Recommitting to Reading

This is week 42 of year 2020, yet I am only on my 23rd book… While I usually read an average of one book every week or ten days, I have had a harder time reading over the last couple of months. This may have to do with the fact that I fell into the black hole of Mankell’s Kurt Wallander series (the original version, in Swedish, based on the amazing crime novels by Henning Mankell). Or it may have to do with the fact that my brain is so tired from dealing with our current reality that it has no bandwidth for reading.  

Regardless of why, I am recommitting to reading. And I have lots of books I am really excited to get in to. 

This week, I am reading Bluff by Jane Stanton Hitchcock. I met Jane a few years ago, when she attended book club in Georgetown for her book Mortal Friends (still one of my favorites from book club), and she fascinates me – for many reasons including the fact that she is a professional poker player (and yes, Bluff features a female poker player…). 

Then, I will read the following (in which order I don’t yet know). 

Richard Branson: Losing my Virginity. This book has been traveling with me between DC, Hammond, Geneva, and Tinos for the last six months. It may be the best travelled book I own… 

Kelly DiNardo: Living the Sutras. Kelly gifted me this book over a year ago after she invited me to her studio Past Tense to attend a yoga class. And boy do I need more yoga and more calm in my life… 

Victoria Hislop: three more books because I love her writing that much and need to travel in my head… preferably back to Greece. The Last Dance (a collection of ten short stories set in Athens and various Greek villages), The Thread (set in Thessaloniki in northern Greece), and The Sunrise (set in Cyprus… I am really venturing out of my comfort zone with this one!).

Brenda Janowitz: The Grace Kelly Dress. Because I need a “summer read” even though we are technically in fall. (Note: this is not in the photo because it is on its way to me from Amazon even though I promised myself not to buy any new books until I had read all others…). 

Casper ter Kuile: The Power of Ritual. This was recommended by Seth Mattison on a webinar I listened to a few weeks ago, and is about crafting rituals that promote connection and wellbeing. 

Bill Murphy Jr.: The Intelligent Entrepreneur. This tells the stories of ten Harvard Business School grads who started their own businesses, and how they became super successful. One of them is Marla Malcolm Beck of Bluemercury

What are you reading right now?

Wisdom from WWD's Beauty Summit

Back in the office after a day and a half of WWD Beauty Summit, my head is so full of information, ideas, and inspiration that I can barely think straight. My mother’s advice when that happens is to write things down: lists, to-dos, key learnings. Putting things on paper, she always told me, will clarify your thinking. So that’s what I am doing… for myself, and also partly for you who might not have been able to attend.

While it is impossible for me to say who was my favorite speaker (well, of course, other than Leonard Lauder who was the keynote speaker of the dinner), it is easy for me to share the one liners that resonated the most with me…


On Digital

“The digital world is like the air we breathe; we only notice it when it is not here.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“It’s pretty damned crowded on that Google highway.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“The beauty industry is not leading the way in digital innovation.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“Today is not about brand loyalty, but about brand advocacy.” Julia Goldin, Revlon

“Digital should never be an afterthought, a project… digital is the way we live.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“We can’t let digitization sanitize the essence of beauty.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“Never think you can fool the customer; the bloggers with get you!” Leonard Lauder, Estee Lauder

“No brand is going to survive if it does not have a digital component to it.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“It’s very last century to think of digital media as isolated from the rest of your marketing strategy.” Gina Boswell, Unilever


On Bricks and Mortar

“The internet is not going to kill retail.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“Every great city needs its iconic department store.” Corinne Jacques, Rive Gauche

“In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope.” Charles Revson, as quote by Julia Goldin, Revlon

“I go to other people’s stores to find out what pisses me off and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“JC Penney needs a little therapy.” Norma Kamali

“We need retailers in the US to believe here is a 3rd way, somewhere between department stores and mass.” Aliza Jabes, Nuxe

“Be a destination, not an obligation or an inspiration.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“When you grow too fast, you lose your soul.” Bertrand Thomas, Caudalie


On Age and Beauty

“This baby will live to be 120.” Gordon Farquhar, Alliance Boots

“Most people see the ideal age as 31.” Linda Wells, Allure

“I am 47 and I still think in my brain that I am somewhere between 28 and 36.” Brooke Shields

“I have to choose my ass or my face… when I am heavier, I look younger.” Brooke Shields

“I have clearly chosen my face over my ass.” Gina Boswell, Unilever

“A facelift without treating skin is like reupholstering a sofa with dirty fabric.” Tina Alster,  MD, Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery

“We all believe that we look younger than we are.” Linda Wells, Allure

“Men want to look like they are old enough to have the job they have, so they don’t come to me asking to look a decade younger.” Tina Alster, MD, Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery

“How do you look your best at 75 when you are trying to find your 3rd life partner?” Gordon Farquhar, Alliance Boots

“Put older women on the pages of your magazines.”  Tina Alster, MD, Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery


On the Beauty Consumer

“We could be in danger of having a bored beauty consumer.” Ed Burstell, Liberty London

“American women want instant gratification and quick fixes.” Mathilde Thomas, Caudalie

“American women do not understand the subtleties of French packaging.” Mathilde Thomas, Caudalie

“One in two households has a Suave product in their households.” Gina Boswell, Uniliver

“When it comes to how she looks, the biggest pressure is the pressure she puts on herself.” Gina Boswell, Unilever

“We see firsthand everyday how hard women are on themselves; there is a lot of crying in the fitting room!” Claire Chambers, Journelle

“Only 4% of adult women think they are beautiful, which is deplorable.” Gina Boswell, Univelever

“People identify with people, not ingredients.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“Listen to your customers; sometimes they know more than you do.” Leonard Lauder, Estee Lauder


On Trends

“What is new and unique today is likely to be irrelevant tomorrow.” Ded Henretta, P&G

“The beauty business is on the verge of new prosperity.” Peter Born, WWD

“I find the idea that the era of single digit growth in the luxury beauty market has arrived unacceptable; I am quite convinced that the luxury beauty segment can continue to sustain double digit growth.” Carol Hamilton, L’Oreal

“Treating the body from top to bottom is the next step.” Ed Burstell, Liberty London

“The holistic approach is the next big thing.” Gina Boswell, Unilever

“Skin care is by far the largest category in China, but men’s grooming has great potential.” Hua Fang, Shanghai Jahwa United

“About our spas: no big news here today, we have not yet found the recipe to making them profitable.” Bertrand Thomas, Caudalie

“Today’s world is VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous.” Gina Boswell, Unilever

“Red is still the highest selling lipstick color.” Julia Goldin, Revlon

“Focusing on cities will be the unique way to achieve growth.” Nathalie Remy, McKinsey

“We sell one Huile Prodigieuse every 6 seconds worldwide.” Aliza Jabes

“It’s about launching less products and opening fewer doors.” Bertrand Thomas, Caudalie


On Emotions

“There is an emotional deficit in the world that we as brands can fill.” Wende Zomnir, Urban Decay

“Beauty is personal and emotional, and will always be that way.” Marla Malcolm Beck, Bluemercury

“Inspiration can come from anywhere, as long as you have your eyes open.” Julia Goldin, Revlon

“I like to get really emotional on the data.” Wende Zomnir, Urban decay

“Better be lucky than smart.” Michael Kaplan, Fashion to Figures Stores

“There isn’t a woman in the world who can’t be taken down by a bad hair day.” Norma Kamali

“Happiness is like eyelashes; it is so close to your eyes, sometimes you can’t see it.” Francis Kurkdjian


About the French (from the French!)

“The French consumer is more reasonable.” Aliza Jabes

“We have to stop thinking like typical negative French people.” Bertrand Thomas, Caudalie

“Paris is the most beautiful city on Earth, but in wealth it is #4, whereas New York is #2.” Nathalie Remy, McKinsey

“I became obsessed with pleasure of use, with texture, with fragrance.” Aliza Jabes, Nuxe


More Words of Wisdom from Leonard Lauder

“A business without a vision isn’t a business, it’s just a pastime. You have to have a vision.”

“When a person with money meets a person with experience, pretty soon the person with experience has money and the person with money has experience.”

“Accountants and lawyers make good accountants and lawyers. Period. Make your own decisions.”

“You’re never too far ahead to lose or too far behind to win.” (quoting Arla Specter)

“Over-distribution will get you every time. We never let distribution run ahead of demand.”

“Start small and become important to one customer. Then 2. If you think you can be important to 100 customers in 100 cities, it will never work. Be an acorn and you will grow into a great oak.”

BeautyView: Marla Malcolm Beck, CEO and Co-Founder, Bluemercury Inc., Founder, M-61 Anti-aging Skincare

One of my first meetings when I started Alchimie Forever was with Marla Malcolm Beck of Bluemercury. I was fascinated by her, by the fact that there she owned a DC-based beauty company, by the fact that we had a Harvard connection. I had dreams of Bluemercury being the flagship retailer of Alchimie Forever. Today, while Alchimie Forever is still not (not yet?) in her beauty boutiques, we still run into each other at social functions and industry events. And I am still fascinated by her, by her blonde hair (now I know how she gets it), by how she has been able to grow her business and even launch a skin care line, by her tenacity and endurance. Indeed, her favorite quote is a favorite of mine, perhaps a favorite of all entrepreneurs….

AP: What city were you born in? MMB: I was born in Oakland, CA and went to the University of California, Berkeley. I am a California girl at heart – an entrepreneur with the Go West to the Frontier mentality. I don’t believe barriers are walls to anything.

AP: What city to do you live in? MMB: I live in Bethesda, MD with my husband, business partner and best friend, and my three children, age 9, 7, and 5.

AP: What is your middle name? MMB: Malcolm. It’s my maiden name.

AP: What is your astrological sign? MMB: Gemini.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? MMB: The number of creative, innovative people there are in the industry.

AP: Least favorite thing? MMB: How marketing driven it is and how sometimes the marketers are so very far removed from the consumers and what is important to them.

AP: What is your most prized possession? MMB: My family.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? MMB: I have been a vegetarian since I was 22. I have not eaten a single piece of meat in 20 years. I have been experimenting with eating Raw Vegan. My skin has never looked better and my energy level is off the charts.

AP: Do you wear a watch? MMB: Yes, a solid gold Cartier Tank Francaise in Medium.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? MMB: Both.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? MMB: Ben Franklin. He was an amazing innovator, conversationalist and succeeded at creating something new within everything he touched.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? MMB: I give all of my time to work and family. I always have three priorities at work, and I focus on achieving them. Once I achieve one of the priorities, another one gets added. On the other hand, to unwind I do the following: 1) I love cooking. I find it very relaxing and have been really perfecting my vegan cooking and baking; 2) Our whole family bikes together – there is nothing like the wind blowing through your hair on a bike as your whole family surrounds you and chit chats; 3) My husband and I take a walk at 10pm every night and talk through the day and talk about the next day.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? MMB: 1. Pack light so that you are extremely mobile. I try to travel in jeans, a nice blouse and a sweater. I bring one day to evening dress, and 1 set of workout clothes and that is it! 2. Pack 3 -4  skincare products that you need, no need to overdo it. I always bring a DIY peel – there is nothing like doing a glycolic peel at night to remove all of the grime and travel residue and bring out glowing skin. 3. Pack a good book. Airplane time is a great time to disconnect, clear your head, and devour something that has nothing to do with what you do.

AP: What is your favorite book? MMB: I love historical fiction and my favorite series of all time is Colleen McCollough’s series on Caesar. The series basically goes through the rise and fall of the Roman Republic. The Romans did so many interesting things right – division of power in government, food provision for the poor, infrastructure building. And so many things wrong – corruption, vanity, murder. It’s better than a soap opera and you learn something about history, also!

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? MMB: I am not a drinker at all. I will take a sip of a good wine or champagne, but that is it.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? MMB: Glowing skin can be had. I use Vitamin C every night. I use a home glycolic peel 3x per week. I use sunscreen every day. This is the perfect recipe for great skin for most of our clients, also.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? MMB: Acqua di Parma Colonia has been my scent for 13 years. Fresh citrus with a touch of rose bulgara, created in the 1930s – a total classic.

AP: Botox or not? MMB: Not. I have not done anything and have only been to a dermatologist for skin cancer checks. But I am an absolute sunscreen junkie and have dozens of different kinds that I wear for different occasions.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? MMB: I have been going to Kathleen and Kao of Salon AKS (or they have been coming to me in Washington DC!) for over 10 years now. I won’t let anyone touch my hair other than this dynamic duo. They come to Georgetown every six weeks and I cannot live without them. Kathleen knows how to do the perfect blonde. Everyone thinks I am still a natural blonde and I have given her number to countless people.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now.  MMB: Jackson Brown, Stay. The Grateful Dead, They Love Eachother.  Extreme, More than Words.  [I am dating myself!]

AP: Quote to live by. MMB: “Genius is one percent inspiration, and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”  Thomas Edison

AP: Who is your mentor? MMB: Leonard Lauder has been an amazing mentor. He is so very supportive of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. He is the best at helping us think 10 years, 20 years out. We need this, because it is so easy to focus on what’s here and now.

Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. MMB: Everything is possible. The hardest part is figuring out what you want. Once you know that, getting there is just a matter of having a plan and flexibility.