Welcome to Talking Top 10, a recurring series in which we feature the founders, CEOs, creators, and leaders who are shaking up their industries. Ahead, read our Q&A with Kirbie Johnson, and keep scrolling to shop her Top 10 must-haves.
Kirbie Johnson spent eight years at POPSUGAR as the publisher’s on-camera host, producer, and senior beauty reporter. She hosted a variety of series there, including Kirbie Tries, which averaged 1M views per episode. She has produced over 500 beauty segments in her career and has interviewed celebrities both on-camera and editorially like Jennifer Aniston, Viola Davis, Nicole Kidman, Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Ariana Grande. Kirbie has been featured as a host on Freeform and an expert on The Today Show, The Doctors, and the BBC. She has emceed events for Create & Cultivate, DragCon, Tarte Cosmetics, VidCon, Ulta Beauty, and more.
Kirbie co-hosts Gloss Angeles, a beauty podcast with Sara Tan. Launching in July 2019, it has garnered the attention of best podcast lists and has been a staple on the Top 20 fashion and beauty charts on Apple. She currently reports for Allure, The Hollywood Reporter, Elle, and Glamour, continues to work on-camera with Freeform, writes a weekly beauty newsletter, hosts The Kirbie Grip—a digital series that lives on her Instagram—and is pursuing a career as an on-camera host and television writer. Her interests include Halloween, Disney, true crime, and Britney Spears. Keep up with Kirbie on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for more info!
June 1, 2020
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How’d you get your start in the beauty industry?
Growing up, I was always the friend who knew what was hot in the skincare and makeup world, and I had a regimen when most of my friends did not. My mom was a cosmetologist, so I grew up inherently interested in the industry. I worked at a tanning salon in high school (yikes, I know) and a spa in college and was a professional airbrush tanner when I first moved to Los Angeles. I moved here specifically to work on-camera. I spent my spare time writing my blog and contributing to a website called Examiner (it’s now defunct) reporting on salon and spa openings around Los Angeles in addition to having a full time job at an entertainment before firm. I also wrote for FabFitFun when it was more of an editorial website. POPSUGAR ended up having an audition for on-camera beauty reporter and they were looking for someone with good camera presence, a journalism background and real expertise in beauty, so it was the perfect fit.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Lately it’s been very much the same because of the pandemic. I used to have a different day every day. But for the time being, I wake up and check my mail and social accounts first thing. I respond to any pressing emails from my phone and answer any comments or DMs I might have on Instagram or TikTok. I also scan Twitter—it’s typically where I get all my news.
After coffee, I get up and go through the rest of my emails and finish outstanding work, whether that’s uploading the podcast and writing the descriptions for the episode, conducting interviews for stories or writing pieces or interviewing guests for the podcast with Sara. If I have a brand partnership, I’ll work on copy for the post or photograph the product or myself wearing it to send for brand approval. Unboxings are a consistent part of my routine since I get sent new products to test on a daily basis.
I do try to take at least an hour a day to go on a walk or to workout, just to get fresh air. I used to walk a few miles to a drive-thru Starbucks but lately, I’ve been walking through the neighborhoods where I live to a nearby park to jump rope and use a resistance band to tone my arms and legs. I try to wrap things up by 6:00 p.m. so I can cook dinner with my boyfriend, but sometimes I have to finish transcribing an interview or writing a story, which can keep me up late. I tend to be a night owl; I rarely go to bed before midnight. I’m trying to change that!
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As a host, producer, and reporter, you have a lot on your plate. How do you balance it all?
I don’t! I think it’s nuts to expect people to perfectly balance everything. Some days I take a long nap because I was up late the night before working on a deadline. Some days I’m in bed at 3:00 and up at 7:00. And some days I decide to binge three seasons of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. (I’m catching up!)
What are your top tips for mastering on-camera makeup?
Avoid dewy skin. You’ll end up looking shiny or sweaty. The only area you shouldn’t be matte is your undereye—it can make you look dry and it can prematurely age you. I’d add more blush than normal and either wear faux lashes or more mascara to help make your eyes pop. Lighting blows everything out, so I know some people freak out at the idea of wearing heavier makeup, but in my experience, the lights eat up the makeup.
Tell us about an all-time favorite project you’ve worked on.
I’d so many great experiences. My favorite series I ever worked on was Kirbie Tries; it allowed me to be myself but share the beauty knowledge I’ve acquired over years of interviewing experts like dermatologists, estheticians, makeup artists, etc. and research I’ve done for stories, and the audience always took well to it. It felt really authentic to me as a person and I got to do some amazing things, like learn to be a Scare Actor at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios—a dream for a Halloween fiend like myself.
But I think the most special thing I’ve done in my career was getting to work with Jennifer Aniston. She was everything I could have imagined she would be: warm, funny and a lot of fun to talk to. I was honored Aveeno thought of me to host the event she was a part of and it felt really great getting to do something I’m passionate about with her and a universally loved brand.
What’s your favorite way to practice self-care?
These days I’m watching JadeyWadey180’s Youtube series, Complexions. All of her videos are so relaxing. I also take more baths now that I have a legit bathtub to take them in.
If you could only use one beauty product for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I’m not going to say sunscreen because that should be a staple. And I’m going to cheat and pick a skincare product and a makeup product. I’d probably use a vitamin C serum and a mascara, probably Velvet Noir from Marc Jacobs Beauty. Their new one is great too but I’ve had more time with Velvet Noir and it’s perfect.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced throughout your career?
Trusting my gut instincts, especially at the beginning. I was so worried about being universally liked and being green in my career that I often felt my opinions and instincts didn’t matter. It kept me from letting my personality shine. I’m so thankful to be over that phase. Right now my challenge is to keep focusing on myself and not what everyone else is doing, and not to undervalue myself. It’s easy to have imposter syndrome when you’re starting to see some return on the investment you put in yourself.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career similar to yours?
Do your research and find someone whose career you want to model your own after. Don’t expect to get a job right out the gate that other people have been putting in the work for. And the best thing you can do for yourself is to just do it. Want a podcast? Make one. Want to be on camera? Make video content.
What’s the most exciting thing you’re working on right now?
Gloss Angeles just got acquired to a podcast network and that’s thrilling for us! I’m also working with brands like Fresh, COVERGIRL, Neutrogena, and Bliss which has all been exciting. And I have a live show on Instagram three days a week called The Kirbie Grip. I interview people on how we can get a grip on our lives while in isolation and it’s been a really fun outlet for me.