Unlike most existing beauty content which is contextualized around products or events--Fashion Week! Summertime! First Dates!--Pratt’s site ties beauty to the personalities of its seven contributors.
As Pratt introduced the contributors or “characters” (as she slipped up and called them) to press this morning, you get the sense that her contributors are as well cast as a boy band. There’s someone here for everyone. There’s Allegra, the glamorous one, who is dating a member of the cast of Mad Men. Marci is the xoVain Beauty Director and “nerd.” There’s Annie K, who Pratt described as the “wild child." Hannah, who was introduced to Pratt by Tavi Gevinson, serves up retro-glam and Clara Bow makeup tutorials. There’s even a set of twins! It’s a full beauty funhouse, but instead of a bearded lady, there is a shoppable post about how to date a foot fetishist despite having gross, cruddy toenails, and a MakeUnder featuring Snooki.
Cat Marnell, xoJane’s endearing and controversial (depending on your opinion) enfant terrible and former beauty director, will be writing for the site again, but not in the way that you think. We talked to Pratt about the inspiration for the site and where we can expect to read more of Marnell’s work.
Fashionista: What was the impetus for launching xoVain? Jane Pratt: The beauty coverage on xoJane was doing so well. We would get sometimes 1,000 comments on a beauty story. It was definitely our biggest category and because of [that,] we wanted to expand.
The idea for xoVain is about getting to know the cast of characters and how beauty plays a part in their everyday lives. You get to know and care about them and their beauty routines, not just because they are saying, “Here’s how to use this product.”
Where does xoVain fit in among the breadth of already existing beauty content? I don’t think anything like it exists. It falls in between what you can get on bigger beauty sites, where you can get product recommendations and shop. It’s a hybrid between [places] where you can shop, product review sites, beauty forums where people write obsessively about a specific product, and beauty video tutorials.
What did you take from the experience of working with Cat Marnell and beauty to xoVain? I think that Cat really nailed it in writing about beauty as it [relates] to so many other parts of your life. It wasn’t about just telling you about whatever products she liked at the moment. It was her life story, with beauty products woven throughout.
I hope with xoVain to have voices like Cat’s, which are that strong. Not like her, because everyone is different. But to have voices and personalities that people will get to know. I think there will be some people they love and some they hate. Some people they want to be like. And Cat will actually do stuff for xoJane, for beauty again. She fits more with xoJane. There are two slightly different vibes. xoVain is less gritty than xoJane; it’s slightly glossier looking.
Was there ever a consideration to bring Cat on board as an editor? She and I talked about it at one point. But the timing of it wasn’t right, with what I needed to do with it and what she needed to do with her own life. Also, what she wanted to do creatively is so much more in sync with xoJane. [For example,] one of our contributors Annie, did a story about how the cockroaches in her bathroom have superpowers because she takes all these vitamins and pees in the shower. That’s a great story but that’s not for xoVain. xoVain is sort of a less edgy space.