Julee Wilson on Beauty, Motherhood and All the Things

We sat down with Julee Wilson, Beauty Director at Cosmopolitan Magazine, just days before the birth of her second son to talk all things beauty (peep what she packed in her hospital bag), motherhood and the silver linings of shelter in place.
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By Lauren Kay , Executive Editor
Updated February 4, 2021

Julee Wilson is having another baby. It’s something she’s wanted for some time—since her first son Orion was born six years ago. She even coined the popular term #Wombfire.

Wombfire (noun, hashtag) 1. a child so amazingly cute that they figuratively set your womb ablaze. 2. when your reproductive system (i.e. womb) tingles with maternal excitement, potentially breaks out into Beyoncé choreography and/or prompts spontaneous family planning (i.e. running home to make a baby). 3. hashtag used to illustrate flurry of emotion described above (i.e. “This baby is giving me major #wombfire” or “#Wombfire alert!”)

But after struggling with miscarriages, she wasn’t sure it was in the cards. And then came the global pandemic. Usually this beauty powerhouse is running around, “doing all the things,” but the opportunity to begin her new epic role while working from home was kismet. “This whole sheltering in place situation has really allowed my body to do what it did with my son, create a human,” she says. The other silver lining? Self care. “I have never taken more baths in my life! I’ve never masked as much as I have in the middle of the day. If I know I have a four hour stretch without a Zoom call, I’m throwing on a mask and no one is the wiser,” she quips.

Julee is the Beauty Director at Cosmopolitan, so naturally, she knows masks. And fashion too—"when you think about what color lipstick you’re going to put on, you’re thinking about what you’re wearing,” she rightly points out. “I really wanted to be a fashion director, that was my thing—fashion, fashion, fashion,” she says. But after six years of working in fashion at Real Simple, Julee took a job at The Huffington Post writing about fashion and beauty and fell hard. “I just totally and completely fell in love with beauty. I fell in love with the science of beauty, of how it makes people feel, of how you can transform or enhance with beauty. And then the intersection of the beauty and wellness space.” She later landed at Essence magazine and was promoted to Global Beauty DirectorBeauty Director. Her #DopeStuffOnMyDesk series was an instant hit as she shared new discoveries, highlighted trailblazers in the space and elevated brands that prioritized women of color.

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Fully focusing on beauty at Cosmo has been a dream come true. It’s also allowed her to champion her own dopeness as a wife and mother. “Being a mom for the past six years and now becoming a Mom again, it just makes me think about how beautiful the process of pregnancy is,” she says. “I’ve had a really rough pregnancy, in the grand scheme of things, but I’m also like how is my body able to do this? I’m carrying around a whole human being while also trying to be a mother, a wife, a bad ass beauty director and all of the things. It definitely reminds you how dope women are in general.”

Image: Courtesy Manufacturer

Julee started her new job at Cosmo shortly after stay at home orders were underway in NYC. And then she found out she was pregnant. “This pregnancy wasn’t planned but was totally wanted,” she shared. “I wanted to show my team that I could be a rockstar and knock this job out of the park before I told anyone I was pregnant.” Thanks to a chest-up life on Zoom, she was able to wait until the start of her third trimester to share the news. “I work for Cosmo, it’s the most empowering women’s media brand in the world,” she says. “We’re all about sexual liberation and owning your voice so I knew I’d be fine, but you really never know.” Her news was met with tears of joy, and she instantly knew she was in the right place. She credits her boss’s leadership and the supportive Cosmo family with a successful pregnancy. “I’m so professionally at peace.” And like the rockstar that she is, Julee submitted the February Cosmo cover story about R&B songstress SZA, worked until her 40th week of pregnancy (2 days past her due date!), packed her hospital bag and got induced.

Her secret to harnessing her inner beauty while rocking a bump—even on Zoom? “I’ve been slathering myself with all the things,” she laughs. “I’m rubbing everything on my body. You can’t prevent stretch marks—believe me, I have them from my first pregnancy, but there is something about the act of rubbing my belly and connecting with the baby.” She has an ample supply of lotions, creams and oils at the ready—her Harlem four-story walk up has slowly turned into a beauty warehouse, one package at a time. “I get upwards of 15 packages a day, so it’s a lot of running up and down the stairs—but I can’t test or write about the things if I don’t have the things!” There’s another beneficiary of all the latest in beauty these days too, her son Orion. “This kid is having Susanne Kaufmann laced baths on the regular. I’m washing his hair with Carol’s Daughter and when he gets out of the bath, I’m smothering him in Hanahana body butter and putting La Mer on his face—like La Mer on a six-year-old child’s face. He has no idea the level of bougie he is indulging in,” she laughs.

Julee is in a word, authentic—if you follow her on Instagram you know. Her story telling reflects who she is, a black woman, married to a black man, raising black babies. Pulling back the curtain and telling it to you straight is her mantra. “I am a late 30’s, black woman who is a size 16 with natural hair who has an iconic job and is juggling being a mother and wife,” she says. “That’s me.” She’s out to change the notion of what an editor “should look like” in the publishing industry too. “You don’t have to be a 25-year-old in Manolos to tell sexy and dope stories—you can be a mother of two and still do that. I can still be that fun loving girl who can make you laugh and cry in the same feature.” And she can.

Image: Courtesy Manufacturer

When it comes to feeling like herself as a new-again Mom, Julee almost always reaches for a lip. “I know we’re wearing masks, but for me a lip makes me feel fancy and like I’m doing something without doing the most.” A seasoned beauty aficionado, she knows to play to her strengths and outsource the rest. “I don’t have great natural lashes, so even a great mascara isn’t going to do much for me, so I hoard all the false lashes,” she says. She acknowledges that strip lashes may be clunky for some, but thanks to practice and frequency, Julee is low-key pro at application—both eyes, 30 seconds or less. It’s her thing. “Whenever I have lashes on, and nothing else but like a lip balm, people always say, did you do your makeup?! It’s just lashes!”

Like many parents, Julee struggles with finding balance, fully acknowledging she works a lot. She jokes that there are batteries in her back, pushing her to go, go, go and do, do, do. She also confesses that being a mom has been the motivating factor to shine in this industry. . “When my kids are old enough to understand, I want them to be like, yo, my Mom was a badass. She wrote the Misty Copeland cover story, she went to Paris with Chanel and she did all these things while also loving me, pouring into me,” she says.

Julee’s going into baby number two with the confidence of a second time Mom, joking that she feels 16 and pregnant. “I still think I’m not old enough to be responsible for another human being. But I think that’s also part of the magic of staying yourself,” she says. Many Moms struggle with the thought of losing themselves after becoming a Mom. Julee was no different. “But it turns out I still like to twerk, I still love a strong cocktail, I still talk like a sailor, maybe not in front of my child, but I’m still being Julee, sassy, crazy, fun loving, dream big Julee.”

She’s no stranger to the pressures of motherhood, especially during the early postpartum days. But instead of trying to drown out the noise, she likes to lean into it. “I am going to be highly emotional, hormonal and not feel like I’m good enough,” she says. “I feel those things when I’m not pregnant. But I think it’s important to acknowledge your emotions and sit with them for a second, and then get out of them,” she maintains. Julee is a big proponent of feeling all the feels—cry, write in your journal, scream into the void—and then gracefully arrive on the other side with a positive self talk. “Pull yourself together and say, I’m dope. I just did a dope thing. And I will continue to do dope things. Just remind yourself who the f*ck you are,” she says.

What’s In Her Hospital Bag

•Rinascita Delle Olive Replenishing Balm, $185,

•La Mer The Renewal Oil, up to $250,

•Lauren Napier Flaunt Facial Wipes, $36,

•Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream Ultra-Rich, up to $128,

•Erbaviva Jasmine and Grapefruit Organic Deodorant, $14,

•NESSA’S Nipple SOS Balm, $26,

•Aromatherapy Associates De-Stress Muscle Gel, $40,

•Nars Climax Extreme Mascara in Uncensored Black, $24,

•Ah-Shi Inkjet Liner, $26,

•Fenty Beauty Stunna Lip Paint in Uncuffed, $25,

•Frida Mom Upside Down Peri Bottle, $16,

•Earthen Warrior Rainbow Third Eye Sleep Mask, $140,

•The Well Relax Everything Mist, $40,

•Earth Mama Organics Lavender Hand Sanitizer, $5,

•Earth Mama Organics Milkmaid Tea, $7,

•Susanne Kaufmann Pillow Spray Calming, $30,

•Tatcha The Kissu Lip Mask, $28,

Black Owned Beauty Brands She Loves

•Lauren Napier,

•Camara Aunique Beauty,

•Ah-Shi Beauty,

•Pholk Beauty,

•Hanahana Beauty,

Published Janaury 2021

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