Maria Maddox: “Make your impossible possible”

I love that you use the phrase “feel beautiful” because beauty, in my opinion, is a feeling and a state of mind. Keeping your skin, hair and nails healthy is only a piece of the puzzle as true beauty starts from within and it’s coming from your inner confidence. Beauty products can help you feel […]

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I love that you use the phrase “feel beautiful” because beauty, in my opinion, is a feeling and a state of mind. Keeping your skin, hair and nails healthy is only a piece of the puzzle as true beauty starts from within and it’s coming from your inner confidence. Beauty products can help you feel more pampered and they can certainly help you express yourself, eventually boosting your confidence levels. However, it’s also important to take care of yourself on the inside — have healthy habits, get enough sleep, eat clean and have a positive outlook — in addition to the products that you use on the outside.

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 Maria Maddox.

Maria Maddox is a seasoned Public Relations and Communications professional with expertise focused on beauty, lifestyle, medical aesthetics and entertainment PR. She currently serves as the Head of PR, Premium Division at Amorepacific US, Inc — a leading South Korean beauty company that has been ranked #12 on Beauty Inc’s top 100 list of global beauty companies. In addition, Maria teaches her signature course on Public Relations and Business Communications at Baruch College, CAPS program.

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?

Thank you for having me. To be honest, I could’ve never imagined that I would be working in the beauty industry! Growing up in a small town in Siberia, Russia, we didn’t have a lot of beauty products and those that we had were not that attractive. Their packaging, textures, scents — there was no story or allure behind them. Of course, we had our own beauty rituals but they were mostly focused on natural ingredients, homemade remedies and the philosophy of overall well-being. It wasn’t until I moved to the US, spent a few years working in the entertainment industry, and filled my medicine cabinet with beauty products that were actually beautiful and efficacious, that I thought of launching a career in Beauty PR. Back then, I was at Film Society of Lincoln Center, assisting Publicists with walking celebrities down the red carpet, helping them pose for photographers and giving brief interviews to the media. I was fascinated by their impeccable skin, flawless makeup, hair, nails. That was the time when I decided that I wanted to be a part of the Beauty Industry and continue my career in Public Relations.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I have so many to share, but here’s one that is the first that comes to mind. Early on in my career, I had a client who was an up-and-coming dermatologist, and we’ve been working hard to secure her appearances on TV. Those who work in PR know that pitching a new name for TV is not the easiest thing to do, but I was up for a challenge. I came up with a segment idea — the benefits of juicing on skin (juicing trend was just starting out then!), pitched it to my target broadcast list and was ready to leave the office for the weekend. Unexpectedly, a new email popped up — it was from a producer of Today in New York, Weekend Edition and they wanted to have my client in their studios to tape a live segment on Sunday morning! I couldn’t believe my eyes! While it was a phenomenal opportunity, I knew I had a lot of work to do in less than two days. I had to develop the idea further, brief the client, finalize the details with the producer, source a juicer and all of the fruits and vegetables for the segment, look up some delicious homemade juice recipes and make it all happen. I spent the weekend scouting farmers’ markets around the city, until I packed two full suitcases with fresh produce. On Sunday morning, I left my Brooklyn apartment at 3:00 am, armed with a juicer and countless pounds of vegetables and fruits of all sorts and made my way to NBC Studios at 30 Rock. The segment was a success, marking the first live TV appearance for my client. She’s now one of the most frequent guest experts on national TV shows. Back then, I realized that the job of a PR professional was so much more than PR in its traditional way. If you are willing to take risks and explore the road less taken, there’s an incredible opportunity to wear multiple hats and create something that you will be proud of.

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?

I don’t believe success happens overnight and that there’s a “tipping point,” at least not in PR. At first, you need to spend time building your foundation, making connections, observing, listening and practicing. I spent the first few years of my career doing just that, and I was working hard, taking initiative beyond my regular responsibilities so that I could expose myself to as many opportunities as possible. I still do that now. I’m a strong believer that it’s important to approach work with an open mind and constantly challenge yourself. What are the latest PR tools on the market? What is the next big thing in the experiential space? Is it beneficial for my brands/clients to be a part of it? Sometime the answer to that last question will be no, but you need to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the industry to make this decision. Rather than thinking about a “tipping point,” I like to think of it as a constant evolution and growth that can lead you to amazing things over the course of your career.

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?

It’s hard to call out just one person because I’ve met a lot of incredible people during my career. Those were the people who took chances on me, who trusted in my expertise and empowered me to dream bigger, who became my role models and unofficial mentors. And it’s not just people in leadership roles. Throughout my journey across the beauty industry, my success has been influenced by seasoned leaders and more junior colleagues alike.

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?

Beauty industry in general and Beauty PR have undergone many changes over the past few years and things continue to evolve every day. When I joined a small PR agency VegaRun at the end of 2014, I was introduced to Korean Beauty for the first time. The agency has just introduced a Korean brand LANEIGE to the US earlier that year and the K-Beauty trend was still in its early stages. Today, K-Beauty is no longer a trend as it transformed into a category of its own and last year LANEIGE became #1 K-Beauty at Sephora. I’m incredibly proud that I’ve been contributing to the growth of the K-Beauty segment since the beginning and there’s so much more that we can do. PR has been instrumental in driving brand awareness for K-Beauty and will continue to play an important role in introducing beauty innovation coming from Korea and other areas of the world. It’s interesting that we’ve been consuming international fashion, technology and food brands for decades, but our beauty regimens didn’t have as much global influence or diversity until recently. I’m happy to see that it is becoming more global, offering consumers more options and a more dimensional idea of what beauty standards and values are in different parts of the world.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the modern beauty industry?

I’ve been in the beauty industry for almost a decade and it continues to excite me every day. There are so many events, new launches, stories and great people that fuel my ideas and inspire me. Here are the top three things in the industry that have the most value to me:

Innovation: Earlier this year, I had an opportunity to attend CES (Consumer Electronics Show), where one of Amorepacific US brands, IOPE, was recognized with the award for the 3D face mask printing system and tailored 3D sheet mask. Even outside of the tech space, new ingredients, formulations and delivery systems are constantly evolving, driven by indie and large brands alike, and I am curious to see what the beauty space will look like in the next 10 years.

Self-Expression and Customization: Beauty products have always helped people to express themselves and the modern beauty industry is taking the idea of self-expression even further. It’s been fascinating to see how the “one size fits all” approach is no longer the only option and that custom skincare, haircare and makeup products are taking center stage. The industry is becoming more customer-centric and many of the product innovations these days contribute to that.

Beauty as Anchor in Challenging Times: At the onset of COVID-19, beauty and skincare products have become anchors for many who turned to self-care as a way to normalize their new lifestyles.Despite the lack of normalcy and disruptions to daily routines, people could still have control over their skincare rituals, which started to play an even more important role than before the quarantine. Using beauty products became not only a way to keep skin healthy, but also an opportunity to create more “me” time, practice mindfulness and add an element of a routine to a daily schedule.

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?

Making Beauty More Eco-Friendly and Recyclable: Many companies these days are taking effort to be conscious of our natural resources and reducing their footprint, but there’s still so much work that needs to be done. Some beauty products come in excessive packaging, others don’t use sustainably-sourced ingredients. There are limited opportunities for refills. I’ve recently learned that you can mail your used mascara wands to an organization that helps remove fly eggs and larva from fur of animals, contributing to wildlife conservation efforts. This is a great example of giving a product a new life beyond its traditional use.

Helping Consumers Navigate the Beauty Space: There are many products on the market and more and more brands launch every year. While consumers are becoming more knowledgeable of the current offerings and how to tailor their beauty routines, many are overwhelmed by the number of available options and feel confused. I know that some retailers are taking on a very important role of educating their customers and helping them choose what is right for them, but it’s not everywhere just yet. I think that there’s so much more that the beauty industry can do here and, being in PR, it is also my job to continue raising awareness and helping consumers navigate a saturated industry, making it accessible to everyone.

Clean Beauty and Transparency on Ingredients: Clean Beautyhas been a focus of many conversations lately, especially after the onset of COVID-19. It’s promising to see brands steering away from using harmful ingredients in their products and focusing on the idea of the overall well-being. This is still a new segment in the US and it’s important to think about what the industry can do even further to make beauty products safer for customers and more sustainable.

You are an expert about beauty. Can you share a few ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”?

I love that you use the phrase “feel beautiful” because beauty, in my opinion, is a feeling and a state of mind. Keeping your skin, hair and nails healthy is only a piece of the puzzle as true beauty starts from within and it’s coming from your inner confidence. Beauty products can help you feel more pampered and they can certainly help you express yourself, eventually boosting your confidence levels. However, it’s also important to take care of yourself on the inside — have healthy habits, get enough sleep, eat clean and have a positive outlook — in addition to the products that you use on the outside.

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.

Beauty Industry is not just a small world but also a close-knit family. Act like a family member.

No matter what the circumstances may be, treat everyone in the industry (or just everyone, everywhere!) with respect. You don’t know what your future endeavor may be or who you may be working with in your next position. Regardless, you may be a part of the same industry events or have many connections in common. Throughout my career, I’ve made a conscious effort not to burn any bridges, whether parting ways with an agency, resigning from a job or changing vendors. I’m still connected with many of my previous supervisors and colleagues who have become an important part of my journey and have been supportive of my career.

Relationships go a long way. Make sure to start building them early on and nurture them continuously. I built many of my closest editorial connections when I have just started in the industry as a PR Coordinator and my counterparts were Beauty Assistants at magazines. It’s important to not only establish connections but also nurture these relationships over time. Think about your business relationships as your outside-of-work friendships — be respectful, polite, prompt to respond and offer help, if necessary. Years later, I’m still connected to those who started in the beauty industry together with me and a few have become personal friends of mine.

Explore new things and question the status quo. If it’s been done like this for the past decade, it doesn’t mean that it needs to be done like this now or in the future. Things change and what may have been effective a year ago, may not yield the desired outcome today. A good example is measuring success of public relations campaigns. The traditional way to go about that would be to get circulation and unique monthly visitors numbers for your respective placements and summarize the results. However, the UVPM/circulation numbers don’t tell the full story and neither do vanity metrics on social media. Instead of focusing on the quantitative measurements, I’ve implemented a way to measure the effectiveness of PR outreach by quality of coverage — does a placement include a recommendation from a renowned expert, a link to purchase, your products’ key messages, photo or price? These are the metrics that PR professionals have more control over and this is something that generates awareness and ensures that the recipient of information is fully equipped with everything they need to know.

Stay on top of news. Knowing what’s going on in the industry is essential and can inform your decisions. Every day, I dedicate some time to read trade publications, such as Glossy, WWD, GCI and CEW. I also read consumer-focused magazines — ALLURE, Vogue, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan are a few examples. These daily readings have been helping me build a picture of the beauty industry landscape and serve as an inspiration when I’m putting plans for my brands.

Don’t think of other brands as competitors. I think that in the beauty industry we’re all in the same boat and there’s so much to learn from one another. I’m not talking about emulating other brands but trying to use their successes as case studies and take note of best practices, tailored specifically to your brands. I often attend events hosted by other K-Beauty brands to be in the know and celebrate these big moments with them. When we opened our Amorepacific US Global Beauty Pop-Up Store in partnership with Marie Claire magazine in 2018, I was excited to see other beauty brands and people in the industry stopping by to learn more about this initiative.

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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Embracing diversity in beauty. There are many people who don’t feel comfortable in their own skin because of the size of their body, complexion, hair type, stretchmarks, scars and other unique elements that make them who they are. For generations, we’ve been shown certain, oftentimes unattainable, beauty standards, that were diminishing our own selves in favor of perfect and sometimes retouched photos. I would like to give a shout out to companies that are changing the face of beauty and continue promoting diversity in what is considered beautiful, but I think that we still have a long way to go. Loving yourself and how you look is an important building block of confidence and letting your inner beauty shine through.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Make your impossible possible. This quote has been true for me not only in my professional but also my personal lives. Things may look challenging, but they will always be this way. What you can do is believe in yourself and push forward to overcome obstacles along the way to reach your goals. Growing up and into my mid-twenties, I’ve never been physically active — I was more into arts and music and I could not envision myself being involved in sports. That was simply impossible for me, or so I thought. But at one point, I casually started running and in just three years from that moment, I’ve finished three marathons. Another example that comes to mind is that early on in my career I was told that I won’t be able to succeed in PR because I was “too nice.” At first, I was contemplating a career change, but then I decided to do things my way and conquer the impossible. I’m glad that I didn’t listen and that I’m here today, speaking with you about PR and the beauty industry.

How can our readers follow you online?

I’m active on LinkedIn and would love to keep in touch!

You can also find me on Instagram @maria_instalife

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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