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2013 April 10

Exclusive: Glamour's Exec Beauty Director Ying Chu On New Hires And More

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Ying Chu Ying Chu
Courtesy Glamour
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(NEW YORK) A few months after joining Glamour as executive beauty director, former Marie Claire beauty maven Ying Chu's first fruits of labor for the Conde glossy are debuting in the May issue, out today. Also of note! Chu's additions to the Glamour beauty gang: beauty editor-at-large Theodore Leaf, deputy beauty editor Simone Kitchens, and beauty editor (and onetime assistant to Chu!) Maureen Choi. We rang up Chu to get the scoop on her exciting new hires, her prettifying schemes for her new gig, her blush addiction, and her weakness for duty free sprees. Check out Chu tonight at 7 p.m. as she hosts her very first Google Hangout for the mag, with a special musical performance by comediennes Garfunkel & Oates. Entertaining beauty? Oui

Why did you bid adieu to Marie Claire after half a decade at the mag?
The chance to work with Cindi [Leive] was definitely high on the list. Glamour is obviously a really big brand, but they seem to be very willing to put the time, investment and, resources behind bridging print-digital gap. From the early conversations I had with Cindi, that was always a priority. That’s how we really saw eye to eye.

What are the major differences between Marie Claire and Glamour?
It’s a different audience, and we package things very differently here than we did there. It’s also a big staff at Glamour; that’s been a bit of a change to navigate—it’s definitely bigger than Marie Claire was, and bigger than both staffs I’ve worked with. But I feel supported, and Cindi’s always available. It blows me away how engaged she is with the day-to-day of the magazine, and how opinionated but interesting her insights are.

We love Cindi, too! So how does the readership differ, from your insider editrix vantage point?
The Glamour reader is definitely a little younger and omnipresent—covering the whole country. She’s everywhere! Marie Claire’s readers are very much on the coast. I definitely have to keep that in mind in terms of the frame of reference and accessibility now that I’m at Glamour, but at the same time I find it exciting. It’s really refreshing to reach people across the country. 

How long did it take to pull your Glamour team together?
I’ve been here for just about two months; we pretty much hired everyone within the first month I got here, and based on when people could resign and leave their former jobs, they started after that. It was a pretty quick and smooth transition. 

Tell us more about the newbies. 
Simone Kitchens just started last week: she’s our deputy beauty editor and she came from Huffington Post, and before that, Lucky. Not only is she a great writer, but she also has a digital background. It was very important to have that balance. Maureen Choi is our new beauty editor. She and I worked together at Marie Claire. and I actually hired her years ago as my assistant! I promoted her very quickly because she’s very talented. We also just brought on Theodore Leaf, as an editor-at-large. He’s a hair stylist who works out of the Sally Hirschberger salon in L.A.; he’s a great expert in terms of hair and beauty on YouTube with fantastic how-to's! He’s not in the office, but he has a huge following on YouTube.

In terms of your staff, you’ve worked with Maureen for a while: Do you two have a shorthand? 
Sometimes I’ll call her “Mo,” and my name is so short that there’s really not much you can do with it. There was a partial team when I came to Glamour, and I found I had to explain myself much more elaborately than with Maureen. The first day Maureen was here—she’s now in her third week at Glamour—I asked her to interview someone and write a story that night! With someone new whom I hadn’t worked with, I probably wouldn’t have felt as comfortable.  She gets my visual sensibilities and go-to designers—and she also knows what kind of snacks I like.

Snack dossier, please!
Boringly, we eat a lot of dried fruit. There’s a salted chocolate bar we love from Mast Brothers. I’ve always had snack-centric meetings. I want everyone to have fun and be loving their jobs as much as I have through my career. Hopefully we’ll keep everyone inspired and satiated. 

What do you have planned for Glamour’s beauty coverage?
Glamour’s always done a really amazing job with service and giving the readers guidance in terms of what the trends are and how to execute them. But I really felt like the pages needed a little more urgency, so we’re approaching the beauty pages with more of a fashion influence. That doesn’t discount celebrity and street style, because that’s big on our radar as well, but we’re just finding the right places for it. The service-y was always really strong but we also want to engage with the readers with narrative that was missing from the section before.

How are you engaging and creating a narrative, exactly?
That’s where our “It’s My Thing” column comes in—the first one is about Suzie Bubble. She’s the epitome of someone who has really made a name for herself because of her look—her bun, plus those eccentric prints, the layering. Suzy is a really cute and funny writer, too. She was really excited to do it.

If you were featured in that column, what would yours be about?
I’m a total blush girl! Not that many people like to pile on blush the way that I do. Maybe blush isn’t quite as definitive as bright hair color or something. But if I have to run out of the house and there’s only one thing I can put on, blush would be it. 

Does your blush collection vastly outnumber the rest of your makeup?
I do have a few blushes that I go back to, but the collection does evolve. I may not use a whole bottle of nail polish, but I will generally use a blush to the very last crumble! I go for really bright colors, and I go back and forth between those and Nars Orgasm. Also, Josie Maran has these really great coconut water blushes coming out.   

You had some very illustrious shoes to fill, given your predecessor Felicia Milewicz’s longtime rep at the mag. Was that daunting? 
I was absolutely flattered to be in this position after Felicia. I actually don’t know her well on a personal level, but I’ve heard some really wonderful stories. It was a little bit daunting because Felicia was an industry icon; she was incredibly celebrated and had longstanding relationships with the staff. Everyone loves and respects Felicia in such a way, but they were also excited for a new chapter of Glamour beauty. 

What, exactly, is beauty’s role in a major women’s mag like Glamour?
I don’t think that beauty is necessarily the stepsister to fashion, the way that it used to be. It was a little bit of an afterthought, whereas now if you look at designers you see the nails, the eye makeup, the hair, which all has a really big impact on an overall runway look. So it plays a much bigger role in designing your look than it used to. Beauty is also a point of expression that can be much more playful than it’s been looked at in the past.

Can you still squeeze in appointments and such, or are you pretty much desk-bound?
I’m still definitely on the market in a big way, as is my whole team. I really want my whole team—including me!— to pitch and own their stories, and execute them from beginning to end. Stepping away from the office refreshes us all, gets us inspired, and leads to more creative ideas in the grand scheme of things. I don’t think that any of our jobs [in magazines] are desk jobs.

You’ve probably tried a ton of treatments over the years. What still makes you giddy?
I’ll take a killer facial any day. The most recent amazing one I’ve had was with Tammy Fender down in Palm Beach about a month ago. She gives the most incredible facial massages, and has a reflexologist work on you at the same time. It’s kind of sensory overload. 

Sounds sublime! What new collabs or concoctions are you into right now?
I’m excited by Lanvin’s collection with Lancome, and Marc Jacobs is doing something with Sephora—I just had a preview of that, and it’s really fun. It’s nice to see a designer touch on beauty. For example, I love Givenchy’s lipsticks and nail polishes, which Riccardo [Tisci] actually designed the cases. If I ever get to the point of not being excited about beauty, I should probably move on to a different career! 

Do you actually ever buy beauty loot?
You’d think I’d never need to buy another beauty product, but that’s not true. I can make an argument for spending a full paycheck on beauty products in a duty-free shop. The ones in Asia are really fun to look at. I was in China a couple of times last year; it’s a whole new playground. The internet’s opened up a whole new realm of products, with everything available everywhere— but there are still great treasures when you go abroad. There’s this forbidden sense that you can’t buy them at home! 

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