Meet Nina Lorez Collins

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Nina Lorez Collins is the founder of the Facebook group for women over 40, “What Would Virginia Woolf Do?” and the corresponding website The Woolfer. She’s written the book, What Would Virginia Woolf Do? And Other Questions I Ask Myself As I Attempt to Age Without Apology, which came out in April 2018. Collins is a graduate of Barnard College, has a Masters from Columbia in Narrative Medicine, and a long professional background in book publishing as a literary scout and agent. She has four nearly grown children and lives in Brooklyn.
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Top, Zara, ; Pants, Frame

Top, Zara, ; Pants, Frame


I’m not a morning person, and left to my own devices I wake up around 9 AM. I get up, walk Muffin in the park by the river (wearing a coat over my pajamas), and then come back to tackle email. If I’m being diligent I drink hot water with lemon and take my vitamin D (Bluebonnet Vitamin D3 5000) and magnesium (Source Naturals Ultra-Mag), and at some point I’ll eat either an egg with some avocado, or fruit in plain yogurt with flaxseed. I also take Nature's Bounty B-12 Sublingual Liquid Energy and Renew Life Women's Probiotic - Ultimate Flora. I only meditate when I’m in emotional crisis.

on her childhood and growing up

I was raised by a single mom, the writer/filmmaker Kathleen Collins, in a town called Piermont about 40 miles north of NYC on the Hudson River. It was me, my younger brother Emilio, and her. She was black, my dad is white, and they divorced when I was tiny. He lived on the Upper West Side and I saw him sporadically. She had breast cancer through most of my childhood but kept it a secret until two weeks before she died, right after I turned 19. Then I took care of my brother. I went to Barnard and he went to Michigan State as a D1 wrestler. We managed to grow up without her.

on her first job out of college

Through college I worked for a great guy, David Shaw. He was a computer science professor at Columbia and hired me to be his housekeeper/personal assistant. I’ve always been organized, and the job was to shop for him, clean, pay his bills, and deal with his mail. Eventually he started one of the first hedge funds, D.E. Shaw, and I worked there as an admin person my senior year of college. At Shaw, I was referred by someone to go on a random job interview with Jutta Klein. Jutta was a literary scout for European publishers and hired me on the spot. It was my first real job after college. It was $25,000 a year, 1990, and scouting books for Bertelsmann.

Trench, Yang Li Men ; T-Shirt, Vintage ; Choker, Vintage YSL ; Pants, Sonia Rykiel
She was a powerhouse (vibrant personality, strong-willed, charismatic, intellectual) for sure, and wholly devoted to her work, as well as to us. But her inner life took center stage, and that wasn’t always easy as her child.
— on her mother, kathleen collins
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on her career in publishing and her path to becoming a writer

My mother was a great writer, sort of poetic and highly internal, and I never thought that I would write at all. It was only when I was 38 after a difficult divorce from the father of my four children that I turned to writing as a tool to help me heal.

I started as a scout for Jutta, and when I was 23 I founded my own scouting company. I did that for years but wanted to work more closely with authors. I closed that first company and started a literary agency. After my divorce, I closed my agency and took a bunch of years off to be with my four small children and focus on my personal life. I started to write magazine articles.

At 46, I created a Facebook group for women over 40 that become very popular and led me to write my first book, What Would Virginia Woolf Do? And Other Questions I Ask Myself As I Attempt to Age Without Apology. It’s part memoir/part resource and funny take on aging for women in the second half of our lives. It’s written in a conversational, girlfriend voice, and is organized according to fairly obvious categories: fashion, beauty, sex, kids, health, work. It was a lot of fun to write.

on building “the woolfer,” a community for women over 40

It’s been a surprising and organic ride. I think we’ve all learned a ton. We’re seeking support, resources, and information around the mysteries of menopause which doctors don’t really help or prepare us for. We need a lot more than prescriptions for birth control pills and antidepressants. We’re also eager to talk about our emotions around aging and being in this second half of our lives. These are feelings around an empty nest, sexuality, reinvention, ageism, dating, long-term love relationships and how to keep them alive, our bodies, and not to mention the actual mechanics! There’s a lot to discuss. Women our age are fairly ignored by popular culture, so we’ve turned to each other and found a ton of support and answers.

Top, Zara

Top, Zara

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I remember being 23 on my honeymoon and feeling “fat” and horribly self-critical. Of course, I look at those photos now and marvel at how I was young and beautiful. I try to remind myself in moments of doubt that when I’m 70, I’ll look back at pictures of myself in 2019 and think I looked fabulous. Learning how to love yourself as you are in every moment is an ongoing challenge and should be a goal for every woman. That said, I’m also a big believer in allowing ourselves to say what we feel and to sit in it sometimes. It’s part of growing and accepting ourselves too.
— on learning to love yourself no matter what age
Jacket, Rick Owens ; Pants, Frame

Jacket, Rick Owens ; Pants, Frame

on her beauty routine

Some days I feel great and other days I feel like a train ran over me. I don’t have a lot of secrets, but here’s what I do: facials at Element Healing on Henry Street three or four times a year for the extractions. The occasional fruit peel and Botox with Rose Ingleton although I’m weaning myself off. I fear I’ve wasted a lot of good money at the dermatologist’s office. I clean my face twice a day with a flat cotton pad and Garnier Skinactive Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water then slather on Rosehip Oil from Natures Leaf which is on Amazon for $20. I use any kind of drugstore exfoliant (BioNike Defence Micro-Exfoliating Scrub) in the shower a few times a week, as well as salt scrubs all over my body (Baja Zen’s Sand Body Buff Scrub and Mud Body Buff Scrub) which I love. Out of the shower, I use coconut oil liberally (everywhere!), as well as a lighter moisturizer, also coconut, called Mountain Ocean Skin Trip. Oh, and I’m also addicted to eyelash extensions! I get them done pretty much every three weeks without fail at JJ Lashes in Soho. It’s sick, but I love my fake lashes.

on her self-care routine

My secret for self-care and restoration is simple: I take to my bed. When I’m overwhelmed or sad or anxious, I take hot baths, light candles, and get into my bed surrounded by books and magazines.

on her style and shopping habits

I’m a totally erratic and super-fast shopper. No rhyme or reason or strategy. I love Joey Wölffer’s shop in Sag Harbor. I love Zara and Nordstrom Rack when I’m with my daughters. I love a good vintage store. I love a great fancy department store for shoes and sunglasses. I think my inspiration, as in most things, is my mother. At best, my look is sort of boho hippy chic. At worst, I’m in my pajamas and my hair is uncombed.

on her favorite books

Alice Munro has long been my absolute favorite author. Talk about women’s lives! No one does it better. I’ve recently gotten into Marie Kondo-ing my books. I now only keep the ones I absolutely love and know that I’ll revisit. I give the rest away, so it was easy to choose a handful of swear-bys. They are must-reads.

My children (ages 18, 20, 20, and 25). Trying to be the best support and role model I can be for them. Also, women’s stories. I’ve always been preoccupied with the inner lives of women, and now that I’m actually working in that space, day in and day out, I feel very much where I should be.
— on her motivations and inspirations
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Jacket: Côme Editions

on collecting art

My last husband pointed out to me that I have “a lot of black women” on the walls. I weirdly hadn’t noticed, but he was right! My art collection and taste in design has evolved over many years now and I’m fierce about culling and only keeping things that I love. Now that my kids are gone and I live alone, I can do this to the nth degree, so every single thing in my apartment has been chosen because I love it.

nina’s favorite books

Necessary Losses by Judith Viorst, The Bitch in the House by Cathi Hanauer, The Norton Book of Women’s Lives by Phyllis Rose, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories by Alice Munro, Open Secrets by Alice Munro, Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser, Moments of Being by Virginia Woolf, Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro, Dear Life by Alice Munro, The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante, The God of Nightmares by Paula Fox, Whatever Happened To Interracial Love by Kathleen Collins, The Essential Neruda Edited by Mark Eisner, A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

nina’s favorite movies

The Piano by Jane Campion, everything by Nicole Holofcener, The English Patient by Anthony Minghella, Hannah and Her Sisters by Woody Allen, All About Eve by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and She’s Gotta Have It by Spike Lee

nina’s favorite places IN new york city

Flowers: Seaport Flowers in Brooklyn Heights

Nails: Spa Blue on 4th Ave near Union Square

Perfume: Osswald Parfumerie on West Broadway

Museum: Neue Galerie

Bar: I have a thing for super-swank hotel bars. Almost any will do.

Workout: Alejandra Belmar of Everyday Athlete comes to the gym in my building. Also, yoga at Abhaya in Dumbo.

Favorite place to work on my laptop: Dumbo House

Coat, Vintage ; Pants, Frame ; Boots, Rag & Bone ; Bag, Marni

Coat, Vintage ; Pants, Frame ; Boots, Rag & Bone ; Bag, Marni