How Jamie Genevieve Built Her Beauty Empire

The Glaswegian YouTube megastar launched a make-up range during a pandemic that required us to wear none. Sali Hughes talks to the beauty mogul...

Claire Rothstein, Grazia

by Sali Hughes |

In an already crazy two-year period, during which a BBC crew was ostensibly filming her every move for a reality show and make-up sales were suffering the knock-on effect of compulsory mask wearing and home dwelling, YouTube megastar Jamie Genevieve launched a major new beauty brand, Vieve. Her aim was to offer ‘all make-up wearers, from the easy to the experimental, accessible, high performance products’. The response to Jamie’s artists’ palettes, 90s supermodel lipsticks, shimmering highlighters, no-brainer eyeshadow sticks and glow giving primer, has been market-defyingly enthusiastic. Sales for the all-vegan brand soared on the Vieve and Cult Beauty websites as Jamie’s staggering 1.4 million-strong social media following snapped up the goodies, pandemic be damned.

‘The first six months were crazy and such a learning curve,’ the makeup artist tells me from her Glasgow home, on the eve of the brand’s one-year anniversary. ‘I still can’t believe it. I was so nervous and scared!’ Not because sales of makeup were shaky across the industry, she says, but because she cared so deeply about the brand she’d first conceived with a close friend some 10 years before, and had been developing in earnest for the past two. Jamie felt a responsibility towards her investors, herself and most of all, her audience, to get Vieve absolutely right. She says that her close relationship with her audience reassured that her Vieve would be something they’d want and love, and spurred her on. ‘When you get out the other side, the relief you feel is so worth it. It’s nice when you start feeling quite strong in yourself again, because there was a moment where I was so panicked all the time. Now I just feel excited for what’s next.’

For someone who has dominated British beauty’s online space for the past seven years -after a Halloween themed skull make-up video went viral on YouTube - former Estée Lauder counter assistant Jamie is now perhaps surprisingly keen to mark her territory in bricks and mortar. Face-to-face engagement with Vieve’s vast community is crucial to the brand’s future, she says. There’s to be a permanent Vieve counter at the new Harrods Beauty in Edinburgh, with more likely to follow. Soon, she will launch Brown Thomas’ exclusive Vieve space in Dublin (‘I love how much Irish women love makeup! They are immaculate’) and is has just launched a London pop-up (open until 3 April) along the same lines as the massive week-long immersive Vieve-fest in Glasgow last year. At that Jamie-designed space, up to 1000 visitors daily queued for piercings, psychic readings, exclusive manicures, branded sweatshirts and of course, Vieve makeup - very often rung through the till or bagged up by the ‘completely overwhelmed and tearful but buzzing’ Saturday girl-turned-mogul herself.

Wherever global expansion takes her for work, she is pretty adamant that her life will remain where she grew up. ‘I think that people who know me know I’m Scottish as soon as I open my mouth. Me and my husband Jack have toyed with the idea of moving away to LA or London and we really quickly realised we can’t leave.’ Her happy place is the bath (‘it’s my time,’ she says. ‘I’ve even weaned myself off TV and films on the laptop and now just soak in silence’), hanging out with family or being outdoors in the countryside. She’s had the same friends for years and is emphatically a ‘girls’ girl’ - warm, kind and a bit sweary, naturally lavish and genuine with compliments.

'People who know me know I'm Scottish as soon as I open my mouth'

Despite helming her own beauty brand and receiving mountains of products free in the post, Jamie still loves shopping (‘I spend a bloody fortune,’ she laughs), swearing by Urban Decay's Lash Freak Mascara, or NARS' Radiant Longwear Foundation.

I suggest that since the pandemic and all its salon closures and in-store regulations, we may finally be understanding how vital a part of our community beauty workers really are. ‘Absolutely,’ she nods emphatically. ‘I think that all these people who touch our lives through beauty - without them there’s no way you’d be where you are. I felt like a caterpillar emerging into a butterfly when I was finally able to book in for my nails, hair, a facial, a massage... I came out and said I feel like myself again.’ She still feels part of the community, albeit one of its more fortunate members. ‘Coming from where I’ve come from, working on an Estée Lauder counter, I think it’s a no-brainer. Two of my bridesmaids are makeup artists, one of them has her own salon, one of them has two kids and through the pandemic they got nothing. I find myself feeling really quite guilty and really, really lucky.’

Lucky, yes. Complacent, no. At the end of 2021, Vieve had an impressive 45 products. Highlights include Dew, Jamie’s Signature highlight and universal hybrid primer Skin Nova (formulated in part for her sensitive skinned mother), as well as the 12-pan eye palette, with its creamy, densely pigmented powder shadows, which sold out on day one.

By the end of this year, Jamie will have launched 125 products globally, spanning almost all categories. This isn’t a quaint vanity project, it’s a player. New product development is where her heart lies, she insists. Her goal is always to make products that are as brilliant to someone who has never heard of Jamie Genevieve as they are to a superfan. ‘I shut my door with my phone off and I sit in a pile of product and swatch away, and I end up looking hilarious because I’ve got all these different products on my face,’ she laughs. (Incidentally, after much thought she concedes that her proudest achievement is the creamy, oh-so-easy to apply Eye Wands, but she feels ‘bad for the others’ in playing favourites).

Jamie admits that her self esteem is inextricably bound to her work and now, the brand. She says it ‘totally blows my mind that people have my products as staples in their makeup bags.’ Those people range from Holly Willoughby wearing Vieve on TV, Laura Whitmore wearing it to The Brits, and social media celebrities like Sarah Chapman raving about the brand online. ‘I cannot wait to see someone in a pub or bar bathroom putting on the lipstick. I want Vieve to be the person who says you look great when you’re putting on our lipstick.’

She still responds to many customer enquiries herself (‘I love a VoiceNote!’), is personally training the new Dublin consultants next week (YouTube may be what made Jamie famous but she is, she assures me, an in-store artist at heart), and makes a point of looking at every last post in which her products are tagged. ‘I think someone asked me once "what does beauty mean to you?" And I don’t think that I can put into words that it’s actually all I think about,’ she says. ‘It makes me laugh because I think some people still only see beauty as a fickle thing and I’m like, you’ve no idea. It’s nice when it is a fickle thing but for a lot of people it's not, it’s the way that they feel confident and transform themselves into the person they feel they need to be that day. I love it so much.’

SHOP: VIEVE's Hero Beauty Products

Gallery

SHOP: VIEVE's Hero Products

Jamie Genevieve Vieve Make-Up
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Jamie Genevieve Vieve Make-Up
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VIEVE Skin Dew, £19
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VIEVE Modern Bronzer, £31
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VIEVE Eye Wand, £21
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VIEVE Skin Nova, £27
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Main image photography: Claire Rothstein

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