Almost a year ago, I met Suelyn Farel, CEO of Julien Farel Group at the WWD Beauty CEO Summit. I was struck by her oversized black sunglasses (we were at the Breakers), her connection to France, and the air of kindness about her. We made plans to connect back in NYC, which finally happened a month or so ago when she treated me to a salon service and to amazing Julien Farel hair products, including the Magnifique Fortifying Serum. During our simultaneous blow-drys and over coffee, we shared stories of the beauty industry, compared notes on our favorite products and spas, and became friends, discovering we have much in common (including a 5 am wakeup time, the necessity of having champagne in the fridge at all times, and the fact that working with family means work/life balance is not something we can even begin to comprehend).
AP: What city were you born in? SF: White Plains, NY.
AP: What city to do you live in? SF: New York, NY.
AP: What is your middle name? SF: I do not have a middle name. My maiden name was “Bogdanoff” and with Suelyn being my first name, my parents couldn’t find something that would fit in between the two!
AP: What is your astrological sign? SF: Sagittarius.
AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? SF: I graduated from college in 3 years.
AP: What is your most prized possession? SF: My family.
AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? SF: My husband.
AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. SF: Elegant, sporty, and black.
AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? SF: Yes. I switch between a Panerai / Bulgari for work, and wear a diamond Cartier Pasha for evening.
AP: Diamonds or pearls? SF: DIAMONDS ALL THE WAY!
AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? SF: Sleep.
AP: What fragrance do you wear? SF: I’ll never tell!
AP: Botox or not? SF: Not but I’m weighing the options as I age.
AP: Hair color: natural or not? SF: Hair color definitely NOT NATURAL.
AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? SF: Diet tip #1: Starbucks for breakfast. Diet tip #2: Eat everything in moderation. Don’t limit yourself in the foods that you eat, just eat the right quantities. Life is too short to eat salad without dressing!
AP: What do you do for exercise? SF: I have a fantastic personal trainer, Christina De Almeida, at JF Fitness at Julien Farel Restore Salon & Spa.
AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? SF: Pommery Champagne, Evian and mustard.
AP: What is your cocktail of choice? SF: Tigre Blanc vodka with a splash of cranberry and two slices of lemon.
AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? SF: There is no such thing as balance in my world. Work permeates every part of my life, being that I work with my husband. There is no separation between who I am and what I do!
AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average? SF: 50-60,000 miles.
AP: What are your three top tips for travel? SF: 1) Pack lots of layers and scarves, 2) For my hair: Julien Farel Smooth Crème to smooth flyways, Janeke mini travel brush+always have an elastic on my wrist, and 3) Alchimie Dry Skin Balm for my super-dry ‘airplane hands.’
AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. SF: Blank Space by Taylor Swift, which I sing with my girls plus two workout songs always on my iPod are Survivor by Destiny’s Child and Lose Yourself by Eminem.
AP: What book are you reading right now? SF: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr which takes place in St Malo, France. I loved the book so much that I’m bringing my mom there this year, because she gifted that book to me after having read it!
AP: Quote to live by. SF: “Work hard, play hard!”
AP: What is your worst pet peeve? SF: Laziness and dishonesty compete for the top spot.
AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? SF: I wake up at 5:00am because my husband goes for a run every morning and I am an early riser! I usually sleep about 6 and a half hours a night.
AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? SF: The beauty industry is filled with amazing women who are supportive, smart and savvy. The mentality is that “we are all in it together,” which is very different from fashion and what’s in many other industries. I really admire most, if not all, of the women I have met in beauty. It is a great club to be a part of.
AP: Least favorite thing. SF: Well, as the mother of young girls, I worry about the influence this industry may have on my girls… the look of perfection in an industry where everything is so nipped, tucked, buffed and perfect. I love the Dove Real Women campaign where they show true beauty by being yourself regardless of imperfections. A lot of marketing around beauty and fashion is so airbrushed and plastic. I love looking great but most days of the week I don’t wear makeup. And I’m okay with that real image being presented.
AP: Who is your mentor? SF: I’m not much of a follower, so I honestly haven’t really had a mentor. I do have women in beauty who inspire me and who I admire like Essie Weingarten, Jane Lauder, Debbie Perelman. And Bobbi Brown! Bobbi remains so tied to her brand and down to earth. When I met her, a few years ago, she smiled and gave me one piece of advice and that was, “Don’t fuck with your face.” Since we are in the beauty industry, it is hard to stay away from the invasive options out there! But, hearing that from Bobbi Brown, that will stay with me forever.
AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. SF: Find what you love. If it feels like work, change jobs or careers. Nothing replaces hard work. There is no real magic. If you keep working hard, you will get there. Never stop dreaming. If you keep dreaming, you can make it happen. Don’t be afraid to stick to what you believe in. Young women have many innovative & interesting ideas and insights that they bring to companies, that are completely different from the insights of professionals more senior in their career. Don’t be afraid to share them!