Mover of the Week: O Magazine Beauty Director Val Monroe

by Kristen Heinzinger

It’s the end of an era at O Magazine! Longtime beauty director Val Monroe is stepping down from her post and is branching out on her own. With a 16-year tenure alongside the one and only Oprah, naturally we had a few questions…

What was your first “Ask Val” column about?
Four questions about mascara. Probably around 500 words. That word count seems unthinkable today.

Tell us about the first time you met Oprah…
We (the editors) were on a field trip to a farm she owned in Indiana. When I stepped out of the van that picked us up at the airport, Oprah was standing in her driveway holding up a story I had written for the magazine (“Life is Not a Beauty Contest”). She mouthed, Did you write this? I nodded. She liked it very much.

We saw on Instagram that they threw you a farewell luncheon!
I hate good-bye parties and forbade my colleagues to do anything related to my leaving, but [editor-in-chief] Gayle King evidently insisted—and with the help of her assistant and my partner in the beauty department and another associate editor, she clandestinely put together a magnificent spread on the 44th floor of the Hearst building. I had no idea Oprah would show up but I was so glad she did, mostly so I could thank her in person for providing us the platform at the magazine that allowed us to treat beauty in a fresh, progressive way.

What’s a hug from Oprah like?
I cannot recommend it highly enough.

What will you miss most?
Well, not the work, because I plan to continue to do that. I think I’ll miss my young colleagues most: soul vitamins.

What kept you at O for so many years?
So many things: the stimulation, the opportunity to share my experiences with millions of readers and their terrific feedback, the idea that we were helping women to think about beauty in a way that supported, rather than diminished them, and then, the swag, the astonishing swag…

How many products have you accumulated over the years?
What, are you kidding me?

How long did it take to pack up your office?
Only a couple of days. I left most of what I had accumulated over the years. I figured if I hadn’t looked at it in the last six months, I didn’t need it. 

Tell us more about your next act!
I’m particularly interested in the intersection of kindness and perceptions of beauty; there’s some existing research but I believe more to be done. And I want to develop a protocol for doctors when giving their patients aesthetic evaluations. Also, I’m working on a book: How Not to F#*k Up Your Face, a combination of philosophical, psychological, and practical advice for anyone considering aesthetic procedures.

Could you see yourself going back into magazines?
I doubt it.

What’s one of the best tricks you learned being on the inside for so long?
Don’t take anything personally.

What are a few of your proudest moments while at O?
Whenever I wrote something that elicited a grateful response from a reader, I felt productive. I know it sounds cliched and, worse, Pollyanna-ish, but my goal was to help women feel better about how they look, to be able to see the inherent beauty in themselves. So when readers suggested I had accomplished that, I was thrilled.

How are you celebrating?
The question is, What am I celebrating? The answer: Everything.

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