This time last year, Kendall Jenner attended the 2018 Golden Globes in a black tulle Giambattista Valli couture gown, her dark brunette bob parted down the middle to effortless effect. It was her first time at the Hollywood event, there in support of the #TimesUp initiative, and she was “fan girl-ing out” over how beautiful everyone looked, she told Vogue. The next day, amid the then 22-year-old taking to social media to share in her appreciation and solidarity—“My eyes were opened and my heart is full seeing all of the men and women who were a part of this vital change! I too stand with all women #TimesUp,” she wrote on Twitter—much of the internet took a different approach to Jenner’s appearance, re-posting paparazzi pictures that were zoomed in to show the acne sprinkled across her cheeks and chin.
“It really stung,” recalls Jenner over the phone from her home in Los Angeles. “Obviously I look at my face every day and know exactly what I’m dealing with; I don’t love [my acne] either, but I have to suck it up.” And she did just that—and more—by way of a single response to one fan who praised the model for strutting her acne on the red carpet: “Never let that shit stop you.”
Of course, it wasn’t always that way for Jenner, who found herself overcome with social anxiety at age 14, due in large part to getting “really bad acne all over my face,” she says, recalling times she stayed home and cried with her family members, almost all of whom never experienced similar skin problems but felt for her nonetheless. “I distinctly remember going to a Justin Bieber concert and having to walk the red carpet in a full face of acne,” she says of her pre-modeling days, which were spent in school and on the set of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. “You could probably Google and find those pictures right now.” (You can.)
At 21, her acne came back in full force due to a shift in hormones and stress, the latter due to a non-stop fashion show schedule. Her tireless work ethic helped catapult Jenner onto the main stage, cementing her status as the highest paid model in fashion and eventually securing her a coveted Estée Lauder beauty contract, but also furthered her anxiety, forcing her to take a step back from too many shows in the seasons that followed. In addition to suffering from panic attacks, “suddenly, I’d wake up every morning to a new zit, which is frustrating when life and work can’t stop because of [my skin],” she reflects.
Hence that exciting but stressful, "once in a lifetime" Golden Globes, a day which started in the makeup chair with Jenner’s trusted artist Mary Phillips painstakingly concealing every blemish, every imperfection, and the star herself holding a baby mirror up to her own chin, careful to confirm the cover-up was complete. The whole ordeal, which Jenner admits to mentally blocking out as soon as she stepped onto the red carpet—“Honestly, I just kept telling myself that my acne wasn’t there,” she says, “the mind is a lot more powerful than you think”—has not only resulted in respect from her fans but also a new partnership with Proactiv, the California-based acne treatment line. “After the Globes, when Proactiv asked if I’d like to try their products, I thought, ‘You know what, I may as well give it a shot, I’m desperate,’” says Jenner of the skincare line of which she was first a fan, now a brand ambassador. “And it worked for me.”
And while her blemishes are few and far between these days, she still struggles with scarring and other marks left from her near-decade long battle with acne. Her weapon of choice? In addition to finally finding an acne treatment that tackles surface breakouts, Jenner is choosing to take the slow and steady course, healing her skin from the inside out. “For me, transcendental meditation really helps my anxiety and therefore my skin,” she says of the Eastern approach to clarity and stability, which she routinely practices, sometimes more often then others, though always while donning some kind of treatment lotion or hydrating face mask. “Now, when I get a panic attack, or my [skin] flares up, I know it’s likely because I haven’t been taking care of myself. What can I say, I’m human.” Words of wisdom for neophytes walking the carpet tonight.
Watch Kendall Jenner Ask Herself Some Existential Questions: