FORBES: Meet the Beauty Industry Publicist Starting A Cosmetics Brand That Wants You To Question Everything
Meet Tess Finkle, co-Founder of Metro PR, and publicist to the top beauty influencers and brands in the world. With her finger on the pulse of all things beauty and immersed in media for over sixteen years, Tess has taken all of her learnings to launch: Y Cosmetics.
I sat down with Tess in Los Angeles to hear more about her passion for creating products that bring about a positive impact and why she’s highlighting the intersection of feminism and the world of beauty.
Who are some of your beauty clients, and what lessons have you learned that helped launch Y Cosmetics?
My work includes campaigns with icons like Patrick Starrr, James Charles, Manny Mua, Bretman Rock, Jeffree Star, as well as major beauty festivals, curated events and large consumer brands with millions of social media followers.
I learned a lot from these artists and brands. Beyond their incredible artistry and big personalities, I learned about the power of their followings. The real impact working has been to think about the audience receiving it before anything else. I’ve heard their voices, I’ve seen their comments, posts, and direct messages. We’ve steeped, sipped, spilled, and soaked up ALL the tea together. So Y Cosmetics is really something I want to share with them, and it’s something they haven’t seen yet.
How did Y Cosmetics start?
I was running PR for a 2-day beauty festival in New York in April 2018, and my then-fiance/now-husband came to show his support. With glitter in his beard, he came up to me after spending an entire day walking the convention hall floor and said, “You should start a makeup line.” It’s hard to say ‘no’ to a man with glitter in his beard, but I said ‘no’.
I told him that Metro PR keeps me busy enough, and I am so, so, so bad at doing my makeup that I had my eyeliner tattooed at a female-owned salon in Beverly Hills to make it a non-issue. That said, I spent the next month thinking about his recommendation. It became an annoying echo, which usually means I have to revisit it. Part of me was drawn to the fact that the beauty industry is in the middle of a revolution and new rules are being written daily. The flip side of that is there is a lot of noise and oversaturation.
There was a lot of doubt; in fact, one of the questions in the first eyeshadow drop is, “Why do you doubt yourself?” We all have doubts, and I asked myself, what is the origin of this doubt about starting a makeup line?
From my personal experience, I find that women (more than men) first go to a place of self-doubt when faced with uncharted territories. If you ask yourself, “Why?,” and you are committed to answering yourself honestly, it will likely take you to a reason that is founded in fear and not logic. Which means you probably have to take the leap, right? I started Y Cosmetics because I can, and because I have something I want to say with this project. Beauty is the perfect, global platform for the message.
Tell me more about Y Cosmetics.
Y Cosmetics is a piece of my heart. The word “Why?” has been my North Star for my entire life, especially when I have wanted to do things and have been told by the people around me that I can’t or shouldn’t do them. Almost every “No,” I hear, I serve back with a “Why?”. Most of the time, there is not a good enough answer from the opposer as to why I can’t and shouldn’t do something, so I keep going. The word “Why?” can keep you on the right track, or get you back on it if you’re off.
The goal of Y Cosmetics is to get everyone with a makeup bag (women, men that enjoy makeup, non-binary individuals) to talk openly with themselves and to each other about the things that are keeping us from running the world.
We should have these conversations as daily as a makeup routine. Y Cosmetics is asking questions to prompt all of us to speak out about topics that keep us disconnected from each other because none of it will change unless we can address all of it together. The barriers against us were not put here by us, but it’s on us to remove them.
What are some of the questions Y Cosmetics includes?
Y Cosmetics looks at every compact mirror as a kind of billboard, or message opportunity, to say something to the person holding that compact. Our brand uses the social network of beauty (and it is a social network) to start conversations and thought processes with the sole purpose of creating stronger relationships with ourselves and our peers. What will the world look like with more women and LGBTQ+ individuals connected to each other and feeling more supported?
There are 15 possible questions in the first drop. You can pick your colors (all cruelty-free and vegan), but you don’t know the question on your mirror until you open your compact.
These four are included because they come up almost daily when I am talking to a friend, colleague, my Lyft driver (yes, I am THAT passenger), intern, etc are:
Why are women paid less than men?
Why do you question your ability to lead?
Why do you use filters on your photos?
Why is it hard for women to support each other?
How do you hope women will react when they use the makeup?
I want women to see this as an amplification of the conversations that are already started and must keep going and get louder. It’s something for ALL women (and other lovely humans that enjoy makeup) to be part of, and notably includes the races of women that tend to be left out of these conversations.
And for the men in our lives; especially fathers; that discover Y Cosmetics, if you have a son or daughter or anyone in between that is exploring makeup, I want you to see this as an opportunity to talk to your children about how they see themselves and how they are feeling.
Can you expand on your value prop.
Y Cosmetics is an outlet at its core that dovetails onto the vulnerability, self-expression, and introspection that already comes with the application of makeup. It’s a reason to check in with yourself and the people around you on a deeper level while you’re already in front of the mirror.
How have you used social media to launch?
At first, not well. Social media management and PR are two very different, yet complementary things. I hardly use my own social media these days, even though, I can watch a video and tell you if it will perform well online. My instinct is to make rabbinical-style jokes or walk by a clan of pigeons eating spilled spaghetti on the sidewalk and caption it “Squabonara” - which was a real post I made.
I ended up calling Heather Catania of Social Fleur. Her background is programming for major magazines, and yet still has an unmatched understanding of social media and digital nuances. She wiped out my attempts at social media - which was literally the definition of “felt cute, might delete later” - and we have not looked back. Next on the list is launching our micro-influencer program, which is to a beauty brand what “starter” is to sourdough bread. (I am from the rare, “carb-friendly” species of Los Angeles).
What’s in the works for Y Cosmetics?
I am very excited about our next two products, one of which comes out later this year. It very much speaks to the DNA of our brand. We are also working on a collaboration with a successful media company to launch early next year. The company is going to pick the colors and curate the questions for our collaboration. Y Cosmetics will continue to partner with like-minded voices and brands that want to tap into the beauty world (and are maybe personally big fans of beauty), but might not necessarily be “beauty influencers”.
Who are your dream collaborators?
Serena Williams (I love her Serena clothing line and its #BeSeenBeHeard mantra), Michelle Obama (Queen), and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Genius).