Eighteen months ago, Eugenie Kelly was offered the plum role of Editor-in-Chief of esteemed glossy Harper’s Bazaar. In taking such a thrilling opportunity, she largely left behind the world of beauty, which she had been utterly immersed in for two decades as beauty director. In our conversation, Eugenie revealed that though it may not form the backbone of her job anymore, her lifelong passion for the industry (skincare in particular – be still our beating hearts) is anything but dimmed. She also shared her professional journey, with its quite unplanned beginning, and ways she has found to make a very busy life work for her (from outsourcing personal grooming to personally grooming her own horse). She is generous, forthright, and has encyclopaedic knowledge of her domain. This interview is a beauty nerd’s dream, and a lesson to everyone on the importance of being aware of one’s own passions and, if you’re very lucky, allowing them to inform your career.
“My regime has changed dramatically: I was a beauty director for over 20 years so I was immersed in the wellness and beauty world. Eighteen months ago I became editor-in-chief so my focus has definitely shifted.
Whereby it was once my job to roadtest and study new products or seek out an amazing facialist or beauty professional, that’s no longer in my schedule. Needless to say I need a fast routine these days – everything has to be streamlined. I find that if the basics are taken care of – brows tinted, lash extensions done and my hair colour is fresh, than it’s easier to get away with doing less day-to-day.
My favourite element of the world of beauty is easily skincare.
I like to start with a foaming cleanser that has some grunt. At the moment I’m using either Jurlique’s Nutri-Define Supreme Cleansing Foam and also Sisley’s Radiance Foaming Cream. I follow that with a toner and then an essence or serum – the La Prairie Platinum Rare Cellular Life Lotion is an absolute treat. Lately I’ve been skipping moisturier and replaced it with a facial oil. I have always been so into them. I love the really intense ones. I started with the ones by Sunday Riley years ago, then Rodin’s olio lusso… finding a good oil can prove transformative to the skin. Darphin’s 8-Flower Nectar is beautiful. Tammy Fender’s is phenomenal. They call it their Quintessential Serum but it feels more like an oil than a serum to me. Vintner’s Daughter is amazing – it’s so rare for beauty journalists to ever use the same product twice, as you’re always focused on trying new things, but I think I’m up to my fifth bottle of this, which is crazy.
If I don’t have meetings on, I often won’t wear makeup to work.
This summer I was constantly outdoors riding my horse so I was super strict with sunscreen. Invisible Zinc Tinted Daywear is so underrated; I renewed my love affair with it and am addicted again. I even recently stocked up on it in an airport pharmacy – I know this sounds incredibly spoilt, but when an ex-beauty editor spends money on a product, you know it’s got to be good! The IT Cosmetics CC cream also lives up to the hype – the coverage and glow factor is amazing. In terms of foundation, I was a Luminous Silk addict for years but am also currently loving the combination of La Mer’s cushion compact foundation with their pressed powder.
I’ve been on Bazaar for 17 years, which is an incredible privilege.
It’s a beautiful heritage brand that has offered me some amazing opportunities. For those with the interest in fashion, working in the beauty realm as a journalist offers you a doorway to that world; I’ve interviewed many of the top designers (Tom Ford, John Galliano, Nicolas Ghesquiere, Victoria Beckham) through their forays into fragrance and beauty.
The beauty landscape in 2020 is unbelievably different to when I started.
In the ‘90s, the cosmetic conglomerates dominated and there were few niche brands. There was no Mecca! Beauty addicts also consume information differently now. When I started the focus was on long-form journalism that was well researched and quoted an army of experts, but now many media outlets just serve up soundbites.
First, we had the huge makeup resurgence, and now we’re experiencing a skincare revival, which I love. The barriers to launching a brand have been lowered, largely thanks to social media, so the indie brands have exploded. It takes knowledge now to weed through them all and find what’s good.
I think what is really fascinating in beauty at the moment are amazing founder stories. People like to know the face and the name behind the brand. I remember meeting the Tatcha founder, Vicky Tsai, and being absolutely intrigued by her story and that brand’s evolution. It made me want to try the product.
Australian brands in particular represent authenticity to their customers, and then the customers trust them. Just look at the success The Beauty Chef’s Carla Oates has had. Brands like hers don’t dilute their own DNA, and they stick to what they’re good at. Consumers now aren’t dumb; they want to be involved in a conversation, instead of feeling like they’re being told what to do, as they may with the bigger brands.
I had no idea what I wanted to do after uni, and thought I’d work it out as I went along.
Initially, I went to work subediting for a legal publishing company, which I hated, but it turned out to be very valuable as it taught me discipline and how to apply myself to a task. People think publishing is glamorous, but the day to day is really quite laborious, so you need that discipline.
I lived in London and worked in junior jobs within publishing, then I came back to Sydney in my mid-twenties and worked in a managing editor sort of role for a custom publishing company. It involved lots of coordination, and was a good place to learn about managing writers and deadlines. Then I went to Cosmopolitan as the Deputy Chief Sub-Editor, working with Mia Freedman, which is where I really started writing, and first learned about beauty editors.
That role really appealed to me because I loved everything to do with beauty and health, it was my big passion, so I had my eye on that position if it came up. I was offered that opportunity at B magazine, and was grateful for the substantial experience I had gained in health and wellness writing at Cosmo. At B I really learned the ropes, in particular of how to write beauty news and arrange shoots. Then I became beauty editor of Elle in the late ’90s, a position I had until it closed and I was made redundant. I started freelancing the next day, mainly for Bazaar and at Fairfax. I focused on beauty and health, with some fashion too. Then I was asked to come on board at Bazaar.
My colourist is Damien Rayner, who does the best blonde ever.
He works out of a tiny little salon in Darlinghurst, Kimmy Ralph’s, and we have a good laugh while he does great colour.
I tend to just get my hair cut on shoots. It doesn’t always work out for the best, though. Once I was at a shoot and during a break someone said to me “I’ll quickly cut your hair”. Next thing a prominent politician turned up early and there I am sitting up in the chair having my own hair tended to!
Having your brows and lashes done regularly by experts truly does make the most enormous difference.
For lashes, I go to Love those Lashes in Paddington. I like going to see the girls there, and I trust them. Their training is excellent – everyone can do it how I like so I don’t even ask for anyone specific.
For brows, it’s Amy Jean. I trust her with anything she recommends. She is an amazing businesswoman. I know people get concerned about the cost, but she is definitely worth it.
I was absolutely addicted to the gym, until one day I decided I just hated it and that I wanted to go back to an early love of mine, riding horses.
It’s really not as idyllic as it sounds. I keep telling people it’s a journey, my long term project. Every morning I head out to the stables, ride my horse, then drive straight to work. I park in the city, then walk to our gym to shower and get ready for the day. I have hay in my hair and mud on my boots, looking like I’ve come off a construction site.
The beauty world isn’t just hair and makeup anymore, it’s all about wellness.
I am completely addicted to WelleCo Super Elixir Greens alkalising powder. When it launched I didn’t really get into it, but at a lunch with a group of editors about five years ago, one woman looked fantastic and she told us it was all down to that powder – I haven’t stopped using it since. It is amazing for my energy levels. I see an absolute rockstar nautropath, David Jiven in Kingsford. Jodhi Meares told me about him years ago. He mixes up elixirs and I don’t even ask what’s in them, I just sip little brown bottles at night and take droppers in the morning.
I have had an unfortunate Botox experience. It was only one incident, but because of it didn’t trust anybody for a long time.
I became scared of injectables, which was tough when trying these sorts of procedures was part of my job. It made me realise I couldn’t be so blasé. Now, I see Joseph Hkeik, who has a true artist’s eye, and looks after people.
Whether or not to go down the injectables road or be looking for the next new thing in aesthetic treatments is such a personal choice. The magazine is zeitgeist-driven, so we want to present the best things first as soon as people start to talk about them, but balance that with a sensible approach. Sometimes we sit on things so as not to be irresponsible, preferring to wait until they’ve been through some thorough testing. We might present a treatment that is approved by the FDA in the US but not by the TGA here yet, so we can showcase what is happening internationally and that likely could be coming here, but may not be officially deemed safe just yet.
Then there is also the refreshing new attitude where people are proud of grey hair and looking for more natural alternatives to their skincare. The Bazaar reader is incredibly well-informed and wants to know about everything on offer and what might make them feel better, and we want to show them the options for them to make their own informed choices.”