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CEW Honors Beauty’s Emerging Leaders

CEW's Top Talent Honorees discuss what's next in beauty.

Recognition is a core pillar of CEW’s mission, and as the number of women in beauty has increased exponentially, Carlotta Jacobson, the organization’s president, realized there was a gap in the organization’s programming.

While the CEW Achiever Awards, honoring the women who have reached the very highest echelons of beauty, is an industry staple, there was no recognition of beauty’s emerging leaders. Enter the Top Talent Awards, now in its sixth year, created to honor women, most often mid-career, whose impact on their company has been significant and whose leadership potential is strong.

“Part of our responsibility is to show the wealth of talent that is out there,” said Jacobson, who said that the Top Talent honorees have on average 15 to 25 years of experience working in the industry. “It’s important to shine a light on women in middle management — they are the future. They are the next generation of leadership.”

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“They are super aspirational to junior executives as well,” added Jill Scalamandre, CEW’s chairwoman and the president of BareMinerals, of the honorees. “They work directly with younger executives and are real role models. They need to be recognized because they are forming the next generation as well as leading themselves.”

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The women being honored this year represent a wide spectrum of disciplines in business. As they prepared to accept their awards, we asked each to share with WWD how they see the future of beauty evolving.

Jennifer Cohen, Senior Director, Makeup, Sephora

Cohen was a key part of the team that developed Fenty Beauty and its lessons have stayed with her. “Inclusivity has become a core part of the overall picture. Fenty Beauty brought to the forefront of the entire industry not just a conversation, but more of an expectation,” she said.

As far as makeup trends go, there is definitely deviation from the Instagram-makeup look. But even those who fall on the no-makeup-makeup spectrum are shopping. “There is still that person who’s a little bit of a late adapter…as far as really full coverage. [There is a] surge of products and looks that are about no-makeup makeup or skin that actually looks like skin…it may have taken 10 steps to get there,” she said.

Foundation formulations have gotten to a point where they can provide full coverage in a nearly undetectable way, noted Cohen, and texture and finishes are better than ever. There is further deviation from Instagram makeup in the lip category, which had been dominated by highly pigmented, matte lips. Now, it’s about products that give shoppers “healthy plump lips” and have “oil slick” or “balmy” textures. —Allison Collins

Jennifer Cohen
Jennifer Cohen Courtesy Photo


Mary F. Rodrigues, 
Senior Vice President, Marketing and Ecommerce, RéVive Skincare

As part of her leadership strategy, Mary Rodrigues has focused on building a strong culture at RéVive to build a strong business. Since she started, RéVive’s team has grown to about 24 people in the office, plus a field team of 20. But the vibe is still that of a start-up.

“We celebrate — I kid you not — everything,” she said. That includes Pi Day, March 14, when pizza and literal pies were served at the offices for lunch.

To stay on track in a skin-care category crazed with new launches and new trends, she turns to brand founder, plastic surgeon Gregory Brown. “His habits directly inspired the launch of our Energizing Hydration Mist, which rolls out this spring,” Rodrigues said. “He was using a competitive one. We thought, if we’re going to do this, it has to be RéVive.”

But not all trendy ideas get the green light. Gold, for example, was a no. “He will definitely poo-poo some trends that he’s like, ‘eh, there’s no science there,’” Rodrigues said. — A.C.

Mary Rodrigues
Mary Rodrigues Courtesy Photo


Salina Urben
, Senior Regional Education Manager, Groupe Clarins

Salina Urben credits her success to her ability to connect with those around her. “It’s like my superpower,” she said. “I’ve always adjusted my style to my audience. I have a very serious side where this is business and we’re here to make customers happy and to make money…but [they’re] going to learn a lot and they’re going to have some fun.”

Urben noted training has evolved significantly. “Ten years ago, our education was really focused on beauty advisers in department stores,” Urben said. “Now, we’re shifting our focus to specialty stores as well as dot-com.”

That entails different strategies for different stores. “A department store person is at your counter all day, where the Ulta people have 200 brands they can sell,” Urben said. “”Ulta is less is more; you pick a couple products and treat them all individually.”

Clarins has also adjusted its curriculum for the digital age. “The turnover rate is a lot higher now. Sometimes young women aren’t looking to cosmetics as a career. So the schools are shorter, and we have to make it a lot more interactive,” Urben said. That means a “blended learning” technique that includes a physical classroom, online university and app, where associates can learn “sound bites” about different products.

Clarins has even developed VR experiences and games for educational purposes. In the app, for example, a game allows learners to earn points that can be used for rewards, as for the recent launch of the firming day and night cream. “We made it a little competitive [throughout] the whole country. You could look at the leaderboard and everyone wanted to be number one.” —A.C.

Salina Urban
Salina Urben Courtesy Photo


Rachel Painter, Vice President, Research and Development, Estée Lauder:

Technology and social media are driving “dramatic change across the globe” in beauty, according to Rachel Painter. The rapidly changing beauty landscape is causing Painter and her team to focus on their speed to market, as well as develop products that meet a range of needs globally.

One of the most compelling focal points at the moment is the diverse consumer set. “The needs of the increasingly diverse consumer population is driving product development and focus where it’s never been before,” said Painter. “It’s exciting for us. It makes us think much more granular in certain ways, but be smart where we’re putting our resources.”

Social media allows the company to “get information at our fingertips,” said Painter, and technology is revolutionizing product development. “We’re seeing trends as they’re happening and the technology systems are enabling us to do that,” she said. “Looking more specifically to [research and development], the technology is expanding from every aspect — in the lab, the equipment, the digitalization, enabling us to do formulation much more streamlined and predictably, and having data integrity. It’s a much more evolved way of doing business.” — Alexa Tietjen

Rachel Painter
Rachel Painter Courtesy Photo


Suzanne Pengelly, Senior Vice President, U.S. Sales and Education, BareMinerals

Suzanne Pengelly’s nearly 20-year beauty career began at QVC, where she was tasked with transitioning the Philosophy brand to Coty. “I was one of the first to successfully transition and integrate a huge QVC business into a big business like Coty without disruption — and it maintained its number-one status in the TV shopping world,” she said.

Pengelly now develops sales and distribution strategies for BareMinerals, which has been undergoing a brand reboot. Her leadership style, she said, involves encouraging her team to think about beauty’s emotional side versus product attributes. One such product that had an emotional impact on her was BareMinerals’ Complexion Rescue.

“That product gave me 20 minutes back every single morning to spend time with my kids,” she said. “From an emotional standpoint, this product has changed my life. I use that story because I think of it from a selling standpoint. I tell [my team], ‘Think of how you’re going to emotionally connect with the consumer because you’re gonna change her life that way. Give her time back in her day, make her feel better about herself, go from that angle instead of just the product benefits.’ It’s always served me in sales.” — A.T.

Suzanne Pengelly
Suzanne Pengelly Courtesy Photo


Megan Crokos, Vice President, Product and Fragrance Development, Mast Global

In her role at Mast, Crokos leads ideation and defines big-picture strategies for the Bath & Body Works beauty, personal care and home products. Long before she led a business that puts out some 1,200 new sku’s per year with more than $4 billion in annual sales, Crokos got her start at the beauty counter. “Hard work, flexibility, passion and strategic thinking got me to where I am today,” she said.

Over the three decades Crokos has spent in beauty — prior to joining Mast in 2007, she spent over 20 years at The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. — the industry has undergone seismic shifts. “Everything is changing — consumer macro trends inside and outside the industry,” she said. “What’s not changing is the consumer’s love of beauty products.” What’s struck her most is the adoption of social and digital platforms. “It’s exciting how visual and instant the world has become,” said Crokos. “Things we only dreamed of years ago are possible today.” —Ellen Thomas

Megan Crokos
Megan Crokos Courtesy Photo


Editor’s Note: CEW Top Talent honoree Marcie Hoklas, senior director/DMM Beauty Company, Walgreens Boots Alliance, was not available to be interviewed.