Chatting with Samantha Leal is like chatting with an old pal—even if you just met her. She has an infectious, bubbly energy; a relaxed sense of humor (“What is math?” she says when trying to remember how long she’s lived in LA); and an inherent intelligence that is admirable without being intimidating.
As the deputy editor at wellness website Well+Good, she spends her days writing and editing articles on the things that make us feel well (and… good). She’s also working hard to push the boundaries about what wellness even means—it’s not just bubble baths and turmeric lattes, after all. It’s finance, it’s career, it’s identity. It’s the foundation of life.
Leal is our Lavender muse; she embodies the gentle femininity, the love of all things cozy, and the quiet confidence of this new Stone Diffuser hue. From her home in Santa Monica—which she moved into recently, after spending over 10 years in New York—Leal reflects on the state of the media, how she’s pushing her publication forward, and how she finds joy in the simple moments.
What got you wanting to be in the writing and editing world?
I always knew that I wanted to be a writer of some sort. Growing up, I was always one of those kids who read a lot and kind of huddled in my room reading things cover to cover. So when it came time to go to college and pick a major, I chose journalism because I saw a direct path to a career at that point. I knew I wanted to work in magazines.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the media right now?
I think the biggest thing is really understanding that how people are consuming media has changed so much and will continue to change—and if you’re not adaptable, it’s not going to be so great for your brand or your publication. And I think the other thing that goes under the radar a little bit is about what you’re saying, who you’re speaking to, and how you want your brand or publication to grow. Not every publication or brand should and could be a huge conglomerate or reach the masses. There’s power in a really solidified, strong audience, and there’s power in what we used to call a “niche” audience.
How do you apply that to Well+Good?
I really try for this brand to reach people that it hasn’t reached before. It’s one of the wellness legacy brands on the internet that has existed for quite some time and has really garnered such an audience, and I don't want to ostracize anyone who has identified with this brand for so long. But I also want to expand who the brand is talking to—so, thinking beyond just different demographics that haven’t been reached. I’m Latina, and I certainly didn’t feel like the wellness industry was speaking to me at any point for a lot of years, and it still has some speed bumps when it comes to that. But also looking past demographics and looking at things like: what counts as wellness? When you’re talking about fitness or you’re talking about beauty or you’re talking about skincare—these things cost money. So let’s talk about financial wellness. What systemic situations impede people from health and wellness? Looking at different facets of wellness is definitely of interest to me, and hopefully of interest to consumers who may have felt left out of the wellness conversation for so long.
You were living in New York and took this job with you when you moved to LA during the pandemic. What sparked that?
I left New York at the end of July 2021, so I’ve been out here for a couple of months—five months, six months? What is math? I don’t know. I was there for 11 years and just wanted a change of pace, and the pandemic showed us that there is nothing like the present.
Do you feel like your home aesthetic changed at all from New York to LA?
A little bit, but I still have the same crux or ethos, which is kind of eclectic cozy. I think in New York, it was much more of that darker tone, but here in Santa Monica it’s much more open. I’m seeing a lot of the water, so a lot of my tones and palettes here are much more muted than they were in New York; I had a lot more darker, bold colors in New York. So yeah, I think it’s changed a little bit. But I think the ethos is the same, which is just kind of intentional clutter.
Yeah, exactly. I didn’t really move with a lot of furniture; I was going to buy it all out here. I had a friend who actually moved out here, I think, with two suitcases. And I was like, “That could never be me.” I mean, I’m certainly not a maximalist by any means; I live pretty minimally. But I do have sentimental things that I like to surround myself with—a lot of stuff from my travels that makes me feel connected to and grounded to a home. So yeah: 30 boxes later, here we are.
Aside from those things, how do you feel most comfortable at home? And find the beauty in the everyday moments at home?
I think that I’m very privileged in that I get to create a home in such a way that really sustains me. It did in New York, and it does here. I got to furnish it the way I like, got to decorate it the way I want. It’s all me and my stuff. I generally pick every piece with real intention.
The words that often come from friends and family who’ve seen both of my spaces is that they feel really cozy or homey. And I think that’s really important to me. I don’t love sterile spaces. I want it to feel really lived-in and have a lot of character.
How does scent fit into that?
I’m a big scent person; I love fragrance in general, both for myself and my home. It’s really important for me to create different moods—especially as I spend so much time at home. It’s so nice to be able to change oils throughout the day to signal to your brain that part of your day is done. In the morning I often do a brighter citrusy scent to get me going, and then as I transition towards night or towards the end of my workday, it’s really more about the woody scents or the Lavenders that make me feel more homey or perhaps even induce sleep if I’m having trouble. I think it’s important to kind of bookmark your time.
The Stone Diffuser looks really nice, which I appreciate. It’s nice to have as far as being able to take a moment for myself and just turn it on, take a breath.
Are there any other things that you do to get that breath throughout the day?
I think having little rituals or moments in your day is really important, especially now. Every morning I make my coffee, or sometimes I make tea, and have a moment to myself. I work mostly Eastern hours, so I’m getting up before the sun’s even up most of the time. You have to wake yourself up in those moments. Also having lunch away from the screen, and then ending my day usually with some sort of skincare situation to wash off the day, have been the ways I take mini moments for myself.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.