From Beauty Editor to Beauty Brand: Why I Made the Jump

Four former editors who now work on the brand side of the industry share their insights and advice in part one of our two-part series.
Author:
Publish date:

Welcome to Career Week! While we always make career-focused content a priority on Fashionista, we thought spring would be a good time to give you an extra helping of tips and tricks on how to make it in the fashion and beauty industries.

Over the past several years, as the media landscape has become less certain and its future less clear, much the opposite has happened in the beauty industry: It's absolutely thriving. Established, legacy beauty companies are doing well, yes, but with the rise of social media and digital commerce, the market has also seen a democratization that's allowed small startups and indie companies to reach consumers and amass their own sizable followings. The beauty industry is arguably more rife with opportunity than ever before. 

These dual shifts have led to a (tidal, some might say) wave of editors leaving their posts to join the very beauty brands about which they've spent years writing. And it makes sense: As brands strive to reach consumers through their own channels with quality content, authentic messaging, impeccably curated and formulated products and an expert point of view, who better to deliver on those goals than the people who have spent their careers trying it all, sorting through the BS and shtick and honing their ability to not sound like a press release or advertisement?

In part one of our two-part Career Week series, four former editors — who once worked for publications like Allure, Essence, Elle and People, and now hold positions at brands like Flesh, Flamingo, Make Up For Ever and Clove + Hallow — share their wisdom about making the jump.

Linda Wells, Founder, Flesh

Linda Wells. Photo: Courtesy

Linda Wells. Photo: Courtesy

Her editorial career path: My first job was at Vogue as an editorial assistant in the beauty department. After five years, I left to join The New York Times, first as a reporter on the paper and then as the beauty editor of The New York Times Magazine. I added the job of food editor to the beauty editor role, which meant I got to go to cooking school at night and weekends, as well as eat at the best restaurants. In 1990, I was hired by Condé Nast to start a beauty magazine before it had a name. I was the editor in chief of Allure for 25 years.

How she decided to make the jump: After I left Allure, I wrote for magazines and websites and consulted for several beauty companies. Writing for The Cut was especially joyful, thanks to Stella Bugbee, Jody Quon and the wise and deft story editors. But the work at beauty brands was really enticing and provocative. After spending my career analyzing beauty products and trends and communicating with readers, I was fascinated by the idea of exercising that muscle from another position. I joined Revlon as chief creative officer in February 2017.

Her role at FleshI created the brand — the name, the concept and the product assortment. I worked with graphic designers on the logo, industrial designers on the packaging, suppliers on the formulas and a makeup artist on the shades. I wrote the product names and most of the content for the website and the gondola, found the digital agency for the video and conceptualized the shoots. And I found the PR agency and worked with them on the strategy.

How her editorial background prepared her for the brand side: There were so many similarities between starting Flesh and starting Allure. There's the obvious, that at Allure, I tested and assessed most of the beauty products on the market. I spoke with the creators and executives behind most beauty brands. And I knew what appealed to consumers and how to communicate with them. That was hugely valuable in working on the brand side.

Why she chose Revlon and Flesh: I've always respected Revlon and had a big heart for its history. I love the whole concept behind the Most Unforgettable Women in the World Wear Revlon campaign — that idea of being unforgettable is so much more inspiring than just being pretty. And I was lucky to be given the opportunity to start Flesh while I was performing the chief creative role. I wasn't hired for that purpose, but I was thrilled to have that chance.

What the transition and learning curve was like: I spent a decent amount of time Googling acronyms under the conference table. Every business has its own language. The intricacies of supply chain, the relationship with retailers, the economics of merchandising — that was new to me. I'm really grateful that a number of smart, kind people were willing to teach me what I didn't know.

How she thinks beauty brands stand to benefit from hiring those with editorial backgrounds: There's a great history of brand creation by magazine editors. It makes so much sense to me; as an editor, you have to know the field, identify and anticipate consumer trends, exercise judgment and discernment — essentially, the meaning of editing — and express your ideas in ways that resonate with consumers.

Her advice for editors considering moving to a brand: A reporter wrote somewhere that I'd "sold out" by going to the brand side, but that kind of thinking seems antiquated. I believe you can create and sell products that enhance people's lives and make them feel better without compromising your principles. So, my advice is: Hold onto your creativity and your values, and bring them to the brand. Also, read everything — especially WWD, Beauty Inc., Business of Fashion, Fashionista and The Cut — ask questions, and treat the job as if you're training for an Olympic sport, but one that unfortunately does nothing for your glutes.

Her advice for brands looking to add those with editorial experience to their staff: Do it! There are so many talented editors, writers and art directors in media who are eager to translate their skills to a brand in fashion, beauty, travel, food — you name it. They can create really engaging content that isn't commercial, and they can view the brand and its products with clear editorial eyes. Yes, there will be a learning curve, but that's always the case. 

Siraad Dirshe, Social Content Manager, Flamingo 

Siraad Dirshe. Photo: Elliot & Erick Jimenez

Siraad Dirshe. Photo: Elliot & Erick Jimenez

Her career path: I actually became an editor by total accident — it was something I never thought I'd end up doing.

I've always been someone who loved to read and scour beauty sites, but one day I realized that most of my favorite sites didn't have content that spoke specifically to Black women. (This was pre-Fenty Beauty.) So following the advice of my literary godmother Maya Angelou, I decided to write the stories I wanted to read. I began pitching ideas to those same sites and to my surprise many said yes, which I was beyond ecstatic about. After about a year and half of freelancing while working my full-time job in marketing, Julee Wilson, who was the fashion and beauty director at Essence, reached out and asked me if I'd ever considered being a beauty editor.

How she decided to make the jump: I actually worked on the brand side prior to working into editorial, first for Fresh and then Clinique, both in marketing. After working in editorial for about a year, I began to miss being able to dive deep on a single brand. I also knew I wanted to try my hand at social. 

Her role at Flamingo: I'm the social content manager at Flamingo. I get to work with our creative and customer service teams to create engaging and educational content for our community. My primary responsibilities include creating the content calendar for Flamingo's social channels and managing our community.

How her editorial background prepared her for the brand side: My editorial background was insanely helpful, and invaluable, in preparing me for this role. While it obviously helped my writing skills, what I have to say I'm the most grateful for is how strong my beauty BS meter is. In editorial, you interact with a lot of brands so you can quickly spot inauthentic or ineffective ones. 

Why she chose Flamingo: I thought I wanted to move more into the wellness industry. However, when I learned about Flamingo and that they wanted to help womxn reconnect with their bodies I thought that was really special. I knew it was the right fit when I got genuinely excited to work on a project they gave me during the interview process.

Her advice for editors considering moving to a brand: Start with the brands you really love and reach out to them (especially if they're smaller) and see if they have any needs that may not even be on their company's site. Try to learn as many skills as possible while on the editorial side. Sit with the social media team for a week, learn the basics of Photoshop — all those skills become helpful on the brand side.

Her advice for brands looking to add those with editorial experience to their staff: Be open and be less rigid about what they believe their ideal" candidate looks like. Look for folks who can bring a different perspective to the team, which those with an editorial background certainly can.

Jillian Ruffo, Copywriter, Make Up For Ever

Jillian Ruffo. Photo: Lauren Perlstein

Jillian Ruffo. Photo: Lauren Perlstein

Her career path: Beauty internships at Allure and Fitness, beauty assistant at Seventeen, branded content at Bustle, three years at People as associate beauty editor.

How she decided to make the jump: I'd been thinking about making the switch to the brand side for about two years, but the biggest challenge was finding the right one. I made a list of brands I loved, and Make Up For Ever was at the top of that list.

Her role at Make Up For Ever: I'm the only copywriter in our U.S. office, so wherever there's copy to be written, it's usually my responsibility.

How her editorial background prepared her for the brand side: Writing copy for a brand is kind of like putting a magazine page together. Each headline, caption and description builds up to one overall message. Plus, finding ways to get readers to click on a promotional email is fairly similar to getting people to click on an article about the latest Kardashian hair change.

Why she chose Make Up For Ever? I've always been asked if I'm a makeup, hair or skin-care girl. I've always said makeup — my mom is a makeup artist, and I really admire and respect the artistry industry. That aspect is huge at Make Up For Ever. Plus, the products are amazing.

Her advice for editors considering moving to a brand: Do it as soon as you can. But make sure to find a brand you absolutely love and stand behind — not just their products, but their overall image and voice as well.

Kate Foster, Media & Communications Manager, Clove + Hallow

Kate Foster. Photo: Courtesy

Kate Foster. Photo: Courtesy

Her career path: I started as a freelance writer at sites like Refinery29 and xoVain, then became a beauty assistant at Seventeen, and was promoted to assistant beauty editor for Seventeen and Cosmopolitan about a year later. When the beauty hub formed at Hearst, I was made associate beauty editor on the lifestyle brands (Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, Women's Health, Redbook, Woman's Day, Good Housekeeping and Prevention), and in 2018 I was promoted to beauty editor at Elle. I left Hearst for Clove + Hallow in March 2019.

How she decided to make the jump: It was a really hard decision — I'd dreamed of being a magazine editor since I was nine years old. I felt that I'd written most of the stories I had wanted to as a staffer, and realized that my dream was allowed to evolve, especially as print magazines become a less viable career option. Ultimately I decided that beauty writing led me to a new dream, working in branded beauty. I've also been able to continue satiating my passion for writing by freelance writing on the side.

Her role at Clove + Hallow: I'm the Media & Communications Manager at Clove + Hallow. I'm the brand's voice: I handle all PR and copywriting efforts.

Why she chose Clove + Hallow: I knew that I would only ever leave editorial for a very smart, clean brand that aligned with my personal morals. I also wanted to get in on a brand while it was still considered "indie," because I wanted to be able to observe and learn about every part of the branding process. 

What she's learned about the industry working for a brand: How scary it is out there: In the age of social media, if your product isn't perfect or the shade range isn't big enough, you will be torn apart. It's a blessing and a curse, because brands do need to be held accountable. Thankfully, that hasn't happened to Clove + Hallow, but I think any indie brand has that fear.

Her advice for editors considering moving to a brand: Don't jump ship for just any brand — wait until your dream one comes knocking, one that really aligns with your ethics. It can be hard work, but it's really rewarding if you're supporting a brand you care about.

The above interviews have been edited and condensed.

Never miss the latest fashion industry news. Sign up for the Fashionista daily newsletter.