Addison Rae may be known for her fluffy brows and bouncy hair, but in middle school, her signature look involved bright neon blue eyeliner drawn into her waterline. "I'd wear it to school and people thought I was so crazy, but I would be like, 'What? I'm just different.'" She tells me how her earliest recollections of shopping at Sephora were when her mom would take her there before dance rehearsals with her best friends or when she'd get straight As. It's these memories that make launching ITEM Beauty, Rae's cosmetics brand, in Sephora stores that much more special. She can't believe it. "Every time I hear someone say it to me, I’m just like, 'what?!' I forget how crazy and exciting [it is]."
Despite the fact that Rae has over 80 million followers on TikTok, is besties with Kourtney Kardashian, and is starring in He's All That (the remake of She's All That), her astonishment seems pretty genuine. Perhaps it's because she's only 20 years old and most people her age are on the brink of a quarter-life crisis. Or maybe it's because she went from LSU college student to the highest-earning TikTok personality in less than a year. Whatever the reason, Rae appears grateful for the opportunity to live out her Dreams™️ — singing, dancing, acting, and making makeup products that are sold at Sephora.
I spoke with Rae about the challenges of running a beauty company during a pandemic, how she deals with all those Internet haters, and the lessons she's learned from the Kardashians about staying true to herself.
Refinery29: It's been a year since you launched ITEM Beauty. What have you learned about yourself, about beauty, and about running a company since you started?
Addison Rae: There are indescribable amounts of things that I've learned and had to really just like figure out and work through. I mean, I'm young and I'm only 20, so I'm still kind of taking it all in, but as a founder, I feel like I've learned how important it is to be able to pivot quickly and adapt to change. I think within the last year, we've had to kind of figure a lot of things out. It's just super important to pause, shift, make a change, and then move forward.
R29: Have you learned anything about your own idea of beauty? Has it shifted at all since now, you're helping with formulating the products and running a company versus just wearing makeup?
Rae: For me, I've increasingly become more aware of is how important it is not only for products to make you look good, but also feel good and genuinely be good for you. I think that's why being clean was so important to me too and really educating myself on that in general before I even really knew about clean beauty. I think it's still a subject that people don't really know much about or maybe are not ready to explore, but I think it's becoming something that's a little more mainstream in a way. People are really starting to take notice of it and actually realize that it's such an easy switch to make and that it’s becoming more necessary. For the world and taking care of ourselves, it’s just really made me realize how important the formulas and the ingredients are more than just the way that product looks.
R29: That's great. You have your fair share of people who are very critical of your actions and what you do, no matter what. How do you stay positive and creative and continue to grow the brand in the face of internet haters?
Rae: I feel like at the end of the day, I always know who I am and I really try to remind myself of that. I know what I love, I know my passions, and I know my dreams that I want to accomplish and I know that no matter what, they're always going to be people that are negative and that are not wanting people to chase their dreams or accomplish them. I think there are so many lovers and so many supporters and people that love the things I do and love to support me and love to love and at the end of the day, I think that always outweighs the hate. I think focusing on that is [important]. I try to not let the haters get to me. I think it's really important just to show the people that are supporters that much more love and really be grateful that they're there.
R29: Have you looked to anyone for advice about building a beauty brand? I know you're really good friends with Kourtney Kardashian. All of the Kardashian sisters are experts in growing a brand. Have you ever asked them for advice or have you learned anything from them?
Rae: I love talking to those girls about everything they've done in their lives and how they stay true to themselves throughout all of it. It’s something that I always have conversations with them about. Kourtney is an amazing girl and she's always been so close to me and just helpful throughout everything. Like the other day, we were in the car and she was like, “Oh my gosh, I need my Lip Quip!” I feel like even getting feedback like that from her and knowing that she enjoys my products or even you know, what she thinks about different things that aren't always business-related [is great]. It makes me happy to see that people I love and people whose opinions I trust also love the products.
R29: Everyone follows you on TikTok, but who have you been following lately for beauty inspo?
Rae: Lately, truly, I've been following so many ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000s pages because I just love the makeup trends back then. I love the dark liner and that chiseled bronzed look and a smokey eye. I love a really good smokey eye and dramatic lashes. I see so many iconic photos of Cher where she'd have really defined singular lashes and I'm obsessed with that. I feel like I follow a lot of pages that are a little more reminiscent of old makeup trends and then I try to find ways to modernize them in a way and make them a little more current. It's always fun for me to look back on what worked in the past because I think no matter what, makeup trends or even just trends in general, kind of evolve into a modernized way, but it always stems from something that we've done in the past.
R29: Before you go, I need to know — what is the secret to your amazing brows?
Rae: Oh my gosh, thank you! I’m going to have to say a lot of it truly is my dad. My dad’s eyebrows are really fluffy and massive. He has always had to pluck his eyebrows. I think taking care of them and letting them grow out is the secret. Right now, you can't really tell, but I definitely have so many little ones growing. At this point, I’m going to let them go free and really just let them grow as they do. I feel like a really important thing for me to do too is just always brush them up and keep them nice. The more I brush them up, the fluffier they are, and I feel like it kind of teaches them the direction that I want them to grow. Maybe I'm just making that up, but I like to tell myself that.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.