Glossier, Emily Weiss, and how we talk about business leaders
I'll definitely be reading the book, but I'm curious: Does Meltzer get into the sourcing of the products, the factories where they are made, and the conditions in those factories? Does she interview workers who are on the line? It would be great if we normalized that as a best practice when telling corporate stories (in books & magazines & well, everywhere).
Can we acknowledge how insane it is that they actually had to discuss whether a pink cover would alienate male readers. I mean I’m not surprised, but it’s absurd when you think about how fragile masculinity can be.
“... Every time someone with a brand wants a story about them, it's probably because they're trying to get more money out of it, whether it's more funding or new customers or whatever.” Bingo. This is a lesson I have always stressed to my students and other journalists. These people are not your friends. They want something, and see you as useful to their goal. This is a fundamental truth of business journalism, no matter how it is dressed up.
For a while I was deeply into Into The Gloss and xoJane (RIP)- it felt fresh and interesting in the way that Sassy and Essence was back in the 90s. When Glossier launched with balm dot com and the skin tint drops, it felt both exciting (oh- your favorite blog is now made into physical merch!) and disappointing (teen baby makeup marked up 4x the amount; colors too light for medium-deep dark complexions, a set of lovely yet ordinary body products, all in Supreme-ish branding- a brilliant observation by Meltzer)
The thing for me and Glossier was that I was a younger GenX- I was too old for Glossier and had cut my teeth on Wet & Wild, Mac and Urban Decay. We had already learned how to dilute foundation, blot lipstick, and use blusher/bronzer/lipsticks as all in one products or had sheer lipsticks (pour one out for the Almost Lipsticks, which all died except for Black Honey.)
And being an Afro - Latina, I had also seen how coolness was developed by co-opting styles & images of Black and Latina women and yet not having them as respected company members nor in products that accentuated their visage.
The thing about cool, and basing a business based on coolness is that it can eventually grow cold. Glossier positioned itself as a cool accessory but not as something for everyone. That came with licensing from Rihanna, Ariane Grande and certain Youtube influencers like Whitney White (Naptural85). Those women gave/give off the illusion of being WHO they are; EW's image was very much who she was about to become- just another (White)rich woman who would use simpering Motherhood language and spouse-speak to paint yet another picture of unattainable effortlessness.
I need this book.
PS: I still use, after all these years, Russian Red lipstick by MAC.
PPS: I am a subscriber to Beauty Pie, another beauty company that feels very adjacent to Glossier, even at one point using the same perfumeur as Glossier's You cologne and body products.
I wonder how this tracks to "Mompreneur." (Even more horrid term.)
This topic is fascinating and I will probably read the book, but some of the takes in this interview are odd to me, as if Meltzer forgets or is unaware of how most people have little to no control over the media narratives that form around them.
"Even though she was promoting Glossier, she wanted to be seen as the same way a man would. And to her, this was like a political stance, which I understood. But I also think that is a misreading of how men in leadership are covered... But I also think that there's some maybe inherent internalized misogyny in not wanting to be seen that way, wanting to be seen as someone who's not like the other girls. I'm not like the other leaders, I'm different."
She seems to be implying that Weiss's desire for privacy and lack of interest in "what's in my bag" press is misogynistic, which it isn't.
"I will say that a few of the original girl bosses like Ty Haney of Outdoor Voices and Sophia Amuroso have tagged me in angry Instagram posts. ...I actually think the book is pretty fair about the [girlboss] phenomenon and why those women chose to participate in a moment that was a little bit embarrassing or cringe-worthy."
Did Haney actively "choose to participate" in a girlboss narrative? Or was that imposed on her externally by sexist media fascinated by pretty young white entrepreneurs? If it's the latter, what did Haney do that was embarrassing or cringey? It feels sexist to suggest that these women deserve our scorn or collective embarrassment because of how the media framed them at the time, when (I think) all they did was start businesses.
I'm gen z and I think glossier (while obviously supreme vibes) never really read as streetwear brand inspired to me in time when a shift for cosmetics and lifestyles towards pastel minimalism was also occurring. Even the small number of products to me pointed more toward minimalism/natural beauty vibes that began to trend in 2014 when I was entering high school. As an into the gloss fan prior and lover of their 'top shelf' series asking people for their favs, I saw the small line as a minimalist 'top' products.
I honestly learned relatively recently that glossier had skincare 'treatments' targeted towards millennials (retinol)- if you asked me who glossier was 'for' i'd have said gen-z not millennial. This is maybe just the centrality of my own experiences but I remember the marketing and status inherent to balm dot com and the little pink pouches when they were first launched. It was so 'cool girl' to have those little items at school. Things like stretch concealer and skin tint were marketed to myself and my 14 and 15 yr old friends as a little something without being as heavy as the foundations and concealers that we saw older sisters/family/babysitters wearing.
Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed another of Marisa Meltzer's books, This Is Big, about Weight Watchers and the woman who founded it. Similar in its exploration of the organization through the woman and vice versa, very well written and lots of interesting commentary from/about the author... I also really appreciate how she locates herself/her experiences/profession, interested to know what Meltzer's thoughts are here. :)
I’m not planning on reading the book any time soon, but as someone who has followed Emily Weiss on IG possibly since she’s had an account (loved into the gloss and top shelf, and still like it when I check in occasionally - they really do/did try to keep it separate from glossier), I felt like there was a real shift in her type of posting when her first (only? I don’t know if she’s married to current partner) marriage broke down. She did SO much on IG for that wedding, and then posts just kind of got quieter and quieter. I don’t know if other people noticed that as well.
Yes, that makes sense! I think I remember reading about the backlash somewhere too. I can’t remember if it bothered me at the time - the wedding industry is so intense (and that would have been the time when EVERYONE I knew seemed to be getting married) that it didn’t surprise me she was doing all these other things. Thank you!
Several days ago there was a short post on medium about this book from Glossier's former comms lead, which struck a very different tone. If you haven't read it, might be an interesting follow up. I thought it was particularly interesting that no one interviewed knew at the time that it was going to be a book about Emily Weiss. https://medium.com/@ashleymayer/we-need-more-women-founders-on-offense-2c3bc8134b11