Find your strengths: Instead of spending your valuable time comparing yourself to those around you, focus on your own strengths that have gotten you where you are today. Remind yourself of the unique traits and abilities you bring to the table, and think of products, ideas, and initiatives you could lead given these strengths. You are your own worst enemy, but also your secret weapon.
As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Faith Xue.
Faith is the editorial director of Byrdie, a leading Comscore Top 10 digital beauty destination, where she oversees editorial and creative strategy and long-term growth initiatives. Her nine year-plus beauty career has included working with Fortune 500 companies such as L’Oréal to breakthrough beauty pioneers such as Michelle Phan. Her work has appeared in publications such as Refinery29 and Angeleno magazine, and she has been featured as the beauty expert for the likes of The Today Show, QVC, Create & Cultivate, and more..
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was younger, I pored over magazines like they were my personal bible and never threw one away — I still have a drawer in my old room that’s full of stacks of magazines I’ve held onto over the years. After I graduated from college, digital media started taking over print, and I landed myself a job at an agency as a ghostwriter for celebrity websites (this was pre-Goop, so very ahead of the times). I ended up working with the OG YouTuber Michelle Phan and helped craft her digital strategy and launch her line, em Cosmetics under L’Oreal. Michelle’s audience was so engaged and would constantly write in telling her how her beauty videos changed their lives. That’s when I first fell in love with beauty and realized how powerful it can be.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
A few years ago, I got the opportunity to interview Priyanka Chopra for Byrdie — I had recently started watching her show Quantico and loved everything she stood for, so this was a dream interview opportunity for me. I was supposed to meet her at her place in New York, then take a car with her to Long Island City where she was filming Quantico and conduct the interview on the car ride there. It was supposed to be 30 minutes or so, but there was an accident in the road so we ended up being stuck in the car together for over two hours! Needless to say, it was one of the best interviews I’ve ever done and I got so much good material (including when she hopped out of the car when we were in standstill traffic to buy street hot dogs for us to eat because we were both so hungry). As a journalist, it was the best possible situation because you’re usually so rushed for time for most interviews — you rarely get any extra time with the talent, and she more than delivered.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
My “tipping point” moment was probably when I started working at Byrdie — but it was a journey getting there. Up until then, I had worked at a digital agency, then for other people writing under their names or managing their social media, then for a brand, but I wasn’t feeling fulfilled or satisfied. I finally admitted to myself that the one thing that I really wanted to do was write for a publication in a full-time role with my own byline. The second I admitted that to myself (and to the Universe), things started happening. I decided to reach out to some previous contacts and send my first-ever pitch email as a freelancer, even though I had a full-time job at the time. I sent over a few ideas and the editor put me in touch with the beauty director at the website, and my first piece with my own byline was published — I’ll never forget that high. I continued writing for the publication in my free time after my day job, and a few months later, the opportunity with Byrdie came my way. I fully believe in the power of manifesting (and recommend everyone read The Secret if you haven’t already!), but also believe in actively going after what you want. If you’re unsatisfied with your current job, see what you can do on the side to bring yourself fulfillment — you never know where it may lead.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Having someone believe in you and want to help you with your career growth is such a powerful thing — if you have that, don’t take it for granted! I consider myself lucky that I’ve had some amazing bosses and mentors over the years. One of the most instrumental people in my career is Alex Taylor, who I worked with briefly at my first job and who reached out to me about the open role at Byrdie years later when she was overseeing digital strategy at Clique (Byrdie’s parent company at the time). She believed in me from the get-go and entrusted me with so much, even when I was still a baby editor, while helping me develop my managerial and leadership skills along the way. I’ll always be grateful for her guidance.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The global beauty industry today has grown to more than a half a trillion dollar business. Can you tell us about the innovations that you are bringing to the industry? How do you think that will help people?
We’re constantly thinking about what we can do to innovate and inspire at Byrdie. One of the things we’ve been working hard on this year is our Beauty & Wellness Board — an editor-vetted board of dermatologists, doctors, nutritionists, psychologists, and more — who review our content and sign off on if to ensure it’s factually accurate and up-to-date. There’s so much misinformation out there, especially in the beauty world (word to the wise: don’t put pure lemon juice on your face!), and this was something we’re really proud to deliver to our readers so they can trust that what they’re reading on Byrdie is 100% expert-backed and verified.
We always have some fun ideas in the works and try to push the boundaries of around the beauty industry, making everything high-value, accessible, and inclusive. Right now, we’re hard at work launching our first digital issue with a cover star we’re really thrilled about come September, and rethinking the way we can help people make informed choices when shopping for beauty products with our commerce team. We also have some top secret 2021 projects that I can’t say anything about just yet, but can’t wait to launch. We hope that all of these initiatives help people find joy in incorporating beauty into their daily lives, empowering them to use beauty as a vessel to find confidence and community.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the modern beauty industry?
Scientific innovation, the boom of indie and clean beauty brands, and more diverse faces, voices, and bodies across your favorite beauty websites and products.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to improve the industry, what would you suggest?
I have just one: There needs to be more diversity in-house at every major beauty company. And not just in consulting roles, or entry-level positions — every C-Level suite of execs or editorial team should reflect a diverse array of perspectives and backgrounds. Until that happens, everything else is just for show.
You are an expert about beauty. Can you share a few ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”?
I’ve been gratitude journaling every morning and found that taking a moment to reflect on all the good things in my life ultimately makes me have a more positive outlook for the day, and in turn, makes me feel better about myself as well. It’s easy to compare yourself (especially in the age of Instagram/Facetune and their unrealistic beauty standards!), and the easiest way to combat envy or not feeling good enough is to focus on the good things you have in your life. It can be as broad as “the health of my family and friends” to “the really delicious cereal I had this morning” — if you’re grateful for something, write it down! It’s scientifically proven to make you happier.
Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, Can you please share “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”. Please share a story or an example, for each.
1. Representation first: No ifs, buts, or why’s — representation should absolutely be at the forefront of every beauty brand’s current and future goals. It should be the first thing you think of when writing a story, putting together a yearly marketing deck, or planning out your editorial strategy. Get granular and specific on steps you’ll take to make inclusivity and representation a priority, so your customers and followers can see exactly how you’ve progressed or changed (we launched Byrdie’s Diversity Pledge with actionable steps to hold ourselves accountable and so our readers can too).
2. Be kind to others (and yourself): Treating every person in your career with kindness will only bring good things back into your life. Plus, you never know who you’ll leave an impression on who could reach out to you about a job opportunity down the line (this has happened to me!). Also, this includes being kind to yourself. The only way to avoid burnout down the line is to allow yourself to take breaks and do things that nurture your mind and body (and if this includes sitting on the couch binge watching Indian Matchmaker, then so be it).
3. Listen: The only way to succeed in beauty is to listen to what your readers, followers, and customers want. We’re no longer living in a world where beauty is a one-way street, with editors or brands telling the consumer what product to use or what trend is “cool.” In order to succeed in the modern beauty industry, you’ll need to have an open line of communication with your target audience, whether it’s through social media, a newsletter, or monthly audience surveys. This applies to the people you work with on a daily basis, too. Make those you work with feel valued, like their voices are heard, and they will in turn perform their best — it’s simple.
4. Find your strengths: Instead of spending your valuable time comparing yourself to those around you, focus on your own strengths that have gotten you where you are today. Remind yourself of the unique traits and abilities you bring to the table, and think of products, ideas, and initiatives you could lead given these strengths. You are your own worst enemy, but also your secret weapon.
5. Cultivate relationships: The word “networking” makes me cringe, but building genuine relationships, on the other hand, is a must. You don’t have to force anything under awkward pretenses — instead, just take advantage of the situations in your career that allow you to meet people naturally, and then make an effort to keep up those relationships. A little bit of thoughtfulness goes a long way and can leave a lasting impression (i.e. always send a follow-up email or text, depending on who it is you met with). Remember: the wider your network, the more opportunity you’ll have to grow.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
This goes back to my #1 lesson above: Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. It doesn’t matter who you’re talking to, whether they’re a VP or an intern — I fully believe in karma and that the energy you put out into the world will come back to you in some way or other. Also: you never know who is watching, so always perform your best even when it doesn’t feel like it’s being noticed. I promise you, someone is noticing.
How can our readers follow you online?
Follow me on Instagram @faith_xue if you like food (mostly dumplings and pasta) or beauty (mostly skincare and glitter).
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.