Tia Williams: From Magazines to Beauty Blogging to a Beauty Brand (While Writing Novels)
Updated: Nov 20, 2020
There is no doubt that Tia Williams loves to write, she penned her first novel on a steno pad at the age of seven, complete with an author's bio and her photo. But she's also loved beauty as long as she can remember.
I was just obsessed with makeup. Obsessed with Kevyn Aucoin and Sandy Linter, and Way Bandy and all these amazing you know, iconic legendary makeup artists. I was obsessed with fashion shows and what happened behind the scenes and you know, the designers and the makeup artists creating these looks and I was obsessed with the makeup itself like I would go to the drugstore and just You know, salivate over Maybelline.
In this episode, we talk about how Tia turned that obsession into a successful career writing about beauty. We discuss how her first job lasted all of three months because while working there, she discussed that there was a beauty assistant position open at YM. We discussed our shared history of working in the beauty department at Elle and the stark differences we experienced. But Tia explains that the mentorship and guidance she received from her then-boss, Jean Godfrey June, changed her life.
Jean taught me how to write. She really, really did. Well, she helped me refine my voice, too. To this day, you know, 20 years later, I think what would Jean say? She was just, I mean, she's one of the legendary beauty editors of our time...
We discuss how Tia came to start "Shake Your Beauty." It was during the early years of blogging, and at that time few were focused on the interests of Black women.
I was the beauty director of Teen People at the time, which is now defunct, but it was People magazines, teen magazine, sort of sister. And Amy Barnett was editor-in-chief, who is an amazing black woman. And I had resigned because I had written my first novel, and I was young. And I thought that "Oh, I'm an author now, like, this is what I'll do." I didn't realize that authors didn't really make any money. And I was talking to my literary agent and I was like, "Oh, this you know, I'm excited to be a novelist, but beauty is the other half of me. I'm really gonna miss having this voice," She said, start a blog and I was like, "I'm sorry, what is a blog? I've never heard of a blog?" I don't know, it sounds like a made-up word. What are you talking about? And, um, she showed me a couple on WordPress or Blogspot. She told me it's basically, your beauty diary, and you can still maintain your beauty voice and still talk to your audience and, you know, have this unique sort of Black point of view on you know, beauty which honestly, was super rare back then [in blogs}, like, we just didn't have that. And my ex-husband who is an IT genius set it up for me and, and I did it. And it was weird. It was very, it's very analog to think about now because there was no social media. I mean, I got out the word by sending out a mass email to people You know, and it just caught on and it got bigger than I ever thought it would have. And, you know, it sort of kick-started a movement it started it was one of the pioneers of beauty blogging, so it's pretty cool.
After returning to freelancing for magazines and a brief stint as a radio host for Cosmo's Sirius channel, Tia decided to try her hand at working on beauty's corporate side. She found out that there was a learning curve that needed to master.
It's different. Yeah. So when you're working corporate, it's not it's no longer about your voice. It's about the voice of what whatever brand you're inhabiting at the time. So you have to be nimble because you know if you work at L'Oreal, [it's] going to sound different than Coty and Coty is going to sound different than you know a brand from LVMH. So you just you have to know how to massage your voice.
All along this journey, Tia has also been writing novels. Her first, "The Accidental Diva" came out when she was at Teen People. In addition, she wrote a series of YA books under The It Chicks banner before releasing "The Perfect Find" four years ago. We discuss how actress/producer Gabrielle Union came to option it and will be turning it into a movie for Netflix.
Well, our friend Robinne Lee [author of "The Idea of You"]...she and Gabrielle are really close friends and Robinne was reading my book and I think Gabrielle was going on vacation, Robbinne's like you should read "The Perfect Find" on vacation. And [Gabrielle] was I like, I love this, I want to do something with this. And the whole thing was just surreal. Because all you want I mean, I don't know any novelists who doesn't dream about their work being made into a movie. I've always wanted that.
In addition to all of these great things, Tia shares her thoughts on the maximum time one should stay at a job, what she looks for to hire someone on her team, her best interview prep tip and insight on why her first beauty purchase was so wrong.