In TZR’s franchise Scare-Free Sundays, industry leaders discuss the all-too-common weekend anxiety (aka Sunday Scaries) that can rob one of the relaxation and rest they so desperately need to properly take on the week ahead. Here, we sit down with Rea Ann Silva, founder of Beautyblender, for her tips on how to keep work stress at bay.
Even if you’re not one of the millions of fans or regular users, chances are you have heard of, tried, and/or seen a Beautyblender at one point in your lifetime. Since it hit the scene some 20 years ago, the little pink egg-shaped makeup sponge has become an iconic fixture in the industry, right up there with Maybelline’s Great Lash Mascara and Chanel No. 5 perfume. (There’s even a display of the original prototype at The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.) To bring a product to this level of recognition is a feat in itself, but to grow an entire empire of makeup, skin care, and accessories around it is legendary. And there’s one woman holding the magic wand, er, sponge: Rea Ann Silva.
As a Mexican-American woman bringing an emerging product to market in a notoriously male-dominated industry, the makeup artist-turned-entrepreneur has had to sacrifice her time, money (she is the sole investor in Beautyblender), and often mental and physical health along the way. “Listen, I was a makeup artist with a limited education. I mean, I went to FIDM [The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising], I didn't go to the Wharton School of Business,” she says to TZR. “My parents, neither one of them ever started a business. I didn't have really anybody around me to guide me and tell me, don't do this or do this, or watch out. So I made a lot of mistakes. But I think every mistake is a learning opportunity, and those early days were so important for me to experience because they're all stepping stones. I guess this is the optimistic side of my personality. You just get through it and you keep moving. Right?”
Right. In fact, it’s likely those mistakes and bumps in the road that have brought Silva to the ultra-positive, solution-focused place she’s in today. In speaking to the beauty mogul, it’s hard to imagine anything ruffling her feathers or causing her stress. But of course, even the most successful women have their moments. Ahead, Silva discusses her day-to-day life as Beautyblender’s fearless leader and how she navigates the twists and turns of owning a multi-million dollar business.
Can you walk TZR readers through a typical work day/week?
I have headquarters here in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where I am [today], I have a satellite office in Los Angeles, and I have my creative team in New York. So that's my triangle, that's also my time zone triangle. So my days start really early when I'm in California. The day has started three hours before anybody [in my house] wakes up. So I usually wake up, check my phone, see my emails, delete the things that I know I can't afford the time or the mental capacity to look at, because I know that they're not in my focus. So knowing that is very important. And then I start my business.
One of the things I'll do when I'm on the West Coast is I'll start [early] in the morning, in case there are any fires, because [the East Coast offices are] three hours ahead of me. So when everything is checked and I know everybody's good, I work out. I do some kind of walking, swimming, Pilates, or strength training. I have to do it first thing in the morning because if I don't do it in the morning, it doesn't get done, period. And then I resume. The day starts to wind down around 2 p.m., because that's really the 5 p.m. [on the East Coast]. But it extends into 8 p.m. if I'm on the East Coast, because then my West Coast people are still working. So it's a long day. But I'm available to my team 24/7 every day, all day. So that's what my day looks like.
Do you allow yourself days off? What do weekends look like for you?
It depends on the needs. And when I say needs, they are the needs that I have personally or the needs that the business has. And I consider the business as one of my children. I view it with the same importance [as] my kids. And I know that sounds bad. I obviously prioritize my children. My kids, they know me. They know if I'm busy, I'm going to get around to them. This business is a crying, screaming baby. It does not care. This baby I have called Beautyblender, she is a brat, so she's needy. And so sometimes I work on a Saturday, sometimes I work on a Sunday. [That said] I always do find time for my granddaughter, my glam baby, Irie. She's the one that can really get me to stop.
Do you have any strict rules you abide by during the weekends or OOO days to avoid working or thinking about work?
I'm a workhorse. There's just things that go on all the time. There's an ebb and flow to my life according to what's going on, and within that ebb and flow, I can take those times [to myself]. But I do try to prioritize time with my mom. She's 87.
I may not turn my phone off and I may not say, ‘Everybody, hey, you can't talk to me right now, I'm with my mom or whatever.’ But what I will do is I'll put a pin in the calendar and I'll know. So, there are priorities, but I don't have hard and fast rules. I've tried it. It doesn't work. It creates more stress for everybody.
The other thing is, I try to have respect for the people that work for me because I'm so appreciative of what they do. I don't want to be that founder that's not available to them and making their job harder. I hired them because they're really good at what they do, so they need access to me to be able to do [their jobs], and it's a mutual respect. They try not to bother me, but when they do, I try to get them what they need in real time. So that's how I manage the stress. You can create more stress by trying to manage your stress [as opposed to just] dealing with whatever you had to deal with, get it out of the way, and move forward. Those are some of the lessons that I've learned.
What are some common or typical anxieties or concerns you face ahead of a busy work week?
OK, so first off, I don't have that [Sunday] stress. I just came off of a two-week vacation where I told my team, ‘I'm leaving. I haven't had a vacation all summer.’ I saw all my friends and everybody in the world in Italy and all over the place. I took a vacation and I realized this about myself: I don't know how to fully take a vacation. I enjoyed myself, but I still did a podcast. I did an interview. I don't know, I love what I do.
So, I don't have those stressors. And even when I was a makeup artist, I feel so fortunate that the things that did stress me out might have been the preparation, making sure I had everything organized and in order, but I was excited to start the job. You know what I mean? The things that give me a little bit of anxiety now are usually about being in front of the camera because I'm such a behind- the-scenes person.
Does anything ever overwhelm you?
My calendar, maybe? I've learned to only look at my calendar for one or two days in front of me. I don't look at the whole month or the whole week. I have two amazing assistants that will know that will overwhelm me. They'll start talking to me about something I have to do in three weeks or two weeks, and I'm like, ‘I'm just trying to get through this week. Ask me in four days about that.’ That kind of [long-term calendar] planning, that kind of overwhelms me. A calendar of innovation, product development, meeting with my team, that sh*t I love — give me that all day long. But my personal stuff, that kind of [overwhelms me] sometimes.
Do you do anything in particular to mentally prepare yourself for the week ahead?
I make sure I sleep. Every day I'm of that mindset, stay ready so you don't have to get ready. I try to stay healthy. I try to get enough sleep. I try to drink enough water. I try to balance my life. It's when my life gets imbalanced that I start to feel the little stressors of things. I'm a Libra so I'm all about the balance. So staying in balance is super important to me. When I start to feel like things are getting a little too one-sided or whatever, that's when I'll go back to my executive assistant and my personal assistant and be like, let me know what is a fire alarm and what I can sit on because I'm feeling like I just need a moment to take a walk or whatever. But that honestly doesn't happen that often.
Tell me more about signs of imbalance in your life. How do they show up for you?
I feel it in my body. It's not really mental as much as it is physical. My lower back starts to hurt a lot. I have an old injury that, when my body becomes a little too toxic or too much inflammation [flares up], is one of the first signs of imbalance for me. Either I'm not drinking enough water, I'm not sleeping enough, or I'm not moving enough, which means I'm sitting and talking and not giving myself the breathing exercises [I need], that air that I need to oxygenize my body. So it's that. And it's funny because anxiety and stress are very wicked — they hide. I don't even really realize it until the signs are right in my face.
Is there a practice or ritual you turn to help restore that balance?
Coming to Pennsylvania brings me back to center. I don't live in a city. I live kind of out in the suburbs where there's country and trails, and it's the place that I breathe. I have a beautiful home in California, and it's also a beautiful environment. Pennsylvania should actually give me more stress because this is where the bulk of my employees are, but it doesn’t. This is the place I go to breathe, to think. I can kind of veg-out here a little bit, and I think that's really important, too.
The components for me to get back to balance involve sleep. Also, can I admit something? I don't have a lot of time to watch TV and stuff or go to movies or that kind of thing. But, I will say my guilty pleasure is the Real Housewives. It's so bad because my husband will literally walk out of the room. When he sees it on he's like, ‘Oh, OK. You're in your mode. You need to relax.’ It just is a mental departure for me. I don't know how to explain it. It's almost like white noise in a weird way.