“I run a venture fund that invests in startups that have at least one female founder. In my mind, there is a huge opportunity backing entrepreneurs who know their consumers really well because they are her—and I love the fact that there are so many female entrepreneurs that are attacking some part of daily life and making it better. In beauty, one thing you’re going to see a whole lot more of is focus on personalization and on enabling consumers to get the right routine for their skin, for their coloring, for their life. The ability to order from a company that you trust without having to go into a store has been transformative. And the ability to create a brand that actually has meaning to people without being part of the half dozen mega-companies wasn’t feasible a decade ago. As long as you have products that are great and can tell consumers a story that they can connect with, you've got something to work with. And that’s something that’s really exciting to me as an investor.
I started my career out in California—I’m from Boston, but I went to UC Berkeley for college. I dropped out before I graduated to go work for a magazine called City that Francis Ford Coppola launched. This was back in the mid ‘70s—the world was changing in huge ways and you could really make an impact at a magazine. City was understaffed, which is a great situation to be in if you want to show what you can do. I put my hand up for almost anything that needed to be done. Unfortunately, the magazine closed when Francis went off to shoot Apocalypse Now...so I went and worked at another publication on the West Coast before moving back east to New York and working as the Managing Editor of the Village Voice.
By the time I was 27, I switched gears and actually went to work for Jane Fonda, doing her development. She started a production company making really interesting movies based on true stories. I thought it would be an easy transition from assigning stories for print to assigning stories for movies—but it turned out to be a whole lot harder than I expected. But what I learned there I used when I started a magazine called Premiere a couple years later. We got to write about filmmaking, directors, writers, and actors, about the business of film and how Hollywood is kind of like a high school. I was there for eight years before I got recruited to work at Disney in development. There was a great team there at the time, but I didn’t love the movie business. Everything took too long and so much ended up never seeing the light of day.
Disney owns ABC so I made the move to work on movies and miniseries for the network. My last title at ABC was President of Entertainment. During my final development season, we had some shows on that actually had a huge impact—Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives and Lost were all getting their start. We also put the Bachelor on that final season. And things were changing—viewers were able to DVR something and that meant if you missed a show you could catch up on it. It’s almost always true that technology changes behavior in ways that you don’t necessarily anticipate but you can see it when you look back on it. No question that the DVR changed the way you think about programming a network.
I ended up losing my job in a management shuffle. It was the only time I ever lost a job I really cared about, but it gave me a summer off and it led to being CEO of the Martha Stewart Company. This was at the time when she was going off to prison, and the company was quite troubled for all the obvious reasons. I love the brand and there was a great team of people. I really believed that it could not only survive that period but also become a powerhouse again. I did that for four years and then went to Gilt, in 2008, when it was a small start-up. I had heard about it from a venture capitalist who was one of the first people to invest in it. He called me when he heard I was leaving Martha and he said, ‘You’re going to think I’m crazy but I want an hour to talk to you about a company we have invested in that’s just on fire.’ I did a breakfast with him more out of courtesy than anything else. The more I dug into it, the more I realized I had never seen anything with that kind of customer love. And once I was there, I knew I would never go back to working at a big company…
My focus has always been on that female consumer—what is she doing, what is she thinking, how is her behavior changing? I spend most of my days meeting really smart young women who are doing something unique or something that is really exciting and the best of them are doing something that could be transformative. So I’m constantly learning and I’m constantly involved in conversations with smart young entrepreneurs about how to get their company to the next level.
I would love to say that I take incredible care of my skin with all these different products, but at the end of the day I clean my skin, I never go to sleep with any makeup on, I make sure that I exfoliate enough, and I make sure I'm moisturized always. Everything in my beauty routine has to be fast, and absolutely edited. Right now, my routine is starts with a Hydrating Cleanser from True Botanicals. It’s this truly amazing company based in Marin County—they use incredibly high-quality ingredients inspired by the founder’s journey with cancer. All of the products are great, but the Pure Radiance Face Oil was a life changer for me. Look, I’m in my 60s, which means I need to be moisturizing in a very different way then I was in my 30s and 40s. I feel like my skin stays moist throughout the whole day with this. And it doesn’t sit on top of your skin—it sinks in and feels great.
At night, I use the same oil, followed by this ridiculously expensive Topical Marine Treament with anti-aging retinol. That said, Retin-A is still the best anti-aging and acne treatment around. You know you can spend hundreds of dollars on very expensive creams but Retin-A in combination with whatever else you’re using is going to be the best bet.
My SPF is Sunshine Botanicals Total Eclipse BB Cream, which has a tiny bit of tint in it. It just evens out my skin tone and makes sure no sun gets through—that’s what I do for makeup on weekends. Otherwise I use Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation in 4. It’s as close to my skin color as I’ve been able to find without hand mixing my own shade. The best thing about it is that it still looks good at the end of the day. Then I use By Terry Touch-Expert Advanced right under the eye or any other place that needs a little extra help.
For brows, I use Revitabrow to grow them and Glossier Boy Brow in Blond to keep the hairs in place. Then I usually use the Tom Ford Eye Defining Pen because I have very pale eyes and very pale eyelashes, so having some definition is a good thing for me. I don’t wear mascara every day because of my glasses. I am experimenting with Revitalash to grow them, but I probably go through half of a dozen different tubes of mascara in the course of a year. Lancôme Definicils will stay on no matter what, rain or shine.
The only lip color that truly stays on all day is Revlon Colorstay. You can buy it at any drugstore for $6. I use Bare Maximum—it goes on matte and is a really nude shade—I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, ‘Is that your natural lip color?’ If I want an actual color on top of that, Glossier Generation G in Cake has become my go-to. I use a blush always—Nars Orgasm or T. LeClerc in Peche. Tom Ford Bronzing Powder is a summer product for me, if I’m pretending I actually got sun because nothing can get through my SPF.
I see Eva Scrivo for my hair color and cut. She gets my hair back to a baby blond even though it's almost white—and she does a great cut. It’s hard doing color that doesn’t feel one tone but leaves your hair in good shape. She’s a genius—out of everybody I’ve seen, she’s the artist.
These days, I have Glamsquad come twice every week and blow dry my hair. That’ll last me for two or three days before I have to wash it. I know how to blow out my own hair, but it never looks as good as when they do it. To extend the life of a blowout I usually use Kerastase’s Incroyable, it’s not very heavy and it does allow you to style well. Sometimes I’ll alternate and use the Densimorphose Mousse because it gives you volume but it doesn’t look crazy. Eva also introduced me to Shu Uemura and they make amazing shampoos. I like the Cleansing Oil Shampoo for your hair because it doesn’t leave any residue, but you get a bit of gloss. The best of both worlds.
I wear the same nail polish all the time. It’s one coat of Delicacy and one coat of Sugar Daddy from Essie and it’s as close to the natural nail without showing it. I usually go to the ladies down on my block once a week, who all know me very well—in fact, it’s where I catch up with a half-dozen friends because we all go to the same place. We all live in the same neighborhood and invariably end up there on a Sunday afternoon.”
—as told to ITG
Susan Lyne photographed by Tom Newton at her home in New York on August 1, 2016.