Mally Roncal (left) and me at Henri Bendel’s in NYC, January 2008.
I’ve met and interviewed Mally Roncal of Mally Beauty backstage at New York Fashion Week more times than I can count, yet each experience is better than the last. She’s gorgeous, fun, and full of energy. And this girl knows how to make a woman feel good about herself through makeup.
When this CEW interview with Mally popped up in my inbox today, I was touched by her story and wanted to share it with you all (source CEW.org):
Celebrity makeup artist Mally Roncal, whose Mally Beauty brand just celebrated four years on QVC, had planned to follow her parents’ footsteps. Both were medical doctors. “But I could not deny my love for fashion and beauty.” She switched majors, graduated, and began working in New York as a designer’s assistant. Yet, that fit wasn’t quite right either. “I loved wearing the clothes, but didn’t love designing them. What excited me most was fashion week, when we did the hair and makeup tests. All the amazing creams and lashes and colors; I would literally start vibrating.”
My mother was very glamorous, and all about beauty. When I was two years old my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and lived another 15 years to see me graduate high school. When she was in the hospital, it was my job to pack her makeup bag. She refused to lie in a hospital bed and look like she was dying. She would always put her `face on.’ In high school, I was the girl who wanted to touch up your makeup.
Standing Up for Cosmetics
I’ve seen how powerful makeup is my entire life. It can affect and change your life and your attitude. I get very angry at people who call this a `frivolous’ business. I get on my soap box and have full-on fights with people who say makeup is for insecure women or for those who want to cover themselves up. The biggest reason I got into cosmetics is help women. From the biggest superstars in the world to the QVC customer who is head of her household to Fortune 500 CEOs, cosmetics affect women in exactly the same way.
When I realized that I wanted to pursue makeup, I hit the road and starting doing makeup on anything that wasn’t nailed to the ground. I don’t have formal training. I taught myself. I would do cold calls, walking into modeling agencies and photography studios. It was a slow process, and I just chugged along. Sometimes I made money, sometime I didn’t. I was not an overnight success.
My big break came when I met my agent Jim Indorato, then at Garren. I had been rejected by several smaller agencies before him. I remember standing outside his door, looking skyward to my mother, praying, ‘Please don’t let this be as painful as I think it is going to be.’
Jim flipped through my portfolio and said he didn’t see anything he could use. When I went to grab the book, he stopped me. He said he saw an ‘energy’ in me, and he would take me on as his ‘project.’ My first assignment was a shoot for international Elle covers with top models like Heidi Klum. I was in heaven. It only takes one person believing in you to change your life.
My husband taught me to always treat this like a business. It’s not all Vogue. I worked with everyone from Cooking Light to Woman’s Day. I never said `no’ to any magazine ever. You never know where that editor is going to end up or who is going to pick that issue up.
It drives me crazy when I work with young artists and I have to ask them, ‘where is your invoice?’ If you don’t send me an invoice, I can’t pay you. What are you going to eat?
Seeing the Future
Yes, I got bit by the celebrity bug. I also worked for various cosmetics brands as a spokesperson. One of my first gigs was with Revlon, and I did an ABC news piece on trends at the Oscars. I also did Kelly Osborne’s makeup on The Osborne’s show. I saw the power of television in educating women, that’s why I wanted to launch my line on QVC.
Starting Up a Brand
It was my 7th wedding anniversary and I was in Paris. My husband wasn’t with me. I had missed every Thanksgiving, yet I had attended every Grammy and every MTV awards. Something had to change. I needed to figure out how to take the business to a place that was lucrative and would require less travel.
All along, I had gotten calls from women asking, ‘how can I look like Celine?’ Even my auntie said, ‘you make BeyoncÃ© look so beautiful, why not me?’ The answer was to create a high performance makeup line that didn’t need to be reapplied constantly. Most women do not touch up their makeup during the day.
I needed someone to help me do this, and I asked around for the best person. I was pointed to Don Pettit. (Pettit’s experience includes work with Noxell, Jane Cosmetics and EstÃ©e Lauder.) I forced him to meet with me. We launched on QVC in March 2005 and sold out in 36 minutes. Our packaging is pink, feminine and girly. We do face, eye and lip products and makeup tools and kits. In addition to QVC, Mally Beauty is sold on mallybeauty.com, amazon.com and beauty.com, as well as at Henri Bendel. We are looking to add more stores soon.
About the company
My husband is my business partner. We have an office in our home and have about 4-6 people working for us, along with freelancers and consultants. We are so nose-to-the-grindstone. We have twin daughters and another baby on the way. But this [business] is our baby too. We started the company with our own money, along with some investments from family and friends. We have selected a few labs that we work with. They know my criteria. I want to create products for use every day and that perform. Because you can be as fabulous as you want, but if you don’t deliver quality, the customer will return that stuff in three days.
We are launching our first fragrance in October. We are in negotiations for a TV show, and are also looking to extend the brand into clothes and other fun stuff.
Spreading the Word
There is nothing corporate about us. We are very grassroots. We don’t traditionally advertise. However, we are on Facebook, Twitter and I have a video blog. We also have Team Mally, which gives devoted Mally shoppers the opportunity to earn rewards by recruiting other customers. People who love the brand want to share it.
Mally Beauty is available through QVC and online at mallybeauty.com.