Famous beauty founders, entrepreneurial blunders and overcoming hurdles on the way to success
With a long career in journalism focusing on beauty and wellness, Kathleen Baird-Murray is a Contributing Beauty Editor at British Vogue, regular writer for the Financial Times, and the author of three books. She’s loved an interview ever since she hung about backstage to meet Gil Scott Heron as a journalism student, most recently her interview with Brad Pitt for Vogue went viral.
Now she's taken on the podcast world with 'Keeping Face'. Over seven episodes, Kathleen unpicks the glossy success stories of our favourite beauty brand founders, to discover those moments of desperation, intense pressure, and often, astonishment. We sat down with the interviewer turned interviewee
I love chatting to founders, they’re usually charismatic, full of ideas, independent thinkers and often more likely to be open and say what they think - not worrying too much about how they’re perceived. So that's the first inspiration. And then I had tea with Frederic Fekkai who said, “make it founders but make it about what happens when things go wrong as that’s far more interesting.” The third reason is I'd never made a podcast before. I liked the idea of just being able to talk - I thought it might be easier than writing but in fact it’s much harder than it looks
My whole career is something of a setback, in so far as I never intended to be writing about beauty and my first long pieces that were published while I was a journalism student were all interviewing bands I loved like Jamiroquai, MC Solar, Gio Scott Heron. I wasn’t at all strategic about my career and found my way into beauty after a few years of working a bridal magazine. Beauty was a challenge - I thought it was for the most part really boring and I wanted to see if I could make it interesting.
I always say I am a writer first, specialising in beauty. It's my job to find a story and tell it. Most of these stories for me came from the creative personalities that peppered the industry, the make-up artists, hair stylists and colourists, plastic surgeons, facialists, chemists, perfumers... Luckily as I've been working the "job" has broadened out into wellness, health and the business of beauty too on occasion.
Over time I was also "allowed" (by those great editors I had who liked the way I wrote) to have more of a voice, and even an opinion. So it's all worked out in the end, with those additional setbacks like very low pay for journalists, especially freelance ones; the advent of ChatGPT which has us all questioning our futures; and the opportunities to write long stories diminishing in line with our attention-spans shrinking, forcing me (and other writers) to think laterally. Okay, what else would I like to do? And then the doors open, and off you go!
That's an easy one to answer - I had tried out Renude after being introduced to Pippa, the founder, via a colleague, and thought it was a great idea. My own skin is a mess, after years of trying products it has become somewhat sensitive, coupled with menopausal hormones, and a mixed heritage skin tone that seems to find the sun no matter how much sunscreen I apply. I liked the way Renude took the hard work out of finding out what would work best with my own personal combination of skin challenges. The other reason and this is a really important one, is that Keeping Face is editorially independent. A lot of articles and podcasts these days aren't independent - a brand has funded it, or the founder has asked for a final edit or approval. We knew there wouldn't be a conflict with Renude - they could fund us, sure, but they wouldn't want any input into the actual interviews or approval of the individual subjects.
I avoid gimmicks. I stick with things that work. And where possible I use them to the last drop, so as to ensure consistency. I do the minimal possible to my skin and have a minimalist routine.
I love The Ezra Klein Show and have shared his podcast "Our Brains Weren't Designed for This Kind of Food" with several friends as it's the only thing that properly explains appetite, hunger and weight gain to me. Esther Perel is also fascinating - getting insights into the relationships of others helps us all understand ourselves a little better.
Gosh.. I have about 30 I'd like to interview but so far the top three are: Ramdane Touhami, the co-founder of Buly as he is a creative and marketing genius and I don't know much about him; Eve Lom, the original facialist, who is no longer involved with her eponymous brand but is a total legend; and Tom Ford, again he's no longer involved with his brand, but I interviewed him for Vogue when it first launched, so I need that closure now he's left it.
Proudly sponsored by Renude, you can listen to the Keeping Face on all your favourite podcast channels and may just find out how to redeem £10 discount off your next order:
To get started on your own skincare journey with us, take our simple skin quiz now.
Complete our quick quiz, then book a free video call or upload photos.
Your aesthetician will hand-select a personalised skincare routine for the evolving journey of your skin.
Get ongoing advice as your skin changes for just £20 every 3 months (which is deducted from your purchases).