In conversation with: Charisse Kenion

Welcome to a new series, In Conversation – where I chat to people I admire in my industry (and beyond) about where they’re at, how they got started and just what advice to give to a late twenties gal trying to navigating career things.

Now, I’ve been gone for a minute but I’m back on my BS. I’ve had a shift in the kind of content I want to create and making sure the stuff I’m putting out there, resonates.

Charisse is someone I’ve been lucky enough to befriend and collaborate with – she’s a journalist with a background in beauty content. She’s also a photographer, writer (find her on nogracekelly.com and alltheprettybirds.com), podcaster and a one-woman powerhouse running a small agency. Have a read about what she shared with me in conversation.

How did you get started in the industry?

It’s only recently that I realised how beauty, or rather, being a little bit obsessed with it, has been a part of my life for a long, long time. I can’t even remember the first time I picked up a glossy magazine, falling in love with the cover image and how beautiful the models looked.
In the real world, where my career is concerned, I’ve been a journalist for almost 15 years. I started out writing about beauty as a freelancer at Metro (daily newspaper), did a short internship at Wallpaper* magazine, until one day I was inspired to apply for a job at a new English newspaper in Dubai.

The role was for a fashion writer, but that also meant I was able to see even more of the beauty world, as I would often be backstage at fashion week entranced by the likes of Pat McGrath and their creative teams. I soon became Fashion and Beauty Editor and stayed for two and half years.

What inspired the name “No Grace Kelly” 

Hmm, well first of all, I’m obsessed with Hitchcock movies and that’s where I first saw Grace Kelly. She seemed to have this regal beauty going on. But when it came to my blog, I guess I wanted to state that I am ‘no Grace Kelly’; I’m no ‘typical’ beauty that the world is used to seeing every day. So although I’m obsessed with the world of beauty, I don’t always feel like I’m a part of it.

And how did things shift for you over the last 12 years?

If I hadn’t put my Fine Art and Photography aside to become a journalist, I might never have known the intricacies of working in print; how to choose a cover, how to style a shoot, how to communicate. Being a journalist forces you to get answers from people – but luckily, I’m pretty nosy, so that helps! After being a journo for several years, I set up a small content agency with a fellow magazine editor – before that was a thing – and together we helped brands create content and marketing, again, in hair and beauty.

That side of my career taught me about branding and charging what I deserve. Today, I’m a photographer and writer who’s also running a small agency, solo now. I’ve definitely learned to pick and choose more, but more recently, I’ve learned to stop waiting for others to help, and to help myself.

I’m learning that all of the wrong turns, distractions and sideways moves have all led me to exactly where I’m meant to be.

You’re running your own business, what’s been a tough lesson to learn over the last while?

I have such a greedy, inquisitive, magpie mind, that I’m always wanting to travel more and buy the most exquisite things! However, when it’s your own business, whatever money is coming in, you have to remember all your taxes, and be sure to keep some aside.

It’s a bit of a drag but I’m slowly learning the benefits of letting my business bank account mount up, rather than finding useless business ‘essentials’ to spend on, that I actually don’t really need. 

Who inspires you and where do you go to get some inspiration when life gets a bit too overwhelming?

For inspiration I’m constantly looking backwards – I recently visited the Cindy Sherman exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. She’s a photographer and creator that I’ve been following since I was a teenager – she’s definitely a huge inspiration. She was taking selfies before they had a label! She’s always played with her appearance, something I personally enjoy and have been experimenting a lot with lately.

If I’m ever lacking inspiration I’ll head straight to a gallery or museum. I’m obsessed with the Victoria & Albert and I’m so grateful my husband bought me membership! The last exhibition I saw there was the Christian Dior one and it was breathtakingly beautiful. The one that made me cry though, was the Alexander McQueen one. Epic.

And finally, what are your plans for the next couple of months?  

I’ve just bought a film camera, so I’ll be experimenting with that for any shoots I book. I have some exciting work coming up with an online platform I’ve been a huge fan of, and this week I’m firming up plans for a solo exhibition! I also launched a podcast last week; it’s called BeautyMe  and it’s all about, well, it’s kinda obvious!

But I want it to go beyond sharing tips on the perfect eyeliner; I want to talk to women who don’t necessarily feel beautiful, or get what the big deal is about ‘making’ ourselves beautiful. I want to talk about the history of beauty, and what beauty means in different cultures. My first guest was the founder of MDMflow, a really cool, young beauty brand, and next week, I’m talking to a plus size blogger – I want this to be a platform for every kind of beauty.

If you want to check out what Charisse is up to, listen @beautymepodcast, check out her blog and see her work on Instagram

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