“I started working at Planned Parenthood—well, it’s actually a funny story. In college, I studied broadcast journalism and that’s also when President Obama was first elected. When I graduated, I thought, ‘Hmm, I don’t think I want to do this anymore…I want to go to DC and impact change.’ I scrapped all my resume tapes and started over doing corporate communication for Geico with their teams that engaged in philanthropic efforts with nonprofits. Then in 2012 I had the chance of a lifetime to go to Chicago and work on Obama’s reelection campaign. I was doing surrogate work in African-American media booking, working with members of congress, members of the president's staff, Hill Harper, Vivica A. Fox, and the whole gamut of folks who supported the President.
After a campaign ends, you’re kind of fun-employed for a bit so that you can have time to figure stuff out. Cecile [Richards, president of Planned Parenthood] was a huge surrogate and a key player in that election. A friend of mine had told me Planned Parenthood was looking for someone to help with their constituency media work and it occurred to me that I needed to go work with them. I always had health insurance and it wasn’t until college that I realized it was such a privilege. It should be a fundamental human right. Constituency Communications is a fancy way of saying how we talk to everyone except mainstream audiences—the most impacted communities. We manage communication campaigns that engage people of color, young people, the LGBTQ community…typically communities that aren’t talked about but are most vulnerable and most marginalized when it comes to access to Planned Parenthood and health care.
There are always attacks on the work that we do. The fulfilling part of it is that over 2.5 million people come to our health centers every single year. That’s not a political or religious statement—it is simply health care. We closed the gap for so many people that are left out of this conversation. It’s not a political game. These are people’s lives. So many people go to Planned Parenthood not because they decided that was where they wanted to go, but because it’s the only heath care provider they can see. And access to health care means access to opportunity and access to live a full life with dignity, visibility and humanity. We just turned 100 years old last year, and women have been fighting to control their bodies even longer—so attacks on our freedoms aren't new. The majority of Americans support access to health care at Planned Parenthood, so we're going to harness that energy and not just speak out, but take action. This isn’t about whether I’m tired or don’t have time to call my mother. It’s actually about people that don’t have the opportunity to advocate for themselves. They need someone to do this. I try not to take that for granted.
When you’re healthy on the inside, it exudes on the outside. When you don’t have to worry about your health care and you know that you are healthy—whether it’s a woman's exam or an annual check-up—it allows you to focus on other things. You can be so much more confident whether it’s in your job, school, with your family or whatever relationship it is. You have the freedom to be who you really believe you should be. That exudes in inner beauty and then is reflected on the outside. I think everyone feels that connection. Nobody else is telling me what I can and cannot do with my body, and that is liberating beyond any means. That in itself is a beauty secret that you can’t really buy anywhere.
My parents are very Southern. My mom very much believes showing up and looking put together is a form of good manners. So even if you're in sweats or going to the gym, combing your hair or making sure that you’ve washed your face is still important. Just that little bit of putting yourself together. I think one piece for me is I’m known for wearing a bright lipstick. I think it just gives me extra confidence throughout the day. I’ve been doing that for the last two years—I simplified my routine when I started traveling so much. I couldn’t really spend all this time on a complicated beauty routine, so if there's one piece of makeup I can’t live without, it’s red lipstick. And my grandmother told me you could also use it for your blush, too. It's quick and it pulls everything together.
My travel beauty secret is every time I stay at a W hotel I steal some of the Bliss Fabulous Foaming Face Wash. They are the only hotel that give you face wash! I tip the housekeeper really well and they give me a bunch, so I have quite a few of the bottles.
Honestly, my routine is very simple and I have girlfriends that are like, 'You don’t do A, B, C, and D?’ And I’m like 'Nope.' When I’m at home I just use Clinique Take The Day Off and a face wipe at night. My dermatologist is going to read this and be mad. [Laughs] When I started wearing a lot of makeup my mom told me I needed to start taking care of your skin, and that Clinique is really gentle. I think all their products are great but I’m addicted to their Face Wash and Moisture Surge even though I have oily skin. When I’m traveling, the Cetaphil Oil Control Moisturizer is good. If I have acne, which only comes up once a month, I use the La Roche-Posay Effaclar. It’s so amazing, but it’s a bit pricey so I only use a little bit and it works. And the Origins Clear Improvement Charcoal Face Mask is great. I have the travel size in my bag the normal one at home. It’s good for when my skin is feeling crazy and over done while I’m traveling.
Somedays I’ll do a whole at-home facial and wash my face and use the Bliss Pore Perfecting Facial Scrub after my Clarisonic. I try to use the Clarisonic brush once a week with the sensitive cap because it’s softer. After I do that I’ll use the polish, and then the Origins Drink Up Intensive Mask. Then I’ll steam my face with a wash cloth. Then it just feels so good, you wake up in the morning and your face feels like a baby’s butt. I do that maybe twice a month.
Again, all about ease. I get a weave and I get it done every eight weeks. It’s also a very therapeutic process. My hairstylist is in Maryland and I spend a lot of time in DC because our offices are split that way and I have family there. But, I use a combination of different shampoo and conditioners when I wash it myself once a week. Mizani The Botanifying Conditioning Shampoo and their Moisturfusion Silk Cream Conditioner is the combo I’ve been using since before my weave because it’s great for dry hair. I also use this Argan Oil from Moroccanoil and it’s actually really good for the weave. My tried and true conditioner is this Olive Oil Conditioner that’s like $5. I also love this Bed Head Hair Stick because it’s good for flyaways and keeping the edges down. For scalp care, I use coconut oil with little drops of peppermint and rosemary. I also wrap it to sleep and touch it up in the morning with my flatiron.
The red lipstick I wear every day is the Sephora Cream Lip Stain in Always Red. It’s not drying and it’s perfect—it works on every person. I always have a few unopened ones around because I actually give them away all the time. Even though this one doesn’t dry out my lips, I do try and scrub my lips every day just in case.
The rest of my daily makeup routine starts with Clinique Age Defense BB Cream in 4, which I just started using when I realized it was the perfect shade for my skin right now. In the summer, I switch to Bobbi Brown BB Cream in Deep. Then I use MAC Blush in Raizin. That one has lasted me for years—whenever I use it, it looks like I’m contoured really well. I have this Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer in Almond, and then the Maybelline Eyeliner Stiletto. MAC Fluidline in Blacktrack is something I'll use with this angled brush, but it takes forever, so it’s only for special occasions. And I love fake eyelashes, I’m wearing them now. One of my girlfriends has extensions, but I’m not sure about those. The only time the fake lashes are embarrassing is when you don’t get the glue right. But it’s pretty easy and only $3. My mascara is either Rollerlash by Benefit or something by Maybelline. I also have Tarte Lights, Camera, Flashes—I switch them around a lot.
Again, everything is about time for me. I used to paint my nails every week when I had time, but now every three weeks I go and get a gel manicure and it’s a good hour and a half of self-care. The cool thing about gel manicures is that you can get funky with the design. Last year I was all about nude, but now I’m going brighter. Have you seen Kerry Washington’s nails? They’re great. Not for nothing but if I could think of anyone that is a style inspiration, it’s her. She and the first lady have been helpful in bringing back the bright manicure look.”
—as told to ITG
Alencia Johnson photographed by Tom Newton at her home in New York on December 14th.