An international career in the beauty industry

Julia (Cert Egyptology, 2005) has had an impressive career spanning PR, Television, Journalism, writing and the beauty industry. She has started businesses both in the UK and the USA and co-written a book, Beauty Scoop. Having decided university was not for her after school, Julia came to Birkbeck later in life to study Egyptology, an experience she loved.

When speaking about her time at Birkbeck, Julia explains that her first degree didn’t work out: “It was just the wrong time. However, I always had that desire to further my education. Later on in life, you are doing what you want to do and know where your interests are. At Birkbeck, I was doing something purely for myself, not because of a career path or expectations.”

Julia fondly remembers her classmates: “Everyone’s different but there for the love of learning. I didn’t feel out of place, despite being older than your average student and a new mum. You could learn from someone in their 60s and someone in their 20s. History needs these different interpretations and life experiences, and this made for great debate. I felt that my opinion was valued.” Her studies have since proven to be relevant to her work within the beauty industry: “It was fascinating to understand what the Egyptians used. You see the same tools, herbs and colours that we use now.”

Before working within the industry, Julia had a successful career in PR, followed by television presenting: “I went for an audition on a whim. It was for the launch of VH1 Music and I thought it could be fun. I felt that I was awful but got a call-back. That made me realise how eager I was for the role – I was very lucky. I worked for them for seven years, which was great. I also presented on other shows such as Good Morning, Big Breakfast and Capital Woman. Alongside that, I had the opportunity to work on travel and beauty shows, which is where that interest started.”

After finishing her studies at Birkbeck, Julia moved to New York with her family. She took this opportunity to begin her own beauty shop, selling UK products to the American market: “I had my own business in the UK too; I had set up a PR company which was great fun. So, I did have some experience when I got to New York, though it was very different, especially with the change of country.”

Her advice to others looking to start a business would be: “The biggest lesson to learn is to be prepared for how difficult things can be. The rewards can be enormous, but you also need energy and drive to make it work. I think every failure also marks a success – it’s all a learning curve.” Julia recently decided to step away from the shop to become a consultant for an international beauty brand and raise her two daughters.

New York now feels like home. As Julia says, “Over time, it sucks you in. It’s an amazing place! There are always those moments that make you reflect on a place. We had Hurricane Sandy, which hit New York badly, then this last year with Covid-19 and the fight against racial injustice – seeing a city put into these positions makes us want to do as much as we can to help. New York has given us a home and now we can give back.”