meetings then makeup, numbers then nails, strategy then skincare…

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Youtility Marketing – Beauty Style


More than a year ago, my colleague and I sat in on a webinar hosted by Jay Baer, world-renowned social media and marketing expert, best-selling author and sought-after keynote speaker.  The topic of the discussion was Youtility Marketing, the innovative yet simple concept of creating truly, inherently useful content.

We knew it was a brilliant tactic, so simple… we just had to figure out what it looked like in the beauty world or more specifically for Benefit Cosmetics.  For months and months we rolled ideas around.  We used the word Youtility way too often and even built the concept into our annual digital objectives.  I’m not sure our General Manager knew what we were talking about and quite frankly I’m not really sure that we knew what we had signed up for but we had to deliver…we kept at it and then… BOOM!

It came to us…it was gonna be a hack…a beauty hack…but an unexpected, fun, new style beauty hack that was cute and goofy and had all the necessary elements of our brand DNA.  It was everything that good social content should be…fun, snack size and shareable!

Introducing, one of our little babies #BeneBeautyBits.

It was an entire marketing team effort; together we created the concept, the logo, shot, edited and produced a series of 6 – 15 second #BeneBeautyBits videos to be aired weekly on the @BenefitCanada Instagram feed.

The Bits videos have quickly become fan-favourites (achieving the highest engagement stats) and now we are in the midst of filming the “Holiday Edition” to air starting the week of December 1st.

If you want to learn why “Smart Marketing is about Help not Hype” you can buy Jay Baer’s book Youtility here.




PRO-filing Jessica Desjardins, A True Blogging Beaut-e!


Jessica Desjardins Founder: Beautezine

This lovely lady was one of the first bloggers that I had the pleasure to work with at Benefit Cosmetics.  Around my messy desk, we would sit, chatting and eating homemade cookies that she baked and brought from her hometown of Ottawa.  Together we would brainstorm ideas for product reviews, contests and posts.  You see, we were new at the digital thing too which made working together so easy, fun & collaborative.  Jessica always found a way to take ideas and make them her own and we knew back then that this gal was really onto something with her amazing photography and authentic how-to videos.  Now fast-forward just 3 short years and Jessica’s mighty blog Beautezine is one the top beauty destinations on the web for those seeking honest product reviews, in-depth tutorials and shoppable beauty stories.  How did this “Blogging Beaut-e” turn her hobby into an award-winning business? Just like this…

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and Beautezine…what was your goal for the blog when you first started out?  Has that changed at all?

A: I started writing my first beauty blog when I was in university.  I was studying health science with plans to go to medical school after I graduated. The classrooms and laboratories were all very masculine, and none of the girls in my classes wore makeup or cared much about beauty, so I started it as a creative outlet to find other beauty addicts. Somewhere in my third year, I had the idea to take the concept of a blog to a different level—I loved flipping through glossy magazines with all the pretty photography and cool graphic design, so I wanted to create a blog that also had that sort of aesthetic. As soon as I thought about the word Beautezine (as in beaut-e-zine), that was it!  It took about 3 months to develop the concept and I launched it on January 1, 2011. My goal wasn’t really to do this full-time, I still had my heart set on becoming a doctor but I knew that I wanted to take a year off before medical school and when I did, Beautezine really began to grow.  I was working in a job that I didn’t really like and even though I wasn’t making enough money to support myself, I decided to quit my job and work on Beautezine full-time. I gave myself three months to be able to pay all my bills and if I couldn’t, I promised myself I’d find another part-time job until it was time to go to medical school but…I did it! (I guess that pressure really worked) After a little while I thought to myself “hmmm… I could really do this…I can always go back to school, but if I leave this now, it will be gone forever.” So I kept at it, and here I am.  My goals have definitely changed… back then it was more of a hobby and a creative outlet but today, it is a brand with a mandate, with loyal followers who expect quality content and it’s about creating a unique kind of digital experience and a business for the future.


Photography: Jessica Desjardins

Q: Was it difficult to transition from “Blog” to “Business” and what sort of skills or training help you to stay organized and successful?

A: It actually was quite difficult. As a blog, you are squished into this super-saturated digital world where everyone is trying to succeed and get noticed. It’s not easy at all. I think that it was a bit of tough love that helped me. I had to embrace the mindset that everyone out there (and their grandmother) has a blog, so just having a fancy camera and some pretty products isn’t enough. It’s what you do with it, it’s how you present yourself, and it’s the quality you produce. If you want to succeed, you need to be better and be different. You have to make people want to come back for your unique perspective. It doesn’t happen easily, it takes dedication and hard work to turn a hobby blog into a business.


Photography: Jessica Desjardins

Q:  At what point did you take on contributors and what do you look for when hiring writers? 

A: I actually didn’t take on contributors until very recently—this past summer was the first time I welcomed a few to the team. I’ve realized that it’s the creative side of Beautezine that I love most. I love spending time in my studio, finding unique ways to style & photograph products, editing photos, compiling graphics and managing the product catalog (okay, that one is kind of boring… but a part of me likes it!) Over the years, I’ve met so many amazing writers by going to events and I figured that if I had others doing the writing component, I could spend more time on the visual component. It’s been a learning process, but I have some writers that are incredible at what they do it’s always a pleasure when they pitch ideas or accept assignments. When I look for writers, I’m looking for someone who is:

  1. Already a beauty addict. I want them to know exactly what the new NARS Lip Gloss is called that is launching in 2 months and who the new face of Lancôme is that was just announced the day before.
  2. Experienced in the industry. It’s easier when they already have established connections and PR relationships so I don’t have to facilitate each and every request.
  3. A good writer. This one may be a little obvious, but I need to quickly check over their work and get it up ASAP. If I have to spend a lot of time editing or changing the tone, then I probably could have written the article myself.


Q: You are known for your photography skills, which are exceptional…can you share a couple of tips for other bloggers just starting out?

A: Thank you! I’ve actually never taken a photography course in my life, so hopefully that will make some bloggers out there happy to hear! Really, it comes with experience. Learning to use a camera is like learning to ride a bike. It takes time, and it’s a slow process but if you look back now on some of my first articles (please don’t!) the photography quality is nowhere near what it is today. My camera has become an extension of my own eyes and mind. I know this sounds so basic but read the manual and learn how to use your camera. If you have a beautiful DSLR camera and you’re using it on “Auto” mode… oh-my-gosh, it breaks my heart. A $5000 camera on Auto Mode really won’t deliver any better than a $150 point-and-shoot camera. Take the time to learn about what ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed mean, how they work and most importantly, how they all work together. Whenever I look at a pile of products that I want to take a picture of, I know exactly in my mind what I want it to look like. How sharp I want it to be (so that makes me want a smaller aperture), how bright I want it to be (so that means I might need to bump up the ISO) and I need to determine if I’m using a tripod or hand-holding (which changes the shutter speed I use). Once you understand how a camera works, it just takes practice to create the images you already see in your mind. A DSLR camera can do amazing things, but amazing things won’t happen just because it’s a DSLR.


A sneak-peek at Jessica’s photo studio & very organized product library

Q: After trying thousands of beauty products, can you name just 3 that you can’t live without?

A: Three products that I use every single day are IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye Concealer, Benefit Gimme Brow and Maybelline Baby Lips in Pink Wink; this shade is actually discontinued so I bought 16 tubes when I found it at a warehouse sale!  If I had to swap that out for a product that is available still, I’d say the Maybelline Color Elixir in Petal Plush.

Q: You have accomplished so much in just 3 short years…what was the first sign that your “personal” blog was going to become a very big deal in the beauty industry and what are some of your greatest accomplishments?

A: I think the first sign was when I was invited to New York Fashion Week about 8 months after I started.  I was given special backstage access to shows like; DVF, Betsey Johnson, Anna Sui & Lacoste. That was my first press trip! Since then, I’ve traveled to Los Angeles to attend the Grammy Awards, Florida for a summer-related beauty launch and New York City & Montreal a handful of times too. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some awesome celebrities like Kat Von D, Annie Ford-Danielson and Alli Simpson and I’ve been invited to speak at a few conferences like Spark Sessions and Made in Blog about the business of blogging and the importance of social support in the blogosphere.  It really means a lot when someone asks you to speak at a conference, because it shows that others look up to you and want to hear about your journey and learn from your experience.  Most recently I was awarded the P&G Beauty & Grooming Award for Best Beauty Blog and I’m currently nominated for a Notable Ontario Award for Best Blog  (You can click through to vote for Jessica now!). Besides those things that are a bit more tangible, I just feel so blessed to be able to work with some of the most amazing brands and I feel like the fact that a brand like Chanel wants to see their products on Beautezine is an accomplishment all on its own.  I really love what I do and having my work recognized, means the world to me.


Jessica & Kat Von D at Sephora


Jessica Accepting her P&G Best Beauty Blog award


My Spark Has Been Re-Ignited!


If you happen to follow my social feeds, you may have noticed that I spent this past Sunday working at a blogger conference called Spark Sessions.

Spark Sessions was started a couple of years ago by some very savvy and successful fashion & beauty bloggers as a way to inspire newbies to the blogosphere and provide them with tools to be successful through best practice sharing and expert insights.  Various tutorials & workshops included; how to brand your blog, how to attract & manage contributors, how to prepare a media kit and how to build relationships with brands and PR professionals.

This year, I was invited to represent Benefit Cosmetics and speak on the panel of PR experts to answer questions about what we look for when working with bloggers.  I must admit that I was both flattered and a little nervous to be included alongside these amazing women: Isabelle Randez: Communications Director, L’Oréal Luxe, Noor Marzook: Senior Consultant, NATIONAL Public Relations and Sarah Kelsey: Journalist & Digital Strategist.


I was pleasantly surprised and more than thrilled that it actually took less than 20 minutes for us to bond over shared thoughts, experiences and goals.  It was so much fun and I felt empowered by the camaraderie that was evident on stage.  I’m very optimistic that we delivered some great insights and honest feedback to give the bloggers the confidence to approach PR Professional in the right way to build meaningful relationships.  A success?  Absolutely.

But for me, the biggest learning was discovered at the end of the day when I left the event feeling (not exhausted) but inspired and uplifted by all of the optimistic energy that was exchanged during my one on one interviews.  The (new to blogging) gals were sometimes shy, nervous and really excited to meet me.  I’ve since received so many tweets and emails and I feel very blessed.  It was truly my pleasure to meet them all and if they learned anything at all, I hope it’s this…

“Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark.” – Jay Danzie

I hope their Sparks have been re-ignited too!


PRO-filing Jodi Urichuk, The Real Rock Star


Photographer: Sandro Altamirano

My relationship with Jodi, began online.  It was all business (at first).  I knew her work, followed her on Instagram and sent her some Benefit goodies to outfit her kit.  Some might say I stalked her (just a little) and eventually, if truth be told, had a bit of a girl crush going on.  You see friends, she’s just SO cool.  Effortlessly chic and totally edgy.  Little did I know, that over the course of the year, Jodi would become a trusted colleague and friend.  This in-demand, superbly talented Makeup Artist & Hairstylist has worked on countless models, celebrities and rock legends.  Not only is Jodi a true professional, a thoughtful, kind and funny gal…she’s also the most fun-loving mom I know and that’s why I think she’s the real rock star!  How does she do it all?  Let’s find out…

Q: How long have you been working as a makeup artist and did you always want to work in cosmetics?

A: I’ve been a makeup artist and hairstylist for over 17 years.  I was introduced to this world during a very brief stint as a model when I was 16…then I realized I was 5’7″, lived in Calgary and was not Kate Moss!  (laughs)  This team came through town doing testing and I was lucky to work with now, world-renowned photographer Raphael Mazzucco.  His Makeup Artist was incredible and it was such an amazing experience, I kept wondering “how could I do this for a living?”  I went to the Blanche MacDonald school of makeup in Vancouver and had the most incredible teacher and mentor; LucyAnne Botham.  When school was done she took me along on photo shoots and was so kind to share her knowledge and experience.  MAC was the next venture that brought me to Toronto, gave me more experience and made my dreams appear that much closer.


Model: Danielle Knudson / Sutherland / Wilhelmina NYC

Q:  Do you remember your first “big” job and what that was like?

A: The agency Plutino Group came into my life shortly after and that felt like a huge accomplishment as a young artist.  There were two big moments I guess…my first cover of a magazine (FASHION) with then, super model & Revlon spokesperson; Rhea Durham.  But truly, most memorable for me was working with The Rolling Stones for two tours in Canada.  I was actually hired to do makeup on the backup band and The Stones key artist came to meet me and asked me to work with them the next day!  True rock icons…I met the most incredible people and learned so much about the business during that time.


Model: Kim Noseworthy / Plutino Models

Q: Do you still get star struck and can you share any famous client beauty secrets or drop any big names?

A: I wouldn’t call it star struck, I get anxious before every job, even with my regular clients.  I truly love my Job and I never want that to go away.  I generally keep what happens with celebrities on lock down as they have hired me to respect their privacy and use discretion although, working with Terrance Howard for People Magazine is one I can mention.  He was an absolutely dream to work with and to top off our incredible shoot, he took out his guitar and sang us a song that he wrote the week before…left us all speechless.

Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?

A: I’m inspired by so many things; fashion, magazines, art, street style, my daughter, the seasons, books, campaigns…it’s all good.

Q: Do you have a signature style or special talent that sets you apart from other makeup artists?

A: My signature look would be clean, fresh and luminous skin with a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll.  I think that my precision, attention to detail and my ability to adapt or adjust to any situation is what sets me apart.  I think people feel how much I love what I do and it puts them at ease because they feel taken care of.  I take pride in that.


Model: Stephanie Christian / Plutino Models

Q: Can you share a few PRO Artist makeup tips or fave products to help every gal look and feel her best?

A: Along the way you pick up little tricks and products that make your life easier.  I’ll share a few that have been in my life for the last ten years as well as a few new additions:

CLARINS Beauty Flash Balm is a staple, it instantly tightens, brightens and prepares the skin for perfect makeup application.  It provides luminous all day wear and when I fly, I apply it to a clean face and when you land you feel like a million dollars…love it!!!  For men’s grooming its brilliant, I mix it with foundation to get the perfect consistency for the no makeup – makeup look.

LAURA MERCIER Secret Brightening Powder is ALWAYS near.  Applied sparingly over concealer it sets and reflects light with a micro fine texture that doesn’t set into fine lines.  Truly a life changing product for me!

ELIZABETH ARDEN Eight Hour Cream can be used for anything & everything.  It’s super healing and hydrating, great for lips, wind burn, curling iron burns, cuticles and dry, cracked hands.  It’s a life saver!  (Ruth – I also swear by this product on all the places you mention, before bed!)

LAURA MERCIER caviar sticks or MAKEUP FOREVER Aquamatic Water Proof Glide-On ShadowBoth are easy to use, last all day and deliver the perfect smokey eye (no fall out or racoon eyes here!) and they work on every age.

BENEFIT COSMETICS Gimme Brow, Volumizing Gel  is a game changer! It adheres to the skin and brow hairs on the first swipe and the second swipe builds fuller looking brows with little micro fibres.  This is the product for gals with sparse or over-tweezed brows because full brow gives the face a youthful lift. (Ruth – So true!)


Model: Erica Krauter / Plutino Models & Photographer: Alex Evans

Q: Can you share a most memorable experience or achievement in your career to date?

Actually this year has been a whirlwind of good stuff.  I’ve had the pleasure to work with great clients and Brands but if I had to mention just one, I’d say that being selected as one of 30 artists from around the world to create a colour for the MAKEUP FOREVER 30/30 Project, celebrating their 30th anniversary would be the one to share.  My shade is peacock blue and it was such an incredible project.


See the whole MAKEUP FOREVER Artist 30/30 story here and watch a video interview with Jodi

Q: Do you have any advice for new artists starting out in the biz?

A: My advice to the next generation is to assist (being visible on set can lead to so much more) and learn as much as you can.  I still learn something new every day, not just about makeup but how to react in every situation that is thrown your way.  There are so many amazing, talented people in this business so you have to be able to build strong relationships.  You may have to spend days or weeks with the same people so it’s important to be positive and have great energy.  And…there are no rules in makeup; experiment, support fellow artists in the community and pay it forward.  Do things that scare you…this is the best job in the world!  Take risks and don’t give up on your dreams because if it was easy, everyone would do it.


Books Are My Drug of Choice

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“So what are you reading?” I ask simply because you can learn a lot about a person from their choice in books and I’m constantly looking for good recommendations. I must admit that I am always stunned and a little sad if the answer is “nothing” not because I think reading makes me superior in any way but because I know that person is missing out.

For me, reading is fuel. Books inspire, excite, educate and soothe. I never have less than two books on the go at any one time. Usually it’s one fiction novel that allows a temporary escape from reality and one professional or personal development book (otherwise known as self-help) to feed my never-ending curiosity and quench my thirst for wisdom.  Reading makes you smarter (no shit) it opens your mind to new experiences or ideas, it enhances your communication skills and improves your vocabulary, .

I read because I want to learn.  I read to be a an informed team leader, a strong team player and to keep up with the demands of my job.  I also read to escape those demands, travel to exotic places (if only in my mind) have a good laugh, a good cry or take a thrill-ride into the unknown.  I read to be a thoughtful, intuitive mom and to instill a love of reading in my son.

If you ever want to have a date at Chapters, I’m your gal! and if you ever see me on the subway, Kobo or book in hand, do not disturb, that’s me…getting my daily fix.

I’m currently reading: Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace.  A must for anyone who manages a team of creatives or who appreciates the brain-strain associated with creativity and innovation.

I’m also reading The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult.  Actually my first book by this author and if truth be told, a little dark for my liking.  Very interesting from a historical perspective with a wonderful vocabulary and syntax.  There are some elements of fantasy that are a nice balance to the otherwise sad story that takes place during the holocaust.


“So what are you reading?”


PRO-filing JJ Cowan, Waxing Wonder Woman

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“In awe” is the only way that I can sum up how I felt during my first encounter with JJ.  Everything about her is striking. The collective impact of her 6 foot, sleek stature, big, bold smile, booming voice and larger than life personality result in a dynamic force that can only be described as the stuff that super-powers are made of.  I actually looked up Wonder Woman on the DC Comics website (Yes I’m one of those) and they describe her as “the full package of beauty, brains, and brawn” need I say more?  When you get to know JJ, you quickly see that deep down, she’s really a friendly, fun-loving, free spirit except when it comes to business.  Allow me to introduce you to this bright blogging beauty at Secrets From Your Girlfriends and successful entrepreneur and owner at Wax & Lash boutique.

Q: You are a very busy lady!  Model, Makeup Artist, Esthetician, Entrepreneur, Blogger & Freelance Writer?  Anything else?  Can you tell us exactly what you do or what a normal day in the life of JJ looks like?

A:  Yep that’s a lot…I think you got it all (laughs) Hmmm…well first and foremost I am an Esthetician and I specialize in waxing and eyelash extensions at my studio Wax & Lash in Toronto.


Q: What exactly are eyelash extensions and why are they becoming so popular?

A: Eyelash extensions lengthen and thicken your own natural lashes, they are single strands of synthetic eyelashes that are curved to replicate a natural lash.  The result is a luscious look that can literally take 5 years off your age.  Once applied they can last anywhere from 3-6 weeks with proper care and touch ups. I think their popularity comes from the fact that everyone wants full, perfect lashes and eyelash extensions offer volume that a regular mascara could never do.  They are SO addictive!

Q: How long have you been working in the beauty industry and how did you get your start?

A: It’s really interesting because I feel like I’ve worked in the beauty business my entire life!  When I was a kid, my mom used to take me shopping to Hy & Zels grocery store and I’d hang out in the beauty department which was huge & cheap!  I would save up my allowance and buy every single new product to hit the shelves, even if they didn’t suit me.  It got to the point that I knew more about the products than the people working there and I was giving them beauty advice and product reviews.  (Ruth: so It’s like you were a blogger before blogs were invented!)  Totally,  I was!  (laughs)  Beauty was a hobby but I never really thought that I was headed for a career in esthetics.  I come from an academic family so I went to university (hated it) but stuck with it.  I had to work really hard, I’m a diligent person…I’m driven but book smart, I really have to work at it.   I did get my business degree and I even wrote my LSAT’s but I was completely miserable.  I thought it was my boyfriend (laughs) so I dumped him! I started working various jobs in retail, at bars and basically screwed around for a whole summer while I waited to hear if I was accepted to law school.  Long story short…I was wait listed to one school and in the end, decided not to go.  I was in debt with no real job and no idea what I was going to do with my life.  I was pretty much screwed! (more laughs)  I asked myself…”what would you do if you won the lottery, if you didn’t have to work?”  And then I realized…I just want to play with beauty all day.  So that’s when I started my blog.  I did it with the sole hope that I might get some media attention and find a way to monetize my passion.  I’ve been writing about beauty for years now.

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Q: What do you love most about what you are doing now?  What makes you so happy?

A: Oh man, I absolutely love everything about what I’m doing now! There is not one thing that I don’t like and I actually have to remind myself that I have to eat and pay my bills because I would actually do all of this for free.  In the beginning I was doing that and that’s really how I built up a clientele.  But now, I’m actually very lucky that although I have such a creative spirit, I’m also a business minded person first.  I have always started with a goal that had a dollar sign or profit attached to it, otherwise I drop it.  I’m not too committed because it’s always business first.

Q: What areas of the business do you find most challenging and what are you doing to manage those tasks?

A: It’s a challenge but it’s also really good and that is; that I know exactly where I’m going, and I can see it.  I have to work backwards but it doesn’t move as fast as you want it to and so patience is a really big challenge.  I want it now but I know that everything takes time.  That is my greatest lesson.  When I think about where I was a year ago, I was waxing and doing lashes in my dining room in my apartment and now I have an actual studio.

Q: You always seem so positive and full of energy! HOW? What’s your secret or super-power?

A: Oh god, I don’t really feel that way but I’ve always been a really happy person and as you said, I think energy is contagious.  I come across so many different types of people in this business and I can feel their energy (not always good! laughs) When you work in beauty, you get a lot of clients from various, socio-economic backgrounds and It was really important to me that my services be accessible and that my price points reasonable so the people who actually need the service, for instance; cancer survivors or people who have experienced trauma can experience them.  Nothing brings me more positive energy than seeing a client filled with joy after having a service.

Q: Occasionally I find myself having to defend the beauty business to people who think what we do is “superficial” but what I hear so often is actually about how we make people feel and not about the looks.  What do you say to that?

A: Oh ya, and honestly I was a victim of that before I got into this industry, I never really got it but now, it’s amazing…I get to spend every day being creative and making people feel good about themselves!

Q: I just love your bold style, how would you describe it?  What beauty looks do you love?

A: I like things that are effortless & simple.  I guess you could call it urban-chic.  I like simple clothes that come out of the dryer.  (laughs) My makeup look is pretty minimal but I like to focus on one feature like a bright lip or bold brows, you gotta have good brows!

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Q: What is the best beauty advice (or super-secret tip) that you can share with us?

A: I think…always get up in the morning and do your makeup.  It doesn’t have to be much but it makes such a huge difference in the way you feel about yourself. You know, the beginning and the end of each day begins with you, so just take a few minutes for yourself – away from being a mother, wife, worker and enjoy that time.