Backstory: I started one of the first beauty blogs on the internet – hard to believe, since now there are literally 18 kajillion of them. Back in 2004, my friend Hillary Johnson (known as the Los Angeles Times’ “beauty intellectual”) and I started blogging about beauty for fun. I had a good career in tech startups; Hillary was an acclaimed author who was editing a newspaper in California. We didn’t take ads, ever. It was never our job or career. But if you Googled “beauty blog,” we were the #1 result for years. We were featured in Vogue, Allure, The New York Times, WWD, and more. But, long story short, I went to work for one of the world’s largest PR agencies and it became trickier for me to write about specific brands, even though I never worked on beauty accounts. Plus I got totally burned out on the amount of truly mediocre or outright crap products being peddled for insane sums, often backed by the most ludicrous marketing (and I say this as a longtime marketer). Hence the name of this blog: Burned Out Beauty.
I jacked it in, but four years ago, I was 35 and thought maybe I should look into updating my skincare products. I’d been working in tech and innovation for 10+ years, and finally turned my work eyes to my skin. I found Caroline Hirons’ blog and was completely drawn in by her no-nonsense, funny, useful posts. As I told an author friend of mine this week, as he struggled to understand why I care so much about a skincare blog, I would pay good money to have a printed and bound copy of Caroline’s site. A bit pathetic? Perhaps. But she really knows her stuff and introduced me to some wonderful brands, routines, and techniques.
I dreamed of meeting Caroline. On every trip to the UK that I’ve made over the past few years (we’re talking at least a dozen trips), I’ve hoped for her to be doing one of her standing-room-only, line-around-the-block public appearances. Never happened. My next move: Try to get an appointment for a facial with Caroline when I’m in London over Christmas. As I know now, she’s been fully booked for months.
You can imagine my frustration when I saw on Instagram on Monday morning that Caroline was just a few miles from my home. So close, yet so far! I was sure she wasn’t doing any appearances in New York, because surely she’d have blogged about it or done some publicity so her fans would turn out in droves. I may or may not have sulked over this missed opportunity.
The next evening, I was at the Dr. Dennis Gross C + Collagen launch event. I’d secured a prime seat for Dr. Gross’s talk, and was catching up with my old pal Amber Katz and Refinery29’s Megan McIntyre. Dr. Gross’s brilliant comms director, Melissa Sansone, had joined us. Suddenly, a thought popped into my head: Caroline was the one who’d introduced me to Dr. Dennis Gross in the first place. She was in town. “Is Caroline Hirons coming tonight?” I asked Melissa. “Yes, she said she’d be here,” she replied. I gasped, jumped up from my chair, and said, “I gotta go stake out the door!” Them:
A brief word about Dr. Dennis Gross and his wife Carrie Gross, who is CEO of his company: I adore them. They are good people. I could say more, but I’ll leave it at that for now. Dr. Gross came and talked to me while I was lying in wait for Caroline. After we’d chatted about the new line and everything happening with him, I said, “I have to admit something embarrassing. I’m standing here waiting to meet the blogger who first introduced me to your products, Caroline Hirons.” Dr. Gross’s eyes lit up. He knew exactly who I was talking about, and knew why I was a fan. A few minutes later, he told his wife, Carrie, that I was excited to meet Caroline. Carrie totally got my affection, too, so I felt understood rather than like the creepy loser I was also kind of being.
Just to speed this up: Caroline came in while Dr. Gross was speaking to the room of assembled beauty media. I looked over and saw Carrie Gross whispering to her and pointing at me with a huge smile on her face. Caroline gave me a giant grin with those spectacular dimples and I mouthed the words, “I’m sorry” to her, sure that Carrie had informed her that I was sort of a stalker.
After Dr. Gross was done talking, I turned and Caroline was walking toward me. I tried not to humiliate myself too much, but I had to be honest and spill my guts about how her blog had helped me, inspired me, got me back into the beauty blogging game and, ultimately, pushed me toward my Observer column. I told her how disappointed I was when I found out she was so near my home but not doing an appearance, and how I’d dedicated my morning skincare routine to her on Instagram the previous morning (wow, I am even lamer than I recalled). Caroline was exceedingly lovely and didn’t treat me like the lunatic I felt I was in the moment. When she complimented my nails, I had to admit that it was a color I’d spotted on her weeks previously and sought out ever since (Let’s Be Friends, from the OPI Hello Kitty collection). I told Caroline I was the one who’d left the comment on her blog, begging for reviews of Milk and various other lines I am unsure about based on my own limited testing. Turns out we both had the same negative reaction to a certain brand we’d spotted while shopping (separately, I’m sad to report) at the same store in the past week.
I won’t recount our entire conversation, but Caroline was the wickedly humorous, smart, direct woman I’d dared not hope she’d be. Having worked and hung out with a fair number of celebrities over the years, I am not often starstruck. But it was quite surreal to believe it was the real Caroline Hirons in front of me, when I’d had no idea when I’d woken up that morning that I’d be meeting her. In fact, I’d been annoyed and let down the previous day because I was starting to think I was never, ever going to meet her. But I was wrong, life is full of surprises, and Caroline Hirons is the best in person as well as online. Made my year, that.