The Moment I Realised I Wanted to Be a Beauty Editor

Amanda Montell
PHOTO:

Urban Outfitters

All right, it’s true—we beauty editors have a pretty good gig. Though racing to meet tight deadlines and subjecting our skin to exotic ingredients can be a stressful way to make a living, we mostly fill our days giddily fawning over products and treatments, always hoping to be the first to report on the next big thing. We know it's a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.

All this said, the beauty editor title isn’t like an astronaut’s or a movie star’s. Instead, it’s incredibly niche—not something you’d hear the typical 10-year-old mention when asked what she wants to be when she grows up.

So one has to wonder, what inspires a beauty editor to enter the field? What person, event, or epiphany leads someone to pursue the wacky and wonderful, gritty and glamorous life of writing about beauty for a living?

To find out, we spoke with seven top editors in the business, asking them to tell us the story of the very nanosecond they knew the beauty editor life was the life for them. To hear their personal stories, read on.

“A specific moment?! I was working for Cat Marnell at XOJane.com, and we flew out to Santa Monica for a make-under shoot with Audrina Patridge from The Hills—my first big work trip. We stayed at Shutters on the Beach (which Cat told me was a hotel for middle-aged couples trying to save their marriages), and I thought it was the actual most glamorous best moment of life ever. After the shoot, we ordered room service and called Carmen Electra for a story about how to be hot and ended up staying on the phone for like two hours talking about tanning, trampolines, stripper poles, and Prince. After that, I just thought THIS IS IT. I’m doing this forever.” — Julie Schott

“I’ve known for as long as I can remember I wanted to work in beauty. That was never the question. In what capacity did I want to work within the industry? That took a little more time and consideration. Originally I envisioned myself working at a beauty brand—skin or makeup—because I love product. But I also love writing. A few months into my first ‘real’ job out of college, I had gotten a taste of the editorial world, and the rest is history.” — Deven Hopp

PHOTO:

Benjamin Stone

“I started my career in fashion, interning at Elle in the accessories department when I was 18. But as I got more experience post-college, I realised how much I enjoyed writing beauty stories. I get extremely enthusiastic about the latest curling iron or skincare technology, and I truly enjoy interviewing experts. There is so much to explore in the world of beauty—be it an innovative Korean sheet mask idea or a contouring hack.

“There was no aha moment for me when it came to switching from fashion to beauty—rather, it was a feeling that developed over time. I think growing up as a dancer piqued my interested in hair and makeup as well, since I had to do my own to get stage-ready for shows. I learned how to use hot rollers and apply false eyelashes before I was even a teenager.” — Lauren Levinson

PHOTO:

Federica Dall'Orso

“I was really into playing dress-up and doing my makeup as a kid, and I read my fair share of magazines when I was growing up, but it never occurred to me that I could actually be the person writing the stories I was reading—especially the ones about beauty! I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania, so the mecca of these magazines—New York City—seemed like a world away. But that all changed when I came to the city to visit my cousin when I was a junior in college. She worked at Health magazine in the beauty department at the time, and I couldn’t believe she wrote about beauty for a living. I also died and went to heaven when I saw the beauty closet, which is what sealed the deal for me. I finally knew what I wanted to do for a living!

“As luck would have it, while I was there, she mentioned that they were looking for an intern, and I basically jumped at the chance. That May, I started my internship and loved every second of it. I went to events, interviewed experts, organised the closet, helped with shoots—whatever they needed me to do, I was willing to do it. It wasn’t until a year later, after I finished college, that I applied at Shape magazine as the assistant beauty editor and landed my own gig. And after spending six years there, climbing my way up the ladder, I switched over to Cosmopolitan.com, where I’ve been ever since!” — Carly Cardellino

My mum inspired me to go into beauty. She’s been obsessed with skincare and makeup as long as I can remember, and some of my first memories are of her applying serums and lotions and creams on her face and body. I was using a glycolic cleanser in middle school and knew the science behind it even then. That’s also about the time when we started to get matching blonde highlights. We’re different in so many ways—I’m more like my dad, but we always find middle ground in discussing and experimenting with beauty. When I decided to become a writer, she was disappointed I wasn’t going into medicine. Now that she gets to test even better beauty products with me, I think she’s coming around to the idea that almost six years later, I’ll be sticking with this career.” — Elizabeth Denton

“I knew I wanted to be a writer, ideally for a magazine, but I didn’t know what I wanted to write about. When I was studying abroad in London in college, I mailed my résumé (yes, on paper, in an envelope, with lots of stamps) to various HR departments at magazine publishing houses in the hopes of getting an internship. Needless to say, I didn’t hear back from anyone, and by the time I got back to the States, it was too late. I started emailing different websites, and someone randomly passed me along to the PR department of Nars Cosmetics. I interviewed for a summer internship and got it, and I spent the next three months learning about all the different roles that exist in the beauty industry—I really had no idea before. Most importantly, I learned that I could write about beauty products—and decided that’s what I wanted to do. My next stop was an editorial internship in the beauty department of Harper’s Bazaar, and I’ve been in beauty ever since.” — Dawn Davis

“It wasn’t an exact moment for me, but more of a gradual evolution into my current role. I had always been more fashion-focused, but as a digital staff writer at Elle, I had the opportunity to broach several genres, from celeb news to style to politics—and yes, beauty. As time went on, I realised I was pitching more and more beauty stories, particularly in the health and wellness categories. I geek out about these things in my personal time, so it came easy for me. It also helped that I had really amazing editors who helped me fine-tune my voice and encouraged me to go for it.” — Victoria Hoff

What’s your dream job? Tell us all about it in the comments!

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