Get To Know Your Favorite Glossier Model, Jessica Wu
Whether you've heard her name before or not, it's likely you've seen Jessica Wu's face plastered alongside Glossier's online and in-store campaigns. When she's not behind the camera, Jessica is a freelance stylist, a women's health advocate, an adventurous home-cook and the mind behind the up-and-coming brand Peter Do's e-commerce and press. We spoke with Jessica about her California roots, her favorite shakshuka recipe, and her new site, Period Space, dedicated to normalizing common women's health issues. Read our interview and shop a few items from Jessica's closet below.
Photography by Cody Lidtke.
You grew up on the west coast in a small, laid-back beach town where fashion only existed online and in international magazines. What about New York appealed to you and how did you finally end up here?
I remember very distinctly the first time I came across a fashion magazine at my aunt’s house; I was flipping through the editorial section, and immediately noticed how strange and abnormal looking the garments and styling were. I was confused yet intrigued by this new visual language that I had never encountered before. Since then, I began looking at clothing differently. I would to dig through the depths my mom’s closet, searching for items similar to the ones in those glossy pages, and would secretly take them and alter them or restyle it to my taste.
As all other fashion-high teenage girls did in the last decade, I began my own blog in 2009, documenting my personal outfits and occasionally covering my favorite runway collections (I still have my journal where I used to look at every single show on style.com and jot down notes!). At first it was the most makeshift as you could have it—with an old point and shoot propped on my balcony, and then later with my first DSLR on a real tripod. I’m definitely a child of the internet age and I maintained digital relationships with fellow bloggers and creatives on the internet—which is how I felt right at ease pursuing New York, the only city in America I knew I had to be in to have any sort of reputable or legitimate career in fashion.
I applied to your typical colleges and Ivy Leagues to appease the parents, but I already knew when I sent my application to FIT that I would be attending that school and moving to New York. The prospect of being in the same city as all my favorite designers was so exhilarating to my high school self. My first time being in New York City in my entire life was to move into my dorm!
What did you study at FIT?
I initially studied Fashion Merchandising Management, which would have led me to be a buyer, merchandiser, or work in product development. The sentiment and interest was probably hereditary—my grandma used to own a boutique in Taiwan and my mom told me she would go to nearby the East Asian countries to buy clothing and bring it back to her place. Two years into my degree, the appeal had faded quickly and my attention turned to other possibilities as I began to style and do more creative side projects. I ultimately ended up with a bachelors in Advertising and Marketing Communications.
You’ve mentioned before you initially had no intention to end up in styling. How did the opportunity come your way? Was it a skill that naturally came to you?
I moved to New York with no one but the people I had met online! I was so pleased to know that they were also relocating to the city and we started to schedule real-life meetings, hangouts, and collaborative work sessions. One of my friends was a photographer and was beginning to test with modeling agencies, and asked if she could borrow some of my clothes to style the girls, having seen my personal style on my blog. I agreed and it was an easy exchange the first time. The second time, she asked me personally to use my hand and eye to coordinate some outfits on another model, to which I thought, why not? What began as a very casual side hobby of mine grew steadily into styling editorials for magazines, personal styling and shopping, working on e-commerce shoots, and styling campaigns. I guess you could say that my natural affinity for style, well-made garments, and my eye for all things sartorial really kept me going.
Has your California upbringing impacted your mindset in relation to working in the fashion industry and living in New York?
Honestly, I feel like a New Yorker now! The notion of California conjures up In-N-Out, perfect year-round weather, and a slow-paced lifestyle to me, and it is quite the polar opposite of what it’s like to be in New York, specifically working in the fashion industry here. Here in the city, I am emboldened by its dizzyingly quick pace and the desire to be productive and efficient in my work and time.
What are your go-to shopping spots in NYC?
I don’t really shop much anymore because I try to consume less, so whenever I purchase something it’s usually secondhand or vintage! Dana Foley is a treasure trove of a store in Lower East Side on 174 Ludlow, with new vintage coming in every single day from structured Mugler and Moschino blazers to the quintessential biker leather jacket and fun evening frocks and gowns from the ‘80s. I also love Frankie Shop, which is down the street at 100 Stanton, for simple but elevated staples like blazers, coats, and trousers from small and bigger designers. Anthom at 25 Mercer carries a beautifully curated selection of up-and-coming designers you’ve never heard of as well as names like Robert Clergerie and Marni.
You got your start as a stylist, but you’ve since expanded into a few adjacent industries, running e-commerce and press for your friend and emerging designer, Peter Do. What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced while expanding the work that you do?
The biggest challenge for me, personally, is managing my stress. And unfortunately for me, mental stress has such a physical toll on me. It’s so easy to get sucked into “must-answer-everything-now” mode when you have 6 email accounts on your phone! I balance quite a few things as a freelancer, but I could not be happier with the opportunities I’ve been afforded and know I am exceedingly lucky. These days, I try to take my time to separate what I do into entities that I address hierarchically and, hopefully, in a timely manner!
You’re always sharing amazing dishes you cook up for your friends and even have a separate instagram account dedicated to the foods you love to eat, @therealjessicawu. Did cooking play a large role in your life growing up, or was it something you took on later as an adult? Can you share your favorite recipes?
I didn’t get a chance to cook much until I moved to school and had a kitchen in my dorm, but food has always been a large part of home life, being the center of family gatherings and a way for people to connect and commune over something. I remember that my mom used to bake these vanilla loaf cakes with slivered almonds on the top and pack my homemade lunch everyday—it was dumplings, fried rice, noodles. I was really so lucky (even though I was so self-conscious and always wanted a PB&J like everyone else. My grandma would make egg sandwiches in the morning for me—on soft Japanese milk bread with iceberg lettuce, a soft omelette and kewpie mayonnaise. Food memories are so evocative to me!
I’ve always loved experimenting in the kitchen and I usually don’t cook from recipes, unless I’m making something complicated for the first time, like Japanese curry entirely from scratch or Taiwanese stewed pork (lu rou). But, those are time intensive and I understand most young people don’t have the patience to wait around for food! So here’s an easy recipe that you can wow your friends with-Shakshuka, a Mediterranean dish of eggs baked in sauce.
Drizzle of olive oil
-1 small onion, diced
-3 cloves garlic, diced
-½ bell pepper, diced
-Cumin, Paprika, Cayenne to taste
-½ can whole or crushed tomatoes, with juices
1.) Sautee onion, garlic, and bell pepper in a cast iron skillet with olive oil, stirring in spices as you please.
2.) Add the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes.
3.) Push aside some space for the eggs and crack them into the pan.
4.) Bake in 375 oven until eggs are set, about 8 minutes.*
Serve with anything you’d like! Toasted baguettes or pita are perfect with this!
You’re extremely open and real on social media, especially when it comes to women’s health issues. You’ve struggled with irregular bleeding almost all your life, and continue to grapple with the pros and cons of hormonal birth control. Tell us about Period Space and what you hope to provide to your followers and people around the world.
Period Space was the answer to the increasing community of people on my Instagram who felt comfortable enough with sharing their own experiences, in response to me being transparent and public about my struggles with menstruation. We had established some sort of commiserating connection, and these strangers began telling me such specific details about their periods, which I gladly responded to and applauded. It is beyond me why a normal, biological function for half our population is confusingly still taboo and stigmatized for many!
My platform Period Space aims to empower people to talk about periods and reproductive health, and break the taboos and stigma surrounding menstruation. The site features essential and valuable information about many aspects of menstrual health, from understanding reproductive biology and providing general information about medical and natural methods of dealing with periods, to showcasing unique perspectives and individual experiences. We hope to provide clarity, guidance, and reassurance as an online menstrual health resource and guide. The ultimate goal of Period Space is to become a non-profit, organizing in a way that can continuously give back to the communities that are the most reproductive health resource-poor, through education and fundraising.
You have amazing skin. Can you share your favorite beauty products and a couple of your favorite skincare rituals?
Thank you! My favorite skincare products are definitely Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma Day Serum and their T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum and also Augustinus Bader’s Rich Cream. I use these everyday without fail! For makeup, I’m totally committed to CLE Cosmetic’s CCC Cream, which is a revolutionary combined BB and CC cream and an essential part of the dewy look (aside from sweat…) and also has SPF. I am a huge proponent of SPF (sunny or cloudy! You better be wearing it every day!) and Supergoop is one of the best for the face. I use their Unseen Sunscreen with 40 SPF as a primer; it has the most smooth velvety tone that feels great on the skin. I’m a sucker for my NARS multiple stick in Siam, this firetruck red, which I can use on my eyes, cheeks, and lips, and also NYX Black Matte Liquid Liner, which I’ve used religiously for years.
What items in your closet do you wear the most?
I have this black MaxMara miniskirt that I found in my mom’s closet that I wear probably 4 days out of the week in warmer weather. In the winter I wear my Pulp Studios black coat, which is this resilient military grade wool lined in a luxurious charmeuse, and also has an alpaca lined collar and pockets! Fluffy!
What’s your ultimate grail?
A Balenciaga skirt in pristine condition from the Spring/Summer 2012 collection that I got on the low! I miss Ghesquiere’s Balenciaga!