In A Class By Herself: Beauty Professor Rachel Anise Provides Unparalleled Makeup Look Breakdowns
If Beauty Independent could go back to college, we’d immediately sign up for professor Rachel Anise’s class. Better known by her apropos handle Beauty Professor, the communication scholar-cum-blogger is equal parts glamorous and geeky. On Rate My Professor, students rave about her attentiveness and grasp of millennial sensibilities and, on her makeup and skincare website, fans gush about her product guidance and stellar pics. “I don’t get into politics, religion or anything controversial. I try to keep it very positive and inspirational,” says Anise of her digital content. “I want it to be a bright spot in someone’s day, but with value.” In an extensive conversation with Beauty Independent, she served up valuable insight on brand partnerships, pitches that elicit replies, proficient conversion rates and striking professional balance. We took notes so you don’t have to.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Southern California, in Seal Beach. I still live in Seal Beach. I’ve traveled the country and the world, and I love where I live. I’m super close to my family, and my mom Laura is the assistant for Beauty Professor. She helps me with photography, travel, events and bookkeeping. She is an integral part of my Beauty Professor process these days. I went to Long Beach State and majored in communication. I then stayed at Long Beach State for grad school. I always thought I was going to be a lawyer, but I loved what I was studying in communication and changed my mind. I got hired at Long Beach State right out of grad school to teach as a professor there in communication studies. I took a teaching position at a high school, and ran a speech and debate, and journalism program, and I split my time between Long Beach State and there. I took a full-time tenure track job at Golden West College a year ago. Tenure-track community college jobs don’t come up very often, and I’m very grateful for it.
How did Beauty Professor start?
I started the blog in 2012 over winter break. I love luxury, and niche makeup and skincare. I kept it a secret for the most part from academia. I didn’t hide it. I just didn’t talk about it. There wasn’t a profound understanding of makeup in what I was teaching. Many students followed me and didn’t even realize I taught at the school until they walked into my classroom. I teach classes that cover PR and marketing, so my day-to-day with Beauty Professor gets infused into my classes. It’s been a crazy conflation of experiences. I bring my Beauty Professor experience into the classroom, and I’m glad I talk about it openly now.
What was your initial vision for the Beauty Professor?
It was just a creative side project for me. I had no concept of a blog being a job or something to monetize. I thought, “I love to write. I’m just going to write about makeup.” I was writing about brands that were hard to find, and I was on the hunt for them. It attracted way more readers than I ever anticipated because I was writing about what wasn’t really being written about at the time. If anyone wanted to read about By Terry or Koh Gen Do, they would get to me, and my SEO was growing exponentially. I didn’t even understand SEO. But, early on in the blog, I was getting thousands of page views a day. I wasn’t even self-promoting. It was so organic. It was for the love of makeup.
When did brands begin to reach out to you?
I heard from the first brand a year into the blog’s existence. I heard from Youngblood. They said, “We’ve been reading your blog, and we would love to send you product.” It felt like Christmas, New Year’s and my birthday all wrapped into one. It was crazy. When the ball gets rolling, other brands find you. Neiman’s initiated a meeting in Dallas in 2014. I was covering many of the luxury brands they carried, and they said, “We would love to have you write for us.” They gave me creative freedom to come up with stories every month. I’ve been doing it ever since then.
How do you recommend brands approach you?
I like a pitch via e-mail. Certainly, face-to-face meetings, when they work out, are great. In the email, you should write my name and not just, “Hey there.” I always ignore, “Hey there.” We are getting hundreds of e-mails a day at this point. So, the stuff that’s personal, you read first, and the other stuff falls by the wayside. Provide specifics about a partnership, and respond within a reasonable amount of time. Sometimes brands approach you for a partnership, you respond and, then, you never hear from them. Also, be clear on the objective. Is this just for a product? Is there a payment? Know these things in advance.
Based on your experience at Beauty Professor, what do you teach your students?
A lot of PR assistants are overwhelmed by their inboxes, and I teach them prioritization. I teach them about what an influencer will respond to like including their names in e-mails and responding immediately. When they’re searching for positions, I also give them social media tips. They may have made a social media account just for them, but, as soon as you enter the world of media and marketing, social media is your calling card. What are you doing with it? I show them how to be themselves, but also have something on social media that’s going to be professionally beneficial.
What brand partnerships have worked well on Beauty Professor?
I did a collaboration with Le Métier de Beauté and created a lipstick with their creative director. I went through lab samples and was very hands on in the making of the lipstick. I didn’t just pick a swatch because I’m not comfortable with that. It was more painstaking the way we did it, but well with it. The lipstick launched in September and sold out. The other brand that executed a particularly strong partnership was Burberry Beauty with whom I worked twice last year. In both cases, they invited a small global team of beauty writers/influencers to London for Fashion Week to see the inner workings of the Burberry Beauty team firsthand as well as to preview the new beauty launches for the season. The experience was personalized, educational and completely memorable with incredible attention to detail. That being said, it was also entirely organic, inspiring authentic rather than forced sharing with our respective audiences.
What’s your take on the issue of disclosing brand relationships?
The rules on this are clear. If you are getting paid to partner with a brand and create content, a disclosure should be there. That’s all there is to it. Every blogger has brought up, what about magazines? I think that’s a conversation worth exploring. Where are the lines there? In general, blogging is the Wild West. I’m a big proponent of honesty. I disclose when I’m linking to a product that was a press sample. I put an asterisk. Everyone needs to make decisions for themselves and abide by the law when it’s clearly delineated. Are there gray areas? Absolutely. I’m just glad the discussion is being had.
How do you balance the demands of social media with your full-time gig?
I reflect on that daily. Social media can eat someone alive. I make sure I’m doing enough, but not too much. I’m at the college two to three days a week and, the other days, I’m working from home, going to events or shooting. I go to less events than I used to because creating good content takes time, and I rather be doing that.
How often do you post?
I post on Instagram two or three times a day. I do Instagram Stories three to five times a week. Some days I’m in the mood for it, and some days I’m not. I post three stories a week on the blog. I used to post daily, but my traffic and monetization are the same at three times a week. It’s really important to me to respond to my followers, and I can’t post five times a day and respond to most questions.
When they are evaluating an influencer partnership, what should brands consider?
Brands should go to SocialBlade. I am not in any way affiliated with them. Look at influencers and look at their following rates and, when you see influencers that are losing followers everyday and, then, they gain 2,000 on one day, it’s not real. They are paying for it. A good respectable, high engagement rate account is going to make some gains. You might gain five to 25 followers a day, and you might lose one or two. That’s how it works. So, look to see is their following real and, then, look to see how they are engaging with their followers. Are they responding and connecting? Those are relationships that parlay into strong messages for a brand.
What sort of influencer relationships convert well for brands?
The benefit of a little bit smaller audience, while still large, is that you are able to engage with your followers, so there is a different level of connection and trust there. Of course, for me, trust is paramount. I never recommend something I haven’t tried and don’t love. I don’t recommend products that get sent to me just because. No paycheck is worth getting rid of six years of trust. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had followers go, “You’ve never led me astray yet. I always love the things you suggest.” That credibility creates conversion. Being selective and always having quality behind your word creates conversion. I do a lot with affiliate links that I disclose. If there is something I love, and I don’t make a single dollar, I will still recommend it from my heart. I’ve had account managers say, “Your conversion rate is high.” I never knew what that meant until two or three years. I’m told the average bloggers conversion rate for a style blog is somewhere around 1%, and mine tends to hover around 5%. At the end of the day, I would always rather have a smaller audience of people who truly trust me and know that I care about them than a bigger one that I can’t authentically connect with.
How have you evolved your content?
I tend to cover more products per piece now because I write less. When I first started, I might have written a post on a single lipstick. I’m big on treating my stories almost like magazine articles. I shoot everything myself, and everything is swatched. I want my readers to be able to see everything in good lighting and on my face like it would be in an editorial. For me, it’s about the whole look. I’m not using products from one brand. I break down my eyes, lips and face in every look, and my readers like that. If they came to read about a foundation, they might see an eyeliner that wasn’t on their radar. Sometimes brands want partnerships where it’s just them, but I tell them a post will get so much more traffic and engagement when it’s just not one brand. One brand is not real life in most cases.
Do you feel pressure to look at certain way?
No, and I’m glad. I’m a makeup wearer. Even if I wasn’t writing a blog, I would wear makeup. I love makeup, but I like makeup to make yourself the best version of you. I can get ready with a full face in under 10 minutes. It’s an odd paradox, but I’m low maintenance for loving maintenance. In the 25 minutes it might take to do a social media eye look, I’ve done my makeup, eaten breakfast and responded to 50 emails. A lot of my readers are professional women, doctors and lawyers. I applaud the artistry on Instagram, but Instagram looks don’t necessarily translate to those jobs.
What are your goals for Beauty Professor going forward?
Day-to-day, I want to make sure I’m maintaining the trust and credibility I’ve established. It’s about creating quality content. I’m a big believer in quality over quantity. I would rather spend three days on a single blog post and provide evergreen content than write a post over lunch that’s rendered irrelevant later. There are posts I did in 2012 that still get thousands of page views a day. I love giving people a resource. I want to grow my audience. I’m truly excited about what I’m sharing, and I want the information to find its way to people who want to read about it.
“I never recommend something I haven’t tried and don’t love. I don’t recommend products that get sent to me just because. No paycheck is worth getting rid of six years of trust.”
Do you think you’ll ever stop being a professor?
People often say, “It’s cool you’re a professor, but why don’t you blog full-time?” I could, but I’m so grateful I’m not. I love the two together, and I hope to be able to maintain the two components of my life indefinitely.