Shea Marie is happy being herself and posting on Instagram about it. But she wouldn’t mind being a bit more like Emily Weiss. “She was a beauty editor at a magazine, and she started a blog called Into the Gloss, and it got really popular. Then she started her own brand of makeup called Glossier, and she just raised millions in funding. It’s a hard business to break into because you have brands like Clinique and Lancome that have been around forever. But she is this cute 32-year-old who understood how to build a brand in the social media era.”
Shea is 30. Ten years ago, the Valley Center native graduated UCSD and headed to Hollywood. Languishing in L.A., she started a blog as a sort of visual résumé. “I had no connections or experience in fashion,” she explains, “but I posted pictures of what I was wearing, and people started sharing the photos. This was before Instagram; my friends thought I was crazy.”
About five years ago, “Forever 21 reached out to me and said, ‘We love what you’re doing. We’d love you to be in our new campaign; it’s going to be on a billboard in Times Square.’” She didn’t get paid, but she did get a manager, who saw the ad and contacted her.
Today, the manager makes sure she gets paid. But while “there are always brands that will pay you to post on Instagram, and that’s been really beneficial, I’m trying not to take sponsored jobs as much. Instagram and social media as we know it won’t last forever. So I’m trying to build brands that will last longer than the current trends. If a new company is starting, I can invest what I have to offer in terms of social media promotion. And instead of getting paid, I want a percentage of the company.”
She mentions a beauty-product collaboration with a lab in Riverside — hair and skin care. “They do some of the biggest brands in the world, and they want to start an in-house brand. They brought me in to be a creative art director.”
Besides that, “I try to focus on my own brand, Same Los Angeles,” which started as luxury swimwear but is expanding to resort wear as well. “It’s for a young generation that is obsessed with traveling and a 24/7 vacation lifestyle. I design it all. When I started, I designed it for Instagram: something that would look beautiful and recognizable in a photograph. It’s in Bergdorf Goodman and Saks and Nieman Marcus. It’s not easy to get into those stores, but I had relationships with them. Some of them had paid me for projects in the past. I came to them and said, ‘If you put my brand in your store, I’ll promote it.’ It’s a win-win for them: they’re getting promotion from me and not having to pay me. And if it does well, they make money from it. Of course, the stuff has to be good, but I was never worried about that.”