Influence Peddler: Ashley Tisdale on Her First Acquisition and Cruelty-Free Makeup

Ashley Tisdale is getting down to business.
The actress and influencer has acquired her makeup line from BH Cosmetics. The line, called Illuminate by Ashley Tisdale, will operate as a stand-alone lifestyle business going forward, and is about to undergo a re-brand, Tisdale said. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Tisdale said she bought the line just before BH Cosmetics got an investment from MidOcean Partners.
"The reason why it was better for us to separate is because as I was looking through my customers, and I have a really one-on-one relationship with my Illuminate customer, I started to realize my customer is very different than the BH customer," Tisdale said. BH shoppers tend to be more into the heavy makeup favored by the YouTube community, while Tisdale says her shoppers are more "everyday girls."
"It's just like how I wear my makeup," Tisdale said. "I like to wear makeup, but I'm not layering on tons of makeup on my skin."
Tisdale is leading the charge for Illuminate, with Carrie Barber (who has worked for Sephora and Glossier) as creative director, she said. Initially, Illuminate will operate as a direct-to-consumer player, according to Tisdale, but eventually could branch into pop-up shops and retail. The plan is to launch three products every three months, she said.
"When I started to look into the market of makeup and who the brands are servicing, it just felt like there wasn't really a company servicing to the everyday girl," Tisdale said. "I think makeup is supposed to illuminate your natural features, so I really wanted to bring it back to that, but I also had an idea for my company to be more of a lifestyle brand, so there's a lot more than just makeup that we're going to be doing."
Right now, the team is working to develop Illuminate's aesthetic, re-brand and develop products that are expected to launch in November. Asked about where the brand might go behind makeup, Tisdale said she'd develop "everything that my audience knows and wants from me — so skin care is a big one, and also, hair care."
The re-brand isn't finalized yet, but simplicity will be at the core, Tisdale said. "As someone who buys makeup, there are so many makeup brands out there and it overwhelms you with so many different colors," Tisdale said. "I'd just gotten a contour palette and I didn't even know it was double-sided.…What I'm trying to do is make it more simple."
"It's also beauty for fun," Tisdale added. "We're in a place that we're taking it very seriously because it is an art — and that is so true — but at the same time, there are a bunch of girls that really just love to have fun with color and makeup and don't take themselves too seriously."
Prices will remain in "affordable" territory, Tisdale said. "High-quality, luxury makeup, but affordable — we're not trying to reinvent that," she noted. Tisdale is also hoping the line will reach a demographic beyond just her core fan base. "The makeup has only been sold literally on my face — all the images we've done are just makeup on me," Tisdale said. "One of the first things we're doing is a photo shoot on all different skin tones."
Tisdale is planning for her customers — new and old — to be part of the creative process.
"When I first created the makeup line I wasn't able to talk about it as I was developing it because it was a surprise," Tisdale said. "I want my fans to be a part of this journey — I want them to be part of that transition."
Tisdale personally operates the Illuminate Cosmetics Instagram account, which has 74,000 followers, as well as her personal account, which has 9.6 million followers. Here, she gives insight into her social media, lifestyle and beauty habits.
WWD: What's the relationship between your personal Instagram account and the Illuminate Instagram account? Will you cross-promote Illuminate on your account?
Ashley Tisdale: I have definitely in the past done that. Because we're re-branding and also because I've been waiting to tell my fans about taking over — once that comes out, you'll see a lot more on my own Instagram. For me, it's just finding the balance. I think Jen Atkin does such a great job at doing it. I'm an actress, a producer and have my makeup line and I want to be able to show off everything, but in the right way. There's a balance, and I have to find it. But I'm the person posting on Illuminate…if only people knew I ran both.
WWD: What do your followers engage the most with?
A.T.: It's mainly what I'm wearing. Comments are like, "what are your sunglasses, what makeup are you wearing." They always ask those questions.
WWD: Do you interact with your followers? 
A.T.: Definitely. I also have an app now, the Ashley Tisdale app, where I have direct . It's one thing to be on my social media, like Twitter or Instagram, it's overwhelming with how many comments you get and some of them are positive, and some of them are just not fans, so I created an app and I was able to have my superfans be part of it. I engage with them a lot more there.
WWD: What's the first social platform you check in the morning? Why?
A.T.: Definitely Instagram. I'm really drawn to beautiful images and Insta Stories.
WWD: What about Twitter, Snapchat or Facebook — do you use them?
A.T.: I do use Twitter. It depends on how I'm feeling. I've been on Twitter forever. I love sharing my opinions and ideas, but sometimes it's a little bit loud for me, so I steer away from it. I'll share what I'm watching, or say, "hey, let me know what I should binge watch next on Netflix," but it's become a louder voice over there.
I stopped Snapchat. I didn't like the new layout. If anything, I'll go over there and use the filter and I'll put it on Insta Stories.
My Facebook, I used to have a personal and obviously I have my public profile. I stopped the personal one because the whole idea behind it was that I could share things with my family and friends, but it kept getting leaked out so I was like, "oh, that's no good." So I stopped doing that and now I just have my public profile. I like having Facebook to see what's up with the news and everything.
WWD: On Instagram, are you more of a post person or a stories person?
A.T.: I try to post twice a day, and then I Insta-story a lot. Well, I try to Insta-story a lot. Some days I'm crazy busy and then there's like one Insta story.
WWD: For you, how much is too much to share on social? 
A.T.: I like to keep things as private as I can. There are things I like to share with my fans, but I always create a line. I've had issues in the past where people have been crazy fans and have shown up at my house multiple times. But I show off my family and my niece and all of that stuff. My dogs, my husband.
WWD: What are your favorite beauty products right now? 
A.T.: I actually do use Illuminate all the time. If I'm trying to do a smoky bronze-y eye, I'll use the Beach Goddess palette. My other go-to is a cat eye, so then I'll do a matte lid and a black cat eye. Other brands I love to use are Tarte, Nars — for foundation I'm trying to find something else. I found a lot of makeup brands I have that are not cruelty-free and I am pretty bummed out about it. So I am going to be going through my makeup drawer getting rid of the stuff that's not cruelty-free. There are other foundations I love — like Hourglass — they have a really good stick.
WWD: You've mentioned you're into hair. What hair products do you like?
A.T.: I'm a huge fan of deep conditioners. I use a lot of heat on my hair, so when I get a chance to relax and throw in a deep conditioner I usually go with this one by Goldwell called Kerasilk. It's really, really good. Then I also use the SexyHair Tri Wheat Leave-In Conditioner, and if I'm going to the gym or something.…I'll spray some argan oil or coconut oil and let it sit up in a bun so it's conditioning, as well. Kristin Ess, too — I use a lot of her stuff, her shampoos and conditioners.
WWD: Do you wear perfume?
A.T.: Yes. I wear Chloé, the original one. The reason I love it so much is because it smells different on every single person. I've been wearing it for seven years.
WWD: How do you shop?
A.T.: I love clothes. My shopping habits are shopping online. I'm a huge fan of Shopbop and Fwrd by Elyse, Revolve, Zara — I'm kind of all over the board. I get inspiration from Instagram and then I start searching and finding things. Even when I go into the store they don't have the new stuff, and it's like, "oh, I just saw that online, I could have just ordered it instead of coming in." I also was scarred because I just went shopping at Madison on Robertson and I went to the salon and got robbed — someone took the shopping bag out of my car…it does not encourage me to go into stores.
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