Anne-Marie Guarnieri is the Editor-in-Chief of xoVain, a beauty website that is revolutionizing the industry. Although she’s new to the xoVain team, Anne-Marie has been writing about for publications such as Allure, Marie Claire, and Teen Vogue for over a decade. Preceded by xoJane, xoVain doesn’t keep any beauty secrets and is in the business of discussing real beauty needs among its readers. We had the chance to catch up with Anne-Marie to learn more about how beauty can be redefined in our culture today.
Darling Magazine: How did you break into the beauty business?
Anne-Marie: It was a right-place-right-time moment. About eight years ago, I was working as an editor at Gotham and Hamptons magazines, and was covering a number of beats — cars, art, real estate, movies. My days were super weird: One afternoon I’d be having lunch with Matthew Broderick at Florent (RIP), the next, I’d be interviewing Chuck Close about his new book, after that, test driving the new Mini Cooper, then going to an art opening or screening in the evening. But in the middle of Hamptons season (the magazine has a weekly run from Memorial Day to Labor Day, which is more or less “Hamptons season”), the editor who was covering beauty quit, and my EIC was scrambling to find someone to fill in.
I put my hand up, with no idea what the job entailed, and it certainly wasn’t like I had a lot of extra time on my hands. Yet I’d always been interested in the beauty market, and definitely had a lot of knowledge about it as a consumer (I was the girl who was always doing everyone’s makeup for dances and later, weddings), so I thought, “Why not?” My boss said yes, and eventually, she saw that I had a real eye for it and encouraged me to make beauty my focus. A few years later, I was running the newly created beauty department. And I promise you: It’s just as difficult to write about beauty as it is cars. There’s a lot of technical information in both categories. But I’m much happier writing about beauty. I moved on from there to Allure, then spent some time as a freelancer for magazines like Fashion (CAN), Marie Claire, and Teen Vogue, before ending up at Say Media and xoVain.
DM: On xoVain’s website you say, “We’re experts in being real”. What does “real” beauty mean to you and the xoVain team?
Anne-Marie: Real beauty means that we test and show products on real women, of all sizes and skin tones — no models, no Photoshop. And it’s all written in the first person, which is something that Jane Pratt, xoVain’s founder, really pioneered. I feel like when you read our site, you quickly get to know our writers — they could be your friends. That is our main point of difference compared with other beauty sites out there. Another of our core beliefs is “No beauty secrets,” because I strongly reject the notion that beauty advice is not something to be shared openly. We put it all out there for our readers.
And language is super important, too. So much beauty writing uses words like, “fight,” “tame,” “combat,” “battle,” “banish.” Sure, we all have beauty issues we’d like to fix (acne, frizz, redness, etc.), but why do we frame it in such stark terms? I don’t think you should be waging war with yourself. We’ve been guilty of using some of that language on our site, but I’m actively trying to move away from it. Focusing on being inclusive and body-positive is also very important to us. You will never read a story on xoVain like, “Makeup that will make dudes want you” or “70 ways to get skinny over the weekend.” It’s just not what I ever want to do.
So much beauty writing uses words like, “fight,” “tame,” “combat,” “battle,” “banish.” Sure, we all have beauty issues we’d like to fix … but why do we frame it in such stark terms? I don’t think you should be waging war with yourself.
DM: How has photoshop influenced the way beauty is attained and desired today? Has it impacted the way that you use photography on xoVain?
Anne-Marie: Photoshop and even Instagram filters have made it impossible to know what something or someone truly looks like. But I’m not anti-Photoshop; I’m anti-over-Photoshopping. When you can no longer see someone’s pores or skin texture, you’ve officially gone too far. And yes, I think being exposed to these hyper-perfect images on a regular basis does have an impact on what society deems “beautiful” or “desirable” or “ideal.” But as I’ve told our readers, my hope is that you’ll see some reflection of yourself on xoVain, because I think many women feel alienated or excluded from the mainstream beauty messages they see every day, either in magazines or in ads. Diversity is very important to our message.
As I mentioned above, we don’t use Photoshop. I’m way more interested in seeing how products perform and look on someone’s un-retouched skin. To me, that’s the only way to truly measure a product’s performance, and it’s just not done in most women’s magazines.
DM: Why does beauty matter? How can beauty be used to inspire women and encourage confidence?
Anne-Marie: Because it changes lives. The right tip, product, or technique can completely alter the way you look AND the way you feel–and often, for very little money. Our site openly encourages women to give new looks a try, even if it’s out of their comfort zone, and we show you how to do it. We don’t subscribe to the same beauty dos, don’ts, and rules that women have been hearing for years. Who am I to tell a reader that she can’t wear a bold eye and bold lip at the same time? If you think it looks good and you feel good wearing that look, that’s all that matters.
… I think many women feel alienated or excluded from the mainstream beauty messages they see every day, either in magazines or in ads. Diversity is very important to our message.
DM: What is some of the best beauty advice you have received and would like to pass on?
Anne-Marie: It sounds so boring, but it’s true, and I wish someone had told me to do it sooner, but: Wear sunscreen! It’s the only proven thing that can help slow the signs of aging on your skin. And I promise, once you make it a habit, part of your daily routine, it won’t seem like a chore. It’s just so important! I can’t handle it when I see teenage girls baking in the sun with no sunscreen in sight. I want to walk over and spray them down with SPF 50, but I don’t suppose that would be very appropriate.
Top image via Erin Grimson; bottom image courtesy of Anne-Marie Guarnieri