Benefit’s Girl Boss on Superhero Beauty and the 1-Product Makeover
Reigning over a makeup empire is something most of us can only dream about. But for Annie Ford-Danielson, it’s everyday life. Beauties, meet Benefit’s very own Girl Boss (yes, that Benefit).
Annie is Benefit’s Global Beauty Authority—and also the daughter of its creator. She spearheads the mega beauty brand alongside her sister Maggie—and together, they’re Benefit’s second-generation of sister-bosses. Did you know that what is today a world-famous makeup brand actually started as a small family business? Yup, back in 1976, Benefit was founded by Annie’s mom and aunt. In other words, queens beget queens.
Naturally, a woman who runs a cosmetic giant has golden nuggets of wisdom tucked into her kit alongside her oval brushes. BeautyMNL was lucky enough to discuss this with Annie early in March, when we attended Benefit’s Bold Is Beautiful Project launch. In our exclusive interview, the fascinating Miss Danielson divulges her fave Benefit formulas, the 1-product makeover you must try, and why she believes in superheroes. Scroll!
Even the megastars start from scratch. What’s the Benefit origins story?
ANNIE: “It began in 1976. Jean and Jane, my mom and aunt, were part-time models in New York at the time and decided to move out to San Francisco—basically, to be hippies. They had no money, no jobs. They were going to do one of two things: open a makeup shop or open a casserole café. So, they literally flipped a coin and landed on makeup. The rest is history.”
Did they expect Benefit to get this—for lack of a better term—major?
ANNIE: “No. At one point, they had 3 boutiques right outside our home in San Francisco and that was it. That’s all they wanted for a long time. Eventually, they opened in a department store and it just snowballed. In the past 5 to 7 years, it’s really grown globally.”
When did you enter the business?
ANNIE: “My sister and I came in together almost 10 years ago now. We told our mom and aunt we wanted to work for the company. They said, ‘That’s great, but you’re starting at the bottom,’ and that was the best piece of advice I was ever given in my career. I started selling makeup in our boutique for a year and a half—6 days a week, 9 hours a day. It was the hardest job I ever had, but it’s the most I ever learned. When you sell makeup to women, you know what makes them tick.”
So, you’re basically a family of Girl Bosses.
ANNIE: “A hundred percent.”
This really ties into Benefit’s efforts to empower women all over the world. How’d that come about?
ANNIE: “We are a brand of female superheroes. If you look at our products…we always have these characters that are fabulous. We’ve always been a brand that empowers women to be their best—to never apologize for their behavior, but to own it. It has a bit of an attitude and a soft side, too.”
“We also have that mentality of wanting women to feel good about themselves and to bring positivity into the industry. There are millions of women who don’t have the money or the accessibility to experience Benefit, but still deserve to see what the brand has to offer. That’s why we created the Bold Is Beautiful Project project.”
What’s the inspiration behind your products?
ANNIE: “We create new products based on your needs. That’s what makes us different. We’re not a runway, fashion, or makeup artistry brand. So, what are we? We’re a brand that solves beauty dilemmas. We create instant beauty solutions. The only way to do that is by knowing what everyday, real women’s problems are. That’s what drives how we create.”
You travel all over the world to talk about Benefit. Have you noticed any differences in the beauty practices of the East and West?
ANNIE: “Asia has a more in-depth knowledge of skincare. But I think when you get down to women’s needs in cosmetics, women are pretty much all the same—and that’s the beauty of our brand. If you look at artistry brands, their top 10 bestsellers are completely different across the globe. Ours? They’re all the same. We’re the only beauty company in the world whose top 10 products are relatively the same in every country we’re in. The reason is because we’re not ‘runway’ or ‘trendy’—we’re problem-solvers.”
So, a lot of it is very practical?
ANNIE: “And fun! We’re like your favorite pair of skinny jeans. You can go out and buy a blouse, accessories—but if you lost those jeans, it’s over. That’s how people feel about our products. We create for loyalty. They’re desert-island products.”
Filipinas are very into the au naturel look. Do you have any essential tips on how to achieve that?
ANNIE: “Brows. I think brows are one of the biggest things a woman can do to transform her look. Complexion is key. That’s where products like The Pore-fessional, Hello Flawless, and Boi-ing Concealer come in. They’re so natural, but they work. The tints are also so huge here because they have such a natural look that’s long-lasting, especially in this humidity.”
What are the top 3 Benefit products every girl should have in their kit?
ANNIE: “Gimme Brow, The Porefessional, and one of the tints. Those are the 3 go-tos.”
What’s the best beauty hack you’ve learned?
ANNIE: “One thing I remember from my mom is—if we were rushing out—she’d take a lipstick and swipe it on her lips, dab it on her cheeks, and blend it on her eyelids. She would give herself a 1-product makeover in 30 seconds and look fabulous. You just do whatever makes you look good. You don’t need the rules. Play, mess up, wash it off, and figure it out.”
When do you feel your most beautiful?
ANNIE: “When I’m tan, on vacation with my husband, and not wearing any makeup. It’s just one of those times when you’re comfortable in your own skin. That, to me, is heaven.”
Event photos by Kat Echon. Flatlays and family photo courtesy of Benefit and @benefitcosmetics on Instagram.
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