I didn’t realise how into makeup I am until I listened to Life and Lipstick

Before I began studying for my master’s in Global Marketing in 2018, I had the slightest clue about business and marketing. The only understanding I had of the subjects before then derived from my 12-week marketing internship in London three summers ago which I sought as an opportunity to spruce up my CV, incognizant to the fact that it would later become a subject of interest and – better yet – a desired career path. Therefore, in order to prepare myself for a year of strenuous knowledge acquisition and intense research into an area I lacked such in, I tried to immerse myself into as much business-and-marketing related content around me as possible. The modules I would be taking covered the likes of e-marketing, brand management and performance management, so the answer to my wondering “what can I do to gain a better insight into marketing and brands now?” was a simple one in this day and age: social media. “On social media, follow all the brands that you like, and discover as many influencers that you relate to,” I considered. The best platform to do this on? Instagram.

I realised that, on Instagram, I was only following a minimal number of brands. I was predominantly following people I know from school, university and other walks of life. The only brands I were following were those that I’d either worked for or that would pop up under ‘people to follow’ that made me think “oh yeah, I like that brand”. I realised that I probably wasn’t receiving the full extent of the Instagram experience that was available, which is so imperative to marketing these days. So, after gathering all the brands I’ve ever liked or encountered in my mind, I went on an extremely large follow spree. I gazed around me as I sat cross-legged on my bed with the Instagram app open on my phone for inspiration; “a Dunelm duvet? Let’s follow Dunelm. A Cath Kidston moisturiser? Let’s follow Cath Kidston. A Fjallraven Kanken rucksack? Let’s follow Fjallraven”. And the bout continued. The most significant following of all, however, was Benefit Cosmetics. Soon after said following spree, I would notice that they would often appear on Instagram Live; on Tuesdays, in particular. At the time, Lisa Potter-Dixon, a long-time professional makeup artist, best-selling author and glitter enthusiast was Benefit Cosmetic UK’s Head Makeup Artist and, every Tuesday night, she would conduct a “Tip Tuesday” Live on their Instagram. Thus, every Tuesday night, the “@benefitcosmetics is now live” notification would emerge at the top of my screen. Little did I know that, from the first time I tapped on that notification and would watch the live video, I would become addicted.

My Benefit Cosmetics collection early last year

“This woman is incredible!”, I thought, as I watched Lisa enthusiastically present her favourite Benefit products and expertly apply them to her flawless skin whilst amicably speaking to her live audience; “why have I not seen these before?”. By the time I’d engaged in these Instagram Lives a few times, the teaching for my master’s had started. And, when told in our E-Marketing module that, for our summative assessment, we were required to write a report that critically evaluated the digital marketing strategies adopted by an organisation of our choice on a social media platform of our choice… Boom! Benefit Cosmetics on Instagram came straight to my head. (I loved that about both my degrees; being given the ability to research into topics, contexts and brands of our choosing made the completion process so much easier.) My thinking as to following as many brands on Instagram as I could turned out very, very well.

Eventually, there was no way I could wait every Tuesday to partake in Tip Tuesday (such a millennial with a thirst for instant gratification, huh?), so I followed Lisa’s personal account on Instagram where I would discover even more delight; her “5 Faves of The Week” where she offers honest reviews of a multitude of products not just relating to makeup, but also fashion, beauty and lifestyle, her fabulous nails which I would often use as inspiration when I get my own done at the salon once a month (outside of lockdown, of course), and her incredible thigh-high vibrant pink boots which she pulls off so naturally to name a few. Then, one day (over a year ago now!), she announced that she would be co-hosting a new podcast with another stunner, expert and inspiration of a makeup artist, Hannah Martin, called Life and Lipstick. I’d been longing for a podcast that I could listen to with interest and not cut it short and turn back to my music (again, talk about a social-media-influenced short attention span), and this was it. Of course, I also started to follow Hannah who I developed as much admiration for upon learning that she once held the role of Pro Makeup Artist at Bobbi Brown, listening to her also honest and wholehearted product reviews and watching her excel at life as a busy mama of two, and my commute to uni for the foreseeable was sorted: listen to Life and Lipstick!

Episode 1 - Life And Lipstick | Podcast on Spotify
Life and Lipstick Podcast (Image credit: Spotify)

After listening to their first episode, which was an introduction to their crazy but lovely selves and the podcast overall, I was sold. I adored listening to their stories about how they became makeup artists which shared wonderful similarities and differences; for both of them, it wasn’t something they particularly intended to pursue, similarly to the story that I shared in my previous blog about how I changed my mind from wanting to pursue teaching to wanting to pursue marketing. That’s what I loved about this podcast from the onset: it’s so relatable even if you’re not a makeup artist yourself. As the episode progressed, Hannah shared that her grandmother influenced her love for makeup and, likewise, Lisa explained how much her model mother inspired her when she was younger. It really made me reflect on my makeup influences; something I’d never taken the time to reflect on so profoundly before. It made me realise that, like Lisa especially, my mum has greatly influenced my makeup habits, too.

When I was in Year 6 – around about 11 years of age – I started to break out in clusters of spots on my forehead and chin. The thought of going to school with these uninvited, irritable lumps on my face was daunting. At the time, my mum used Clinique Anti-Blemish Foundation which she would also use to apply an ever so light coat to my face once I’d got ready for school in the mornings after I broke out and, my god, it worked a charm. A simple light coat of foundation to disguise the redness and unevenness across my face made me feel so much more comfortable and confident in my own skin. When I wore it, I had no worries about feeling ugly, being picked on or feeling low, which wouldn’t stop consuming me when walking around in my bare-faced, acne-prone skin. As I progressed into high school, my acne gradually became worse and worse and I would rely on that foundation to make me feel better about myself. Of course, I couldn’t always use my mum’s as she wanted to use it for herself, so she kindly bought me my own Clinique Anti-Blemish Foundation at the age of 12 not as a birthday or Christmas or any sort of occasion gift, but as a treat because she could see how much happier I was in myself when I wore it (thanks, mummy!). That foundation, then, was unknowingly the start to my impending makeup collection.

Me wearing predominantly Benefit makeup

As a young teenager in high school, I inexorably developed a desire to play around more with makeup. Throughout my high school career, I woke up at 6:00am every morning, even though school didn’t start till 8:30; likewise, my mum woke up at this early hour every day even though she didn’t start work till 8:30, too. My mum always likes to ensure that she has enough time to wake up, get herself ready and complete some household chores before she leaves for work and I adopted this mentality from her whilst I was at school; I still like to be ready as early as possible for any event like work, a social outing or a date night. So, when I’d get ready for school and still have time in my morning to spare, I’d sometimes watch my mum apply her makeup and imitate her routine. I’d watch her apply her Clinique Anti-Blemish Foundation gently with her clear-tailed Clinique foundation brush, apply her Clinique Lash Power Mascara (can you tell she likes Clinique?) flutteringly to her eyelashes and stroke her neon blue Bourjois pencil eyeliner carefully below her eyes. Obviously, I couldn’t wear blue eyeliner to school – or any makeup for that matter, but I ~ rebelliously ~ did every single day anyway (thinking about it, I can only recall having one makeup-related detention after trying on a super orange-tinted powder foundation a friend bought for me; either I did my no-makeup makeup look really well or my teachers loved me that much) – but I replicated many of my mum’s makeup habits when applying my own. Also, I couldn’t own as many high-end makeup products as my mum because I was only in high school – I wasn’t earning my own money – so I would buy most of my other makeup products like mascara, blusher and lipstick from brands available in Boots (I mean, their 3 for 2 deal has always been a winner) including the likes of Rimmel, Maybelline and Collection with either birthday, Christmas or pocket money (although my mum continued to kindly renew my Clinique foundation every time I’d run out – isn’t she amazing?).

Echoing my earlier statement, only after I’d listened to the first Life and Lipstick episode and reflected on my own makeup influences did I realise how much my mum’s makeup habits had shaped my own. Again, as I said, I’d never thought about it before; I merely saw makeup application as an essential part of my mundane getting-ready routine. Then, when my skin finally started to clear up by the time I was 16 and I no longer needed an “anti-blemish” foundation, I was eager – after 5 whole years – to try a new foundation. The summer I turned 16, I went to Brighton with my mum and walked into their Mac store – a brand I’d heard a hell of a lot about through word-of-mouth, but never experimented myself – and each of us had a lovely lady apply numerous foundations to our faces until we found the right ones for us. I can’t remember which one I purchased exactly, but I used Mac foundation for about three-to-four years until, for some reason, it began to disagree with me. That’s when I turned to Benefit, thanks to Lisa Potter-Dixon. After watching her use Benefit Cosmetics’ Hello Happy Foundation on a Tip Tuesday soon after it launched, I thought “I need to get my hands on this baby”. And so, one day after work in Kingston-upon-Thames, I headed to the Bentalls Centre and straight for the Benefit Cosmetics counter. The sweet Sales Consultant on shift applied it all over my face and, honestly, I felt rejuvenated. It was exactly what I was looking for; all I needed was a light coverage to conceal my acne scars. I don’t like the feeling of full-coverage, heavy foundations on my face, perhaps from my experience of using a light coat of anti-blemish foundation to cover my acne spots and adhering to a no-makeup makeup look for so long, and this foundation is anything but heavy. I’ve tried a couple of other foundations since, like Benefit Cosmetics Hello Happy Flawless Foundation (yes, it’s different – notice the word ‘flawless’), but I still use Hello Happy at present because it works so well for me.

The entire Life and Lipstick series was such a pleasure to listen to, especially the latter two seasons where they talk with an array of big names in the beauty industry including the powerful Caroline Hirons, the inspirational Zoe Boikou and the one and only Bobbi Brown; not only did it make me appreciate and develop an everlasting respect for the beauty industry, but it also made me realise how impactful makeup has been in my own life. Thanks to Lisa and Hannah (and the aforementioned Zoe Boikou from the very emotional episode in which she is featured), I now use the best makeup brushes I’ve ever used (from Zoe’s brand Zoeva Cosmetics; they specialise in high-quality makeup brushes which are INCREDIBLE), I can create the ~ almost ~ perfect feathered natural brow (which I receive compliments on so often) and I have discovered a plethora of inspiring women to follow on Instagram and engage in their Instagram Lives, Instagram TVs (IGTVs) and merely enjoy their content during my evening social media scrolls. So, Lisa and Hannah (if you were to ever read this), thank you!

Love,

Soph, Little Pav

How I learned that it’s O.K. to change your mind about your career prospects

From the ages of thirteen to nineteen, I was so sure I wanted to be a high school teacher. Certain, in fact. I was so sure, I was doing everything I could to gain as much teaching experience as possible alongside my GCSE, A level and university studies to add to my CV. Six years is a really long time to be certain about the career path you intend to pursue – so long, the plan inevitably became like a comfort blanket for me. The notion of “knowing” what I wanted to do in the future made the journey there seem a hell of a lot easier. When it came to choosing my A levels, I didn’t need to think twice; I knew I loved English, Spanish and Dance, so those subjects I chose. I developed such a passion for English Language during my A level studies, I confirmed that’s what I wanted to study at university. In order to be a high school teacher, I knew I had to complete a postgraduate certificate of education (PGCE) upon completion of my bachelor’s. Basically, I had my life all figured out. Sweet. Done. Easy. Or, so I thought.

During my second year of university, I started to have my doubts and change my mind as to whether I still wanted to pursue teaching and, honestly, I didn’t know how to handle or respond to my thoughts. “I was so sure teaching was the career for me – why am I changing my mind now?” “Is it normal to start changing my mind so suddenly?” “Is it too late?” Because. Yes. No. They are the short answers to those three questions in consecutive order. The long answers? One: I was changing my mind then because I had been studying for my degree for almost two years up to that point, and I had learnt so much not only about my course of study, but also about life as a student, essential life skills and friendships to name a few; I continuously found myself inspired by my surroundings and was therefore growing as an individual. Two: it was normal to change my mind so suddenly as the plan to become a teacher remained subconsciously in my mind whilst I was letting my surroundings sink in; when the doubts found an opportunity, they hit like a ton of bricks. And three: it definitely wasn’t too late to start changing my mind because I still had a whole year to complete my degree, arrange meetings with my academic advisor and conduct some research into my growing interests; and, most shockingly of all, I was only nineteen. Of course, I hadn’t realised all this at the time; I was extremely confused and most certainly couldn’t find a solution alone. But, before I go on to explain how I approached my thoughts and accepted that I no longer wanted to be a teacher, let’s backtrack a little. You’re probably wondering why I was so certain that high school teaching was the career for me from such a young age. Here’s the story.

Before thirteen, I wasn’t entirely sure as to what I wanted to do in life, but I had an idea; “something in English or performing arts” was my thinking. As I’ve said a few times on my blog now, writing has always been a passion of mine. Likewise, when I was younger, I was extremely passionate about performing arts; I attended drama classes at Sylvia Young Theatre School in Central London every Saturday from the ages of about nine to fifteen and, as I’ve also mentioned before, I have always enjoyed writing songs. Then, when I started high school, I began to develop an ever-growing passion for contemporary dance. I found not only dancing myself, but also the professional choreographers and works that we studied exciting, intriguing and thrilling. When it came to choosing my GCSEs then, along with the core English, Maths and Science and mandatory foreign language (as my school specialised in languages), I went for the triple threat: Drama, Music and Dance. During our first year of working towards our GCSEs in these three subjects, we also completed work towards a smaller award called the Bronze Arts Award (which, for some reason, they stretched across one whole academic year when it could have easily been completed in one half-term). The requirements to complete this award for each subject were similar: for all of them, I remember that we had to give a presentation based on a person who inspires us in that area. For Dance, however, I specifically remember that we had to lead our own lesson, either individually or in pairs, which would be recorded to send to the examination board.

The lesson had to include the following: a pulse-raiser, a mobiliser for the knees and a physical game. We were required to create a lesson plan and write a script to provide to the examiners, too. I remember rehearsing my butt off for this lesson like my life depended on it. I had just begun my GCSEs; life was gettin’ serious, K? The night before, I read over my script again and again and again until I was somewhat satisfied. The day of, I was shitting myself. I walked into the dance studio feeling sick to my stomach. I was “number four” of thirty-odd in the class to approach the task, and the first to do it alone. I remember my teacher pointing the tiny camcorder (yep, that’s what was used back in 2011) toward me as I stood facing my classmates in front of the mirror-covered wall. I was holding my script shakily. “Ready?”, my teacher smiled. “Yep”, I responded hesitantly. Beep! The recording, and thus my lesson, begun.

To cut an already long story short: my lesson went really well. As soon as I heard the ‘beep’, I instinctively dropped my script to the floor beside me. It felt like it had just removed itself from my hands. I didn’t need it; I’d rehearsed enough, I guess. Beep! As the recording stopped, my teacher slowly brought the hand in which she was holding up the camera back down to her hip and blurted “how good was that?” to the rest of the class. Commotion. Everybody in the class was crying “Sophie, that was so good!”, “wow, have you taught before?”. Even those in my class who bullied me outside of class were saying nice things – I mean, what is that about? “You’ve got a career in teaching”, my teacher continued; “that was incredible”. At the age of thirteen, hearing that “you’ve got a career” in something feels pretty amazing; it provides a sense of confidence, achievement and direction. And so, from that day, it was decided: “I’m going to be a teacher!”. From that day, as I said in the beginning, I did everything I could to build my teaching portfolio: I ran my school’s Contemporary Dance Club when I was in Year 10, I was nominated to be a tutor for a Year 11 English student when I was in Year 12 and I opted to complete the Volunteering In School’s Award (VISA) by helping my Dance teacher in her Year 9 lessons also whilst I was in Year 12.

Further, just before I started my degree in English Language and Linguistics, we were given the opportunity to elect one subject module per semester in our first year; the others were compulsory. Or, in place of a different elective module per semester, we also had the option to study Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) – another qualification which enables you to do as the title says upon completion – which would continue into our second year and thus take over a couple of elective module blocks in that year, too. “A teaching module? Tick.” When the teaching of that module – or qualification – began, I really enjoyed the first few lessons, predominantly because they focused on the recapping of English grammar, syntax, morphology, etymology, phonology; the nitty-gritty of the English language, which I’m an utter nerd for. However, when we began to learn how to teach this nitty-gritty content to a second-language learner, I didn’t enjoy it so much. “That rules out teaching English as a second language, then”, I thought. That was the extent of my thoughts. Notwithstanding, the unfulfillment of this module directed me to contact someone at the university about the possibility of discontinuing the qualification (and therefore merely gaining the amount of credits equivalent to that of one module) and choosing a different module to study in the spring semester, which was fine. Instead of the second part to TESOL, then, I elected a module called Language, Mind and Brain. “Now, this is what I’m talking about; this is what I came to study.” It was basically psycholinguistics, a branch of linguistics which is just SO cool, and it’s true; I came to university to study English Language and Linguistics, and this module was one awesome aspect of that. The other compulsory modules across the year covered semantics, phonology, grammar and discourse, which all contribute to what linguistics is about, too.

So, teaching English as a foreign language was a no-go. “Fine. No worries, I’ll just stick to teaching curriculum English.” Following this discovery, I decided to continue as I finally figured in my first year through to my second year; to choose modules that concentrated on the elements of linguistics that I was genuinely interested in, rather than bothering so much about choosing modules that partly aligned with my teaching plans. I intended to study for a PGCE upon completing my bachelor’s which would qualify me to teach anyway, so I decided to enjoy my course’s content while I could. Then, during one of my Forensic Linguistics lectures in the spring semester of second year, two third-year girls were invited into our lecture to discuss the opportunities my university offered to gain work experience over the summer through their internship scheme. “It’s so easy to sign up”, one said, “you just have to go to the website, create a profile, and when you see an internship post that sounds interesting to you, you just upload your CV and wait for a member of the internship scheme team to contact you!”. That does sound easy, right? So, when I got home, I entered the URL in my laptop, signed up, and on the home screen of the website popped up a plethora of internship roles in London which, once you clicked on them, had a job description and a “send my CV” button appear. It really was easy. Although I couldn’t find one teaching-related internship, I thought I’d try my luck and send my CV to any role which sounding interesting to me; incidentally, they were all related to social media marketing. Whilst I was studying, I was also working as a part-time Crew Trainer at McDonald’s, so it inadvertently became an opportunity for to develop my professional portfolio as opposed to my teaching one.

The next day, and I mean not even twenty-four hours after I’d sent my CV to various places, I received a call from a recruiter who worked for the internship scheme at my university. “Four of the employers would like to meet you tomorrow!” he cried. I was in a state of shock. What was it about my CV that made me appear an ideal candidate for marketing? The fact that I have a good command of the English language? That’s all I could think of. Anyway, the recruiter and I agreed that meeting all four employers in various places in London in one day was a bit absurd, so we’d arranged a date for two and would get back in touch to arrange the other two. The first interview I’d attended was for a twelve-week internship as a PR & Marketing Assistant for a luxury baby-and-children’s furniture brand. Again, long story short: the interview went really well, and the day after that, the recruiter told me the job was mine if I wanted it. “That’s great!”, I said excitedly, “but what about the other interviews?” It turned out that all the other internships were only intended to last between two-to-four weeks, so I cancelled the pending interviews, accepted the role as PR & Marketing Assistant in Central London and consequently, after almost three-and-a-half years, quit my part-time job at McDonald’s to focus on the internship (I wasn’t too worried about not finding another job during my final year; I was quite confident that, after this internship, I’d have ample experience).

Throughout my twelve weeks in this role, I’d gained experience and skills aplenty. I’d learned everything I needed to know about social media marketing for a small business; I learned how to use specific marketing tools such as WordPress (hence why I’m here!), Buffer and MailChimp, I created three-to-four social media posts daily for their social media and wrote blogs and newsletters weekly for their website. However, when I was offered an extension of the internship (namely, the opportunity to continue to work for them remotely or in store on the weekends alongside my final-year studies), I safely declined. My bachelor’s degree was very research-and-written heavy and, truthfully, I didn’t want to commit myself to having to write blogs when I had an abundance of assignments to complete. Nevertheless, when I’d started my final year, I’d arranged a meeting with my academic advisor and positively told her all about my internship experience. “Now I’m really confused as to what I want to do in life”, I said. “Do marketing”, she replied abruptly. “Marketing. You enjoyed that internship, right? That’s just a taster.” She was right; everything I did during that internship was just a microcosm of what a career in marketing holds. “I could do marketing, I guess.” And so, after a long, well-needed chat with my academic advisor, I’d decided that instead of studying for a PGCE upon completing my bachelor’s degree, I’d study for a master’s in Global Marketing Management.

I realise now that the reason I didn’t know how to handle my thoughts as to why I was changing my mind about what I wanted to do in life was because, as I said near the start, I was comfortable. I knew what I wanted, where I was going and pursuing my goals seemed pretty easy. Then, when I started to consider other avenues, I didn’t enjoy the feeling of escaping of my comfort zone and exploring something new. It’s like I almost believed that teaching was destined for me and that I shouldn’t even allow any other career prospect to enter my mind. Well, I was wrong. Studying for a marketing-based master’s degree was the best decision I’ve ever made; not only did it open my eyes to the business world and enable me to recognise the impact of brands on our everyday lives, but it also taught me an array of life skills that are essential in every workplace, something that teaching might have lacked. If you’re changing your mind about what you want to do in life, just know that it’s O.K.; I did, and it worked out wonderfully.