#WCW: Cait Kiernan, Author, Beauty Editor and Tough-as-Nails Cancer Survivor

February 07, 2018
Alanna Martine Kilkeary
By: Alanna Martine Kilkeary | Makeup.com by L'Oréal

#WomanCrushWednesday celebrates our favorite beauty influencers.

Here, Cait Kiernan, beauty editor, expert and author of Pretty Sick: The Beauty Guide For Women With Cancer shares her story, her favorite products at the moment and the best makeup advice she has for aspiring editors.

How did you get started in beauty editing?

Before I got into beauty, I was working as a features reporter and fashion columnist, “Fashion Plate Cait,” at the Times Herald-Record, a Dow Jones newspaper in upstate New York. The newspaper had six bureaus spanning five counties, and I would travel all over reporting lifestyle, fashion and beauty trends. Working in a newsroom was an exhilarating job, but I longed to be at a glossy magazine. When Life & Style Weekly launched, I applied for the beauty editor gig — and got it.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I get to my office by 10am. I spend an hour going through emails and answering them. Then, I take another 30 minutes to look over all the celeb images that came in overnight and catalogue any that stand out. Then I start working on stories — doing interviews, requesting products, pulling photos. I work on two magazines — Star and OK! Magazine — so there is never any downtime. Depending on the day, I will also have “desksides” (meeting with brands/experts) and beauty events to attend. I am blessed that I get to do what I love.

How has working in beauty impacted your life, and what moment in your career are you most proud of?

It has! I felt the impact the most when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and going through chemotherapy and reconstruction. When the side effects of treatment started to display themselves, I turned to all the experts in my Rolodex — makeup artists, derms, hair stylists, dentists — to help me handle them. Those experts gave me tips and advice that helped me look more like my “normal,” healthy self. Without them — and the plethora of beauty products they suggested — it would have been a tougher battle. I can say from first-hand experience, makeup is curative.

The proudest moment of my career was writing my book. I still can’t believe I’m a published author. Every time I see it somewhere, it’s surreal.

Speaking of, tell us a little bit about your book, Pretty Sick: The Beauty Guide For Women With Cancer, and why you chose to write it.

When I was in treatment for cancer there wasn’t one website, book or pamphlet that had the information I needed to help me care for my skin, hair, nails, etc. I continued working while in treatment and needed to pull myself together enough to come into the office and do my job without my looks being distracting. (There is nothing worse than people asking pitifully, “are you okay?”)

With my world turned upside down, going to work provided me with a sense of normalcy and reminded me that I had a lot of living yet to do. Every cancer patient/survivor has their own reasons for wanting to look their best when they are sick. One woman I interviewed for my book had two young children that didn’t know the extent of her illness. She felt they were too young to understand and wanted to look like herself as to not scare or worry them. The fact of the matter is, beauty treatments are an adjunct therapy to cancer treatments. When you look good, you feel better. I was lucky that I had amazing experts helping me navigate the side effects of my treatment. Pretty Sick was my way of it paying forward and helping empower other women on this journey.

If you weren't a beauty editor and author, what would you be doing? 

Okay – don’t laugh – but probably a falconer. A bird, a horse and an open field. Is there anything better? (The answer is no.)

What's your favorite product at the moment?

Geez. That’s like asking to pick a favorite child. I’m a sheet mask girl. Right now, I’m using Dr. Jart’s rubber masks, which are fun and effective. But Karuna and SKII are staples that you can always find in my bathroom cabinet.

What's your advice for an aspiring beauty editor? 

Find unique ways to tell your stories. Respect your sources. Be authentic.

And finally, what does beauty mean to you?

Unlike fashion, beauty is democratic. It’s inspirational and aspirational — for everyone. It doesn’t matter what size you are, what color you are, how rich you are or what sex you are. You may not be able to afford Beyoncé’s designer wardrobe, but you can use a $5 makeup palette to recreate her look and be just as fierce. It allows you to be the person you’ve dreamt of being. Is there anything more beautiful than that? (The answer is no.)

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