When Shannon Pirie Charles was first courted by It Cosmetics, her immediate response was rejection. It took about a year and a half of persuasion by the beauty brand’s founder Jamie Kern Lima before Charles agreed to move to New Jersey, where the brand’s headquarters is located. “It wasn’t about money or selling a product,” Charles says. “It was truly believing that women are beautiful. I took a massive leap of faith almost four years ago, moved across country, and sold my company. ”
In Singapore recently to launch the brand’s Bye Bye Under Eye Concealer, Charles is now the Vice President of It Cosmetics Global Education. She describes herself as a “brand ambassador in every capacity you could imagine.” As someone who heads the education department, she says her goal at the end of the day is clear and simple: Making sure that the brand is always spoken about in the right way whether in Singapore or Milwaukee in Wisconsin.
From the get-go, it’s clear why Charles was headhunted for the role. Her experience includes a near eight-year stint as Education Director at Benefit Cosmetics, and running her own waxing lounge for over three years. In person, her laughter fills the room, and she speaks with charisma, humility, and a contagious confidence gleaned from years of leadership.
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“Usually, a lot of people in this position don’t spend a lot of time in stores but I do,” she shares. “Sometimes [when I’m there], people have no idea who I am, which I love. I’m just this loud American. Until today, I always think of work that is based off that person at the counter; I always think about that girl because I was her for so long.”
In early 2018, It Cosmetics faced backlash with the launch of its Bye Bye foundation which only featured three darker shades. People took to social media to address the range’s lack of inclusive shades. Explaining this, Charles says: “Our foundations, like our CC cream, use physical-only sunscreen of SPF 50. It looks like white toothpaste and when you put SPF 50 on it, it becomes grey. Getting to 12 was a huge endeavour. We keep pushing and pushing to expand the shade range but we don’t want to put out deeper shades that turn grey. We’re still challenging ourselves”.
When asked what her years of experience in the trade have taught her about what women want, Charles says with nary any hesitation: “Confidence. We always say that we’re on a mission to change the conversation in beauty. So instead of looking in the mirror and seeing what’s wrong, we want you to see what’s right.”
In the age of the skeptical, ‘woke’ consumer, how does It Cosmetics push this message beyond what may seem like marketing spiel?
As a brand rep, I get to stand up and tell people that they’re beautiful the way you are. I give true compliments. Then I see the room shift. I think the problem is that the industry has been telling you what’s wrong with you [in order] to sell you a product. And I’m guilty of it. So many brand reps do this thing, where they scan somebody and find three things wrong with them in order to sell them something. The thing about It Cosmetics is, I’m not scanning you for what’s wrong; instead I’m looking for what’s right. What’s so interesting to me is that someone can sit in my chair — I don’t know their name or what they’re about— but they tell me 10 things they’re insecure about themselves. And why is it that? Why do women always point out all our flaws first?”
The definition of beauty has evolved a lot. We’re constantly told that women want to look healthy and glowing. What are your views on that?
These brands may be telling you what you need to do but more people should be telling you that you’re doing a really great job. This world is not easy, especially with social media. There is a constant need to keep up with the Joneses. I was laughing so hard the other day because apparently what’s trending now is teeth whitening. So now my teeth has to be whiter? On top of that, I have to make sure I have the best outfit on, and shoes that look good but pretend they don’t hurt so much. My makeup has to look good, and my hair perfect. Oh and did I work out today?
See, look at all these things we women have to do. There’s so much stress to be a certain type of woman. I find that it’s bull****, to be honest. Can we just cut it? Can we start focusing on what’s right? All these things don’t matter, you’re not going to be perfect at everything. Let’s celebrate your greatness, not focus on the negative.
I just want everyone to pause and realise they’re beautiful. Whatever makes you feel beautiful is what you should do. I’ve been asked questions like do I apply concealer or foundation first? And I tell them: You do what you want. Just because I’m an expert, and have some clout, doesn’t mean my opinion is more important than yours. If you look in the mirror and feel beautiful, that’s all that’s important.”
Beauty Tips from Shannon Pirie Charles
The Bye Bye Under Eye Concealer is packed with collagen peptides and antioxidants, and is meant to be emollient like an eye cream. “At It Cosmetics, we start our product as skincare, then add pigments,” says Charles.
On choosing the right concealer shade
“First, figure out which shade family your skintone belongs to (fair, medium, tan, dark). Then, think about your undertone. The thing I tell people is look at jewellery. If you’re someone who wears predominantly gold jewellery, you’re going to be more of a warm undertone. Someone who loves silver jewellery has more of a cool undertone. Someone who mixes both is neutral.”
On recommended application
“A little goes a long way. What I do is take a little bit of that concealer, warm it up, and tap it where you would put an eye cream. Then buff it in. Do tiny circles to blend it completely.”
All photos are courtesy of L’Oreal.