It's not a hard sell to convince people to take beauty advice — or buy makeup — from a supermodel, but Lindsay Ellingson, the co-creator and creative director of the cosmetics line Wander Beauty, is an especially convincing case. First, there are few women who've had such exclusive access to the best hair and makeup teams in the business (the former Victoria's Secret Angel has modeled for Chanel, Valentino and Christian Dior over the years). Second, she genuinely loves makeup — in fact, she's been pulling off her own red carpet looks for years. And finally: As someone who was scouted while studying biology at UC San Diego, she geeks out on the science behind new products.
Still, in a market where it feels like there's a new beauty brand popping up every second, Wander Beauty, her travel-inspired, cruelty-free brand of cosmetics, has been a striking success story. In the year since it launched on QVC, it's not only been a big-seller on the channel, but Net-a-Porter and Sephora have also picked up the brand. Clearly the industry is taking notice — and so are consumers, thanks in no small part to Ellingson's use of her Instagram account as a place to showcase the products in action on her own ridiculously symmetrical face.
So how did this self-described introvert get over her social-media shyness, establish herself within the influencer space and launch a major beauty brand? I got her to spill it all. Spoiler: There's a special selfie light involved.
How did you get interested in beauty?
It really started when I was a dancer in high school and college. I had competitions every weekend and quickly became a pro at stage makeup, including applying false lashes and face jewels. When I started modeling it was a whole new world of beauty — I felt like a kid in a candy store. I was exposed to the most talented artists, French pharmacies and new beauty trends all over the world. I absorbed so much information.
How did you meet your co-founder Diyva Gugnani?
We met at a salon opening on the Upper East Side [in New York]. While we come from different worlds, she's a serial entrepreneur and a busy mom of two, and I spent the past 10 years working as a model, so we quickly bonded over our love of travel and beauty. That laid the foundation for our brand. Wander Beauty simplifies your beauty routine with skin-loving multitaskers. Our philosophy is "less is more."
You started with how-to videos on social media ahead of Wander's launch. How did that decision come about?
I was doing my own makeup for red carpet events for many years, which started to catch the attention of various press outlets. They would call my publicist asking who did my makeup and were impressed when he said "she did!" I knew I needed to start sharing this hidden talent and needed a great team to help me do so. Our how-to videos have been so well-received by our followers and beauty editors and journalists — they really helped to build my credibility as a beauty expert.
You've been quoted as saying you're an introvert. How did you get over that and start sharing on social media?
I am an introvert by nature but have learned the skills to be an extrovert, which is a very valuable thing, especially at events or on live TV. I've been on QVC several times and it's a great platform to share our brand story. Sharing beauty tips, looks and videos on social media has been so much fun for me. That's a part of my life I love to share. What's nice about social media is you have complete control over how open you want to be. It's a great tool for all entrepreneurs no matter if you're an introvert or extrovert.
Do you ever read comments?
I love reading the comments and reviews for our brand. Our customers' voices really matter and we incorporate their feedback when developing new [products]. We also do a lot of crowdsourcing for names and shades on our Instagram.
Looking back, do you see any link between your interests in science and your interests in beauty?
Yes! I love learning about new ingredients and how they will benefit your skin. We source ingredients from all over the world. One of my favorites is marula oil in our Wanderout Dual Lipsticks; it's a potent hydrator packed with omegas that absorb easily into your skin for lasting hydration.
What have you learned along the way about shooting DIY videos?
I've learned that the more raw and personal, the better. I often shoot in my bedroom with my dog running around in the background; she loves the camera. Lighting is so important as well, so I use natural daylight mixed with my Glamcor [a sunlight-mimicking light], which has a place to hold my iPhone. Most importantly, I always try to teach our fans something new, whether it's a new technique or up-and-coming trend. That's what they tend to love.
How about taking selfies?
It's all about great lighting and a special moment. I don't like taking mindless selfies, it feels a little self-absorbed. But I do love sharing my makeup looks for red carpet events and behind-the-scenes photos on set.
And doing makeup for Instagram?
I keep my skin very fresh and dewy with our Catch the Light Highlighter on my cheekbones, inner corner of my eyes and brow bones. That way I don't have to use a filter [on Instagram] too often, although I do love Valencia.
What's next for the brand?
We have our new Catch The Light Highlighters and On The Glow Bronzers launching in mid-May. We are also working on a really innovative mascara and a few other amazing multitaskers for the fall.