When you hear someone say they’ve found their dream job, it’s almost always followed by a behind-the-back eye-roll. No matter how much you love what you do or who you work with, there’ll never be pure perfection in your workplace. That is, of course, unless you’re Si Si Penaloza. Probably the one person whose life we’d consider going to great lengths to steal (watch out, gurl!), Si Si reports on the coolest of the cool for a multitude of amazing publications: international spa reviews for The Globe and Mail, celebrity insider parties for NUVO, and the list goes on. Jealous? Jealous! We’d likely hate her if she wasn’t such a freakin’ awesome person who you can’t help but adore and admire. Find out more about this uber-talented bodacious beauty in our Q&A below…
Tell us a bit about yourself. What should people know?
I’ve published spa reviews and features in The Globe and Mail, Canada’s leading national newspaper, going on four years now. In that time, I have reviewed over 200 spas globally – from Hyderabad to Hermitage Bay, from Boracay to Bora Bora. I’m a bonafide skincare junkie. At the same time, I’m wary of so-called miracle creams or serums. Inner serenity makes women far more beautiful than any $300 jar of night cream ever could. I get my serenity from practicing yoga at 889 Yoga, an upbeat, spiritual hub that makes the transformative power of yoga possible for everyone. The vibe is all about embracing the truth of who we really are – and, moreover – what we’re made of. 889 inspires students to believe in the beauty of their practice; their inventive approach is utterly spellbinding – best teaching roster in Toronto.
I’m also willing to try any kind of spa treatment, no matter how over the top or squeamish it makes other people. Flesh-eating fish, platza treatments (wherein a former Russian gymnast type pummels you, whips you with birch branches and douses you with buckets of cold water). If it’s on a spa menu, I’m happy to try it once. And I am as devoted to my aesthetician/massage therapist/hair stylist as I am to my boyfriend. Translation: I never cheat. I know the real thing when I see it. Once you find a beauty practitioner you love, hold onto them.
How did you get interested in the world of beauty?
The transformative power of lipstick. As a 19 year-old living in Manhattan, I quickly found there was a particular plum shade of MAC that could get me out of anything – speeding tickets, bar tabs, library fines.
True blue beauty aficionados know that expensive doesn’t always mean better. Some of the most tried and true beauty classics – think Tweezerman, Maybelline Great Lash, Philosophy’s Hope in a Jar – can be found at Murale or Shoppers Drug Mart for less than a pricey cocktail.
What’s your beauty must-have?
As I’m time-crunched and perennially up in the air, I haven’t got time for a limp product line up. I rely on Medik8 to get me through the most stressful weeks (Sundance, Cannes, Venice, TIFF). Medik8 professional-strength cosmeceuticals are designed to target skin hyperpigmentation, dryness and redness. For everyday skincare, I like La Mer, Natura Bisse and Tata Harper.
Medik8 Correct Range is nothing short of miraculous for sleep-deprived social monsters – the telomere extenders tackle redness while peptide fragments engage dark circles and puffiness under the eyes. But Medik8 White Balance Click is my all time favourite saving grace – the powerful serum features kojic acid and alpha-arbutin to dramatically improve the overall skin tone, giving a luminous finish. The perks of Asian heritage means wrinkles and sag is not that much of a concern for me but overall brightened skin tone is. Best of all, this serum does not leave my skin sticky, and blends effortlessly – in fact I could easily use this fluid serum both day and night, under makeup or nude.
What beauty/style trends are you excited for this year?
The power pout. And no one is doing it better these days than Artdeco. Sure, the French are known for their flirtatious eyes. But the Germans sure know how to plump up a mouth. Think warm, gorgeous, highly-pigmented reds. Wow, simply, wow. One luxurious swipe gives me full-spectrum, dramatic, lush color. The divine Dita Von Teese knows a thing or two about makeup. When she collaborated with Artdeco last year, the popular German brand was suddenly on every beauty pro’s radar. The arrival of Artdeco in Canada is a true cause for celebration – the creative and affordable makeup line offers a modular compact system for bespoke customization that’s truly user-friendly. Eye shadows are highly wearable, flattering and most importantly, finely-milled.
The cat eye trend is not going anywhere soon. Artdeco’s black eyeliners can get you from just-work-up to runway diva in under a minute. Highly pigmented, cool-toned black that goes on smooth as butter with not a single annoying tug or pull. Despite the creamy texture, it really does stay on all night. Bombshell glamour that won’t break the bank? Sign me up.
What’s your favourite spa service?
The Moon and Chrysanthemum Autumn Rites at The Four Seasons Hangzhou at West Lake, hands down. It’s a ritualistic revelation for the spirit, as well as the physical body. The spa here is one of the best in China, a total gem. The treatment starts with an Emperor’s moon bath, then you’re exfoliated with a black-pearl and chrysanthemum body polish. By the time you’re wrapped in an osmanthus blossom and chrysanthemum body cocoon, don’t be surprised if you’re drooling with delight. It’s achingly good. Using the ancient techniques of qigong and energy-clearing movements, the final moonlight tide massage will send you to your happy place. Hangzhou was once dubbed the “City of Heaven” by Marco Polo, and this sentiment is certainly captured by this property. Mingling ancient Chinese serenity and best-in-class modern luxuries, the Four Seasons Hangzhou is the perfect antidote to Shanghai’s 24-hour buzz.
And favourite spa?
Matakauri Lodge in New Zealand brings out the hedonist in me. It’s not the biggest or flashiest spa, but in every respect, it is perfect for the kind of spa goer who privileges privacy and abhors busy locker rooms. The whole lodge is one big spa come to think of it – a body-holiday for the senses. For me, the location makes it the standout experience of my decade long career. Perched on the edge of a pine forest outside Queenstown, with uninterrupted views to glacier-carved Lake Wakatipu and towering Cecil Peak, the spa at Matakauri offers a hushed, bespoke experience in an unrivalled natural environment.
I loved the holistic approach with the Aromasoul Body Scrub, a custom exfoliation with coconut shell, rice, olive or mother of pearl scrub. The spa offers two intimate treatment suites, each complete with shower, changing room and private deck surrounded by positively Jurassic vegetation. For a complete wellness experience, wrap up your spa treatment with relaxation time in the adjacent sauna, jacuzzi and heated swimming pool.
What’s the one – yes, just one – product you can’t live without?
I would have to say lip gloss. The go-to glosses in my Hall of Fame: Stila, Hard Candy, Victoria’s Secret, Lise Watier and L’Oreal.
If you were a nail polish, your colour name would be ________.
Poppy Paralian. Poppy as I love the delicate mandarin hue of poppy petals. Paralian as I enjoy living by the sea.
Favourite beauty/style ad campaign of the past decade.
That’s a tough one, as there have been many standouts. Marc Jacobs’ Daisy fragrance comes to mind, shot by Jacobs’ long-time collaborator Juergen Teller. It features Frida Gustavsson frolicking around in a sea of daisies. Next up, Sofia Coppola – film’s most stylish screenwriter and director – will direct the forthcoming Daisy Marc Jacobs fragrance campaign. Of course, I also loved Sophia shot by Teller in 2002 in Marc Jacobs’ signature fragrance campaign where she played muse.
Calvin Klein’s infamous leveraging of Mark Wahlberg’s trademark six pack is a classic guilty pleasure. And their glowing campaigns with Christy Turlington? Not too shabby. In an industry-changing move, Calvin Klein is giving back to its longtime model by supporting her non-profit, Every Mother Counts, with a $5 million advertising campaign. Very cool.
Let’s get social for a mo’. How can people stay up-to-date of your primping and pampering?
Please do follow me at @SiSiTravels on Twitter and Instagram – I love engaging with my savvy and robust Twitter following! I update everyday with insider news and reviews from the front lines of travel and lifestyle. Hotel junkies can also check out my site The Travel Insider. All my reviews are live on The Globe and Mail site. I also publish in celebrity and style reportage in NUVO Magazine.