Our Second Life podcast (released on Mondays) is growing! On Wednesdays, we’ll be releasing a limited series in partnership with Cartier called Life Lessons, in which Who What Wear co-founder and Chief Content Officer Hillary Kerr will chat with women who’ve had incredible careers within a single field or industry. Subscribe to Second Life on iTunes, and stay tuned. This week, she’s talking to Anastasia Soare, the brow guru and entrepreneur behind Anastasia Beverly Hills.
These days, we know her as the woman who forever changed the way we do our brows—the woman who saved us from the skinny, wiry arches we thought looked so good circa 1995. But to hear Anastasia Soare tell it, she came into the business of bettering our brows almost by accident after immigrating to Los Angeles from her native Romania back in the early ’90s.
“Look, you don’t speak the language,” she remembers her husband telling her at that time. “Probably the only job you could get here without speaking the language is aesthetician.” She took his advice and enrolled in beauty school in the San Fernando Valley, eventually graduating and getting a job at a salon on Melrose Place. With some help from her clients, her English quickly improved.
One thing she quickly began to notice during those early years at the salon? “Nobody paid attention to brows in the ’90s,” she says (and unfortunately my middle school class photos can attest to this). Either we were letting them go truly wild and unkempt, or we were plucking them into oblivion. Sensing a real gap in the marketplace, she started incorporating brow-shaping into her clients’ facials. Eventually, she realized she had the tools and the know-how to start her own business.
“I told my husband, ‘I think I’m going to open my own business. I’m going to rent a room and start doing eyebrows,” she says. “And he looked at me like, Are you crazy?” Quickly, she realized her instincts were right, however, as the business she set up in Beverly Hills was soon booming. Agents for supermodels like Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell were booking appointments for their clients (although Soare admits she didn’t know who they were at the time).
The next opportunity she sensed was the lack of brow products out there on the market. “I used to mix aloe vera with Vaseline and with eye shadow to make this pomade,” she recalls, and it was such a hit with the women whose brows she sculpted that they began requesting batches. “I realized, ‘I’m only in Beverly Hills—how could I help women around the world learn to do their eyebrows? … That was the aha moment when I thought, I need to do a product line.”
By 2000, she was selling her products in her salon and also in 20 Nordstrom stores, where she had her Brows Studios. She didn’t get onto Instagram until 2012—thanks to some encouragement from her daughter—and the rest is history: All of a sudden, people went from barely thinking about their brows to their brows becoming the focal point of their looks. And eventually she decided to expand Anastasia Beverly Hills’ product offering to include lipsticks, eye shadows, and so much more.
These days, her products fly off shelves at Sephora, and she says it’s all down to her company’s ethos of only releasing products they absolutely love. There’s a lot of trial and error involved, as you might imagine: “Sometimes you could find out after six months that it’s not going to work,” she shares. “The stability test after six months is not going to work. And then that project you have to abandon and start all over again.” Clearly this is a strategy that’s working for Soare and her team, as they recently brought on an investor to help them scale up. We can’t wait to see what they launch next…