Not one page into Jamie Kern Lima’s new book Believe It and I’m ready to follow this woman to the ends of the earth. Much like Oprah, Lima has that relatability that makes you feel seen, heard and understood, all the while telling you the stories of her setbacks, triumphs and history building one of the most successful beauty brands in recent history. Today, five years after selling IT Cosmetics to L’Oréal, the brand founder and beautypreneur has switched gears—sort of. Instead of inspiring the masses to say “Bye Bye” to their skin concerns, she’s inspiring us to say “Hello” to our dreams through her new role as author, and more importantly, self-help guru.
NewBeauty: I’m reading your book and it is so relatable. One question I like to ask notable figures about is imposter syndrome, especially in this industry. You write about believing in yourself and getting over that internal disbelief that a lot of us have ingrained in us. I just feel like that’s such a huge issue for a lot of women and especially in this industry.
Jamie Kern Lima: Yeah, it’s funny you say that because the more and more people I’ve met that have built really great things, I feel like we’ve all had the same thing. That same feeling, the self-doubt, that feeling of not being enough, and the “Am I qualified for this?” question. For me, one of the reasons I ended up working 100-hour weeks for like a decade, is because by the time, after three years of rejection, all I was hearing was no. By the time we finally started getting yeses it was after I went through this season of not even being able to believe my own success was happening. So, I just worked extremely hard for so many years until I was able to really learn to believe in myself. You know, every single one of us is worthy of our own hopes and dreams happening.
NB: Everybody knows you as the founder of IT Cosmetics and in the book, you say there is more to the story and it’s not this fairytale experience that we’ve seen on T.V. What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your journey?
JKL: I think when you Google my name it looks like this fairy tale and a lot of times what you see is like, “Denny’s Waitress Turns into Billion-Dollar Entrepreneur.” I get DMs on Instagram every single day from women who are saying things like, “I read your story and it’s not working out for me like it did for you. Did you just have the right connections, a lot of money or just get lucky?” I realized that when we only see the highlight reel, which is what we see on so many people’s social media every day, we feel alone in our own setbacks, or rejection. There’s a lack of proof of success or ideas around us and that really fueled me to share my story. My real story is one of a girl who goes from not believing in herself to believing in herself. From not trusting myself to actually learning how to hear my own intuition and trusting it to go on that journey. I wrote Believe It not just to tell my story, but because it’s really the story of so many people out there right now who are in the midst of that. That journey of knowing deep down inside you have hopes and dreams, but like doubting yourself anyway. That’s really who and what this book is for.
NB: Were you in quarantine when you were writing the book, or were you already writing it before?
JKL: Before. When L’Oréal acquired IT Cosmetics in 2016, I gave them my word that I would stay on for three years. It was an awesome three years. I’m blessed to have had the experience of seeing the inside of a huge company, which was a lot different than the one I started in my living room and built from scratch. We actually doubled the size of the business the first two years that I ran it post-acquisition. It was a good experience and at the end of that timeframe I had this kind of deep knowing that it was time. L’Oréal has teams on the ground in over 100 countries, so it was awesome to see them be able to take the vision I have in a company and scale it and touch so many more people’s lives so quickly. So, I just felt this knowing that I was supposed to write this book and I wanted to write it myself. I had offers for doing a book or movie and using a ghost writer, but I wanted it to feel one million percent authentic and I wanted to write every word myself. So, I waited four or five years, and then I just had this knowing about a year and a half ago. So, I fulfilled my commitment to L’Oréal and then I stepped away and literally locked myself in a room in the house, binge ate a few times, and sobbed my eyes out and wrote 80,000 words. Like 95 percent of the book is stories I’ve never shared before.
NB: Will you ever go back to running a cosmetic company?
JKL: It’s wild, I ended up working 100-hour weeks for 10 years and I think that I am in the process right now, in a big way, of healing from that. So, I have no plans to do that and honestly, I can’t even imagine making better products than what already exists with IT. But also, you know I’m biased but, like, that’s the truth for me. I feel like we all have a purpose and a calling, and I think we can have multiple of those in our lives. I remember two times when I had that moment where I just knew. We had just moved into these brand new, beautiful offices and I had a corner office overlooking the whole Manhattan skyline. And I remember this moment right looking around an office that was larger than any place I’ve ever rented, and I am looking at what the world tells me success looks like, and I knew in this moment that I’m supposed to use everything I’ve ever gone through to help be of service for other people, especially other women and especially women dealing with self-doubt, rejection and not-enoughness.
NB: What are your tips to help others believe in themselves?
JKL: Well number one, buy the book. Two, I would say one big one for anybody is we hear a lot of people talking about “finding your why,” right? A lot of people that are starting businesses or communities online or even have a goal that they’re setting in their personal lives forget to attach a real deep “why” to it. There are a lot of thought leaders that talk about this, but here’s one piece of advice that I think kind of takes that to the next level. When I launched IT Cosmetics, I could have said my why is to solve my own skin problems or help millions of women. I wanted to do both of those things, but my deeper why was really to launch a company that had products that work on all people and use real women with every skin problem as models. I wanted to try to shift that culture around what’s the ideal, or definition of beauty in our society. That was my real why.
Another thing I would say is, is just the power of learning how to turn down the volume. Turn down the volume on your own self-doubt, on the things that other people say—whether it’s expert advice, or rejection or anything else—I think learning how to tune into your gut and say “is this advice right for me,” or “was this rejection valuable for me,” is so important. Silence the inner-critic chatter, get tuned into your gut, and turn up the volume on our own intuition.
NB: You’re in your 40s now. Have you found out anything about yourself and your skin at this age that surprised you? What are you doing now that you weren’t doing before?
JKL: I am going to be so boring, but I’m actually sleeping and drinking water, which is the biggest thing. I went 10 years without sleeping and I think that’s huge. I do love to see what’s new, what’s launching and what’s innovative, but I have super sensitive skin, so I always go back to the stuff that works for me. Of course, I love Confidence in a Cream, but I’ve also just been using 100% squalene oil and just stuff that’s a little bit more natural and I’ve seen my biggest change in terms of hair and skin, just through supplements and what I eat moreso than anything I was doing differently in the past. I’ve also been really into red light therapy, too. There’s a place you can go to and do a red light therapy bed. Whenever I have time, which is almost never, that’s something I love to do.
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