The Other Side Of The Wand: Fat Mascara Co-host Jessica Matlin Joins Us For A Rapid-Fire Q&A

Jessica Matlin, co-host of Fat Mascara and beauty director at Harper’s Bazaar, has established herself as a voice to listen to in the beauty industry. She’s had plenty of preparation for commanding the mic and wielding the editor’s pen. As early as 9-years-old, Matlin put together a beauty publication called Ms. Fad, pored over the magazines Jane and Sassy, and relished free samples from Macy’s. Post-college, Matlin gravitated to the beauty teams during internships at Jane, Harper’s Bazaar, YM and Nylon. “I kind of pushed myself onto the beauty department, offering to organize their beauty closet, working on their pages,” chuckles Matlin, who went on to work at Teen Vogue, Allure, W and Cosmopolitan before landing her current gig. On iTunes, where Fat Mascara frequently reigns among beauty podcasts, Matlin and Jennifer Goldstein, beauty director and features editor at Marie Claire, dissect hot-button beauty topics (i.e., CBD, weedwashing, cultural appropriation and influencer marketing), review products and cozy up to many of the biggest names in beauty, including Charlotte Tilbury, John Demsey, Linda Wells and Aerin Lauder. Beauty Independent grabbed Matlin’s attention for a few minutes to discuss unwelcome trends, tips for indie entrepreneurs and the unglamorous side of the beauty biz.

What are your current favorite cult or indie brands?

Ellie Bianca and basd.

What’s the first beauty product or tool that you remember being obsessed with?

I loved Urban Decay when it first came out. I loved Gash lipstick, which I didn’t realize was kind of like a naughty name. I was 14 or 15. They had an eyeliner, a matching nail polish and a lipstick, so I bought it all. They sold it at Nordstrom, and they didn’t even have their own counter, just a mini display. It was really just sort of shoved on the floor. I really liked those kind of funny little brands that were in the mall like Sweet Georgia Brown, Jerome Russell, Manic Panic, really offbeat, glittery, wacky stuff that now is so popular and made by luxe brands. But, at the time, it was really weird.

What’s your least favorite beauty trend ever?

I don’t really like all of the liquid lipsticks that dry down and are super matte. I think some brands do versions of them that are really nice, but I don’t really think they flatter that many people.

I don’t like gel manicures. I should qualify this, I don’t like gel nails that look poofy and kind of rise up on the nail. I think they look a little cheap, but I get how they’re very pragmatic. I don’t like a heavy contour, but I also don’t know how to contour my face well, so I think I don’t like it because I don’t know how to do it. I don’t like blue nail polish.

Jessica MatlinPhil Taylor
Fat Mascara co-host and Harper’s Bazaar beauty director Jessica Matlin

Why don’t you like blue nail polish?

I think it looks cool maybe when you’re younger, but, when you get older, I think it just looks off. It just kind of stops me in my tracks and not in a good way.

What’s an under-the-radar social media account you think other people should follow? 

The Hair Historian. I love it. It was started by my friend Rachael Gibson. She is really into heavy metal, but also really into beauty, and I like when people are surprising or seemingly contradictory. I was an art history major, too. I’m partial to like the Pre-Raphaelite stuff. She just finds great hair references in art because there are so many good ones.

As an editor, what makes a brand’s pitch stand out to you? 

I like when the founder will reach out.

You prefer the founder reaching out over a PR person?

Yeah, I think that’s interesting. I don’t mind if they direct message me and say that they saw something that I did or liked. If it feels like they actually know what I like and what I’m about, and it just seems genuinely that they would like to share something they made that feels personal to them, [that’s more interesting] than, “We’re launching this line that’s really trendy and in time with the moment,” because I think that’s what everyone else is saying.

What advice would you give to an indie brand just starting out?

Brands want to be the next Glossier, the next Milk, or they want to be gender fluid, super minimalist or extra clean. I think it’s really tempting to want to use those brands as templates. I don’t blame brands because you want to repeat that kind of success, and you want people to quickly see your brand and understand what it is. But I also think that it’s really easy to get lost because we see so many brands that look like cousins. So, while it’s safe to be like, OK, we want to tick the chic box or the cool girl box, I think it would be better if they stood out in their own way, and found something that feels just right for them and lead with a person or their story.

I don’t think they need to launch with a ton of SKUs. I don’t think they need to push newness as much. Other editors might disagree. I also think that they should try to meet editors to make those personal connections, too. They don’t need to send a bunch of doohickeys like props and gizmos. I think there’s a big pushback right now with waste. There is a lot hypocrisy because people like us do still post the crap that comes with everything.

Who’s your beauty mentor?

Jane Larkworthy. I’ve had a lot of really great bosses, but I spent so much time with Jane during our time at W magazine, and I don’t think she necessarily wanted me to be her beauty intern. She kind of tolerated it and, then, she brought me to W when I was desperate to be there. She really taught me about writing, and she fine-tuned my taste level. I had just moved to New York, and I think she taught me about New York, and she taught me about people in the beauty world. She really kind of shaped me as a person. We’ve remained friends, so it wasn’t just like the line editing kind of thing. She was really a role model for me.

Jessica MatlinTerry Matlin
Matlin at her wedding with mentor and former W beauty director Jane Larkworthy, a beauty columnist, blogger and avid clog enthusiast.

What do your friends and family get wrong about your job? 

That I get my hair done like five times a week, that was just like a slow week in my freelance career!  The stuff we put on Instagram are the fun parts. You’re not putting in the part where your butt is getting handed to you by an editor, all the horrible emails back and forth about lineup changes or that it takes you 24 hours to write like a 500-word story that’s just going to change again. There is a lot of work involved, but no one really wants to see that part. It is really fun, but it’s more than that. It is actually a lot of hard work. But we get to meet amazing people, and my favorite part of my job is meeting all these founders. I love the people that I work with. I love my job.