When I was a beauty assistant at Cosmo, one of my duties was to get the makeup credits for cover shoots. More often than not, Sonia Kashuk was the makeup artist. She was hot hot hot! Elle, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Oscar de le Renta, Marc Jacobs, Cindy Crawford—the best always asked for her. But, she’s more than a ridiculously talented makeup artist. Having the vision of creating the first professional makeup artist brand for the mass market, she pitched her idea to Target. Now, 15 years later, she runs her own highly successful company (as noted by countless beauty awards that decorate her showroom) and hasn’t skipped a beat in her personal life. She says her two kids, Jonah, 18, and Sadye, 15, are her real success stories. Here’s how she made all THAT happen.
Pretty Impressed: How old were your kids you launched your business?
Sonia: The day I brought Sadye home from the hospital was the day that Target called and said, “The contracts are in your fax machine.” (That shows you how ancient it was!) Truly, it was like giving birth to twins. And Jonah was almost four years old. Target approved the concept of creating a professional make-up artist brand—we were the first to do this at reasonable prices—so I had to really start working to develop it.
PI: Were you panicked, excited, scared, all of the above?
Sonia: I was so excited. When I worked as a make-up artist, there were two things always going through my head. First, how can I use the business before it uses me, because at some point, you’re not young forever! Second, I wanted to have more control of my life. I would be called for a job and have to jump on a plane, to go shoot a Cosmo cover, then I’d get there and the celebrity would say, “Oh, I’m not available anymore. Can I do this tomorrow?” I was always on their schedule. I wanted to have more control of my destiny. I wanted to have a presence as a mother and wife.
PI: So how did you manage building your company while having such a young family.
Sonia: My success is really built on Anita’s success, my babysitter, within my environment and training her not to be the mother, but to be my backup. As much as I would love to rely on my husband, Daniel, who is amazing, he doesn’t have the mentality of a multi-tasker at all! I really needed a backup woman, who understood multitasking and was really there for the kids. There’s no way I could have done what I did without Anita’s support and luckily being able to afford to have full-time help.
PI: Has being a mother affected the way you are as a business leader?
Sonia: Yes, definitely. You have to play into the needs of others both as a mother and as a businessperson because you’re never alone. You’re always speaking to or answering to somebody else, no matter that I run my own company. It’s about managing personalities. The kids are definitely the best things I’ve done! I’m grateful for having a successful business, but if my kids are successful in their lives, to me, that’s my biggest success.
PI: How do you balance making sure your kids get all the attention they need?
Sonia: I’m grateful I had the vision to buy an office in the same building where we lived. In the very beginning, I had a desk in my bedroom that was my “office.” When 9/11 happened, the apartment was destroyed, and the whole building was a mess. All of a sudden, I thought, “I wonder if we could buy office space here.” This way, I’d always around. The kids would stop by every day after school to check in. I would tell people, “You might be coming to my office for a business meeting, but just know that my kids might be sitting at that table as well.” It’s really all about making your situation as convenient as possible.
PI: Switching gears to fashion and beauty tips. We have to start with makeup, right? What to do you wear for work?
Sonia: If I don’t have any big meetings, then its skin care, skin care, skin care. It’s lotions and potions and no makeup. When I have to attend a business meeting or an event, I always think, “I love red lips!” But in reality, my lips are totally cockeyed. People have told me to get injections to fix it, but I’m not into that. That’s my imperfection. It is what it is. So I guess that’s why I tend to go for more of a nude lip and play on my eyes more. In general, as I’ve gotten older, I definitely am more neutral in color. I’ve become addicted to my Illuminating Bronzer because it just gives my skin a great glow and good color without having to put on a lot of makeup. I’ll use foundation, a little bit of concealer under my eyes, but that’s about it.
PI: So if you’re really a skincare junkie, what are your favorite products?
Sonia: Literally, in the morning, I use probably 10 or 12 different products. My bathroom counter is hysterical. Anything to hold my face on! My friend Heidi Manheimer from Shiseido sent me some of their new Future Solution LX line and I love it, especially the serum. I also like the Lifeline Day Cream Serum. I use it as more of a serum because I need a lot of hydration. I also have a monthly facial that’s set in stone on my schedule with Vicky Morav. She has a very small little studio and gives an amazing two-hour facial.
PI: I always see you with hoop earrings. Is that a signature look for you?
Sonia: Kind of. I love earrings, but the ones I like I can’t afford! Gold hoops are a great go-to earring, especially because my real signature look is wearing my hair up in a bun, so the earrings add to that. I never wear my hair down unless I’m just trying to get it to dry.
PI: Ha, yes, of course. How do you get it so perfect looking?
Sonia: I use all the Oribé products. I love his Signature Moisture Mask. It sounds terrible, but I only wash my hair a couple times a week because it’s so dry. I combine the mask with a little bit of his Supershine Moisturizing Cream, then literally throw my head upside down, and tie my hair around the elastic a few times and make the bun, then I’m ready to go. When I see myself with my hair blown out, I’m like, “Who the hell do you think you are?” I’m terrible with hair. I have zero patience. Plus, every time my face starts falling as I get older, I just pull my bun a little tighter. You think I’m kidding? I’m not!
PI: Do you always wear tinted glasses indoors too?
Sonia: I’ve worn these glasses forever. They’re a prescription Oliver Peoples. You know what they said to me? Put the tint in and don’t worry about your makeup. It sounds ridiculous, but it helps a little like a little soft filter. I talk a lot about aging, but I also embraced it. As my mother always told me, “You’ve earned these wrinkles!” I’ve earned it all. It’s kind of a drag and kind of great. There’s like a mixed bag.
PI: Okay. Let’s go to fashion.
Sonia: I love simple and chic with a twist. Lately, I feel like I look my age in a dress versus if I’m in a pair of cool leggings and a chic top. I love a skinny pencil skirt, but I tend to feel more hip in pants, jeans or leather leggings. In the winter, leather leggings are the perfect uniform. I have them in black, tan, cognac and they’re perfect with a great sweater. I don’t buy things that look like last season. I buy things that definitely transcend the test of times. If I’m buying something that’s expensive, I don’t want it to be so disposable.
PI: So far, in most of my supermom interviews, the mom says, “I’m not a supermom! I don’t have it together. I still don’t know what I’m doing.” Do you agree?
Sonia: If somebody came up to me and said, “I have it all figured out,” I’d be like, “Really?” There’s going to begood days. There’s going to be bad days. But that’s life in general. I always believed you got to have bad days in order to appreciate the good days.