Former Olympic gold medalist, author and new mother Shawn Johnson East is as down to earth as they come. “I used to be a gymnast, and I did pretty well at the Olympics in 2008,” the star lightheartedly introduces herself on a Zoom call.
Gymnastics aside, behind raising her 10-month-old daughter, Drew, and balancing the life of an in-the-spotlight entrepreneur, the 28 year old has one other very-real passion: skincare.
Here, Johnson East chats all-things skincare, motherhood and keeping your head up while trudging through the world of the public eye.
On her relationship with skincare…
“It’s definitely evolved throughout the years as I think it has for everybody. When I was in gymnastics, I knew nothing about skincare and beauty except for what ads told me. All I wanted was for my skin to be as dry and as clean as possible,” says Johnson East. “I was ruining my skin.”
“I would use 10 makeup wipes every night before I went to bed and thought that was good enough. I would fake bake, use tanning beds, and I never wore sunscreen. I was just terrible to my skin. And then I started to learn over the years, through photoshoots and through Dancing With the Stars and having people tell me I needed plastic surgery. I learned hard lessons when I was young that I just eventually found my way through it.”
“Through all of the ebbs and flows of my confidence journey, I kind of came to a point after having Drew where I’m now very minimal. I barely wear makeup, and I think taking care of my skin makes me feel the most confident.”
On dealing with criticism that comes with the public eye…
“I used to let it control my life. I used to change everything about who I was based off of what other people said and what they cared about. That’s when I went down a spiraling path of eating disorders and depression—a world that social media can breed.”
“But after healing from all of that, I learned how to push past it and to almost try to let it bounce off your skin, but it never does. If we’re all honest, at the end of the day, we can push away trolls, but it sinks in to a certain extent. You get bruised up so much by reading [the comments] that it still takes a toll, it just doesn’t send me back down that path.”
On her favorite skin-care products…
“I have 500 products downstairs in my bathroom, it’s really bad. I try a lot of everything. I use a lot of oils now to remove makeup,” she says, offering up her favorites from Elemis, Shiseido and Tula. “It’s the polar opposite of stripping everything down,” she says of the stark 180-degree pivot since her gymnastics days. “I try to keep everything as moisturized as possible now.”
On her latest skin-care partnership…
Johnson East has partnered with probiotic-fueled skin-care brand Tula for almost two years now, and says the idea for her new skin-care product came up organically. “It was last October; I was getting ready to have my daughter and I was craving soul food—just bad for you cake, ice cream, cookies, everything. So I made the go-to recipe that my mom taught me when I was really little, which is homemade pumpkin bread. It’s made with a gallon of Crisco and sugar and it’s just terrible, but it’s the most delicious thing in the entire world. I randomly posted it on Instagram and it broke the internet for some reason.”
The concept for her first skin-care product then seemed obvious. “We decided we should make a pumpkin-based product. The sugar scrub has always been one of my favorites, so we’ve been collaborating on this for the past year and I’m so excited,” she says. The result: So Pumpkin Exfoliating Sugar Scrub ($ 34), which, after launching earlier this month, has already sold out in more than 200 Ulta Beauty stores across the country.
On her daughter and gymnastics…
“Everybody from day one was like, ‘If you have a girl you have to put her in gymnastics, and if you have a boy, he has to be in football,’ but I don’t care. I would prefer her not to be in gymnastics. My biggest fear with it isn’t the bad media around gymnastics. Though, yes, there is absolute tragedy in every sport, and I think gymnastics is turning a page and hopefully becoming a better and safer sport to be in. I would do gymnastics all over again, I would do my whole thing all over again.”
“But I fear her in gymnastics because I fear there is an unrealistic expectation of her already to be good at it. And I think for any kid to be good at something, they have to fail, and they have to learn from their mistakes. I don’t think there’s anyone in the country that could coach her unbiasedly. And that scares me. I just want her to be her own little human and find her own little passions. So if that is gymnastics, then absolutely, I will cheer her on as mom and I will have no input whatsoever [laughs].”
On the best advice she’s ever been given…
“It’s cliche, but that everything happens for a reason. I learned it at the Olympics when I came in second three times before I won gold. People are always asking me what I regret, what I would change about myself or about my performance, and I was taught by my coach at a very young age that everything happens for a reason, and you learn from it, and you move on. That’s something I’ve continued to think about throughout my life.”
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