Susan Kelechi Watson wows us every week on the hit NBC show This Is Us. Her natural beauty—from her bouncy curls to her tight curves—is the perfect embodiment of her character, Beth Pearson, who is, well ... perfect.
As the TV mother of two daughters—and now foster daughter Deja—with dream husband Randall ever by her side, Beth is a decision-maker, unflappably weathering challenges with a Vulcan-like logic seemingly guiding her every action. She’s a Clair Huxtable for our generation—with a touch of Michelle Obama’s steely nerve and reserve. Maybe it was foreshadowing that Watson was once chosen by fellow Howard alumnus Phylicia Rashad to study Shakespeare with a London theater company.
So far, 2018 has literally been a golden year for Watson, who was awarded a Golden Globe as part of the best ensemble in a drama and nominated for an NAACP Image Award for outstanding supporting actress. But what she treasures most is her time relaxing at home.
“I’m directly descended from Jamaica,” she tells me over the phone from Los Angeles, where the bicoastal native New Yorker keeps a second home. When she was a kid, the center of life was the house where she and her six siblings grew up; her grandmother lived with them, and they were surrounded by half sisters and 32 cousins who lived in the neighborhood and visited often.
Although Watson is single at the moment, her memories of a busy family life live on in the way she finishes her home. “Kitwana Robinson is a great Jamaican artist. I have one of his paintings, and I wanted pops of colors in my apartment to come from that.”
When she’s not working (which is about 90 percent of the time), Watson likes to entertain at home. Even though she plays a superwoman on the show, her L.A. home was transformed top to bottom in two days flat, thank to her partnership with HomeGoods interior decorating maestro Mike Harrison. Afrocentric patterns tie things together, while pillows and blankets are piled on plushy couches “that I have to pull folks out of, they get so lost.”
Entertaining in her newly appointed home is something Watson hopes to do more often. She hasn’t had the cast of her hit show over for a soiree yet, but it’s on her get-it-done list. “I always had it in my mind to have a big gathering inspired by the Harlem Renaissance, where people would gather in the upper room of somebody’s brownstone; all the literati with Langston Hughes and the great poets—all the people you respect and admire who inspire me.”
Wondering what Watson’s guest room is like? “It’s so nice, I don’t want anybody to touch anything in there!” We both burst out laughing, knowing that even though no one wants to be the uptight homeowner giving every guest the side eye while you slip a coaster under their glass or vacuum under their feet as soon as they sit down, sometimes you can’t help it.
Watson says that her home is a place where the main vibe is “peaceful oasis.”
“For me, the bedroom is a place where I totally disconnect and wind down,” she says. “I don’t do anything in there but sleep.”
Of course, Watson and I chat about her beauty routine. She’s installed a glam-team-ready vanity station for red-carpet nights, but depending on how you look at it, her daily beauty routine is surprisingly pared down: refreshingly simple if you’re #TeamNatural, or a bucket of cold water if you’re a beauty junkie.
Muji face wash is a favorite; “it’s very highly moisturizing,” she says. As for serums and face creams, wait for it: Vitamin E oil, cocoa butter and “occasionally a little vitamin C” are the only genies in a jar Watson uses to keep her skin looking good. For her, it’s got to be “quick and effective” with no additives or ingredients she “can’t pronounce.”
She also tweezes her own brows, by the way. And as for makeup? “Most of the time, I’m working and I get it done.” Her go-to foundation is Becca in Bamboo.
But who hasn’t watched Watson as Beth Pearson, with her gorgeous natural locks coiffed to perfection and said, “Dang! How do I get my hair to do that, too?” Girl, her hair routine is as simple as her beauty routine—she’s simply got it like that (and she’s super nice, too, so don’t hate). But here’s Susan Kelechi Watson’s real secret to great hair on-screen and on the red carpet: “Hair is fun, and I play around with hair!”
That includes adding a little extra when needed: “I’m natural to keep my hair healthy,” she says. “I use a lot of hair because we do so many different styles on set, and I try to keep heat off of my own hair. We use clips and we play around with crochet and braids.” Noticing that her curls “weren’t popping so much,” she recently changed her shampoo to something that was more hydrating ... but of course, she is so unbothered, she can’t remember the name.
But here’s what we know for sure: In Watson’s world, it’s all about a simple, effective and, of course, sensational transformation.