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The Insider

The Insider Sara Zucker

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Sara Zucker is the girl you tried really hard to befriend on your first day of college: She has enviably tousled hair, knows where to get the best coffee in Queens, and named her style blog Farpitz—Yiddish for “all dressed up” and code for “just plain cool.” And when she’s not doling out wardrobe wisdom over there? Lady manages all sorts of media for NARS Cosmetics. Get to know this mensch, here and now. —mattie kahn

Q: What is your first powerful memory of makeup?

A: My mother never left the house without lipstick on, so I always kind of grew up wanting to be that kind of a woman who, you know, cared enough about her appearance to always have her lips covered. Now, I’ve become that person where I feel naked without lipstick. It automatically makes me feel classy.

Q: So, what color do you reach for for a night out?

A: It depends. If it’s a date—because men are afraid of lipstick—I will go with something neutral and kind of sheer. I don’t like lip gloss, because it’s sticky, so I’ll go for, like, NARS Damage Sheer Lipstick. And then if I’m going out with my girlfriends, I’ll usually do NARS Short Circuit Cinematic Lipstick. It doesn’t exist anymore. We launched it for our holiday collection, and the formula was so good that I stockpiled it. [Writer note: Sara swears NARS Geraldine Audacious Lipstick is a worthy substitute.]

Q: The MVP of your closet right now is…?

A: I bought a Thakoon short-sleeve wrap coat at a sample sale two years ago, and I didn’t wear it until two weeks ago. Now I can’t stop wearing it. Now I’m like, “Why did I wait two years? I don’t understand!”

Q: You have fairly remarkable hair. What’s the secret?

A: A really good cut. I go to Devachan in Soho, and they really cut my hair very, very well. I just find that the cut makes all the difference. As long as your hair grows down instead of out as a curly-headed woman, then you’re good to go.

Q: If you could splurge on a five-figure purchase, what wouldja get?

A: Hmm…In New York, that’s not enough to buy a house, so I would say a storage unit. I would buy a storage unit, because that way I won’t have to worry about monthly payments—and then I can always swap out my closet each season. I always run out of space.

Q: It’s 4 P.M. What’s your in-office snack of choice?

A: Plantain chips and guacamole. The key is you use the plantain chips as tortilla chips, but they’re better for you, because they’re plantains!

Q: It’s basically a salad!

A: I mean, they’re still fried, but I lie to myself when I’m eating them. I’m like, “No! They’re healthy!”

Q: Any Of a Kind designers that you’re super into right about now?

A: Um, yes! Welcome Companions. I’m newly obsessed and love everything that they do and wish that I had a larger savings account. And Palomarie. I bought one of her necklaces some months ago, wore it to death, and plan on buying the last edition that she did for Of a Kind as well. 

You probably want to meet some more Insiders now, don’t you?

The Insider Leah Chernikoff

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If you’ve ever lost hours of your life on Elle.com, well, you have Leah Chernikoff to thank. As editorial director of the site that publishes goodness on topics like virtual wedding crashers, coding empowers, editors in flats, and those seeking the toddler glow, she knows how to lure us in—and keep us coming back. Oh, and, as evidenced above, she’s also real good at pajama dressing, a skill that most certainly makes her a role model in our eyes. —mattie kahn

Q: How about a game of #FF? Who should we be tracking on Twitter?

A: Can we do #FollowInstagram? I like Twitter a lot, but I’m not attached to any particular handles.

Q: Let’s!

A: So on Instagram, I really like @michelgaubert. He does the sound for every major fashion show, and he’s really witty. I love @snoopdogg, too, but he’s a little out-of-control. He does that thing where he posts, like, six photos in a row, and they might all be of his nail art and him holding a joint. But I think he’s still funny. It’s a statement! Also! Devil Alberda (@dalberda), an NYC ballet dancer who takes incredible behind-the-scenes photos.

Q: The MVP of your closet right now is…?

A: All I want to wear right now are boiler suits, and I just got one from Rachel Comey. This is the first one I’ve really committed to, and I love it. I wish I could wear it all the time. It’s blue and a little bit stripe-y, so it’s not the kind of piece I can wear a few times of week—but if that weren’t weird to do, I would do it. 

Q: The last time working out felt fun, you were…?

A: Swimming, actually. I’ve been on a quest to make it so that every time I work out it feels fun—because I really don’t do it otherwise—so I went swimming before work at the Y near me in Brooklyn. It’s nice change of pace. You really are forced to take yourself out of that work/email/thinking/scrambling sort of thing and just focus on breathing in the water.

Q: What’s your neighborhood haunt?

A: I love Black Mountain Wine House. I’m always hesitant to give this answer because I want to keep it the way it is. It’s this little wine bar in Carroll Gardens, and it’s always the perfect amount of crowded. You can always go in and get a table, but it never feels like you’re the only people there. It’s especially lovely in the winter, because they always have a fire going and it’s very cozy.

Q: Your favorite red-carpet look ever. Go.

A: Oh, it’s so hard to choose when they’re not all right in front of you! But as a placeholder: Gwyneth Paltrow in that Tom Ford for Gucci red velour pantsuit.

So many people we look up to, right here.

The Insider Rex Sorgatz

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Chances are Rex Sorgatz would have a hard time explaining what he does all day to your grandma. A few decades ago, his job kinda didn’t exist. The Internet impresario is a digital strategist, media weather vane, marketing guru—it goes on and on. The tl;dr version? His virtual fingerprints are all over the World Wide Web. A glimpse of what makes him so magical below. —mattie kahn

Q: You have three hours to kill and $100 in your back pocket. What should we do? 

A: As we board the Staten Island Ferry, I explain to you that “This ride is free, so we are going to spend it all on beer.” I hurry off to buy two “Big Boy” Budweisers ($6, total). When we get to Staten Island, we turn around and come back to Manhattan. We do this trip 4 times, gulping those Big Boys ($24, total). 

We just drank 64 ounces of beer, each, so let’s take a nap. Wanna split the leftover $78?

Q: Tell us your morning media diet. 

A: Hoping to lose a few media pounds, I have a new diet: I stop looking, and I make media come to me.

Email, thankfully, but also regrettably, never stops coming. So that’s where most of my reading comes from—newsletters. I occupy my first waking hour on my phone, clicking on all the newsletters that have come in: Today in TabsMedia Redefined5 Intriguing ThingsDigg AlertsI Dream of TVHacker NewsletterLongform82nd & 5thNext Draft, and a complicated collection of IFTTT recipes. And, of course, I am also a huge fan of Of a Kind’s 10 Things newsletter.

Q: What are your favorite neighborhood hideouts?

A: If someone did a poll for “Least Cool Neighborhood in Manhattan,” certainly my little corner, Battery Park City, would win. Even the name sounds like an outer-Jersey enclave, an industrial community of Duracell makers. I once started a campaign to rebrand the neighborhood “Lower Tribeca”—so much cooler!

It is a community devoid of hideouts, and a retail explosion will soon erupt. The list of new openings coming soon: Saks Fifth Avenue, Burberry, Ferragamo, Zegna, Hérmes, Michael Kors, DVF, Tiffany, Zara, Paul Smith, Varvatos, J.Crew, Armani, Theory, Tom Ford, Apple…I’m tired of typing.

Perhaps I am being too rough on my ’hood. The parks are great! Here, I made a Foursquare list: “So You’re Trapped in Battery Park.”

Q: What books are you dying to read this summer?

A: I read more now than I ever have in my life, but very little of it is book-length. Some things I want to read this summer: David Shapiro’s new novel, Adelle Waldman’s novel, and Alice Marwick’s book.

Q: Let’s play #FF. Who should we be keeping track of on Twitter? 

A: Nowadays, I read Twitter like I once watched television: I “turn it on” and then I “channel surf.” Seriously, Twitter has become the guilt-producing box in the corner, like TV once was. (Television is now task-oriented. You know what you’re doing when you turn on the TiVo. All discovery of new television happens outside of the television—often on Twitter!)

My entire goal with Twitter is to get lost (journey over destination, blah-blah), so I have no #FFs—nothing is forever on Twitter. #FF should stand for Fleeting Friends.

Q: When were you last left totally star-struck? 

A: I recently wrote about meeting Steve Buscemi during the filming of Fargo in North Dakota. That was probably the most star-struck I have ever been.

I worked at SNL for a while and briefly had Tina Fey’s old office, which was completely terrifying. I didn’t change a thing—the Mean Girls poster and the very old couch stayed exactly where they were.

For more people ‘bout to blow your mind, click here.

The Insider Laurel Pinson

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Two things we love about StyleCaster: The fashion site entices us to click on Facebook links like nobody else (seriously: like them now if you don’t already), and Laurel Pinson is the HBIC. As editor-in-chief, lady conjures up smart, savvy content about everything from road-trip packing to emoji to Marky Mark. She’s pretty much magic—a little taste of that below. —mattie kahn

Q: Who is your celebrity spirit animal?
A: Diane Kruger. All day. Every day. I just want to live in the lining of her skin. I just want to be close to her! Let’s just share, you know? I love what she wears. I love her personality. I love that she’s, like, going grocery shopping in fabulous outfits with Pacey. She landed Pacey! That was everybody’s dream. Good job, Diane. 

Q: What’s the last item of clothing you bought?
A: I bought a top from A Détacher. I’m really into overpriced tops—maybe because I’m a real dinner-party socializer, so I really invest in things that are waist-up. Like, you know, a nice statement necklace or really great earrings or a really great top.

Q: What are you looking forward to crossing off your to-do list before Labor Day?
A: Well, I am taking a trip. My husband and I usually take a summer vacation. This year, we’re going to go to Croatia, which I’m incredibly excited about. I also want to buy a new swimsuit, which I’m sure is going to be a project I’m going to drag out for, like, a month and a half. I’m really excited about it, but I haven’t pulled the trigger yet.

Q: What are your top three beauty essentials?
A: Number one: Under-eye concealer. Number two: Under-eye concealer. Number three: Under-eye concealer. I’ve gotten really obsessed with RMS Beauty. It’s natural, which I appreciate—I don’t think I realized how much toxic stuff I put on my face until I started really getting into more organic and natural beauty products.

Q: Which Of a Kind designers just get you?
A: Lizzie Fortunato. I’m obsessed. It’s a real problem. The earrings. The necklaces. I actually have a necklace that I bought at a trunk show while I was in Austin, and they were there. I literally just bowed in front of them. I was like, “Thank you for all you do.” 

Head this way for more people you gotta meet.

The Insiders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs

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ICYMI: We’re pretty big fans of dynamic duos around these parts. And Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs are two of the finest partners we know. As the co-founders of Food52—the best food website in the history of food websites—the pair whips up unreasonably delicious meals and stocks a virtual pantry full of kitchen essentials. They gave us some good stuff to chew on below. —mattie kahn

Q: What’s one of your very favorite recipes from a Food52 user?

Merrill: I think Lazy Mary’s Lemon Tart is a no-brainer. It was a really early recipe from someone who has been a member of the site from the very beginning. She basically throws a whole lemon—the pith, the seeds, the peel, everything—into a blender and then mixes it with sugar and eggs to essentially make a lemon curd in the blender. It has the most amazing flavor. You think it might be bitter because of the pith, but it’s actually really well balanced and super easy and obviously a cool thing to talk about.

Q: Have you ever tasted a good wedding cake?

Amanda: Yes. Merrill’s wedding cake. 

Merrill: Mine? That’s so nice! I actually thought my wedding cake did taste pretty good—I have to say. 

Amanda: It was delicious! 

Merrill: I got married in Maine, so we had to have blueberries in it. It was a lemon cake with just a blueberry kind of compote in the middle and then a very simple buttercream. Nothing fancy.  

Amanda: But very good.

Q: Appetizer or dessert?

Merrill: I know what Amanda is going to say. She’ll say dessert for sure. I’m torn, but I think I’d go for the appetizer. This is why we’re good partners. 

Amanda: It’s true: Dessert.

Q: What are the secrets to a great business partnership?

Merrill: Obviously one person should prefer appetizers, and the other person should prefer desserts! I mean, I think in most ways it mirrors what it takes to have a great marriage, you know? I think there has to be enough in common so that you get what the bigger picture is and you see the same endgame and believe in the same endgame, but on a day-to-day basis, you have to be different enough that you complement each other and fill the gaps.

Amanda: I would add that you need total trust. I absolutely trust Merrill in every way. That’s really important. Whether it’s “What do you think about this title for a story?” or some business issue, I totally trust her opinion.

Q: If you could gift each other something from Of a Kind just ‘cause, what would you pick?  

Merrill: I think this peridot and gold ring would look great with her coloring, and the shape reminds me a little of her engagement ring.

Amanda: Am I allowed to choose from a Collection? If so, this sweater.

Q: Name three kitchen musts that everyone should have .

Amanda: A chef’s knife, good salt, and olive oil.

Merrill: That’s all you need.

More full-blown phenoms right here.

The Insider Kristen Joy Watts

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Let us tell you what: We seriously double-tap Kristen Joy Watts. As an art-and-fashion-savvy member of Instagram’s community team, she’s in charge of discovering new talent, creating cool new content, and brainstorming fresh ways to collaborate with the likes of Vogue (see: #metgala) and the Frieze Art Fair New York (see: #emptyfrieze). Obviously, we wanted—needed!—to know more, so we asked Kristen to get real with us. mattie kahn

Q: Spill: What’s your favorite Instagram filter?
A: The city usually inspires the filter. I’ll probably use Hudson at about half strength, for example, when I’m in Vancouver next weekend—a bit of blue for a rainy place.

Q: What makes a good Intagram, do you think? 
A: We often feature tips from the community on the Instagram blog, and that’s a great place to start. I think great photographs have to be beautiful—but they also have to have what Roland Barthes called punctum: a photograph’s personally touching, even wounding, quality. Maybe it’s a hair askew or a slightly crooked horizon line—imperfections that haunt you.

Q: What’s your favorite landmark in NYC? 
A: Does Momofuku count?

Q: Where do you head for the best slice of pizza in New York City? 
A: On one of Scott’s Pizza Tours.

Q: Which Of a Kind designers do you have your eye on right now? 
A: I’m looking at the Chen and Kai (@ChenandKai) planters in my kitchen. 

Q: What’s the last viral video that made you cry-laugh?
A: This got me.

Q: Any guilty pleasures you’re willing to admit to? 
A: I think a lot of people would say that they like Boyz II Men, but not a lot of people still listen to "4 Seasons of Loneliness" about once a week. 

There are more completely amazing people to be found right here!

The Insider Rachel Webber

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Something you should know about Rachel Webber: She’s based in New York but splits her time between NYC, Los Angeles, and Helsinki. Yes, Helsinki. Doesn’t that alone make you want to know everything about her? Well, combine that with the fact that she works for the company that brought us Angry Birds—and that she’s just plain lovely. So much goodness on that front below. —monica freeman

Q: Can you tell us about what you do for your 9-to-5-ish?
A: I head up Rovio’s video business, which means looking after the kids’ and family streaming video channel ToonsTV we built on top of our Angry Birds games and distribute on connected platforms. It’s like our own mini Hulu that offers fans our own original series as well as programs from top kids’ entertainment partners. We also partner with TV networks around the world to program our original series on their networks.

Q: Speaking of Angry Birds: Which apps are you obsessed with?
A: Twitter and Instagram from the moment I wake up ‘til I go to sleep. Secret is my new procrastination tool, and I get WUT messages coming in all the time but have no idea who they are from! I listen to the Boston NPR station I grew up with, WBUR. and my favorite Australian indie-music station, triple j, on TuneIn Radio, and Spotify in general for music. I’m a big Foursquare checker-inner—and now Swarm—and I’m addicted to LINE, the Japanese chat app, because of the insanely fun sticker packs. I’ve spent a lot of money on stickers…

Q: What’s your number one guilty pleasure? Doesn’t have to be guilty, of course, but you know what I’m getting at.
A: Hmm…besides LINE stickers?! Listening to Robyn’s “Hang with Me” on repeat. Rag and Bone boots. Finnish glassware. Buying iTunes season passes—for my many hours on airplanes—to Parenthood, The Good Wife, Scandal, The Americans, Sherlock, Orphan Black.

Q: Since you’re a real travel pro, if you had to travel the entire perimeter of any country, which would you choose? 
A: Probably Sweden—but only in summer—because it’s an archipelago, so it would be very fun to navigate through all those tiny islands. And Stockholm in the summer is magical.

Q: Where are your favorite hole-in-the-wall spots to eat in the places where you visit regularly-slash-live?
A: In Helsinki, Kuurna is the best.  In NYC—these aren’t really hole-in-the-wall, but the stretch on 9th and 10th between 22nd and 25th with Sullivan Street Bakery, El Quinto Pino, Tia Pol, Izakaya Ten, The Red Cat, and the new-ish Empire Diner is a locals’ paradise. In L.A., there’s this very dive-y Szechuan spot I’ve gone to with friends on the way back from Palm Springs holidays called Chung King.  

Q: What books are you itching to read?
A: I actually just bought Lydia Davis’s new collection of stories in hardcover, so that’s next. And then Americanah because did you hear the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her NPR interview?!  Wow. And then of course she showed up on Beyoncé’s album.

Q: If you could swap jobs with anyone, who would you choose?
A: Maybe a Janet Jackson back-up dancer during The Velvet Rope tour.

More rad peeps right here!

The Insider Pavia Rosati

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Pavia Rosati claims she was born with the travel bug, and she can back that up: She took her first trip to Italy when she was, um, nine months old. These days, she puts her globetrotting skills to very good use: She is the founder of Fathom, the site we check for tips on how to make the most of a few days in Stockholm, where to find Maui’s best street food, and everything in between. Get some trip-taking insights from the so-savvy woman herself below. —mattie kahn

Q: What are your go-to plane snacks?
A: I always cook for flights. I roast chickpeas, which are my favorite food. And then I fill a Ziploc with slices of red pepper and cucumber and carrots. I take plane snacks very seriously.

Q: Bet you have some exciting trips planned for this summer. Where are you headed?
A: Every year I go to the Amalfi coast. I have a standing trip around Fourth of July. But the thing about how I travel is I rarely know where I’m going a month ahead of time. In the last six weeks, I’ve been to London, Amsterdam, Vegas, and Rio. But twelve weeks ago, I didn’t really know I was going to any of those places. I’m a super-spontaneous traveler.

Q: So, how many languages do you speak?
A: In order of fluency: English, Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. I try to learn a few phrases in every language. I like to know the important ones, like “Thank you,” “Please,” “How are you?”—I have those in Arabic and German. But smiling goes a long way.

Q: What websites do you check first thing in the AM?
A: I read the New York Times. I get a lot of my news digests via email. I subscribe to GigaOM, Skift, Business Insider. I think Business Insider is the Us Weekly of the tech world, but I can’t stop.

Q: Say you’re looking to max out your credit cards. Where would you go?  
A: The Connaught hotel in London and Amanwella in Sri Lanka. The Connaught is just a magical place where everyone is kind and perfect and the décor is beautiful. It’s just heavenly. And the Aman Resort mixes taking great care of you and leaving you completely alone beautifully. It’s the definition of vacation. The food is always delicious, the setting is always breathtaking, and the people there never bother you with the things you don’t want to think about on holiday.

Q: What do you miss most when you’re away from home?
A: I miss my coffeepot a lot. Sometimes I miss being able to cook for myself. I love eating out, obviously, but when you’re on week three of having no control over your own food, it gets a little tough. I really love my bed. But, frankly, I like going away—because then I get excited about these things when I come home.

Meet more seriously impressive people right over here.

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