11 Inspiring Women Who Are Changing the Beauty Game
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, these 11 women are proof that the beholder has evolved. Get to know the boss ladies who are upending the beauty landscape—one additional foundation shade at a time.
Ukonwa Ojo, Senior Vice President at CoverGirl
In 2016, the uber-marketer left a gig at Unilever to join CoverGirl for a role that put her in charge of strategy, advertising and innovation. (Emphasis on the innovation.) Only a year later, Ojo has already brought on new and diverse faces like Insecure’s Issa Rae and Elon Musk’s 69-year-old mom Maye. Not to mention—and this is major—she reinvented the brand’s 20-year-old tagline. “Easy, breezy, beautiful” is out. “I am what I make up” is in.
Jamie Kern Lima, Founder and CEO of IT Cosmetics
Before Kern Lima came along, the beauty industry lacked a certain amount of real talk. And as a morning news anchor, she needed a better solution for covering her rosacea. So she created her first products under the IT Cosmetics name and began peddling them on QVC. Her strategy worked and women quickly started dialing in (and lining up) to buy and spread the word about her brand. In the matter of six years (from 2010 to 2016), she had amassed such a following that beauty powerhouse L’Oreal snatched up the startup for a cool $1.2 billion in cash. But that’s not all: Kern Lima can add the title of trailblazer to her resumé; L’Oreal kept her on as CEO, making her the first female CEO of any of L’Oreal’s brands in its 108-year history.
Rihanna, Founder of Fenty Beauty
Her line—which is only about a month old—is already valued at $72 million, according to recent reports. Not too shabby for the singer-turned-beauty super-brand. Fenty Beauty launched with not one but two collections (fall and holiday) featuring a range of highlighters, concealers and lip gloss, not to mention a whopping 40 inclusive shades of foundation. But the real secret to RiRi’s success? Her ability to generate serious social buzz. In September alone, over 130 million people watched YouTube tutorials using her products. (Pretty unprecedented in the beauty biz.)
Emily Weiss, Founder of Into the Gloss and Glossier
She started as a Vogue assistant before striking out to launch beauty blog Into the Gloss, followed by her own multi-million dollar (and now global) beauty brand Glossier. The goal? To create a beauty line with revolutionary products designed to prep and prime your skin, but thanks to her social-first strategy and unique crowd-sourcing process, Emily quickly developed a cult following—and, now, a much more expansive product line. (They just launched fragrance this month.) Still, it’s her direct-to-consumer approach that bodes well for future success.
PAT MCGRATH, MAKEUP ARTIST AND FOUNDER OF PAT MCGRATH LABS
She’s the world’s most famous makeup artist, not just because she conceptualizes the looks for 80+ fashion shows a year, but thanks to her cult-favorite makeup line Pat McGrath Labs. The secret to her success? Experimentation. Her sequined-packed kits are filled with "pigments" that can be used on eyes, cheeks, lips, you name it. McGrath says social media is the inspiration for most of her work, which is funny because the quick-to-sell-out kits are then all over social media with beauty fans experimenting for themselves.
Gregg Renfrow, Founder of BeautyCounter
It’s the Mary Kay of tomorrow—when Gregg Renfrew discovered that there are over 80,000 not-great chemicals used in beauty products, she set out to change this, creating a collection of nontoxic beauty products made with safe ingredients consumers can trust. Then, she kicked things up a notch: Instead of going the traditional retail route, she enlisted a sales force of consultants (she has over 20,000 at this point) to spread the message about the importance of good-for-you skincare. It worked. Since founding Beautycounter in 2013, she’s on track to hit the 10-million-products-sold mark by the end of the year.
Jen Atkin, Celebrity Hair stylist and Founder of Ouai Haircare
Before she was Chrissy Teigen's and the Kardashians' hair guru, she was cold-calling Beverly Hills salons, trying to get her start. She quickly moved up the ranks—eventually spending her time on things like going on tour with Madonna, launching her own hair care line Ouai, partnering with Dyson to help them create their very-first ($400) blow dryer and debuting Mane Addicts, a shoppable blog spawned from her crazy-addictive Instagram account to chronicle the how-to’s (and behind-the-scenes) of celebrity hair. Mini-empire? Basically.
Tata Harper, Founder of Tata Harper Skincare
Long before natural skincare was a trend—Tata Harper decided to upend her wellness routine after her stepfather was diagnosed with cancer. But when she searched for natural beauty brands, she came up short and, using ingredients sourced from her family’s farm in upstate Vermont, decided to create her own line. She enlisted her friends as product testers and their reaction was clear: They wanted to buy. Fast-forward seven years and Tata now counts Gwyneth Paltrow, Julianne Moore and Christy Turlington as celebrity fans. Not only that, she’s using her background as an industrial engineer to continually innovate, pairing new (and game-changing) technology with natural ingredients, all manufactured and packaged on her certified organic farm.
Tiffany Masterson, Founder of Drunk Elephant
Competing with the mega brands takes risks. Well, this one involved a $300,000 investment from Masterson’s brother-in-law, but in just three years, her clean skincare line Drunk Elephant is poised to hit the mainstream, big time. Masterson, a self-taught beauty entrepreneur, started the line as a way to earn extra cash, making face masks in her kitchen and eventually hiring a chemist to get the ingredients just right. A pitch to Sephora later and her T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial is now one of Sephora.com’s bestselling skincare products of all time. Damn.
Marcia Kilgore, Founder of Beauty Pie
After crushing it as the founder of Bliss (as in the multi-locations day spas), Marcia Kilgore is launching her next big idea, a beauty brand called Beauty Pie. The concept: subscription-based beauty that allows you to buy luxury products at factory costs from the world’s leading labs and suppliers. (For example, your favorite brand-name foundation, mascara and setting powder that typically costs $182 would only set you back $19.17 via her site.) The result? Marcia is re-shaping the direct-to-consumer landscape, cutting costs and wowing her customers for less. (Just take one look at the product reviews.)
Miranda Kerr, Founder of KORA Organics
She may be one of the world’s most recognizable models, but as founder of KORA Organics, a natural skincare brand she launched in 2009, Miranda’s fame is reaching new heights—not to mention Sephora shelves this year. A main reason her fans are so devoted: Kerr practices what she preaches, living an all-organic lifestyle and sharing it on social media. (Hey, if it’s good enough for a supermodel, it’s good enough for all of us, right?)