In a breathless profile of millennial make-up startup Glossier and its CEO Emily Weiss, New York Magazine’s Amy Larocca proclaims that “it is the era of the aspiring she-E-O.” I’m here to say: No, it is not!
The thrust of the article is similar to Buzzfeed’s 2016 profile of the company, a look at how Weiss, 32, went from beauty blogger to running a multimillion-dollar makeup company in less than four years—but unlike that one, which eyed the cult of Glossier with skepticism, it reads more like a letter from a doting fangirl than a self-aware profile on a company that, first and foremost, aims to turn a profit in an industry where female empowerment is slyly commodified under the guise of (white) feminism.
The profile, accompanied by unsettling photos of Weiss that look like she’s been dunked in a vat of Glossier’s Milky Jelly cleanser, describes her as a goddess-like hero of millennials. (And I’m guessing her otherwordly quality has more to do with the fact that she can afford a beauty regimen that includes colonics and microcurrents):
There is something of the goddess about her, and it feels like a subversion of the notion that it’s a moment for sharing everything. Turns out, even the millennials like their heroes on a pedestal.
For six paragraphs, we read about Weiss’s quick ascent from privilege to the world of the super-privileged, where her biggest drawback is not having an MBA and being rejected by 11 out of 12 VC firms at 28. Weiss, who I’m fairly sure is a mortal, came from where so many future CEOs do: A “Gilmore Girls–y town in Fairfield County full of white clapboard houses on big, glittering lakes, a commuter burb with a Cheever vibe.” Along the way, she leveraged connections and impressed higher ups, landing stints on MTV’s The Hills, at Ralph Lauren, and Vogue, until one day, she decided to start a blog:
That August, sitting on a beach in Connecticut with her parents, she made up her mind. “ ‘Guys, I think I’m going to start a blog,’ ” she told them. “ ‘It’s going to be about women and putting them and their narrative and their story at the forefront and giving them a voice and a platform and just really encouraging them.’ ” She beams her superstar smile. “I mean, I didn’t really say all that. That’s what it became.”
As you probably already know, Weiss cleverly capitalized on her blog, turning it into makeup brand Glossier. It’s an impressive feat, but let’s not forget that what she has offered to the world, and to her customers specifically, is fairly standard makeup with cute packaging:
The products themselves are also not so revolutionary: Glossier You, for instance, was designed by the same nose that brought us Axe Body Spray scents and Le Labo’s Santal 33, though its packaging was designed by a 23-year-old Glossier employee named Laura Yeh.
And a pop-up space in New York that screams “really, really, really weird” and “the new luxury!”:
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Weiss says, “except that it’s really, really, really weird in here!” She’s talking through a big, dimpled grin. “For you to go out of your house and make a pilgrimage somewhere, there needs to be a reason. And this,” she says, gesturing around the shop, “this is the new luxury!”
To her credit, Weiss seems to be more aware about what she’s created and what she hasn’t, and it’s Larocca (and perhaps some of Glossier’s followers) who mythologizes her:
“This isn’t a traditional, top-down, life-style, myth-creation, inspiration story,” she says. “This isn’t a Tory Burch, a Ralph Lauren, an Estée Lauder. A lot of our customers don’t even know who I am.” Weiss sees herself not as a visionary but as someone who realized something was happening — social media was transforming the way beauty products were talked about and bought — and then worked her ass off to get on top of it. If people want to be like her, well, it is the era of the aspiring she-E-O.
Larocca unironically refers to 2018 as the “era of the aspiring she-E-O,” a title made famous by Thinx founder Miki Agrawal, a woman who profited from a feminist brand while allegedly sexually harassing her employees. She-E-Os, or in the case of Nasty Gal founder Sofia Amuroso, “girlbosses,” tend to be women who preach feminist ideals and turn a profit by selling female empowerment, but don’t really give a shit about the women who work for them. If Weiss is in fact following the “She-E-O” mold, as this piece claims, she should be put under more scrutiny.