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Journalist Marisa Meltzer always had an interest in Glossier, the beauty brand founded by Emily Weiss. “When Glossier launched nine years ago, I was dying to write about it,” Meltzer said. Right before the pandemic, Meltzer wrote a profile about Glossier and Weiss for Vanity Fair. “When the pandemic came, beauty and the power of the beauty industry and Glossier’s success was really fresh in my mind,” Meltzer said. Despite Meltzer’s interest in Glossier, it wasn’t her initial intention to write a book about the company and founder. “It was gonna be about all sorts of different companies in different stages of life,” Meltzer said. “But then they were all dwarfed by the story of Glossier.”
For the latest episode of Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr, Meltzer shares a behind-the-scenes look at what it was like writing Glossy: Ambition, Beauty, and the Inside Story of Emily Weiss’s Glossier, her reporting process, and more.
For excerpts from their conversation, scroll below.
I’m hoping that you can walk our audience through a little bit of the process and really where the idea came from?
Like so many people, I first saw Emily Weiss just watching The Hills on MTV. She was this intern character, was so capable, and actually seemed like what people at magazines were like in New York. It’s rare to have that represented in a way that feels authentic. Fast-forward three or four years later, I had heard about this new beauty blog called Into the Gloss. It was doing for beauty what fashion blogs had done. I think someone told me or somehow I put together that this was the same woman from The Hills. It was kind of like, “Oh, of course, she started the coolest website I’ve ever seen.”
When Glossier launched nine years ago, I was dying to write about it. I actually wasn’t able to because my editors didn’t get it. But then one of the last things I did do right before the pandemic was a long profile of Emily and Glossier for Vanity Fair.
When the pandemic came, beauty and the power of the beauty industry and Glossier’s success were really fresh in my mind. I, meanwhile, was wearing sweatpants but doing 25-step beauty routines because I had nothing else to do. I was alone, and I got this idea to write a book about beauty. It was gonna be about all sorts of different companies in different stages of life. But then they were all dwarfed by the story of Glossier. I had to get out of my own way, which is so much what creative projects are sometimes.
Emily [Weiss] is famously not particularly candid on the record, but why do you think there was that level of comfort, or why was she willing to open up to you as much as she would be able to open up to anyone in this scenario?
On one level, I wrote for prestigious publications. When Wired wants to write about you or Vanity Fair wants to do a big feature on you, that’s the kind of press you want, and you say yes. I was the person attached to write it. She knew that I was someone who thought deeply about beauty. On just another level, we had some mutual friends. By no means were we friends, but I think she was able to understand me on some level. Maybe that made it a little bit easier for her to open up to me. I could be totally wrong on that.
When I first asked, it was still this book about beauty, and I think it was just like, “Sure, why not?” It was the pandemic, and I think it was the last thing on their mind. I mean, they could have said no, but she said yes, then started to have ambivalent feelings about that later on.
What parts of writing this book came really easily, and then was there a part that you found difficult to write for any reason?
Everyone wanted to talk and loved to talk about Camp Glossier, which was their annual employee off-site. It seemed like it was so much fun and wholesome. That was easy and a delight to talk about. Honestly, the hardest part was just Emily [Weiss] and our relationship and her ambivalence to the book. She felt, I believe, that she was a bit blindsided that the book was about Glossier, that her name was in the subtitle.
I felt like I was being pretty open about the process over email and that they just weren’t really taking it seriously or paying a lot of attention. I think she felt more like I was being a little shady or duplicitous and tried to do a little of the “I thought we were friends” thing. That’s when I really had to be like, “We’re not friends. We don’t hang out socially.”
I had to have this moment of standing up for myself in a way and saying, “I have a job, and it’s a writer, and it’s important, and I want to tell this very nuanced story that I think is rooted in feminism and power.” That was hard for me to say about myself. We’re in this environment where being a journalist is easy to be hated because of it.
Also, I respected this woman so much. I’m not a sadist. Causing someone pain isn’t something that I’m particularly fond of. But also there were previous versions of the book that had probably too much hand-wringing about that and too much of my own inferiority complex. That was the hardest part. It was an emotional journey of acceptance for probably both of us.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Next, read our interview with Jenna Lyons.