something that is slow, methodical, and graceful. I’m not a cardio girl, and that’s okay.
I do Ballet Beautiful about twice a week, workout with Lia Bartha — who has a pretty intense and awesome mat pilates class called B the MethodTM — a couple times a week, and I might hit a Physique 57® Mat 57® class once a week; they all complement each other. Pilates is very lengthening, so it helps strengthen and tone, and also helps with posture, which is something we use in real life.
Spotlyte: Any other tips for staying in shape?
GF: I workout about three to four days a week. All of my favorite methods are pretty mellow, sculpting situations. Walking to work is my daily cardio — I live about a mile from the office. I love to eat, and I have a pretty no-holds-barred approach to food. Though I naturally don’t eat very much; so while I’ll taste everything, I never have too much of anything. Funny, when I was younger, I obsessively counted calories, but I’m thinner (and happier!) now.
I also gravitate towards a plant-based diet (never underestimate the power of avocado!). I eat about 80 percent plant-based, so maybe that helps. It certainly helps me feel better and have more energy, which is the best!
Spotlyte: Let’s revisit your tequila drinking method for avoiding a hangover.
GF: Ah yes, the old tequila trick. My friend Jo-Ellen turned me on to ditching wine and sipping tequila instead. I prefer Reposado, and I put an orange slice in it. This totally changes the taste of the tequila, [and makes] it creamier. My fave is Casamigos® — and when I met Cindy Crawford at her last book launch, she approved! Tequila has less sugar than other alcohols; I wake up feeling not only less hungover, I literally feel like I haven’t drank a thing. Genius!
Spotlyte: Please share any other Gwen Hacks and Life Lessons.
GF: Be kind. Kindness matters. Connect. Listen to people and help them feel seen. See others and they will see you.
Spotlyte: What’s the most unexpected skincare tip you’ve learned from all of your celebrity and red carpet interviews?
GF: It’s always amazed me how zealous celebs are when it comes to their skin. According to many of the estheticians I’ve interviewed, most working actresses will get facials once a week![The] takeaway is about commitment — if you take care of your skin, you’ll get the glow that proves it.
Spotlyte: What’s in your makeup bag right now?
GF: Victoria Beckham® x Augustinus BaderTM primer and Charlotte Tilbury® [Airbrush] Flawless® Foundation: the combo creates a flawless complexion that stays true all day. Fenty Beauty® concealer, because the brand just launched shade extensions and #120 matches me perfectly. Glossier® Brow Flick® in Brown and Boy Brow® to build my arches in a realistic way, Westman® Atelier creamy bronzer Fully LoadedTM, and Maybelline® Falsies Lash LiftTM mascara.
Spotlyte: What type of skin do you have? How do you take care of it?
GF: My skin tends to be dry and a bit sensitive, but it is pretty balanced at the moment. I use a retinol every night — and, of course, have an extensive skincare regimen — but it’s the big guns that really make the difference. I use the ziip® nanocurrent device two to three times a week (it lifts, sculpts, and plumps skin), and I also have a red light mask by DéesseTM that I use three to five times a week to even out my skin tone and also build fresh collagen. I’m not messing around! Ha!
Spotlyte: Best facial and esthetician?
GF: Shani Darden. I’m obsessed with her vibe, and her combination therapy is amazing — I swear by her Retinol Reform product for use at home. But I’ve been known to travel to LA just for a facial with Shani. She and I can’t stop chatting about new procedures while she’s working on me.
Spotlyte: What’s your skin goal for 2020? And what treatment/product are you going to try to achieve it?
GF: Maintain, maintain, maintain! Knock wood — my skin is pretty smooth, clear, bright, and even right now. I just want to keep that going!
Spotlyte: What is your stance on anti-aging?
GF: In general, I think everyone should do whatever makes them feel confident and happy.
Spotlyte: What medical aesthetics treatments have you tried? What were your results like?
GF: I’ve tried all manner of lasers including Clear + Brilliant®, the Vbeam® for [broken] capillaries, and more. I love a red light bed. This past year I got Ultherapy®, and I think I got decent results.
As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment.
Spotlyte: Have you tried injectable wrinkle reducers?
GF: I use injectables, and favor a [subtle appearance]. I [get them] every four to six months.
I get injectable wrinkle reducers [in my crow’s feet] and forehead. I started in my early thirties, and I’m glad I did. I see a few people for injections, because great doctors are like lovers — there isn’t one perfect person for your whole life, there are a few who get you — you have a vibe, and you share a common trust and understanding. Most notable for me in the last few years have been Dr. David Colbert, Dr. Macrene Alexiades, and Dr. Dara Liotta.
Spotlyte: Have you tried filler?
GF: I’ve gotten filler [in my cheeks] and in my top lip. Done well, filler can truly give you [great results]!
Editor’s note Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, it has potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if it’s right for you. Have more questions? Chat with our team of trained aesthetic specialists now.
Spotlyte: What makes you feel fabulous?
GF: Being in an airport, alone, on the way to an adventure with an uncertain ending.
Spotlyte: You seem close with your mom. Best beauty lessons you’ve learned from her?
GF: One word: confidence. Check out my Instagram @gwen_beauty and note the pics of #audrey — you’ll see what I mean. My mother manages to be extremely glamorous, but with little-to-no maintenance. I hope I picked up a fraction of what she’s served my whole life.
Spotlyte: What is one mantra you live by?
GF: “Why not me?” That is my current mantra. It took me a long time to embrace asking for what I want and going for what I want — realizing that I deserve to strive toward a desired outcome and have the power to stare down self-doubt.
Dr. Macrene Alexiades is a paid Allergan® consultant.
Allergan® may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this article.