By Jamé Jackson Hoping to score a position as a beauty editor someday? While working in that industry can be a blast, it’s more than just trend-spotting and testing all the latest products from Sephora. Ed sat down with Dana Oliver, the beauty director at Yahoo Beauty, to get the scoop on what her job actually entails, the best career advice she’s ever received, how she’s opening the space for women of color, and how YOU can one day sit in a similar position as her. Whippersnappers, take note!
How did you get started in beauty? Were you always interested in the craft?
My love for beauty started at a young age when I’d play in my mother’s Fashion Fair foundation and lipsticks. My childhood home was brimming with magazines like Essence, Jet, and Ebony, so I constantly saw positive and beautiful images of women who looked a lot like me. But it wasn’t until I landed an internship at Glamour while attending CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism that I realized I could actually create a career in the beauty industry. The digital team there helped to shape and mold my news-writing skills into smart, savvy content that reflected my unique voice and perspective. There weren’t—and still aren’t—many black beauty editors, so I knew I could bring something different to this field.
What are some of the challenges of being a beauty director?
The biggest challenge I face as a beauty editor is remaining authentic to myself while still providing expertise. Because of my lifestyle, I can’t experiment with every beauty product that lands on my desk. So I try my hardest to have the best writers and editors fill those gaps.
A lot of people may assume that I have an army of interns and editors and writers, but that is far from the truth. You’ll still find me opening up every piece of mail I receive, organizing it with our beauty storage, and emailing and calling brands and experts personally. There is no such thing as grunt work for me!
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Connecting with individuals of different backgrounds on the topic of beauty itself and what it means to them. This actually serves as a huge inspiration for the type of features I write and assign for Yahoo Beauty.
I’m also big on mentoring young editors who I believe possess lots of potential, but are often overlooked because they do not fit the stereotypical image of what a fashion/beauty editor looks like.
How are you working to revamp the Yahoo brand to be more multicultural and millennial-oriented?
My personal editorial mission has always been to create a space where people can feel connected, whether that’s through seeing photos and videos of individuals who look like them or reading stories about women, men, and children with similar experiences. This requires having writers and editors of different backgrounds researching, reporting, and writing. So I’ve worked tirelessly to introduce new members to my team while inspiring existing editors to push themselves outside of their comfort zones. Having real, honest and informative conversations is also an essential part of the process. That way we can create content that speaks to communities that are often underrepresented in digital media.
Though the beauty industry is working to be more diverse, there is still a lot of lack of diversity when it comes to director roles. As a woman of color, how do you use your heritage and your position to elevate other women?
Whenever there is an opportunity for me to educate people who can make profound change towards inclusion and diversity in the beauty industry, I make it a priority. I understand that I am in a position where I can use my leadership to turn the wheel and mentor and hire more women of color—and that is something I absolutely do not take for granted.
How has the beauty industry evolved since you first started? Where do you see the beauty industry heading in the next 5,10 years?
When I first started in the beauty industry, there were a handful of black editors who stood out among this elite group of journalists and experts. While those numbers are still small today, they are in fact growing. I beam with pride every time I see a familiar face at a beauty preview or event. And I also get giddy when I see young editors and interns who are equally passionate about the industry. I hope to see more diverse faces and voices 5 to 10 years from now, and I hope to see a vast improvement in products and technology that reflects what this truly looks like.
Do you have any staple products you can’t live without?
I absolutely can’t live without sunscreen, and my current favorite is by Farmacy because it doesn’t leave behind garish gray streaks on my dark skin. I also love Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Sun Drops. A lot of people hate on Gwyneth Paltrow; however, I’ve been using Goop Perfecting Eye Cream ever since she introduced me to it. It’s been a game-changer, keeping my under-eye area supple and clear of dark circles. And you can probably find at least two to three different Velvet Lip Glides by NARS at the bottom of my handbag.
What’s the greatest career advice you’ve ever received? What advice would you give to someone looking to be a beauty editor or director one day?
The greatest career advice I’ve received is actually life advice from my father, Leon. He told me that you give people respect until they show you that they do not deserve it, and to treat everyone like they are important because you never know where you’ll end up in life.
With that in mind, the advice that I always give to anyone who hopes to become a beauty editor or director one day is to work hard and remain humble. No job is insignificant when working towards success!
Jamé Jackson is a freelance writer based in New York City. She loves all things fashion, beauty, and #GirlBoss related. She can be seen spreading her magic on Instagram @Theblondemisfit and her website, Theblondemisfit.com.