the work of a makeup fairy
Updated: Jan 17, 2019
I spent nearly 4 incredible years at Bare Escentuals (BE). They were among some of the best years of my career as an executive assistant, and later as a Chief of Staff.
When I joined BE, I supported Myles McCormick at the time that he held the dual titles of CFO and COO. Prior to joining BE, I had never worked with an executive that held both titles, simultaneously. Needless to say, we were a very busy team. Myles was a memorable and forthright leader. I recall a conversation we had during one of our first 1:1s, when he shared some of his thoughts on being part of such a dynamic and demanding organization. "BE isn't for everyone and it isn't forever." Wow. I found this incredibly honest, and frankly, it also left me feeling a little scared. What exactly had I gotten myself into?
I soon found out. I already knew from nearly 4 1/2 years at Sephora that people who choose to build their careers in beauty are some of the brightest, most passionate and talented people on the planet. This was a truth at BE. Talent and passion ran incredibly high. People weren't afraid to stand up for what they believed was best for the brand and ultimately for the company. I heard the word "fearless" a great deal when I joined the startup world, but I am convinced that fearlessness has its roots in the beauty industry. We found a way to strike an undeniable balance between the fact that while we weren't building rockets, our products were making a difference in the lives of so many women and in many ways, big and small, in the lives of the people that each of them touched.
Creating market-leading products and putting customers first were non-negotiables that every single person on the BE team was expected to embrace and lean into, and lean in we did. Some form of product education touched every employee, and external messaging was taken to heart as it could always be found throughout the San Francisco Headquarters.
The 2011 'Force of Beauty' campaign, Pretty Is Not Enough got a lot of attention and it got a lot of press. I was intrigued by the notion that some people found the ads offensive. I believe internal beauty is its own amazing and intangible thing. The choice to wear makeup is a personal one, and if wearing it gives someone a boost of confidence as they face the world, that's a fantastic place to be. I felt proud knowing that if a person who enjoys wearing makeup chose to wear Bare Escentuals, they were using superior products. My favorite treatment of the campaign ad was the fuchsia and white text on a black background, so I had to hang it in my life size office and, of course, in my mini office.
I feel fortunate to have been part of BE during some big, beautiful years. I enjoyed working with Myles as I learned more about our business and was expected to step up my game. After Myles' decision to move on, working with Simon as his CoS when he stepped into the CEO role, was both exciting and rewarding. I loved the products almost as much as I loved the people, and I felt that I was living my best BE life.
Fast forward a few phenomenal years after the 'Force of Beauty' campaign, and I was in a place where I felt the need to push beyond my comfort zone. I was ready to challenge myself to explore opportunities outside of the industry I knew and loved, the one that I had spent nearly a decade in. BE was a big part of my life, and it was an extension of my family. At least once a quarter, I would bring my daughter to the office and she would have fairytale days filled with trying on makeup, getting way too much attention, and frolicking in sparkling glam. Fuchsia, shimmering gold and chandeliers!? Yes!! My Genevieve was all about it. If she heard me even mention an upcoming special event to my husband, right away she would ask if there was any way she could attend.
My little girl was mildly obsessed with Leslie, and she was convinced that I worked in a magical place... because I did.
At first, as I attempted to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable, the very thought of working outside of beauty unsettled me, but as I watched my young daughter grow, I knew that it was important for her to know that while I enjoyed building a career in beauty and I loved makeup, I wasn't really "Mommy, the Makeup Fairy."
(Yes, that was the nickname she had given me.) I wanted her to know that once I decided that I had gone as far as I could in the beauty industry, that I could try entirely new, difficult things, things that I had never attempted before in an untapped industry. I just knew that the time had come for me to spread my wings in a new direction. A hyper-growth tech startup sounded just terrifying enough... After all, how hard could it be?