These days, you can’t really call yourself a beauty influencer until you have your own line. In 2010, it was considered groundbreaking when Lancôme signed Youtube sensation Michelle Phan as its “official video make-up artist” – today, it’s hard to name any make-up guru with a fat following that doesn’t have a collection, whether it’s a limited-edition collaboration or a proprietary brand.
With a million followers on Instagram, Maria Hatzistefanis definitely has plenty of influence. But the founder of Rodial, who uses the handle @mrsrodial, launched her brand in 1999 in the pre-social-media age, and her followers aren’t run-off from the Rodial Skincare account either – the company’s Instagram account has less than 10 percent the following of Hatzistefanis. She isn’t an influencer leveraging a large fan base to start a business, she’s a businesswoman who’s used sass and sense to cultivate a following in service of her brand.
Hatzistefanis started as a beauty journalist, but was, she admits, always a bit of a sales junkie. “When I was really young I always wanted to make stuff and sell it to people. I always wanted to make my own money. I was always good at sales. I just had it – I wanted to sell things. And buy things.”
She left the editorial world to plunge into the business sphere, gaining the financial know-how to kick-start Rodial with a series of body products with marketable names like Tummy Tuck or Boob Job. The brand expanded to include skincare – always with luscious promises delivered upon, whether it was hydrating and plumping Dragon’s Blood products, the cell-regenerating Bee Venom range or the wrinkle-ironing Snake series – as well as make-up.
The latest is a Rose Gold collection, which combines active ingredients derived from white rose and 24k gold to oxygenate and power cell renewal while filling out wrinkles across horizontal and vertical planes (“I believe we’re the first ones using this [regenerative bioactive extract]. Most anti-ageing formulas target horizontal lines, but there are certain ones – in between the eyebrows, around the mouth – that are vertical, and this ingredient has specific effect on vertical lines, an issue that hasn’t been addressed,” she says.)
But while we all dig a good miracle ingredient, what this generation knows is truly miraculous is the ability to cultivate an audience. And there’s little doubt that Mrs Rodial has that trick down pat. An early adopter of social media, she’s got curating images down to an art – comments show fans swooning for her style, blasting heart-filled emojis at outfit posts that showcase her exotic good looks as well as this season’s most-wanted runway pieces, whether it’s a Gucci logo tee, Louis Vuitton x Supreme crossbody or a Balenciaga Knife pump.
Looking good is literally what her label is about, and she has learned well how to showcase that as her own personal brand. Because make no mistake – she may use the name Rodial, but that’s just one extension of the Maria Hatzistefanis brand. Over the years, Hatzistefanis has given talks, produced a docu-series (The Mrs Rodial Project, starring herself among others) and even mentored contestants on reality show Project Runway. Besides all that, she also runs another more mass-market body care and skincare brand, Nip+Fab.
This year, she published her first book, titled enticingly, in full click-bait fashion, How to Be an Overnight Success: Making it in Business. She debunks the “overnight” bit quickly, on the third page of the introduction: “We are in 2017. I started the business in 1999. It took me 18 years to become an overnight success”, she writes.
“The title is ironic,” she explains. “This is what everyone’s looking for. In the age of social media, when everyone thinks everyone is an overnight success – this blogger showed up out of nowhere and is super successful, or even when they say Justin Bieber is an overnight success, but you go back and see he’s actually been working his ass off since he was 10 years old – a lot of young girls want quick success. They want to work very little. You have to work hard. Every day I’m handling 100 challenges. They never stop and it never gets easier.”
That said, the book is motivational, rather than cautionary. What began as a holiday project became a tool for catharsis – “I always wrote when I was upset” – and then, one day, she had enough for a book. “When someone I worked well with left the company, I felt very sad, and then I wrote the chapter about human resources. Hiring and firing, creating the team. It was like, ‘Oh, let me sit down and write a book.’ It was little pieces that I put together.
“It was personal therapy. And I still do it now. So who knows, there may be a second book.”
It’s as much promise as it is conjecture.