It’s been a minute since I last had a guest on the blog, so I’m pumped to have Gloss Angeles’s Kirbie Johnson here with me today! If you’re not already familiar with Kirbie, she’s one-half of the popular beauty podcast Gloss Angeles where she chats weekly on all things beauty, wellness, social media, celebrity culture and more with co-host Sara Tan. From new launches and buzzy skincare ingredients, to TikTok trends and celebrity sit-down’s with Selena Gomez and Lauren Conrad, this former PopSugar reporter has her figurative finger on the pulse of industry-making news.
I sat down with Kirbie over Zoom back in January to pick her brain on the brand launches that really made an impact on her in 2020, her thoughts on JLo’s new skincare line, and what key trends she thinks will shape the beauty industry in 2021.
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WHAT WERE YOUR TOP BRAND LAUNCHES OF 2020?
There were two launches that really had an impact on me and made me want to wear makeup again, which in 2020 was quite the accomplishment!
I think Rare Beauty did everything right. If you’re going to have a celebrity as the face of your brand then you need to have the right people behind you who understand the beauty landscape, and that’s exactly what they did. Everything from the messaging, to the product names, to the packaging…I think they just knocked it out of the park. I love that they launched with a full collection too.
When we first talked about Rare Beauty on the podcast it was just Selena Gomez’s beauty line; we didn’t even know the name at the time. The one thing I said back in 2019 was that I hoped she didn’t name it “Selena Gomez Beauty” because that normally spells the end for a brand. Glossier, for instance, was very smart. Instead of naming the brand “Into The Gloss Beauty” or something like that, they put a spin on the name. When I talk to people now about Glossier, half of them don’t even realize the connection with Into The Gloss. You should be able to create a brand that stands alone without having to depend on your fans to sell it. If someone is not familiar with Selena or doesn’t sit in her fan demographic, you still want them to walk into a Sephora and buy Rare Beauty products because they love them; not just because it’s Selena’s beauty brand. It’s a blessing and curse to have a celebrity tied to your brand.
Also, Rare’s mission to raise $100 million over 10 years for mental health services shows me as a beauty journalist that there’s a long-term plan for this brand. It’s not going to be some flash-in-the-pan; they want to be here for the long-haul. We often discuss this on the podcast: when you’re launching your brand where do you see it in 10 to 20 years? Is it going to be another Estee Lauder? Another Lancome? Do you want it to have longevity or are you just creating this brand because it’s popular and trendy thing to do now? I think it was smart for them to launch in Sephora as well because that gives you that street cred that every brand wants to have.
Makeup By Mario was another amazing launch. They’re an unsung hero in my opinion, but I do think they’re going to have longevity in the market. Those are some of the best formulated products I’ve ever used, which is no surprise because as a makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic has put so much care and expertise into his brand. His products are going to be staples that people buy and have forever. He did such a great job.
WHAT COLLABORATION OR LAUNCH DO YOU WANT TO SEE HAPPEN?
I don’t know if this is already in the works, but Keke Palmer needs to partner with someone in the beauty space. She’s been so outspoken about PCOS, which affects so many women. It’s really, really hard to get it under control. I know women that get on spironolactone to help, but there are so many things that women who have it have to endure. She’s been so forthcoming with her experience, and she’s talked about the mental and psychological aspects of it as well. It might not even be a collaboration; perhaps a skincare brand that’s launching with a focus on hormonal acne could use her as an advisor, like Kerry Washington with Neutrogena Hydro Boost. Perhaps that’s the way Keke Palmer gets involved. I just love her. She’s so talented in so many different categories. Whatever brand scoops her up as an advisor will benefit because people really trust her. She’s not just showing the glitz and glam; she’s showing acne and its psychological effects. I’d love to see something from her one day.
WHAT RECENT COLLABORATION OR LAUNCH WERE YOU DISAPPOINTED IN?
Morphe is doing big things now and generating a ton of money, but I would have loved to have talked to them about their strategy behind Morphe 2. I honestly feel that brand launched and then we never heard from them again. Morphe is known for having affordable products that are big on YouTube, so I feel they already cater to a younger generation. I think Charli and Dixie D’Amelio are lovely, but I also didn’t understand why they selected them to be the face of Morphe 2 either. Dixie wears more makeup and is experimental, so I guess I understand that better. But Charli is very fresh-faced and doesn’t tend to use a lot of product. So it just fell flat for me. It felt like a cash grab, honestly.
On the other hand I think Addison Rae’s brand, Item Beauty, makes sense. She’s known for her lashes; she wears makeup, so that makes sense to me. I also think the products are really cool-looking. As a mascara connoisseur, I really like her Lash Snack Lengthening Mascara.
WHAT’S YOUR READ ON JLO BEAUTY?
I need to know if this olive oil complex is as good as it claims to be! Here’s the thing about JLo. I’m a fan, but I don’t think she should have said she wasn’t the type of person to get Botox. Botox isn’t taboo anymore, so what exactly are you saying? I think she alienated people by saying that, and that was disappointing to me.
JLo looks great but we have to talk about the fact that her makeup artist or assistant edits her photos. As a celebrity, she also has access to a chef, ultrasound facials, micro-current facials, facial therapy, all that. So even if she’s not getting injected with anything, she’s doing other things to supplement her skincare routine. She’s afforded so many luxuries that the average person doesn’t have access to, and that certainly contributes to why she looks so good.
Now, am I minimizing the fact that she works hard? No, she’s literally one of the hardest working celebrities out there. She’s constantly has her hands in things, and I respect her immensely for that. I don’t know if she just misspoke and it was taken out of context.
But I don’t want to totally knock her brand either. Maybe the products are incredible, I just don’t know yet. But I’ll be testing them for sure, and if they’re incredible I’ll be telling people to get them. It’s very similar to Pharrell Williams’s skincare line Humanrace; that’s a brand I was excited about and the products also happened to be great. I was a little suspect of Selena’s brand when it was announced in 2019, but I was pleasantly surprised. But it’s my job to be skeptical and figure out what’s really great and what isn’t.
WHAT WAS THE MOST PIVOTAL MOMENT FOR BEAUTY IN 2020?
I think the most impactful time was back in June during the protests. The beauty community started to ask for more from the brands they support. It really shook the industry in a way that hasn’t happened before.
A lot of promises were made that haven’t been followed through on. I know a lot of brands are on hiring freezes due to the pandemic, but there are other ways that you can follow through on these promises to be more inclusive and hire more BIPOC. Some brands were really disappointing. They posted a black box on Instagram and stayed off social media for two weeks, then it was like business as usual. It was also interesting to see color cosmetics launches still not be inclusive of different shade ranges. I don’t know how we went through June 2020 and there’s still brands out there that only cater to one specific group of customers.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 2021 BEAUTY PREDICTIONS?
I think it’s very obvious that SKIN MINIMALISM is going to be a trend this year based on everything that happened last year. There hasn’t been much conversation about skincare ailments yet. I talked about this on the podcast, but I think inflammation is going to be a big product concern for launches this year because of “maskne.” I feel like we’re going to see a lot of anti-inflammatory types of products, whether that’s a mask or moisturizer or serum; something that will put the fire out and calm any inflammation that’s causing the maskne or if you have chafing or redness.
SUSTAINABILITY is always a conversation but I think it’s going to shift a bit this year. People are going to ask the clean beauty brands how they are actually contributing to the environment if their products aren’t recyclable, for instance.
Our friends from Fat Mascara were on the podcast last year for a trending episode. Co-host Jess Matlin thinks there’s going to be A RETURN TO SCIENCE, and I agree. It’s not just going to be skin influencers making the call. It’s going to be legitimate scientists, cosmetic chemists, and dermatologists; they are going to be the real big star players this year. We’re in a pandemic, and we’re looking to doctors and the medical community to help us right now. I think that will affect the skincare community where dermatologists and scientists will take center stage.
I think RICE WATER is going to be a really big ingredient trend. I saw it pop up in so many late 2020 releases. Tatcha has been using it forever, but Humanrace also incorporated rice water into its products too. It’s a trending ingredient on TikTok after a hair influencer said she washes her hair with rice water. It’s been a beauty and cultural trend in China, Japan, and Southeast Asia for centuries, so we’re going to see that ingredient put into different product formulations this year.
I hope you enjoyed this chat with Gloss Angeles’s Kirbie Johnson! You can find her on IG and Twitter @kirbiejohnson. You can also listen to the Gloss Angeles podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and any other places where you podcast.
xo, and be well, Erica
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Interesting interview! Also very interesting about the rice water. I’ve never heard of that before. If it will make my hair softer, I’d definitely try it!
Thanks so much for reading Michelle! Kirbie was such a pleasure to interview and chat with! Rice water is becoming a big trend in beauty now, especially in skincare and haircare.