Welcome back to our monthly installment of Maya Chia’s Beauty Spotlight Series! This month, we got to interview one of our favorite authors, the incomparable Jasmine Guillory. Read on for our blog writer Emily Barth Isler’s account of how Jasmine’s books have affected her over the years, and why romance novels are the secret to life!
I can honestly— and literally— say that Jasmine Guillory changed my life.
It was January 2018, Trump was President, it seemed like the world was falling to pieces, and I was a full-time stay-at-home-mom in Brooklyn with two toddlers. I also had two “side” jobs (lol, very few jobs are *actually* part-time!), and I was so overwhelmed that it felt impossible to shower, let alone to find any “me” time.
I don’t know exactly who suggested it but some acquaintance or neighbor mentioned in an offhand remark that I should read a romance novel-- that it might be the escape I desperately needed, without actually going anywhere.
Well, I had a strong idea in my head about what a romance novel was: predictable stories about heteronormative white people with silly jobs and even more ridiculous “problems,” shown on the covers dressed in clothing I could not relate to, and one of them was always Fabio. (No shade Fabio! I’m sure you’re great? You’re just not my type!) As a liberal, Jewish woman in New York City with ultra progressive values, I just didn’t think romance novels had anything to offer me that was relevant or relatable to my actual life.
Well. Enter Jasmine Guillory’s first book, THE WEDDING DATE. Thank the gods above (or actually, thank NPR because that’s where I think I first heard about the book!) for that story. I read it in a day, sitting on the stairs of my apartment building. I admittedly ignored my children and burned dinner but damn, I was so full of joy and light while reading that book!
Not only had I never read a romance before, despite loving Romcom movies— why didn’t I realize that connection a lot sooner?— but I had barely been reading anything at all for the years leading up to discovering THE WEDDING DATE. With small children and a journalism career I was trying to get off the ground while being a full time parent, reading for fun was not part of my life. It had been before— all through my childhood, teens , and 20s, I had been a voracious reader. Even then, in 2018, I was working on writing a book myself, but since it was a book for children, when I did actually read a full book, it was always a children’s book, and it was always for research for my own writing.
Like all of her eight (and counting) novels, THE WEDDING DATE features protagonists of color and people with inspiring jobs-- people who want to make the world better (pediatric surgeons, chief-of-staff for the mayor of Berkeley!). They have relatable family relationships and concerns, and you get to witness them falling in love! Jasmine’s writing is delightful and compulsively readable, and her characters are self-aware and insightful in ways that might teach readers a thing or two about how to be their best selves in relationships and friendships, alike.
Through her books, Jasmine introduced me to the idea of reading for fun again, and I’ve never looked back. Little did I know that just two years later, there would be a global pandemic, and I’d rely on that reading-for-fun thing to get through those early, uncertain months of lockdown. Luckily for me, Jasmine has continued to produce one or two books a year since The Wedding Date released, and I have read every one of them the week (if not the day) they came out. She also writes a delightful newsletter, is a fun Instagram follow, and appears somewhat regularly on the Today Show to talk about books!
We are so delighted she is a fan of Maya Chia, and are thrilled to share her answers here to our Beauty Spotlight questions! Find out what Jasmine Guillory’s “sliding doors” moment was, why composting is great, and what Maya Chia products she can’t live without!
Maya Chia Beauty: What is one thing you do every day?
Jasmine Guillory: Yoga! I’ve been doing yoga every day for about five and a half years now. The time varies, sometimes it’s for forty minutes, sometimes just ten, but it makes such a difference to check in with my body every day. I’m so grateful I started this practice.
MCB: Where would you go if you could travel somewhere right now, all expenses paid?
JG: On safari! My mom and I have talked and dreamed about doing this for years. I’m a person who needs my creature comforts so I might need to do it in a way that doesn’t involve actual camping, but I’m so excited about the prospect of seeing so many animals that I could deal with a little discomfort!
MCB: If your 10-years-ago self could see your life now, what would surprise her the most about it?
JG: Oh my goodness so many things — ten years ago I’d had so many rejections and had almost given up my dream of becoming a writer. I would be so surprised that I have eight published books now!
MCB: What are your favorite Maya Chia products - and why? : )
JG: I love love the Super Blend pressed serum — I travel a lot, and between airplanes and hotel air conditioning it makes my skin so dry, and this stuff is pure gold for my skin. I put it in at night whenever I’m traveling or feeling on the dry side, and often put it on right before I get on an airplane and it keeps my skin feeling great. And it smells so good! It feels so luxurious going on!
I also really love the Wonder Balm for dry body skin, and The Optimist essence — I’ve never liked a facial mist before, but this feels so nice and is the perfect hydration boost before serums and moisturizer.
MCB: What's your "sliding doors" moment? Some time when your life almost took a totally different direction.
JG: I was a lawyer for years before I was a writer (and I did both jobs at the same time for a while). About nine years ago I applied for a job working for the City of Oakland, a job that I really wanted. I didn’t get it, and I was so disappointed about that. And then about six months later I had an idea for a romance novel about a woman who worked for the City of Berkeley (the city right next door to Oakland) who gets stuck in an elevator with someone and ends up as his date to a wedding. Well, I wrote that book, and it ended up being THE WEDDING DATE, my first published novel. If I had gotten that job, I probably never would have written that book.
MCB: What do you wish you knew/learned sooner?
JG: At one point in my life, I determined that I would only be friends with people who made me feel good about myself when I spent time with them. Even if it meant staying home instead of going out, I knew I’d be happier at home alone than out with people who made me uncomfortable or feel bad about myself. A simple thing, but one that takes many of us years to figure out. That decision has made my life immeasurably better. It made me happier alone, and it opened up room in my life for me to welcome in some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known.
MCB: What is one easy thing you do to be more "green" or eco-conscious?
JG: Composting! My city gives us compost bins in addition to garbage and recycling, and I have a little countertop bin in my kitchen that I toss all kitchen scraps, citrus peels, etc in. Once you start it’s so easy! And it also means I barely have any actual trash, and my kitchen trash never smells. And it’s good for the environment? Win/win.
MCB: What is something you're really proud of?
JG: My books! I’m so proud of each of them. I worked so hard on all of them, and I love them all. That’s my goal with every book — to love it and be proud of it whenever I look back on it.
We absolutely loved Jasmine’s answers to all of these questions-- like a peek into her diary, or into an essay called “How to be Awesome,” right? We were tempted to go in and comment, “yessss!!” or “omg same” after so many things she wrote, but that’s just what makes her the perfect Beauty Spotlight feature guest!
If you’re new to this series, we recommend all of our previous Spotlights, especially TV and Film director Kimmy Gatewood (you’ve seen her work on little shows like Sesame Street and The Babysitters Club!), beauty writer/influencer Jenny Patinkin (obsessed with her new Mister Assister tool!), and US Open winner Sloane Stephens! (Our blog writer, Emily Barth Isler, has been spotlighted, too, and you can learn all about her here!)