With her Southern charm, creative mind, and commitment to always keeping it real, Essence Gant has left quite the mark on the beauty industry. Oh and her precision with liquid eyeliner is nothing to be taken lightly either — just so you know.
Gant made the move from Augusta, Georgia to New York City, working her way up from an editorial assistant at Hype Hair to becoming the beauty director at BuzzFeed and now founder of Gant Media Group. Her career focus was initially on writing and editing. But during her time at BuzzFeed, she has expanded her content creation experience to include brand partnerships and influencer work too.
Gant is a true beauty maven. Check out our conversation below to learn more about her favorite beauty icon, an important lesson she’s learned in her career, and the books she thinks every content creator should read.
CAREER Q&A WITH ESSENCE
What is your hometown?
I’m from Augusta, Georgia.
Where did you attend college?
Albany State University for undergrad and University at Albany, SUNY for grad school.
What was your first media job?
I was an editorial assistant at Hype Hair magazine. Black women 30 years old and up definitely know what it is.
What’s one thing you love about working in the beauty space?
Working in beauty has always been a representation thing to me, and I love that I get to broaden what we perceive beautiful to be. I’m a Southern, dark-skinned woman with natural hair who’s also known to rock hoop earrings big enough to double as a hula hoop. Just by me confidently leaning all the way into my Blackness while taking up space in the beauty industry, I’m stretching out the standard to be more inclusive.
How do you stay updated on the latest trends in beauty?
Social media is my go-to. Beauty is so big on Instagram. And every one, from the influencer to the celeb makeup artist, is on there. It’s such a great resource because anytime there’s a new hairstyle, skincare launch, or [other trending beauty topic] people are reviewing it on Instagram.
Where do you get your beauty news?
I usually get my news directly from brands and professional stylists and artists in the industry. They email me a press release with upcoming launches, and campaigns. I also follow other beauty editors and journalists who put out really thoughtful and credible information.
What books would you recommend to anyone trying to break into beauty journalism?
They’re not beauty related. But I find Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes and Issa Rae’s The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl to be really inspiring. I tend to read about people’s life experiences because they give me that push I need when overwhelmed or doubtful of myself. And breaking into beauty journalism will definitely leave you overwhelmed at times, especially if you’re a black girl. The industry is dominated by white women so reading stories by Issa and Shonda and other women who’ve broken into spaces where they’re the minority always gives me that reset I need to keep going.
What’s one important lesson you learned early in your career?
An important lesson I learned early in my career is there’s no formula or specific steps to success in media. You just have to strategically network, and work super hard. Media is hard to break into. But the cool thing about it is you don’t have to wait for someone to hire you to start creating content. Start a blog, a YouTube channel, newsletter, and send it out to people in positions to give you the opportunities or job you want. I think that’s super smart when you’re just getting started and you don’t have tons of experience. Lack of experience doesn’t have to be a hindrance in getting a job because you can literally create your own.
Who’s your favorite beauty icon and why?
It’s so hard to nail it down to one, but I’d go with Pam Grier. She ushered in a whole movement where black women could freely express their femininity, sexuality, power, and self-respect all at the same time. She gave us permission to be layered.
This story was originally published in Black in Media.