Images by Zoë Foster Blake & Michelle Tran
When Zoë Foster Blake speaks it is an altogether dynamic experience, fluctuating seamlessly from reserved sincerity to passionate outbursts (with no apparent tendency to shy away from expletives), she is constantly engaging. In a strange way her manner of speech displays precisely the same characteristics that have ensured the vast popularity of her writing: considered insight made wholly approachable by her own unpretentious brand of wit and authenticity. In a beauty industry dominated by disingenuous advertorials and subtle-yet-painfully-obvious guerrilla marketing techniques blaring across social media, Foster Blake’s voice is refreshingly frank.
She possesses the rare ability to make audiences – and, yes, certain journalists – feel like old friends and it’s a quality that has arguably propelled her career in every facet. From beauty editor to blogger, to writer and novelist, cosmetics entrepreneur, charity ambassador, and associate television producer, Foster Blake is the ultimate ‘slashie’ success story; the woman who shows it is entirely possible to have your cake and eat it too.
Foster Blake’s career is one overwhelmingly fixated on personal experience, from her blogs, to the heart of her all-natural skincare company Go-To, and even in her fictional pieces, she speaks almost exclusively from her own experiences and it’s this disarming honesty that makes her so darn trustworthy. It is somewhat surprising, then, to discover that her career began for a distinct lack of it, “I didn’t even really know what a beauty editor was when I got the job at Cosmo!” she recalls with a laugh.
Raised in Bundadoon, a regional NSW town two hours inland of Sydney, she remembers growing up in tracksuits, having only the vaguest idea about makeup and never even feeling the need to wash her face, “I remember one other girl came to the year 12 formal and she had a blow-dry and I was like ‘What’s that?!’ I didn’t have my first blow-dry until I moved to Sydney when I was 18.” Cosmopolitan’s decision to hire the inexperienced 23-year-old, was a choice that she now reflects on as incredibly clever. “They would bring somebody in that had no clue and would act [the same way] as the reader thought, rather than coming in and being judgemental” She was simply a girl with a knack for writing and an open mind for learning on the job.
First and foremost, Zoë Foster Blake still very much considers herself a writer and is adamant about correcting certain misconceptions about beauty editors in general. “We’re not beauty experts, we’re writers and our job is to communicate the tips and tricks…it’s our job to be the messenger to the public.” The success of her career as the messenger is something that she attributes entirely to her love for recommendations and pointing other women in the right direction, “I really feel like a good recommendation saves you time, money and effort. I want it laid out for me”
The archetypal picture of the girl’s bathroom chat is something that she embraces wholeheartedly as a representation of the honest and helpful dialogue she aims to have with other women, “You just wanna be the girl in the bathroom saying, “Hey, I’ve got this primer and it really, really works and you would love it.” That’s the sort of conversation I like to have about beauty” She reminisces that she would happily assume the role of the drunk girl in the bathroom throughout her 20s, with a handbag full of cosmetic products fresh from the Cosmopolitan office that she would enthusiastically dole out to strangers after work.
As this brand of sharp and eternally-relatable dialogue gained traction, Foster Blake began to feel limited by magazine pages that were so heavily dominated by visuals and sought out other ways of sharing her advice. Fruity Beauty, her first blogging venture was launched in 2006 and gained somewhat of a cult following in a period that she recalls as one of the most productive in her life, “I’d blog before work and then I’d go to work and write all day and then I started my first book at 25 too on the weekends, I can’t believe I just had so much drive and time but it never felt like work.” While ZoTheySay.com has now assumed the position of Fruity Beauty as the online source for all things Zoë Foster Blake, she points to her non-fiction works, Amazing Face and the 2016 sequel, Amazinger Face as the ultimate collections of her best advice content.
Foster Blake’s passion for recommendation and using her own experiences to improve those of other women has logically culminated in the creation and direction of her own skincare label. After all, what better way to ensure that she should champion a product than simply creating it herself? Go-To skincare was launched in April of 2014 and has since garnered an incredible amount of attention for the production of all-natural, cruelty-free products. The tipping point of success for the company came in 2016 when Pink-Nudey Lips, a tinted lip balm that boasts SPF 15 protection became an unexpected hit, “It wasn’t even meant to be a big product, we’ve got a couple in R and D that are breaking my balls and they’re taking a long time to come out but all completely naturally products are tricky to get right. So I was like, ‘Okay, let’s keep our existing lip balm and put some sunscreen in it and we’ve now sold out twice within a couple of weeks”.
Maintaining a team of only 16 employees, Go-To has witnessed remarkable growth within the past 12 months and the company has managed to foster (no pun intended) precisely the same passionate and authentic approach to business that has helped Foster Blake thrive in the beauty industry. “There is no real true hierarchy in our company, we have four directors, all with their superpower in different fields and I pull it all together certainly, but I mostly deal with the designers, social media and customer service guys day-to-day…they’re a dream and they want to be there.” Foster Blake attests that a “deeply ingrained sense of authenticity and fun and transparency within the company” are the driving forces behind Go-To’s triumphs.
As for the company’s pitch to the public, Foster Blake’s copywriting has built a brand that refuses to patronise its audience and instead hinges on the “bathroom chat” approach to create a genuine dialogue with consumers. Go To’s online About section reads: “There are no irritants or nasties, no faux-science (“Now with added Wrinkleflickatox TM and Moisturemagic ® particles!”) and no silly claims. We just make excellent skin care that you will enjoy using and your skill will love”. After all, this is Foster Blake’s bread and butter, “The greatest joy is writing copy that makes people smile and Go-To is a wonderful product and I care very much about what I make in terms of skincare but I gotta be honest with you, writing the copy is still my favourite part”.
The fine balancing act that Foster Blake astoundingly manages between directing Go-To, her writing career, work as a charity ambassador, and position as an associate producer on the television adaptation of her 2016 novel, The Wrong Girl is made infinitely more impressive by the fact that she also had a two-year-old son, Sonny, in tow. While she asserts the workload for her and husband, comedian Hamish Blake, hasn’t been an entirely smooth ride, “We’ve had a lot that’s gone on and there were so many nights at the beginning of the year when we sat in the bedroom at 11 o’clock at night just thinking, ‘When will it stop?’” Foster Blake is also quick to remark on how significantly motherhood has changed her perspective and prioritising in terms of her career, “As soon as you have a child you just weigh everything up and for something to take you away from your child, it has to be worth it. For me that’s Go-To and writing and anything on top of that has really got to be worth my time.”
While she claims that she is now working harder than ever since becoming a mother of two (3-year-old Sonny was recently joined by newborn sister, Rudy), she also recognises the privilege of being an entrepreneur and how revolutionary it can be for women to assume this role. “As the child-bearer, we don’t have the same kind of control and longevity in a career that men do, we have to take time out to have children and we can often lose momentum…to be able to start up a business from home on your own terms and all you need is Wifi, a paypal account, and an idea and you can have your own business, I think that’s fantastic and freeing.” As for those who wish to pursue the lifestyle of entrepreneurship, she only has three primary pieces of advice: “Don’t imitate, you have to innovate”, “Make sure you love it”, and “Ask for help”. As Foster Blake recites these tips I can’t help but notice how utterly indicative they are of the trajectory of her own career, a career that she has innovated from the ground up, that she loves wholeheartedly, and for which she has the support of a close-knit company, her husband and parents; then again, she always said she was great with recommendations. Her story is one that depicts the triumph of the hard-working creative against all odds and proves just successful an authentic approach can be in a world overwhelmed by the hustlers and showboats. She is relatable, approachable and yet no less extraordinary for these qualities, and at this point in her career she is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down.