Curious to know the story behind Emilie Heathe? From inspirations to product development, founder Emily H. Rudman discusses how she tapped into her love of artistry and clean makeup to realize a conscientious, high-performance color collection with an eclectic palette and universal appeal.
1. What was it about makeup artistry growing up that appealed to you most?
For me, makeup has always been about feeling good and confident. How you look on the outside can impact how you feel on the inside. Life imitates art, as guided by whatever your definition of beauty is.
When I was younger, a best friend had just broken up with her boyfriend and was feeling down, so I took her to a MAC store to get her makeup done. I loved watching and learning from the makeup artist, and my friend was happy and felt beautiful. It was a private moment. It made her day, and it made mine to have been able to contribute to that.
Another thing that appealed to me about makeup is its ability to enhance and transform, stemming from a childhood yearning to look and be different.
I was drawing comic books at the age of seven and got into makeup around nine or ten when I saw my older sister using it. Art and ceramics were my favorite classes. I just liked creative stuff. And in my early teens, I started begging my mom for makeup books. She bought me Kevyn Aucoin’sMaking Faces when I was 12 or 13,Face Forward, and theBobbi Brown Teenage Beautybook at 16.
2. What about Kevyn Aucoin and Bobbi Browns’ techniques stood out to you? Do you have any other makeup muses?
Kevyn Aucoin was known for transformative makeup. Bobbi Brown’s approach is more subtle, but you’re still transforming someone to some extent—really utilizing the face as an art canvas.
Isamaya Ffrench is super creative and does a good amount of special effects—a lot of ugly-beautiful things that come across as really high-end. Then there’s Pat McGrath, the Val Garlands of the world, Patrick Ta, Tong Van Gogh, Mario, Hung (sophisticated kind of beauty highlighting your glam self). Marie Dausell, who did the makeup for our Tush magazine spread, is also amazing.
3. Tell us more about your journey as a makeup artist. At what point did you decide you wanted to launch your own brand?
I decided I wanted to have my own beauty brand as early as high school. In college, I majored in Spanish and Economics and gained an understanding of how the world works. I ended up becoming friends with International students who were from all over the world which really opened up my eyes, and I got to hone my makeup artistry skills doing all of my friends’ makeup for different events and holidays.
My dad had a friend working at a company and recommended I interview with L’Oreal (Kiehl’s). That interview cemented my desire to work in beauty.
I ended up enrolling at MUD for special effects and beauty and, upon graduation, landed my dream job as a makeup artist for MAC. I was working at Avon doing product development during the week, as a makeup artist for MAC on the weekend, and started doing bridal makeup on the side. As I was coming up on three years at Avon, I decided to go to cosmetology school, where I added experience in hair and fragrance and applied to business school at Columbia.
I wanted my experience to be as comprehensive as possible. My artistry helped with product development because I was using the products and getting feedback from real customers, while Columbia gave me a sense of what goes into launching and growing a brand.
4. Why Emilie Heathe? Why now?
I had the corporate experience but wanted startup experience, so I started working with Briogeo and Haiku. Then I decided that if I’m going to be working 100 hours a week, it should be for myself.
When I was at Avon, I focused on the nail and lip categories, and one of the first nail stories I worked on featured nail art. Growing up, I also loved getting my nails done with my mom. The women who worked there were Korean. As an adopted child, it was the only place I saw people who looked like me (a bit of a home away from home).
I’d always envisioned Emilie Heathe as a full-color brand, but it felt natural to start with nail products. At the time, there was only 8-free nail polish. No one was doing 10-free. Not only did I want my products to be safe, but nourishing luxury nail care. After 2 ½ years of product development, we launched in 2018 and have since expanded to include a lip scrub, brow powder, and accessories, each an extension of Emilie Heathe’s standards and aesthetic.
As for the brand name, I wanted a nod to my own with some separation. Heath is my middle name, and I like how Emilie has a french connotation. Emilie Heathe is like a superhero alter ego version of myself, and that’s what I want it to be for everyone else.
5. One of the tentpoles of the brand is its integrity. What does that mean to you?
All of our products are clean, nourishing, and sustainable. We put a lot of care into creating them and we're continuously exploring ways to use better or fewer ingredients. We push on manufacturers to get as much recycled product as possible while also considering the process. We have to look at everything holistically as it relates to the consumer and the planet.
6. What about your brand tagline “where beauty meets art”?
“Where beauty meets art,” to me, is a nod to beauty being an art form. You are creating art with how you apply the makeup, as well as the products themselves. I wanted to create a line that was practical but felt high-end, beautiful, and unique. I want a safe space where people feel inspired to be creative in any sense of the word or see anything they do as art.
For example, some people may not think creating a nail polish bottle is art. To me, it’s a sculpture. It’s about tapping into creativity as you see it, whether you’re a DJ or a CEO at Goldman Sachs.
7. As a child, you were drawn to the vibrant colors in comic books. Is there anywhere else you look for inspiration when curating or naming your shades? Any interesting or personal stories?
I used to solve a lot of visual and mental problems as a kid (I remember my dad getting me a book calledCan You Believe Your Eyes?). Art and architecture were also important to me. I was very inspired by clean lines, geometric shapes, and mix-matching materials. My dad used to take me to art galleries in Soho.
I love Bauhaus, Danish, and Swedish architecture. It all comes down to beautiful things. For everyday, it’s about landing on the perfect shades such as The Perfect Red. Then there are also these unexpected twists of glimmer and pearls in our mixing for going above and beyond.
Stay tuned for Part II of our Founder Q&A with Emily H. Rudman, coming soon.