Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Interview with Australia's Lipstick Queen...Poppy King

The big question has always been "what is true success". Is it lots of money in the bank, beautiful homes and treasures, wonderful friendships or a life full of purpose. Some of the most successful people don't always feel so, some rise quickly and fall and then find the strength to get up again and there are some who look like they have reached the top but feel like they are at the bottom. Isn't there always more we can accomplish, higher mountains we can climb and more dreams we can pursue? From the many inspirational women I have recently had the pleasure of interviewing I can see that success is deeply personal and there is no one size fits all. We must be true to ourselves in finding our own definition and moving to the beat of our own drum.

Poppy King is one Australian woman who has been on everybody's pun intended :-)
With her successful rise to the top fresh out of high school and only 18 years old, she single handedly built an empire turning over more than $6 million a year as Australian women flocked to buy her long wearing, rich-toned matte lipsticks and became known as the Lipstick Queen of Australia.

The Queen currently lives in New York but surely will always call Australia home....Step inside into the world of Poppy King as she shares with you the secrets to her success and what it truly takes to get to the top if in fact there is such a place...

Where were you born?
Melbourne - Australia

Where did you grow up?

Current city?
New York

Date of birth?

Favourite fashion brand - why?
I don’t have a favorite brand, my favorite is vintage and thrift store finds because what you find and what you like in these stores is unique and personal to you and your imagination.

Favourite designer - why?
Azzedine Alaia because of his understanding and respect for women’s bodies and his expertise, he celebrates sexiness without making it trashy.

How do these fashion brands/designers empower you as a woman?
The vintage empowers my imagination by taking a garment out of context the find you it and imagining it in a different scenario…Alaia empowers my sense of celebrating the curves and sensuality of being female.

Favourite charity?
I have a few. Charities involving children, women’s empowerment, disaster relief and animals.

Favourite model and -why?
Don’t have one. I don’t take enough interest in models to know :-)

Favourite holiday spot – why?
New York City!!! I love this place for work and those times when you can just enjoy the city with nothing you HAVE to do.

Favourite resort/place to stay -?
Fire Island…I have a summer share there in a ramshackle old beach house that I love.

Things you love and cant live without?
People, art, music, books and patting dogs.

How did you start out?
I started out by realizing that there were no matte lipsticks on the market and that if I could find somewhere to make matte lipsticks for me was sure I could sell them to women who were looking for them to. I really thought about it very simply and that was my best asset because it allowed me to just to solve each piece of the puzzle step and step and ultimately get my own lipstick to market.

What do you love most about what you do?
The women I meet in stores or through being my customers. I find the experience of being a woman fascinating and love having the excuse of (lipstick) to connect with other women abut how they find being female.

What do you feel is your calling and how do you achieve it through what you do?
My calling is to give women the dignity that the beauty industry strips from them every day by treating them like idiots who can only be scared and intimidated into buying product rather than inspired to be themselves. Everything that the beauty industry puts out is about being better than what you are and I want you and me to celebrate what you ARE right now. I do this by only ever using graphic art to promote my products and NEVER using models, celebrities or standardized ideas of beauty to promote what I do or what you should be.

What other professions have you tried and when and how did you know that this was your calling?
Other than waitressing….this is all I have known and all I ever done since I was 18 and started my first brand. I have also written a book Lessons of a Lipstick Queen; Finding and Developing the Great Idea that Can Change your Life…so I guess I have also been an author too! Both of these professions feel like my calling because they satisfy my soul.

What inspired you to become a creator of lipstick? Did you always know what you wanted to do?
I never knew what I wanted to do and was in fact quite lost when I stumbled onto the idea and then the way to go about creating my own lipstick brand. I always knew however that I wanted to do things differently to institutions and whatever I did I wanted to focus on individuals rather than systems. These motivations inspired me to create lipsticks that were different to the very glittery, pink and peach lipsticks of the time.

How did you go about achieving such a level of success at such a young age? We want the secrets….
The secret is so simple it is almost dumb…the secret is that I just TRIED. I decided to see if I could find a factory to make the lipsticks that I wanted and I did. Most people never ever take the first tiny step and just try something.

What do you believe is the reason you are where you are today?
My willingness to try and my ability to get more invested in the trying rather than the results. The results are almost irrelevant in a way…it is the trying that means everything.

What is success to you?
Trying and taking initiative and never setting out to gain at someone else expense. Anyone can be successful if they are ruthless but success coming from concern is beautiful.

What have been some of your greatest successes?
The internal demons I have fought, the fears, the sadness, the disappointments that I have dealt with along the way and allowed them to make me stronger and more generous not less so.

What have been some of your greatest failures and how did you overcome them?
I have had very public failures at times such as my first business going into Chapter 11 back in 1998 so that was for sure a failure. I overcame it by making sure I learnt from it and not wallowed in the loss. It is still a daily challenge to deal with the wounds of that but it is the most worthwhile challenge I can take on because it is about never ever giving up on your spirit.

What has your success enabled you to do? What other goals and dreams has it allowed you to pursue?
It has allowed me to meet so many women that I otherwise never would have met and has allowed me to come into contact with people so far from just my own tiny little life. It has allowed me to travel, to observe, to contemplate and to search all of which I consider luxuries and privileges.

Was success a choice or something that just happened? What conscious decision did you make to get to where you are today?
Success is a choice. It is how you CHOOSE to deal with the setbacks that make you a success. I make a conscious decision to learn from every setback, try to forgive myself and others and move on to a higher plane from there.

What do you believe contributed mostly to you achieving success and becoming the lipstick queen in Australia?
My authenticity. I have never lied or attempted to trick and fool my customers and have always tried to offer them inspiration and truth.

Who are your role models and what inspires you about them?
The role model I think of most is Rosa Parks. The woman who refused to move from her seat during the time of segregation between black and white people in the USA. Can you fathom the courage of her convictions and her willingness to go on such a difficult path to force people to look at the truth? She is the biggest role model to me although I wasn’t even born when she did this.

What do you attribute to your success and having reached being at the top of your game?
I attribute my success to never focusing too much on the destination and more on the journey hence I don’t believe I am at the top of my game, there is no such thing, there is just life and the continuation of learning how to appreciate that more all the time.

Have you had a mentor along the way and who inspires you most and why?
My true mentorship comes mainly from the customers I meet because they inspire me to keep telling my truth.

Who would you most like to meet and why?
I try to gain some insight from everyone I meet even if it is insight into what I don’t want to buy into.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
That there is never any perfect way to do anything there is only trying your best and so much of what ends ups happening is timing and variables you can’t control, all you can ever control is your efforts.

What difficulties and challenges have you faced to get to where you are and how did you turn them around?
I have been misunderstood so many times along the way by people who assume I am something that I am not, that I am super human when really I am as human and vulnerable as the next person. I am learning all the time that that is their problem and not mine and to turn that around is learning how to let other people’s expectations never cripple my sense of self.

If you could say one thing to women out there to inspire them on their journey to success what would it be?
That women are the backbone of this entire world and that we have been told we are the weaker sex when really we are anything but and don’t ever believe you need men’s permission to be successful.

Do you have a favourite quote you would like to share with us and what it means to you?
My favorite quote is from a documentary about Francis Ford Coppola and what he went through to make the film Apocalypse Now. His wife said “He had to fear a little, die a little and go insane a little to come out the other side.” The reason I love this is because it identifies that success is filled with darkness as well as light.

x Poppy King

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