Those of you who’ve read it will know that part of What is Left Over, After takes place in and around the beauty industry; the main character, Gaelle, is a beauty editor for a magazine. Those of you who know me will know that I was a Brand Manager at L’Oreal for a number of years, working on brands such as Maybelline and Garnier. So, is the beauty industry really the way it’s described in the book?
Of course everything in What is Left Over, After is filtered through Gaelle, so the way the beauty industry is described in the book is influenced by that. She does, for instance, find many more attractive men working in the industry than I was ever able to uncover!
I’ve probably embellished some of the more outrageous tendencies of the industry. I can’t really imagine a beauty editor getting a whole lot of babies into a studio and giving them lipsticks to play with for a photo shoot. But there’s a lot of other stuff that’s not embellished. Product launches, for instance.
We organised a lot of product launches at L’Oreal. The beauty editors came to them all. In the book, Gaelle wonders if the freebies she will get at a launch she attends will be handbags, jewels or spa weekends. And this is exactly the kind of thing that we would give the beauty editors at our launches.
For one launch we hired a troupe of gymnasts to cartwheel and leap through the crowd. For another we set up our own beauty salon with professional masseurs to give the editors a massage with our new cream. At another, we had a boxing ring set up as well as a load of Shar Pei puppies for the editors to play with – Shar Peis are the dogs with really wrinkly skin and yes, we were using them to promote an anti-wrinkle cream. At another launch we had hundreds of thousands of dollars of diamond necklaces available for the editors to try on; they also had their photographs taken whilst wearing the necklaces. I could go on.
One of the best things about working in the industry was having so much makeup. We were expected to wear our brand. So I had every colour of lipstick and nail polish I could ever want, as well as mascara for day, mascara for night, mascara for long lashes, thick lashes, curved lashes, soft lashes – my lashes could have had a dozen different incarnations in a day if I’d wanted.
And yes, the book may seem slightly over-populated by French people but L’Oreal, like many beauty companies, is a French company. So I couldn’t resist the chance in the book to use some of the fabulous French names I encountered during my time working there.
It was a fun industry to work in. It was also the industry with the toughest work ethic I’d ever encountered. We worked hard and were judged accordingly. But that would be much less entertaining to write about. Maybe another book, another time. Right now, I’d better stop writing because the more I type, the more my lashes are starting to feel somewhat unloved; they are not enjoying the reminiscing as much as I am!