Glossy: Ambition, Beauty, and the Inside Story of Emily Weiss's Glossier: nonfiction review
Glossy: Ambition, Beauty, and the Inside Story of Emily Weiss's Glossier by Marisa Meltzer
Overview: Glossier, a company that is relatively new and relatively scandal free for such an internet entrenched business, seems like an interesting focus for a book on its rise and the possible beginnings of its fall. It turns out the quintessentially millennial pink brand focused on no make-up make-up and a different ethos around beauty actually has an interesting story behind it. Without any totally wild drama, Meltzer crafted a book I couldn't put down that follows Weiss from her days as an intern at Teen Vogue to founding a successful and truly unique beauty blog to growing an actual beauty company with that team. There's no implosion to end off the book, but there is an open question around a sea change. Weiss hands over the CEO reigns, and the company faces the every other decade flip flop between skincare forward beauty vs splashy make-up. This is an interesting portrait of how media and tech weave their way into product based brands and of the one woman who held firm at the center of this truly unique beauty brand. Overall: 4
I truly did not want to put this book down. It's my favorite kind of nonfiction where a journalist dives deep into a part of pop culture and goes on a journey not only of uncovering truths about the object of research but also finding personal ones. I like seeing these journalists insert themselves into the narrative, and Meltzer does a good job of periodically making personal observations in a tasteful way to give insight into Weiss's personality and the rapport they cultivated over Meltzer's time covering her. I was doubtful if there was enough in the Glossier story to constitute a whole book, but the answer is definitely a yes.
I've been to the Glossier LA store. I've tried a few products from them – most coming from the Olivia Rodrigo recommended bundle, Gen Z that I am. I got a good dark berry lipstick and introduced to Boy Brow from the experience. I don't get the hype on the eyeliner or the cleanser. My mom loved the hand cream and lip balm I got her from Christmas last year from the brand, and I oddly am most taken with their deodorant. While I'm not particularly loyal to them, I'm definitely familiar with how it exists today as a casual consumer. I didn't know any of the story of how it came to be or who propelled that.
It was particularly fascinating, though I guess in certain ways not surprising, that Glossier sprouted out of an upstart beauty blog called Into the Gloss. When you think about it, the particularly unique bend of the Glossier experience from how they present online to the extremely specific in-store experience they became famous for to the practicality of many of their flagship products does seem like the work of someone who's spent thousands of hours listening to people talk about how beauty exists in their lives. It's excellent market research.
This beginning part of the book fell in line with my interests the most. I've always been deeply invested in the New York media, and particularly fashion media, landscape. One of my favorite nonfiction reads of this year was a deep dive on Anna Wintour. And the beginning of Glossy is all about this as it follows Weiss splashing onto the scene at Teen Vogue, existing in the Conde Nast ecosystem, and creating Into the Gloss on the side to fill a gap she found in the coverage of beauty particularly. The site grew to millions of readers, particularly propelled by giving readers in-depth information on a subject's beauty routine in a truly behind-the-scenes way and by covering the street style lens of beauty. This origin story makes Glossier as a brand make a lot more sense.
The book never lagged even as it moved into discussing more of the business realities and politics of Glossier and its transition after existing for nearly a decade. The book never dwelled in one place for too long, and it's written with a light, breezy, efficient, almost conversational tone that makes it a super easy read. It asks interesting questions about where this particular brand sits within society and pulls together interesting threads about the wider beauty industry from someone well versed in following the space. I finished it in a twenty-four hour period, and it left me wanting more. So if you've run out of podcasts, I definitely recommend giving this one a go as an audiobook.
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