Practice gratefulness — not just for regular things we always say, like a roof over our heads or a job. Everything! Be grateful for every little thing, like your favorite coffee mug, how smooth a pen writes, the throw blanket you snatched on sale. Everything! You’ll start to see how incredibly lucky you are.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ada Hsieh.
Ada Hsieh (Ay-duh Shay) is the founder of Ada Lip Beauty, a clean lip beauty brand redefining wellness. A finance “bro” working on a trade desk at a hedge fund in Manhattan by day, at night, Ada is a self-taught special effects makeup artist. During her creative sessions, she can get lost for hours creating makeup that’s more akin to art than day-to-day looks. It was during these creative sessions that Ada eventually found herself; in the midst of everyday chaos, getting creative with makeup quietened her mind, making her path become clear and focused. She found her voice and purpose in life: to create a truly clean lipstick line that honors one’s body and provides a clear path back to one’s authentic self. As such, Ada Lip Beauty was born.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
My entire career has been based in the finance industry — working at hedge funds and in private equity. By all means, I’m good at my finance job, but I always felt that something was missing. Finance didn’t make my blood pump. It wasn’t my life purpose, and I knew it deep in my bones. I know that, “How do I find my life’s purpose?” is a question many people ask themselves when they feel lost (and I felt very lost for many years). My dad always instilled in me the importance of staying curious and open-minded. Whatever topic interested me, I would research and dig deep for information. If it was a hobby, I would fully engage — I’d buy all the equipment and become obsessed. It wasn’t until I started learning how to do makeup professionally that it completely transformed me as a person. To me, makeup isn’t just about making someone feel beautiful. Makeup is so much more than beauty — it is color therapy. My makeup specialty is special effects and creative art. My own face and skin is my canvas, and I can paint whatever I want onto it. The process of art is still and thoughtful. It makes me dig deep within, to see myself for me. Each look I create takes anywhere from 3 to 8 hours to complete.
It is from this passion that Ada Lip Beauty was born — a collection of clean, plant-based, 100% naturally-derived lipsticks. I’m wildly allergic to most mainstream toiletries like toothpaste, deodorant, and sunblock, which often include synthetic chemicals. I’m also a self-confessed foodie, and beauty-lover at heart; after educating myself on the synthetic chemicals also found in traditional lipstick products, I became horrified to learn that wearing lipstick often means consuming nasty chemicals. I wanted to create a product that didn’t mean sacrificing quality, color pigment or luxury for health — since we’re already digesting the lipstick when wearing it, why shouldn’t our lipstick be all natural and ‘food grade’?
What I learned about inner strength and trusting the process while creating each lipstick look, I wanted to instill into the brand, to help other people trust themselves and ultimately find their voice. So — my answer to the question, “How do I find my life purpose”? You don’t. It finds you when you experience and do the things that reveal your inner light.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
Life is going to throw so many curveballs at you on the way to the destination, but know there is always more than one path to get there. I learned that the first path you take will most likely never be the one that’ll take you all the way, and that’s ok. Learn to take everything in stride, because life is funny like that. The answer isn’t always clear, but you can bet your tatas it’ll become clear with time. I went through two chemists, three formula consultants, and a chemistry forum to finally nail down our lipstick formula. My first manufacturer dropped us after months of working together, cancelling our order because the formula was too difficult to make. I realized we were the first cosmetic brand on the market to use pigments derived from vegetables. People in the industry just didn’t know what to make of it. It’s a bit of a learning curve. I pushed forward each time, despite the obstacles. I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. The people I’ve ended up working with are a much better fit — for both my company and for myself.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The biggest mistake wasthatI bought about 3,000 units of lip gloss tubes before the formula was even finalized. Things were going well with development, so I thought might as well. What ended up happening was the lip gloss formula fell through, because the natural ingredients were impossible to make into a lip gloss. It also took another two years to finalize the formula; it turned out to be lipstick instead of lip gloss. So, I still have 3,000 lip gloss tubes sitting in the back of my closet. Anybody need any tubes?
Lesson learned…don’t buy air pods before you realize you don’t have enough money to buy an iPhone.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. 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?
There are so many people in my life that have supported me along the way — I’m so blessed and grateful. If I had to call out one person in particular, then, yes. I have a marketing/business consultant, Disi Fei of Peony Blue. She is so organized and keeps me on track. I don’t think I could have gotten this far without her. She’s been with me since I started building out the brand and identity of the company. How we met is a funny story. I was invited to a fashion startup’s five year anniversary party, back in the day (pre-Covid-19). I was a plus-one with my friend who models for the company. This was one of my “New York Moments” for a finance girl who came from Texas. The party spanned five stories of a building packed with gorgeous, Amazonian-esque models. I gaped at Nigel Barker on one floor as he passed by me and said, “Excuse me.” I was left on an immediate high, fangirling that he even spoke two to me. The women looked like they walked off a photo shoot. I also saw men who were wearing fur coats with no shirts on underneath, looking like they hadn’t bathed in days, but you still really wanted to hang out with them. Instead, I ended up hanging out with the photographers, talking about camera gear the entire time — like the nerd I am. I met this photographer who then proceeded to tell me that his boss has a marketing agency, and that I remind him a lot of her, so we should meet. I told him that I had everything under control, and didn’t need a marketing agency, but I agreed to letting him pass on my info anyway. I was 100% certain that I was just going to meet a boss babe for drinks — we could go on to be friends, but that’s it. I met her up the next week, trying to keep an open mind, but I was adamant about passing on whatever marketing services she would offer. Little did I know that she would knock my socks off. Best decision ever (and not a bad party either).
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
Ada Lip Beauty is the result of three years of intensive research and development. After learning that the most nutrient-dense foods have the richest natural colors, we harnessed the power of nature to create three lipstick shades that deliver strong pigment impact. Vegetables are the main ingredient — including beets, radishes, potatoes, turmeric, and spirulina — that creates the lipstick’s pigment. Using advanced technology to extract the pigments holistically from the plant, the vegetables have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that promote collagen reproduction.
More just than a clean beauty brand, Ada Lip Beauty is designed as a tool to work on our inner dialogues. Our lipsticks are named after daily affirmations — “I am Brave.,” “I am Whole.,” and “I am Perfect.” The goal is to have the wearer read these affirmations every time they swipe on their lipstick. As they beautify the outside, they are simultaneously working on their inner beauty. Even if a friend asks, “Hey, what’s the shade you’re wearing?” They respond, “I am Perfect.” To that I say — yes you are, my darling!
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Journal — therapists are expensive! Journaling will help you work out issues. Especially nowadays with quarantine and staying home more often. I know journaling has helped keep me sane. It’s also awesome to see your own growth and laugh at your past entries. I like to go back to a month ago, and see where I am now.
- Practice gratefulness — not just for regular things we always say, like a roof over our heads or a job. Everything! Be grateful for every little thing, like your favorite coffee mug, how smooth a pen writes, the throw blanket you snatched on sale. Everything! You’ll start to see how incredibly lucky you are.
- Stay open minded — even though you think you always know best. If I totally shut down the idea of meeting with Peony Blue, I honestly don’t know where I would be…probably half as far.
- Eat better — I’m horrible at this. I love sweets. It’s hard for a lot of people. Our mental health is housed by a physical body. Our mental health can’t be top notch if our bodies are disease-ridden.
- Move — get your body moving more. I know we’re all in quarantine, which is why it’s more important than ever to get our bodies moving. I’ve designated a little area in front of my bed as my workout area. I think if you can’t go out for a walk, at least stretch at home. Don’t tweak your back reaching for that new tube of toothpaste.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I think the movement has already started itself. People are starting to look inwards to find answers to their problems instead of seeking external, momentary quick fixes. This creates self awareness when you ask yourself the hard questions, and makes you face the ugly truths that are necessary for personal growth. I do promote this, and it’s prevalent in the brand. Ada Lip Beauty is a cosmetics line that absolutely beautifies the outside, but is intended to be a physical tool to help us work on our inner selves. We often need to see something physical as a reminder to spark the inner monologues that tell us to be kind to ourselves.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Tell that ego to pipe down. Suck it up and know that you’re going to have to sacrifice some things to start a business (which I will outline below).
- Stop buying designer purses — that money could have gone into the startup. Those purses carry hand sanitizer and credit cards loaded with debt.
- Live with roommates — those two years of living alone in a studio apartment in Chelsea in New York City was amazing, but now I’m eating PB&J sandwiches for lunch with my two roomies.
- Don’t be disappointed about each pushback. I think I’ve had to push back my launch 20+ times for the past two years, and I’ve learned that it’ll happen when it’s meant to happen. Keep calm and push through.
- Celebrate often — even the small wins! Each challenge or problem solved begets another issue that needs to be solved. It’s never-ending when starting a company. The road is long, so celebrate every little win. I always say, “You can grind through it, or you can dance through it.”
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental health is so important to me. I was diagnosed with PTSD and suffered from depression and anxiety attacks. My world was so dark at one point in my life. I worked very hard to pull myself out and I am truly grateful for that experience, as odd as it may sound. It made me compassionate towards other people, and my emotional quotient has grown so much since then. Not to mention, I know how mentally strong I am now. When things hit the fan, people always say I’m so calm. I can’t imagine going back to living my life so unaware of myself — almost jaded. Unfortunately, I had to learn by slipping down this dark path, but fortunately I found my way out, and my life is richer than it ever was. This brand is a result of my journey. I want to help people flourish by loving themselves. Mental health will change the world with small, loving ripple effects that’ll extend to everywhere and everything.
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