Mavericks, At Length

In this series, we ask writers to be guest curators, recommending a few pieces of writing on Substack that orbit a central theme. We hope to introduce readers to independent writers who may be hiding in plain sight.

This week we invited Valerie Monroe, who writes How Not to F*ck Up Your Face on Substack, to guest curate At Length.

Valerie spent nearly 16 years as the beauty director at O, The Oprah Magazine, where she wrote the monthly Ask Val column. With her newsletter, Val’s goal continues to shift our thinking about beauty from self-criticism to self-compassion. Below, she shares a selection of her favorite writing from fellow mavericks—a set of unorthodox and independent-minded writers publishing on Substack.

The Real Sarah Miller

Sarah Miller is the most free-range of free-range writers, as she writes about anything and everything that catches her fancy, from hickeys to climate change to the media’s coverage of Syria. She’s fierce and passionate and very funny and ruthlessly honest — in other words, a f*cking terrific writer. Read her musings about Bennifer.

The Unpublishable

Jessica DeFino, a freelance reporter, writes about the beauty industry with clarity and a hefty dose of cynicism. Over the course of her career, she uncovered the beauty industry’s biggest secret: “It’s fulla shit!” Jessica brings to our attention the multifarious ways the beauty industry has failed us purposefully and with great profit. She revolts against the forces that try to persuade us that we need creams and lotions that do nothing but relieve us of our hard-earned cash, a cause that’s no less compelling than any other justified rebellion. Read her take on the latest beauty industry trend.

Ask E. Jean

E. Jean Carroll wrote an advice column for Elle magazine for 27 years. She was followed by millions of readers. Elle fired her when she accused Donald Trump of assault and then sued him for defamation. These are just the facts. But E. Jean Carroll is a phenomenon. She is a wizard, a sorceress. With a brew of volcanic delight, simmering rage, unbridled hilarity and profound wisdom, she sets her readers straight about all manner of difficulties related to cads, careers, pets, politics, and whatever else a woman might stumble over while wading through the messy swamp of life. Read her response to a suffering reader.


Darian Symoné Harvin offers a gold mine of up-to-date information about how the beauty industry is (and isn’t) adapting to changing cultural mores and expectations. She must be blessed with a thousand eyes. Otherwise how could any one person possibly keep up with the enormous amount of news—and acute analysis of the news—that she manages to cover? If you think the subject of beauty isn’t political, she’ll show you the error of your ways. Read her post about Black hair and personal freedom.

Letters from an American

You probably already know her, but she’s worth mentioning again. Heather Cox Richardson brings enlightening historical context to the jaw-dropping, often baffling political dramas of our time. If her cautionary dispatches make us feel stronger, it’s because knowledge is power. Read her commentary on a crucial Civil War battle.

Subscribe to Val’s newsletter How Not to F*ck Up Your Face on Substack or visit her on Instagram.

Have you read a fellow Substack writer recently that you enjoyed? Let us know!