The beauty podcast breakthrough

While the podcasting phenomenon had long been bubbling under the surface beforehand, 2014 was the year that saw it hit the mainstream with the introduction of Serial, a true crime series that gripped the world and propelled the medium forward. While true crime – along with several other popular genres – has since dominated, the beauty podcast has been making serious waves lately. “It’s a natural evolution that beyond the crime craze we’ve seen, females want to hear about everything that interests them, from beauty to fashion to sex”, say Jill Dunn and Carlene Higgins of Breaking Beauty. Offering an intimate, more in-depth space for beauty fans, these podcasts are quickly becoming a sensation in their own right…

A couple of months back, I filed a piece about beauty podcasting for the first bi-annual issue of GLAMOUR [out now]. As is the case with so many freelance submissions, much of my copy was cut due to spacing issues and last minute changes to the pages. I had done a ton of research for the feature, and thought it would be a shame for the mini interviews I conducted with the following amazing women to go to waste, so have included them in full below…

Fat mascara, Jessica Matlin & Jennifer Goldstein, New York

Image source: Fat Mascara Instagram

Why did you start your beauty podcast? 

JESS: I’ve been obsessed with podcasts for some time. Comedian Marc Maron and writer Bret Easton Ellis’s in particular. In their shows, they talk one-on-one with someone in the arts, and unlike a magazine or web interview, it feels so intimate and real. When I would listen, I felt like I was a friend who was in the room, just being quiet for the duration of that conversation. There was so much access, and I learned about who these writers/actors/musicians were as people, not just about their work. At one point, I thought, “I need to do this for beauty!” I love talking to people in the beauty world—I find they tend to be really passionate and often funny—and I had a feeling that other people would want to sit in on those chats, too. You just can’t get that intimacy from a magazine article, website, or even Instagram.

JENN: We were early adopters of the podcast medium, and it made sense because the beauty industry has so many interesting stories and products that we just didn’t have space to write about in our magazines. It’s also great that podcasts sit in this sweet spot between short and long-lead media; we can report on and react to beauty news more quickly than magazines, but we also get to be a bit more thoughtful and dive a little deeper than digital media and websites.

What are the best things about having a beauty podcast? 

JESS: We don’t have to stick to beauty. I mean, of course we talk about beauty–we started the show because we love the people, the products, the business — but we delve into other topics. For example, we talked to Jen Atkin about freezing her eggs, and Charlotte Tilbury about overcoming self-doubt and what she was like as this little red-haired girl. Orlando Pita went on a rant about social media, and he changed my view of it forever! But then on a smaller scale, we have Bobbi Brown telling us where to buy bras and Nest Fragrance’s Laura Slatkin giving us cheapo entertaining hacks. As much as I love beauty, I couldn’t talk about mascara for an hour.

JENN: Getting to ask as many questions as I want! My curiosity is insatiable and the podcast allows me so much more time to pick the brains of the beauty industry’s biggest players. As a magazine editor, we have access to many of the same beauty experts, but we don’t usually have as much time to talk to them at, say, a big event or a quick “deskside” meeting. Now we can invite them into the studio to hang out and gossip and it makes for much more interesting conversations and we end up learning things we never would in a regular interview for a print article. It’s also great that recording the podcast each week means I’m guaranteed to have a few hours to chat with Jess. Sometimes it’s hard to make time for friends, but it’s important! And this podcast is like built-in friendship maintenance.

JESS: I second that!

Why do you think beauty podcasting is taking off and becoming more and more successful? 

JENN: The beauty industry is fascinating and there are so many stories to tell: personal biographies of all the makeup artists, hairstylists, and beauty experts; backstories of the company founders; how products get made; tips for looking your best; the science of formulating products. Video may be great for service and beauty how-tos, but podcasts are better for the in-depth information.

JESS: I think people are looking for a bit more depth right now, and while Instagram is great for visual “wow” and instruction, people want to hear more stories and feel less alone. A podcast has an intimacy that Instagram sometimes doesn’t. It’s got nothing to do with “likes” or looking good. Also, people are so busy! A podcast is something you can listen to while exercising, doing laundry, tweezing your eyebrows, etc.

Which other beauty podcasts do you love and listen to? 

JESS: The Emma Guns Show, Breaking Beauty, Where Brains Meets Beauty. I also really like Pop Fashion, which is mostly about fashion (as the name suggests) but occasionally covers beauty.

JENN: I’ve listened to Where Brains Meet Beauty, The Beauty Brains, The Emma Guns Show, and The Snailcast. There’s not enough time to be a regular listener to all of them! Plus, I also like a bunch on non-beauty podcasts, like This American Life, The Daily, Longform Podcast, Pod Save America, 2 Dope Queens, My Favorite Murder, Another Round with Heben & Tracy … the list goes on.

Where do you see beauty podcasting going in the future?

JENN: I would love for some of the podcast platforms and apps to develop the user experience so it’s more immersive. It would be great if the links and images we mention during each episode could just appear in the apps or platforms, sort of like the way Genius has been integrated into Spotify. That would be so much easier than sending people to our website and blog to find out more. I’m also excited to hear new voices in the beauty space going forward!

JESS:  Yes! Our listeners are always shopping from the podcast, but they have to jump to our companion website. We would love to make it easier for them.

Full Coverage, Lindsey Kelk & Harriet Hadfield, L.A.

Image source: Harriet Hadfield Instagram

Why did you start your beauty podcast? 

Honestly, we are two women who love beauty so much and wanted a way to share our passion with other people. I’ve been in the beauty blogging space for ten years and Harry already has a successful YouTube channel so neither of those options seemed to make any sense. Even though we’re from the UK, we both live out in LA and since we’re locked in our cars for hours every day, we became podcast obsessives. We were at a Sunday Riley launch one day, obsessing over the Tom Ford Nude Dip palette and a poor friend who had sat listening to us rattle on for the best part of an hour suggested that we should start a podcast. It truly hadn’t occurred to us until that moment. The same night, we came up with the name, Full Coverage, and we started recording the next week.

What are the best things about having a beauty podcast? 

The community, for sure. We’ve met some other beauty podcasters who have now become really good friends and we also have an amazing bond with our listeners. They’re so involved and engaged, always tweeting and emailing questions in to the show and now we have a Facebook group where they can chat and share with each other. It’s so rewarding to see people lift each other up and share a passion, especially when it’s something they might have felt judged for loving in the past.

Why do you think beauty podcasting is taking off and becoming more and more successful?

People want to hear other people talk about the thing they care about, they want to know they’re not alone in their passions, and a lot of women care about beauty. It might seem odd on the surface because people think of beauty as something you need to see to understand but I think the best podcasts are the most passionate and we’re certainly passionate about what we do. Full Coverage is a fun and hopefully entertaining hour, two genuine friends sitting down to discuss everything new and exciting in a world they love. Sure, we can’t do audio tutorials but we can share our thoughts and opinions. Also, I feel as though we have less and less free time to actually sit down and read blogs or watch videos but it’s really easy to download a podcast to listen to on your commute or while you’re at the gym. I also co-host a podcast about professional wrestling and it’s just as popular – anything vaguely niche-y with fans who have felt uncomfortable professing their love in a public forum tends to do well on podcasts. If there’s an obsessive fan base, there should be a podcast!

Which other beauty podcasts do you love and listen to? 

I’m a massive Emma Guns fangirl and never miss an episode, she always manages to get the best out of all her guests. I also love Breaking Beauty, a podcast out of Canada that focuses mostly on in depth interviews with brand founders.

Where do you see beauty podcasting going in the future?

There has already been a boom but it’s only going to grow. When we started, there was pretty much us, Emma and Fat Mascara – Breaking Beauty came out right at the same time. I’d expect to see the number of shows double in the next year or so which will be exciting, there’s always room to add to the PodSquad! Podcasting feels a lot like beauty blogging did ten years ago or vlogging five years ago. The brands are still feeling us out and we’re still finding out what works but it’s a lot of fun to have so much freedom.

The Emma Gunns Show, Emma Gunavardhana, London

Image source: Emma Gunns Instagram

Why did you start your beauty podcast?

I started my podcast because I have always felt really inspired by the one-to-one conversations my job has allowed me to have with people within the beauty industry. Often an hour-long conversation though becomes a couple of sentences in a magazine or online feature and I felt there was a space for giving these conversations a platform. I had also been listening to podcasts such as The Tim Ferriss Show, What’s the Tee with RuPaul and Michelle Visage and The Joe Rogan Experience, for several years and found them to be both a source of entertainment and information and was confident that if I created a similar kind of ‘infotainment’ for the beauty industry people would listen.

What are the best things about having a beauty podcast?

There are two things I’d cite as being really fantastic about publishing the show. The first being that it’s the first time I’ve put content out into the world on my own terms. It’s a muscle I didn’t realise I needed to flex and it’s really helped my confidence and has given me more focus and direction in my career. The second is having a direct dialogue with the audience. I get wonderful messages from listeners and have really brilliant conversations with people on DM every day. Obviously I hoped people would listen, but having these conversations with listeners has been an unexpected delight. A third surprise is the #podfam or #podsquad of all the beauty podcasters: I love the fact that I’m now friends with Carlene and Jill from Breaking Beauty Podcast in Canada, speak regularly with Lindsey Kelk from Full Coverage and chat to Jess from Fat Mascara. It feels like we have a little community and have made bonds that perhaps we wouldn’t have made without our shows.

Why do you think beauty podcasting is taking off and becoming more and more successful?

I think beauty has traditionally relied on a visual medium so the fact that beauty podcasts are growing in popularity is confirmation that it provokes a much broader conversation and one that is very positive. I also think it’s a subject that you can come at from many different angles so the listener is able to tune into the topics, people and brands that they want to engage with on their terms.

Which other beauty podcasts do you love and listen to?

I’m a huge fan of all the other beauty podcasts out there and I’ve already ‘cross-poddinated’ with Full Coverage and Breaking Beauty Podcast and look forward to more of the same…

Where do you see beauty podcasting going in the future?

My show started out very much as a beauty podcast, in fact it was called ‘The Beauty Podcast with Emma G’ when it launched in Spring 2016, but because of listener feedback and the topics I want to address and people I’d like to have on the show it has changed to ‘The Emma Guns Show’. In general I hope more people create more beauty-dedicated podcasts and the conversation around the people, products and trends in the industry continue.

Listen here

Breaking Beauty Podcast, Jill Dunn & Carlene Higgins, Toronto

Image Source: Breaking Beauty Podcast Instagram

Why did you start your beauty podcast?

We both worked as beauty editors in the magazine industry for many years and were always so inspired by the brand founders that we were fortunate to spend time with over the years – everyone from Lev Glazman at Fresh to Wende Zomnir from Urban Decay. Since entering the freelance game, we became obsessed with podcasts and realised, literally over a glass of Prosecco, that listeners should hear these founders’ stories, too. Just like that, Breaking Beauty was born. As editors we know that behind every bestseller, there’s a damn good story, so we sit down with people like Emily Weiss from Glossier and the Smashbox co-founder, Davis Factor, to name a few, as they recount their foils and fist-pump moments along the path to success. It’s their story, in their words, in a narrative format with our editorial expertise layered in. When we launched in the spring of 2017, there were very few beauty podcasts available on Apple Podcasts, so we saw a clear white space and were excited to jump into it.

What are the best things about having a beauty podcast?

We love the creative freedom to be able to talk about what we want, when we want, in the way that we want. We have been known to crack open a bottle of bubbly while recording or drop f-bombs on occasion. We’re having fun connecting with beauty-obsessed listeners as well – finding out what they’re loving and buying and our on-the-street segments (where we went backstage at the Miss World Canada pageant, for instance) have been super fun too.

Why do you think beauty podcasting is taking off and becoming more and more successful?

Podcasts have been around for over a decade, but they were predominantly hosted by males chatting about tech, sports and politics. It’s taken awhile for the #LadyPodSquad to take off, but it has happened. Serial was obviously a pivotal moment in podcast history drawing in a huge, engaged listenership. We believe having a strong female host, talking about a high school true crime helped to hook a lot of young women, and we think it’s a natural evolution that beyond the crime craze we’ve seen since – females are going to want to hear about everything that interests them, from beauty to fashion to sex, drugs, celebrities—no subject will be off-limits.

Which other beauty podcasts do you love and listen to?

We’ve become podcast pals with Emma Gunavardhana from The Emma Guns Show and Full Coverage hosts Lindsey Kelk and Harriet Hadfield, chatting with each other on our respective shows to mutually help grow our audiences. There’s a kinship because we all had the same idea at roughly the same time and we’re in three completely different world zones (U.K., L.A., Toronto) with three completely different voices and approaches. Emma really takes a holistic approach and brings so much heart to her conversations with beauty insiders. Full Coverage gets microscopic about the latest new product releases, zeroing in on new shades and finishes as you’d expect with one host being a pro makeup artist. We have all come to the conclusion that beauty podcasts are much like beauty blogs and beauty YouTubers when they first started out. There’s room for everyone and the more we support each other, the stronger we will all grow.

Where do you see beauty podcasting going in the future?

We think this is just the beginning of a massive wave that could be as huge as beauty YouTubers within the next three years. Our dream is to have a beauty podcast festival where all of us can interact with listener fans, hearing their own stories first hand and basically just celebrating the idea that beauty is human, there are real people behind the product creators and the women who appreciate the transformational power of makeup. There’s an intimate connection when you’re right in a person’s ear and audio is a wonderful way for us to go deep on these stories, whether it’s about what a woman is feeling discouraged about or what helps boost her self-esteem or brighten her day in the morning. God knows we need a break from all the true crime and even the hard news – that can really bum you out!

Listen here


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