Know what skills you lack, hire someone to do what you can’t do, but learn as much as you can anyway. I hired an agency to build my website, and when I saw the first draft, I truly saw the potential for what my business could be. Even though I worked in e-commerce for L’Oreal many years ago, I’m not the best with technology, so I knew I needed professional help. That said, I wish I’d learned more about the technology beforehand so I could have been more prepared to know what to ask my web builders for, and to hold my project manager accountable. There’s a lot I had to figure out in the midst of the holiday season that I just didn’t have time for. My customers didn’t suffer from it, but my sleeping habits did.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Sotomayor.
With 17 years of experience in beauty editorial, red carpet, fashion, film, television, and beauty brand development — ranging from mass market media to luxury brands, Andrew Sotomayor has made a name for himself as an industry expert who inspires wellness and empowerment, an on-camera professional, and a go-to resource for makeup, beauty trends, temporary tattoos and more.
Refusing to be limited to one area of the beauty industry, Andrew became a frequent presenter in department stores and on live television; a makeup artist for 22 seasons of New York Fashion Week; and a celebrity makeup artist for Grammy winning singers, three daughters of two US Presidents, one presidential candidate, one knight, one dame, some of the most powerful female CEOs in America, and eight Academy Award winning actors. His latest endeavor, Oracle Jayne Station — his own signature line of exclusive handmade fragrances using organic & wild ingredients. Inspired by the desert, naturally sourced, and authentically emotional, Oracle Jayne Station is the premiere product collection from the Emmy Winning makeup artist.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born in Dallas and grew up on Long Island. My grandparents lived in El Paso, Texas and in Tucson, Arizona, so that’s where my sister and I used to spend good chunks of our summer vacations growing up. That time really connected us to our Mexican American heritage, and particularly in Tucson, it connected us to nature and the desert.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Growing up, we were very creative children. We always had lots of art supplies, science toys, stuffed animals, and books. My father used to say, “I don’t care if you make a mess, as long as you clean it up.” I’m sure that idea encourages me still as an adult to try new things, swing big, and see what sticks. Exploring, making messes, mistakes, learning, are all part of building a career or a business.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I’m listening to “Best Friends” hosted by Sasheer Zamata and Nicole Byer. I love how they try new things, their hilarious senses of humor, and that they truly don’t try to be anyone besides themselves. Those are such core life practices.
The books, “The Five Second Rule” by Mel Robbins, “You’re a Badass” by Jen Sincero, and honestly, “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington have all made big impacts in my life. Arianna gave me a copy of her book when I met her with a client many years ago.
As far as influential films, The Muppet Movie was my all-time favorite as a child. It seems inevitable I would seek out a career in TV, film, fashion, and on Broadway…I’m definitely surrounded by an equally diverse cast of characters. Also, “Nine-to-Five”. My mother tricked me into watching it saying there were cartoons. What I didn’t realize is that between that movie and letting me stay up late to watch reruns of “Murphy Brown”, “I Love Lucy”, and “Mary Tyler Moore” she was ultimately preparing me for a career working for powerful and inspiring women.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
My beauty career began as a holiday job selling Chanel perfume before I went to college. I ended up working behind the Lancome makeup counters every summer, and at the Molton Brown flagship in London. I’ve done makeup for eight Academy Award winning actors, and one time for Kamala Harris, appeared on live television, been a spokesperson for La Mer and L’Occitane, been nominated for an Emmy three times (and won one). I’ve done 22 seasons of New York Fashion week, designed the temporary tattoos for the Broadway musicals “West Side Story” and “Company”, and I’m the makeup department head for “The Other Two” on HBO Max.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
In the beginning, I tried to catch up on some things at home, but as it carried on, it was devastating seeing millions of Americans lose their jobs, especially those who normally work in film, television, or theater. Plus, the thousands of salespeople, cab drivers, waiters, chefs, hotel employees that rely on the arts and entertainment attractions. I’ve become more vocal and more active on issues that matter to me by getting involved with organizations like BeautyVotes.org and Americans For The Arts, and I’ve been building my values into my very first luxury perfume and body line, Oracle Jayne Station.
There are people like Nicole Hollis from Beauty Votes, David Yi from Very Good Light, and Ethan Steimel from The Artistic Finance Podcast who have worked very hard to change the conversations about voting and about artists getting paid fairly, and we’re not alone in this effort.
I did live interviews for Beauty Votes with 21 people in the beauty industry including journalists like Amber Kallor and Baze Mpinja, celebrity makeup artists like Daniel Martin, Matin Maulawizada, and Lisa Aharon, and drag queen Alexis Michelle (from “Rupaul’s Drag Race” and “Dragnificent” on TLC), plus makeup artists from across the country who aren’t famous, but their voices that matter just as much.
Particularly in the beauty industry, many of us have historically been told to behave, be cute, be compliant, be quiet, and avoid controversy. However, single women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and young people, who make up this industry and its customers, also make up 65.5% of the eligible voting population in America.
There’s nothing controversial about voting. There’s nothing controversial about human rights. I feel passionately that making shades of foundation for everyone, or hiring diverse spokespeople is only scratching the surface. You need to do those things just to make sales. I want all of us to understand that it’s artists, workers, and consumers who generate wealth. Ethically, big businesses need to show up for us.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
In June, I did over 20 hours of interviews with Black or LGBTQ owned small businesses using Instagram Live. Between that and my Facebook birthday fundraiser, we raised $3,000 for charity, taught a lot of people how to do their own fundraisers, and brought attention to racial justice and LGBTQ equality.
I did it because I was angry that the biggest beauty brands in the world were continuing to do so little to fight for racial justice. The year before, a representative from Maybelline asked me for referrals to trans women for their Pride campaign, but didn’t want to pay them. I thought, this is the largest makeup brand in the world, and they want representatives from one of the most underemployed, most at-risk, communities in America to work for them for free?
I was really inspired by the small business owners and how they were choosing to be vocal about issues that matter, giving back to their customers by sharing knowledge, using better quality organic ingredients, and delivering great service. Big businesses often have excuses why they don’t do these things. I decided to take these principals and my own experience and start a brand I also could believe in. I feel like I have something to prove.
How are things going with this new initiative?
I’m definitely exhausted all the time, I’m making products, shipping out orders, maintaining the website, developing future formulas, handling finances, ordering supplies, and managing social media, all on my own. That said, we’ve launched, we had a modest but good first holiday season, and I’m getting great feedback. It seems like everyone who’s heard about my brand is excited to try the products or to help me with advice.
It feels great to make decisions all day about how to build a more ethical company, whether it’s choosing to buy harder to find organic and fair trade certified ingredients, sealing boxes with paper tape instead of plastic, paying fair wages to the artists and vendors I work with, and of course choosing to go beyond not testing on animals or being “cruelty free” and choosing to be totally vegan and use no animal ingredients at all.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Makeup artist Louie Zakarian has been the Makeup Department Head at “Saturday Night Live” for over 20 years. I worked on the show for eight seasons. Louie listed me on the Emmys ballot in 2017, and we won. Primarily being a freelancer, it’s the longest I’ve been at any job. It’s surreal to think who I was at the beginning and who I am now. Especially working as much as I had in the fashion industry, it was a big adjustment when I began doing more TV, but fortunately I had great mentors around me. Walking in with a chip on my shoulder, I eventually realized I was surrounded by some of the best in the business, with amazing careers behind them, which they weren’t as quick to flaunt.
Louie is an appreciative, focused, and fun boss to have, but he leaves no room for drama. He leads a team. He’s treated me kindly but also fairly, and given me chances to change when I’ve made mistakes. Working in such competitive industries, I’ve seen or experienced a lot of people who treat their colleagues or employees as disposable. Louie has always treated me as a professional. When people asked what changed most about my career after I won an Emmy, I say that it changed the way I view my responsibility. I didn’t win it by accident, but I do have colleagues who deserve one just as much as I do or more. It’s an object in my home that reminds me I have no excuses not to work hard and always do my job the best I possibly can.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
There have been an innumerable number of coincidences from my past throughout the creation of my brand. I got some time to visit rural Vermont and Provincetown, Massachusetts, that happened to be on their own hilltops. My father’s parents’ ranch house in Tucson was perched high on it’s own, steeply, “up the hill”.
For the holidays, I decided to launch a Mini Soap Trio with makeup artist and illustrator Mikey Clifton, using real organic tangerine essential oil. I didn’t remember till later that my aunt Carmen used to send us a box of tangerines from the ranch every December.
Being a farmer in the desert, my grandfather would say simply, “rain is good”. It rained the day of his funeral, and as I was pouring the first bottles of “El Arroyo”, (my perfume inspired by the desert in Arizona after a monsoon), it began raining.
My February collection incorporates coyotes. The morning after making those bars of soap, I took my dogs out and saw a coyote in the neighbor’s yard.
I’m building this brand in an ambitious way, but in moments like these, I feel like I’m being guided.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Starting small and growing slowly has its advantages. For better and for worse, that’s not the path I chose. Initially, I planned on having 5 products by the end of the year. Instead, I had 9 products, with completely original formulas, that I made from scratch. When you also add gift sets, 14k rose gold and blackened silver hummingbird necklaces, and one of a kind Native American and Mexican pottery, that’s over 25 SKUS. I love everything I’ve made available, and I think if I can allow myself some patience, it will keep the quality just as high.
2. Know what skills you lack, hire someone to do what you can’t do, but learn as much as you can anyway. I hired an agency to build my website, and when I saw the first draft, I truly saw the potential for what my business could be. Even though I worked in e-commerce for L’Oreal many years ago, I’m not the best with technology, so I knew I needed professional help. That said, I wish I’d learned more about the technology beforehand so I could have been more prepared to know what to ask my web builders for, and to hold my project manager accountable. There’s a lot I had to figure out in the midst of the holiday season that I just didn’t have time for. My customers didn’t suffer from it, but my sleeping habits did.
3. I sold my first bottle of perfume when I was 18, and making perfume has been a hobby since 2014, but I’ve learned the most surreal lessons about making desirable fragrances in these last few months. Most importantly, don’t blend perfume in a moment of exhaustion or fear. The “scent of desperation” is real. Perfumes shift our emotions, but it goes both ways.
4. Shopping with reputable sellers has never been more relevant. It seems like wait times, on the phone, have gotten longer for some businesses, and a lot of big companies are a little too willing to have their automated systems say, “Due to the pandemic, our wait times are longer than usual.” Hire customer service associates. Pick up the phone when the people paying you money call you. I cancelled my service with Verizon, and switched to Mint Mobile, firstly because of the savings, but secondly because of the customer service. No one should have to wait 45 minutes to speak to a representative. The packaging companies and suppliers I’m working with for my raw materials are the ones who were eager to pick up the phone when I called, or respond quickly (and with actual solutions) to my emails about specific questions.
5. I wish I’d known how supportive my friends would be. Having been a spokesperson for beauty brands, and doing so much makeup work for advertising, I approached my business the way I’ve helped so many other people build their businesses. The most surprising thing has been that it hasn’t yet been celebrity clients, editors, or paid advertising. It’s been friends. People I went to high school with, guys I used to date, and other makeup artists have been some of my biggest customers. A film director I went to college with bought holiday presents from Oracle Jayne Station for all her business associates .
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
Pick times to get informed, and times to focus on your work or your own life. The “Do Not Disturb” feature on my phone is critical. I can be very efficient at certain tasks, but it takes me a few minutes to really get in the groove. Every time the phone buzzes with an announcement that takes me off task, it slows me down. It’s crazy the alerts that social media apps or businesses send sometimes. Every once in a while, I go through and unsubscribe to ten emails at a time. Marie Kondo your inbox and your notifications.
Also, social media is bad for my mental health. I’ve been a makeup artist since I was 19, I have an Emmy, and I’ve worked with eight Academy Awards winners. I’ve worked really hard, I have a lot of behind-the-scenes knowledge, I’m an honest person, and I try to empower others when it comes to career advice, product safety, and using your voice. As far as I can tell, Instagram and Facebook are not interested in that.
I don’t post half naked pictures of myself, I don’t do extreme makeup looks, and I don’t create memes. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but it’s not who I am. It’s super demoralizing to spend hours hand crafting vegan soaps made with organic, fair-trade certified, minimally processed shea butter, that support a women’s collective in Africa, and paying sometimes ten times as much for sustainably harvested, wild crafted, steam distilled, and organic essential oils from individual growers and harvesters right here in the US, and noticing that only a handful of my 16,000 followers on Instagram will ever even see my posts about it unless I pay a lot of money to boost it.
Social media shows us more of what we’ve already previously liked. It narrows our view of the world, and it creates sameness. I remember the early days of YouTube, blogging, and social media when people who didn’t look like models were using their voices. When I scroll through nowadays and see the exact same eye shape again and again, I question what that’s doing to our creativity and to our appreciation of natural beauty. I’m glad that we’re talking about diversity as far as skin tones and body sizes, and the next step is to start talking about celebrating different eye shapes, nose shapes, body shapes, and even different degrees of hair loss.
In spite of that, I will continue to discuss things that matter with anyone who will listen, and build ethics into my brand. I just wish it were believable that “trying to do the right thing” was something the Facebook and Instagram algorithms valued.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
My mother used to tell me, “Choose your battles.” You can’t win ’em all. I would take that a step farther and say, “Choose better battles.” There’s one LGBTQ publiciation I no longer read because I felt that it was constantly just posting click bait headlines and made up celebrity controversy that pitted LGBTQ people and other minorities against each other. Instead, I want us to focus on politicians that continue to try and take away our rights, or businesses that continue to pollute our environment and our bodies. Yes, it’s important what people say in the news or on Twitter, but it’s a lot more important what they’re actually doing in Congress or in the boardrooms.
We have so much power, and a lot of people benefit from us not using it. Taking action on things you care about, beyond just posting to social media, not only alleviates anxiety, it creates real change. The creator of one of my TV shows encouraged people to donate to BackpacksForTheStreet.org, but she also made time to mask up and volunteer in person. No one in America should ever go hungry. It’s embarrassing that Jeff Bezos earned over $35 billion dollars in 2020 while working people and veterans were losing their homes. We can work together, as individuals, businesses, and the government all need to work together to change this.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Right now I’m listening to the Michelle Obama Podcast, so it would be amazing to talk with her. I found that during the pandemic my music was sometimes just intensifying the emotions I was feeling. Hearing her advice, as a woman who’s so accomplished as a lawyer, an activist, a parent, a spouse, a celebrity, and of course, a first lady helps me put things into perspective.
If I had to pick one though, definitely Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. She’s Latin American, she’s a boss that wears red lipstick, she wisely chooses ambitious battles, and she is devoting her life to fighting for everyday people. I feel it’s my responsibility to do as much of that as I can in my own corner of the world.
How can our readers follow you online?
Follow me at Instagram.com/AndrewSotomayor and Instagram.com/OracleJayneStation, or subscribe to my blog at OracleJayneStation.com