To many, Kirbie Johnson has the dream job. As producer, host and beauty expert for POPSUGAR, she has interviewed celebrities like Rihanna, had a makeover by Victoria’s Secret, and samples beauty products on a daily basis. But it’s not all glitz and glamour. Here Kirbie shares how being an on-camera beauty host differs from print, and gives some tips to PR pros looking to work with her.
Q: Tell us a little about how you got started in the beauty industry, and how you came to be a host and producer for POPSUGAR Beauty!
A: My mom was a cosmetologist, so you could say that being obsessed with makeup and skin care is in my blood. I grew up working in salons and spas while in school, and when I first moved to Los Angeles, I worked at Frederic Fekkai. I also wrote a national column for Examiner.com, where I made a ton of great contacts in the beauty industry. Eventually I freelanced for FabFitFun while working at an entertainment PR firm. My passion is being on-camera, and my background is in journalism, so I was thrilled to audition for POPSUGAR!
Q: What was it like to become an online video host? Had you done any broadcast work in the past?
A: I had not [previously worked in broadcast] but I did produce my own gift guides and chat about beauty on YouTube. I had done a few acting gigs–and took a few on-camera courses here in LA–but it was really a great opportunity for someone like myself, with zero on-camera experience, to host a channel. We get a lot of freedom to be creative and produce the best content for our channels–I’ve learned so much: pre-production, writing a script versus an article, and the post-production processes.
Q: How does social media impact your everyday tasks?
A: When people don’t believe in the importance of social media, I feel a huge disconnect from them. I could not live without Twitter–I love seeing the crazy things that transpire and that are disseminated through Twitter. I found out Osama Bin Laden was killed on Twitter; I was awake during Beyoncé’s silent album release. Pinterest is especially helpful in promoting our videos; it’s how a lot of our beauty-focused content gets to the public. If you have a great image and a relatable caption for your pin, it can spread like wildfire. You have to be authentic though. If you are begging for views or clicks, people will unsubscribe.
Q: Who is your core audience?
A: Technically, our audience is women 18-40, but mostly, it’s the woman who is passionate about beauty. Maybe she doesn’t know a lot about applying makeup or what products to use, but wants to get better. We have a series on “The Right Way to…” which helps to break down the correct ways to do simple beauty tasks, like applying mascara or curling your hair. We also cater to the expert crowd, who wants to know how to get an awesome DIY nail art manicure or wants to learn about the most buzzworthy beauty products. And obviously, at the core, our viewers care about celebrity looks. Our Celebrity Secret Weapon series allows us to interview the pros behind celebrity looks and teaches the viewer how to re-create it at home.
Q: What are some of the best opportunities you’ve had as a beauty reporter?
A: Outside of meeting great people and working with amazing brands, I think some of my favorite highlights include when I got to sit down with Zooey Deschanel for a 20 minute Q&A. I loved picking her brain about her regimen and discussing her definition of beauty. Interviewing Rihanna was fun because it was absolutely chaotic, and she made a hilarious comment about wanting a bigger bottom. I got to work with Benefit on a video for their Matthew Williamson collaboration, which was major for me since I’ve been a Benefit fan since I first stepped into Sephora. And earlier this year, Victoria’s Secret invited me out to NYC to get an Angel makeover during Victoria’s Secret LIVE, which, hello, nobody is saying ‘no’ to getting an Angel makeover.
Q: What are some of the most challenging aspects?
A: Unlike beauty editors, I am limited in that I have only a certain amount of content I can create through video, and it has to translate to TV. What works well in a written post might not be interesting for an episode or a segment, so it’s all about finding that balance. It can be difficult sometimes, because I get to try so many products and treatments, but sometimes they aren’t a fit for the video I’m working on. And, needless to say, my skin seemed to go retrograde this year–product overload!–but I’ve finally gotten it back to a good place.
Q: What is your favorite beauty secret for these colder months?
A: Cleansing balms, for sure. They’re big in the UK and are starting to become more popular here in the US. Since I wear makeup daily for work, it’s important that I clean my face, but I don’t want to overdry it by using a makeup wipe and then a cleanser. Cleansing balms are essentially solid oils, that melt upon contact, and help to gently wash away your makeup and other impurities while hydrating and cleansing the skin. It’s definitely not the lazy girl’s option, but I love the smell, the way it makes my skin feel after, and using it with a muslin cloth. Right now I’m loving Clinique‘s and Darphin‘s.
Q: What are your PR pet peeves?
A: I’m the only person based in LA, so when people don’t read my signature and send product or materials to our San Francisco or New York City address, it gets irritating–especially when it happens consistently with the same people! Also, because I’m in video, when I request a product it’s very time sensitive. That’s why I always try to give everyone a week, and give a deadline. If I don’t receive the product on time, it really throws a kink into our shooting schedule.
Q: Any tips for PR professionals who want to get in contact with you?
A: Yes! If you have a product, expert or treatment with a celebrity spin, send away! We always love a good celebrity angle. And including photos within the email–not as attachments–is super helpful. The less to download, the better.
For more beauty and fashion insight, check out the Cision Navigator profile on Vanessa K. Bush, Editor in Chief at Essence.
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