Bodyography Creative Director Lori Leib on How She Reinvented the Clean Beauty Brand

July 27, 2020
Samantha Holender
By: Samantha Holender | by L'Oréal

I have a very real obsession with beauty brand Bodyography. I love to rock a different sparkly shade of its’ Glitter Pigments on my lids, day in and day out. I swear that its Epic Lash Mascara is made of pure magic and the Forever Summer Cheek Palette is my secret weapon for achieving a major summer glow (shh, don’t tell anyone). So when I got to talk with the brains behind the brand, creative director Lori Leib, you could say I was excited. From viewing beauty as a form of self-care to hustling her way to the top, Leib is sharing her journey to becoming a beauty boss, ahead.

You grew up surrounded by beauty. How did that shape your career path? 

It's kind of a three-prong scenario when it comes to how and why I’m in beauty. The first part is that my dad has been in the beauty industry since he was 24. He started distributing a French skin-care line and working for a bunch of other large corporations until he eventually decided to start his own company 20 years ago. I would help him at all the trade shows. 

The second part stems from my mother and my grandmother. My mother was an esthetician and a glamorous woman. I would spend hours in my mom's bathroom. She always had the coolest makeup and the best clothes. And then my grandmother was also obsessed with beauty. She used to put a towel down on her bed and she would dump out a whole Louis Vuitton makeup bag and do her makeup for, I kid you not, four hours every morning. She would just come out looking like Brigette Bardot. I was always surrounded by women who looked at beauty as self-care. It was never about vanity, it was never keeping up with the Joneses or the trends. It was just taking a moment to yourself.

And then the third stems from my time in fashion school. As much as I love applying makeup and playing with makeup, my passion in life is product development, invention and innovation. If you were to break it down, I would say I'm 40% creative and 60% practical and business-minded. I love figuring out how products work, what packaging is going to give the longest shelf life to a product and be the most sustainable, while also having it look pretty. 

What factors led you to leave fashion and transition to beauty? 

The fashion world was not my favorite. It was really individualized. It wasn't about sharing and educating. It was like, This is my style, don’t copy it. It was just really intimidating. I lived in LA and I worked for a celebrity stylist. I dressed celebrities, I was on commercials and I was on set. It took away my love for fashion so much. Whereas beauty is so nice and accepting. Your skin can be whatever, your size can be anything. Anyway, I was unhappy in fashion, it was 2008 and it was hard to get a job. I was doing tons of freelance work. Then on our way to a family vacation — in the airport — my dad comes up to me and wants to have a business meeting. He’s like, I want to talk to you. We just bought that brand Bodyography a year and a half ago and it’s just not doing well. The person who’s running it doesn't have a grasp of what to do with it. What if you come on 10 days a month as a consultant? 

I didn’t feel comfortable doing that. I was just 20 years old. So in true Aries fashion, I decided that if I was going to do this, I had to perfect it. If I was really going to get involved in the brand, I had to go to beauty school and learn about conceptual makeup artistry. I did this crazy crash course. It was six weeks, Monday through Friday, eight hours a day. I was like, I'm kind of good at this and I get to develop products —maybe this is my thing. It started from there about 10 years ago. 

How did you work your way up to creative director? 

I was thrown right in. A big part of my job is travel and with that comes schmoozing with distributors, closing deals with potential new customers and doing lots of education and training. Whenever we launch the brand in a new place, I like to go and meet all the editors, all of the influencers and we have an event. Then I do practical training in stores so that they're educators, too. 

I started to write things down, write training protocol and travel protocol and really started to give this mess of a beautiful brand a roadmap. I started placing goals as far as sales go, evaluating what wasn’t selling and doing a whole overhaul. I think that showing initiative at such a young age was critical. I really had to prove myself. I came in young with no shoes to fill, but I had big shoes to fill — I was my dad’s daughter. I always did everything. I never expected anyone to pick up after me or be my assistant — even now. I’ve done a thousand and one things like changing packaging, reformulating, launching new products and working to becoming a more inclusive, diverse brand that’s available in over 52 countries worldwide. 

As Bodyography has grown, is there a brand ethos that’s guided you? 

We’re one of the original clean beauty brands. It’s all about not compromising the performance of the product, while being conscious of certain ingredients. The term clean beauty means absolutely nothing, it has no definition. That's something that I've been trying to teach from the very, very beginning. Before any of this information was out there, I was preaching in my training what clean beauty stood for. What I realized is that clean beauty can be defined by different brands in a different way. To us, it means beauty with a conscience. We’re certified by PETA as a cruelty-free brand and all of our products are paraben-free. When I first started, paraben-free wasn’t a thing, so we’ve been working for the past 10 years to remove parabens from the entire line. For me, it’s also not just about what’s not in your products, but what is in your products. Ingredients like antioxidants, vitamins and minerals have been a part of Bodygraphy’s fabric since day one. We make sure that all of our products do what we say and that they’re more than just a pretty color in a pot. 

You touch every aspect of Bodyography, from social media to development. Walk me through what a typical week looks like for you? 

I travel 70% of the time. I’m always either just getting back from a trip, about to leave or planning my next one. From booking, organizing and cleaning my kit every time, it takes up a lot of my time. As far as a business day goes though, I try to do customer support with our big distributors for one chunk of the day. Then product development is another big chunk. When new products are coming in, we have to do  displays, add it to the manual, the brochure, the website and do all of the marketing. We have to make sure that all the people who will touch the product have the information they need. And then of course I approve samples. Whether it's a new batch of something that's never been on a shelf before or just new production of a product that already exists, I test it to our standards. Then there’s the social media side. I’m able to connect with our customer in a time where connectivity and communication is everything. I spend a lot of time looking for people I want to work with because we're like guerrilla marketers on Instagram. If someone looks like they are a Bodyography person, I'll contact them and send them our product. And then I’ll post to our Instagram, plan, take pictures and do Stories. 

How do you decide what comes next for the brand? 

Being a small brand is actually a major strength. If I have an idea, I don't have to run it by a bunch of different teams and owners and founders. I run it by my education team, I run it by industry friends like Katie Jane Hughes and that’s that. I’m also obsessed with travel, texture, fashion and the world. I put together a mood board, send it into my lab and say, can we do this? It’s more of an innate thing honestly. I get inspired part by the people and the relationships I’ve built and the Instagram community. The other half, I dream up. I wake up in the morning and have conceptualized the entire collection, the whole concept and every shade name. 

Fill in the blanks. 

My three desert island products are a concealer, a tweezer and a sunscreen. 

The best part about being my own boss is that I get to take days off and not tell anyone why. 

A beauty trend I regret trying is nothing. I never regret trying something new! 

My first memory of beauty is my grandmother dumping out her 40-step makeup routine. 

To me, beauty means inspiration, self-love, fashion, fun... a way to explore outside of your day-to-day. 

What keeps me motivated is the people who love the brand, anyone who takes a moment to reach out, someone who constantly purchases or posts that they love our products. 

Image courtesy of Lori Leib

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