Journalist, respected author and beauty brand creator, what does a day in the life of Alice Hart-Davis look like?
We caught up with the beauty industry expert to ask her about how she juggles it all, how she keeps calm when things get stressful, her career advice for job success and about her rise through the ranks to get to the position she’s in now.
GTG: Describe what you do. What does a typical day look like?
AHD: I’m a beauty journalist, so what I aim to do for at least half the week is to sit at my desk and write. I write about everything from cosmetics to cosmetic surgery, for newspapers, magazines and websites. But that’s not a very interesting-sounding sort of day (‘Got up. Children to school. Walked dog. Sat at desk. Wrote).
What’s more fun to describe are all the diverting things that offer to get in the way of the writing; the press launches, the chance to meet doctors, dermatologists or owners of beauty businesses who are in London and all the other invitations that pour in through the email, the facials that need testing, and so on. I try not to do too much of this because, as my husband is always reminding me, I get paid for sitting at my desk and writing, not for dancing round town taking tea with Chanel or getting my eyelashes permed. But getting out and about does help me learn more in depth about brands and what they’re up to and this, along with the deluge of information that arrives by email is what provides the ideas for features, which I can then pitch to the commissioning editors for whom I write. (At least, that’s the plan, though usually they just ring me and tell me what they’d like written, which makes it even easier).
Along with the writing, I take on projects for beauty companies; maybe writing copy on their behalf, or brainstorming new approaches to business, or helping them launch a product or concept, or giving a presentation on their behalf or to their executives…I also act as a judge for several beauty industry awards, from hair to cosmetic dentistry, which is a great way to see some of the outstanding work that is going on.
And there is always something going on with Good Things , my skincare line. We’re doing some exciting new product development just now, so there’s a good deal of discussion back and forth with my brand partners about what we are up to and how the new formulas are shaping up, and all the rest.
So some days are quiet and thoughtful, others are noisy and frenetic, an adrenaline-charged whirl of meetings and gossip and deadlines and laughter and awards ceremonies, and most are somewhere in between.
One thing I do do every day is meditate, which I find helps with everything else. The only difficulty is fitting it in; I’ve eventually learned to get up early and do it first, before anything else gets in the way.
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GTG: What’s the most challenging project you have worked on?
AHD: Hmm. I think I’m supposed to say, ‘What do you mean, ‘challenging’? Every challenge is a great opportunity!’
But maybe the one where I spent several months creating a British edition of an American magazine from scratch and enrolled all my best industry acquaintances as an advisory board, and all the best beauty writers as contributors, and pulled strings with all the cosmetics companies to ask if they’d take advertising…only to gradually realise that the shameless US parent company had no intention of paying any of us anything despite all their promises, (somehow, they had never quite got round to signing their side of the contracts) and watch helplessly as the whole project disintegrated in a mass of recriminations and rent demands and unpaid invoices.
GTG: What motivates you?
AHD: The sheer excitement of discovering something new in the beauty arena and wanting to communicate it to other people; the moment when someone tips me off about a new project, or explains a new product, and the penny drops and I think, ‘Ooh, yes!’ whether it’s the new lipstick colours from No7 which are scientifically chosen to light up your particular skin tone, or an app that lets you find a nearby hairdresser who will come round and give you a blowdry in the office.
All that communicating used to have to be done through print media but now, I love that there are endless new ways to do it. I am always intending to blog but having an excitable and impatient nature, I find that Twitter and Instagram suit me better.
GTG: How do you organise yourself?
AHD: Well, I try not to commit myself to too many meetings/deadlines/school events/press launches in any one week, but since my schedule is almost entirely unpredictable, in practice I end up doing whatever is most urgent at the time, whether that is writing or cooking the family supper. It does mean that life often feels like one long essay-crisis but there is certainly never a dull moment. Because I still have two school-age children (and a dog), I rarely go on press trips unless they’re completely necessary or irresistible; I don’t watch TV and don’t dare to find out just how much fun Facebook might be.
I like to think that I’m a good deal more organised since my assistant Karen joined me two years ago. She comes over a couple of afternoons a week and keeps on top of the post, the email, helps me research and write features and blog posts and attends press launches that I can’t get to, which helps enormously. She lives in hope that one day I will have a clear desk.
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GTG: What advice would you give to anyone wanting to do what you do?
Make a plan. I have muddled along from one thing to another for years and years with precious little idea of which way to go each time I have found myself at one of life’s junctions - until I discovered that there was an endless amount to be written about beauty, and many other avenues to pursue within the beauty industry. You could be more organised. Decide who it is you most want to work for. Develop a portfolio to show off your talents. Find a way to approach that person or company and let them know what you can do. If writing is what you want to do, write whatever you can for whoever will take it. Blog. Tweet. Get your name out there. I wish you luck. It’s a competitive field but it’s hugely enjoyable and there’s plenty of room for everyone.