Jasmine Glass : From Homeless Teen to Dismantling Beauty industry Standards

Jasmine Glass is the founder of SPKTRM beauty - a beauty brand for inclusiveness and transparency as its core value, and is also known as the world's first beauty brand to ban model re-touching. Jasmine shares her background as a homeless teenager, high school dropout, to becoming a founder of a Glassbook, visual activism magazine, to her current venture, SPKTRM beauty.

Would you give us a background of where you started and where you are now?

So my journey in life has been a case study in all the things that can go wrong when somebody is moving through the world with low self worth. And that started with a lot of verbally abusive rhetoric that I was subjected to in my formative years as a young teen. Just a couple of examples, “You're a loser that will never amount to anything.” “You're my biggest disappointment in life” etc. So I didn't really see much for myself. And I didn't think much of myself. And so I made a lot of very poor choices. A lot of people who saw my vulnerability and lack of confidence took advantage or mistreated me. And it was not until I got towards my mid 20s that I had been dragged through the dirt by enough people and had been harmed in so many different ways that I started to feel like I needed something more. My spirit was a little bit broken, but I guess not all the way because I did start to dream. And I started to want to make something of myself and so I started that journey of exploring my creativity, proving to myself what I was capable of. It was never really for me about proving to the people who had told me I wasn't going to amount to anything, but I really needed to show myself that I could become something.

Where did the verbal abuse come from?

Yes, that was from my mom who learned that harmful rhetoric from her own parents and unfortunately had not managed to heal herself at that point in her life. We've actually just reconnected a couple of weeks ago after 20 years being out in each other's lives and trying to go on a spiritual healing journey together after all this time. So there's a happy ending there.

What made you reach out to her?

I don't blame her because she didn't know any better when you're raised that way. And that's how somebody communicates to you day in and day out, and you haven't managed to heal yourself and figure out how to do things better then you're just gonna pass that on. And that happens a lot, you know, in family situations.

Can you walk us through your journey from homeless teen, and a highschool dropout to becoming a founder of a magazine, and a beauty startup SPKTRM Beauty?

So being a homeless teen really shaped me as a person because whether I was on the street or I had a friend's parents take me in for a short time there was always a feeling of being unwanted and undeserving of love and visibility. And I remember one time was super traumatic for me at the time, my friend was having a full on screaming match with her mom because her mom wanted me to leave, and she didn't want me to not have somewhere to go, so she actually hid me in her closet and told her mom I had left. That psychological harm that is done to someone is very deep and when I came far enough along in my own healing journey, I started to have conversations with people about how lack of representation in media can contribute to people feeling invisible, unworthy through all of these touchpoints. That for me as a white woman of reasonably slender proportions, fair features, I hadn't experienced that directly, but I could still empathize and relate with the root emotions that one associates with that. So, as soon as I became aware, and had kind of realized that just by lack of awareness, prior to that I had been, doing the same old in our casting process and just using whatever models a lot of times, photographers would handle casting process, and they're not aware of the harm that's being done by perpetuating the same idea doing it over and over again. So, I just went, ok, that's enough of that. And we completely pivoted to really breaking the mold with a lot of boundary pushing. With our last issue before I moved on, which I'm so proud of, our cover stars we had was Jillian Mercado, who's one of the world's only prominent wheelchair bound models and is also an exceptional human being in every way. Lauren Wasser, who had lost her legs from toxic shock syndrome from tampon use, which I had never heard of before and thought was an incredible story and message, and now advocating for awareness of this. We had Carmen Carrera, who was a trans rights activist and a trans woman working in Hollywood as an actress, and the list goes on. It's just each one of these people have built an audience around other people that have not felt seen and have been positively impacted by these people's representation in the media.

I saw your last magazine covers. And I was awestruck by how new it all felt, and I could also see how SPKTRM beauty, took that voice over and ran with it. And are you still part of that magazine right now or how did it end? And did you already completely move on to SPKTRM beauty?

I like to say that I've put a pin in it, because I put so much of my heart and soul into building that brand. I had so much of my values and my identity tied up in it. It was the first thing that I had ever really done that I was really proud of and that other people told me that what I had done was beautiful and wonderful. So I don't know that I will have the time to return to it based on my plans for SPKTRM’s expansion, but it may come a time when I meet somebody who wants to take it over and whose values aligned with me and that I know will not denigrate what has been done so far. So I'm keeping the door open for it.

That's great. Now onto SPKTRM Beauty, would you please go through the background of how you started SPKTRM Beauty and why you wanted to pursue it over Glass Book?

So it was around Christmas time in 2017, and I had hit a bit of a wall with the audience size with Glass Book, with limited funding. I had self funded the whole thing except for one angel investor check to print one of our issues. And I felt that it was time to start looking into new opportunities. And it occurred to me that when you are offering people products that they use in their daily lives, you can really provide consistent value add, and that allows you to continually connect with consumers. This would be the vehicle for sharing these messages and this kind of social impact and the mission that I'm so passionate about, and this would be a way to reach a much broader audience with those values. And the other layer is that since I had been experiencing the harm of viewing heavily retouched images for so many years, but it was not possible for me in my network to switch Glass Book to retouch free, because so few photographers do that and you need such a large quantity of content to keep churning out when you have a magazine. So I wanted to add that really important value to SPKTRM and keep the other values intact, and it gave me an opportunity launching a new brand to do that.

And from the homeless teen to a magazine editor, to now a founder of a beauty brand, is there a theme that carries throughout your journey or has it changed over the course of the years?

For me, my core truth and the universal truth that SPKTRM is built on is that we all want to feel a sense of belonging, and a sense of acceptance. And that is what I wish for people from all backgrounds. Really and truly I have so much compassion for people that have been excluded and that have been made to feel less than, through all of the different touch points. With SPKTRM, we’re banning the term anti-aging because we don't want to shame people for growing older. I had this conversation with Virgie Tovar, during my Forbes interview, she was saying that, larger bodied women are constantly subjected to makeup artists offering them unsolicited advice on face slimming or makeup tips, and how much that is chipping away someone's self esteem. We just want to get rid of all of that, and we want people using beauty products to enhance the beauty that they already possess, not to fix flaws not to correct, not because they're not whole as they are, and this is something I'm really passionate about.

That’s great, and I think that’s very needed right now. And now going onto SPKTRM Beauty and running a business. What are your fears running your startup?

Oh yeah, the impostor syndrome is a whole beast, in and of itself. And of course, like most women entrepreneurs already deal with that, because of the inequalities in that territory, but for me, I'm trying to overcome this idea that I wasn't meant to have success and I wasn't meant to have a good life. There were years that when something good would happen for me, I would get a crushing anxiety because it didn't feel natural and I always felt like the walls were gonna cave in on me shortly after because this is not supposed to happen for me and something really bad is probably going to happen, etc. And I've done so much work too, and that's where my spirituality has really been essential, because the whole concept of that is that we are all deserving of experiencing those high vibrational emotions, we should all be experiencing joy and gratitude and love and abundance, through consistently exposing myself to these really healthy messages through meditative practice and self hypnosis. I have been able to rewire my brain somewhat so that it does feel natural to experience those things. And I'm very grateful for that.

And, whenever you have fears or doubts, how do you navigate?

It does work in a lasting way, but there are some moments when that's not necessarily practical. And I do sometimes draw support from my loving relationships in my life, from people who can remind me that my fears are irrational and that I'm doing great and keep up the good work and all of that. So having a support system is super helpful, but also to just check in with yourself and remind yourself how far you've come reaffirm the progress that you've made, and that if you've gotten this far, when you didn't think you would, then there's no reason to feel like you can't keep pushing forward.

What was the transition like from Glass Book to SPKTRM Beauty?

Yes, definitely, it's a very scary thing to go all in on an idea. Especially since I was doing 16 hour days working for free, and you're trying to bring this thing to life, but you haven't got it to a point where you have much of an audience to validate that it's a worthwhile pursuit. So you're kind of waiting for that, and then even beyond that, now we have had a lot of people that have said, I love what you're doing, etc. But it's still a small self funded venture, and I cannot sustain the financial responsibility required to scale, and but now we have a new area that we're approaching and we just finished our pitch deck and we are gonna go out there and try to raise a pre seed round in the middle of a pandemic. So we'll see how this is gonna go. But all you can really do is give it all and stay optimistic as much as you can. And just passionately tell people what your vision is, and hope that you align with people who have shared values and are really looking for people who really support the mission and their strategic partners, and that they really want to help us get it to the masses.

When did you say, okay, this is time to move on to SPKTRM beauty? Especially, because there's a lot of people that may be pursuing a project, or company for years, trying to grow the audience, while they believe in their mission and the vision, but with little traction. For you, when was the time for you to say I think it's time for me to move on to the next phase or your next big idea.

Well, I was a die hard prints fan. So for me, market data greatly contributed to the knowledge that this is a declining market. I'm not particularly interested in being digital only, since I like tangible art to hold it in your hand. I should have walked away a couple of years earlier because it had plateaued a little bit. I had gotten us into newsstands in 17 countries for two of our issues, but without the proper infrastructure around it. There was a time if you told me that I would ever walk away from Glass Book I would have said, heck no! But it was just that I hadn't had my next idea yet. I remember my dad told me several times that if I would have other good ideas, then I didn't have to run this through the ground. I didn't believe him until the day happened that I had that idea and so, I think that was a big contributor.

So SPKTRM Beauty’s vision basically pulled you out of Glass Book?

Absolutely. Yes. Because these passions don't die. You know, you have to have as an entrepreneur somewhere to focus them on.

What are your opinions on the current beauty standards represented in the media?

I think that there has been significant progress made in certain areas in the past few years, but the overall system in the highest levels of advertising, much of it is still based on subliminal fear based marketing tactics. The anti-aging term is a great example of that. That's very much subliminally shaming people for getting older, and that gets into our our psyche and does a lot of harm and yet, brands just follow what's already being done over and over and over again, and there's no awareness increasing, and there's no education about it, and nobody has shown another way of doing things, and that's what we're really attempting to do here. And if we make it big, we can serve as a leader in showing people. Yes, you can do things a new way, you do not have to diminish and criticize people in your marketing in any way to get them to buy your product. So yeah, that's really what we're trying to do is to lead by example.

What makes it such an important mission for you?

So there are few things that I would like to see. I would like to see a ban on terms like correcting, perfecting, and I want to see more and more brands banning retouching and understanding that we women want to see real. We want to see relatable, we want to see attainable, and for people to really understand that unrealistic beauty standards historically are a form of women's oppression. They keep us chasing something that will never reach to keep us distracted, and focused on things that don't actually matter so much. Yes, I know, I said it, and I own a beauty brand. And it's great if it's healthy, but women are so deep, complex, capable, and brilliant. We don't need to be spending our whole lives obsessing over our physical appearances. We need to get out there and pursue our dreams, and dismantling this unrealistic standard is part of doing that.

And what’s your take on social media? Instagram has kind of given us the ways to represent the “oppressed beauty standards,” we see people supporting pro-aging, pro-curves, body positive, etc. Do you think that Instagram has been empowering to the beauty community or is it harmful because of the businesses that still sell insecurities?

I love this question. I've never been asked this! So based on the fact that Face Tune was the most downloaded app in 2017 by something like 50 million users, it definitely started the trend in the beauty industry and in the media as this unattainable highly retouched standard as it trickled down into social media. And I do believe that Instagram did, not as a business entity, but as the visibility, did a lot more harm than good. But then we have these beautiful pockets, these little hubs, and communities that are completely rebelling against that. They're finding their people, and they're really becoming powerful. And I think it's absolutely incredible. And these are the people that I follow. Most of the people that I follow are people that are breaking the mold, and I'm so inspired by them and are really helping people in such a healthy way. But the other layer to that, I also see Instagram censors some of this content. Specifically around fat bodies. I see activists that I follow all the time talking about this, that they're posting their body in the same way that a thin person is and they're being censored and hidden on the platforming, which is really, really harmful. And so there's a lot of work to be done there, and normalizing different kinds of bodies, so that Instagram is not doing that anymore.

And the thing is that not just Instagram, all these shows, Hollywood, and advertisers, etc. they all censor those types of images. They only want to use images that sell. So, it's a capitalistic problem. But at the same time, SPKTRM Beauty uses all these gorgeous models. And let me tell you, when I saw your models, I felt relieved! I felt like I could be real. But how do you find these models because they're not traditional models. Where do you find these models?

I love that. That's incredible feedback, I want to answer that. But I also, before I forget, I want to come back to what you said about Hollywood and that they only show what sells. The thing about it is that people just haven't been brave enough to try things a new way. And exactly what you just said that you felt when you looked at our visuals. The beauty industry for the progress that it has made is now serving as a beacon for other industries as a case study, and it has been effective, and people want to see themselves. So, Hollywood also by using that model. The people from all backgrounds support your work, they watch your movies, so showing different types of people, you're only helping people that connect more with the work. You know, not just one type of person. And coming back to the models. Thank you for asking, because my dear friend, Briauna runs the most inspiring and important model agency I've ever discovered. In all the years that I was working with model agencies, when I was running a publication, I never saw a roster like it, and every time I go on her website, I just feel so hopeful for the future of beauty and fashion. And I've been feeling that way more and more because her models are starting to cast, get cast did for the major brand campaigns. Chelsea Werner, who was in our second campaign, who's a Paralympic champion gymnast, and also has become a model and she's modeling for Tommy Hilfiger again, and other household name brands, and I'm going, Okay, this is really getting exciting. And we see so much more of this. So I'm really grateful to Briauna for collaborating with us and helping bring our vision to life.

That's truly amazing, and what is determined by the beauty industry as what is beautiful or what is sexy, basically translates into the movies, shows, or ads we see and we see the ripple effect coming from beauty and into the beauty industry, so as you said, it is such an important mission, and we’re definitely here to help with that as well. Going forward, you mentioned something about the accelerator for SPKTRM, what’s next for SPKTRM Beauty?

Yes, I am taking an incredible accelerator program. It's led by a woman named Alex Batdorf, it's called Get Sh!t Done. And its core mission is to help female entrepreneurs scale to their first million in revenue, because she noticed a plateau for a lot of female founders back based on lack of support in certain areas. So she's curated this incredible community to help increase education level the playing field and help female founders get to where they want to go. So I'm really excited about being part of this program, which is seven weeks. It's three nights a week and it's all virtual, which was her business model prior to COVID.

What’s the plan afterwards?

Yeah. So first, looking to raise a pre-seed round and I also already dreamed up and incredible creative and unique product for our third launch and I need funding to manufacture that, so we're going to make moves to secure the support that we need for that, and then I'm going to go pitch to Sephora, because that's my big whale. My goal is to see SPKTRM alongside these other incredible brands that I've been purchasing from for years, and I love their ethos. We're very values aligned to make the beauty industry progress. So I think it's a good fit.

That's great! That's very exciting. This next questions is rather personal and introspective, but what do you think makes you the person you are today?

Well, I have the rarest personality type in the world, and according to Myers Briggs, I'm an INFJ. The name of that is the advocate. And one of the core tenants of this personality type which I have found to be quite rare in the mass society is that I care very deeply about issues, societal issues, whether or not they impact me personally. We see a lot of people very passionate about creating change in areas that directly impact them or their loved ones, but not so much people you know, looking outside their own backyard and going you know, let me try to put myself in the shoes of this other person whose you know, story or experience may be quite different from mine, but that is equally deserving of seeing the world move forward. And then the “I” of an INFJ is for introvert, and we are in a very extroverted society, so I've always felt a little misunderstood by how I'm a bit of a loner sometimes, and I love to be alone with my thoughts. This is where my creativity lives and where I am dreaming of the world that I live in, and working to create it.

What do you do to live true to yourself, or to be authentically yourself?

I think that comes back to being very contemplative, self aware, that involves being introspective, checking in with yourself, when you have thoughts and following them to see where, and what they're rooted in, like fears, hopes, dreams, all of this stuff. Really, what drives you, etc. and for me, everything that I do with my brand and the brand before that, and in all of my relationships, is related to my question of core values as a human being, and a belief that we all deserve to feel safe, loved, and appreciated, so that's really what I connect with every day in my spiritual practices, and then take out into the world in any area that I'm moving in on any particular day so yeah, that's how I stay true to myself.

And what would you say to your younger self?

Wow, yeah well, I’d tell my younger self that I was worthy of support, and to feel valued because not feeling that is why I went so far on track in certain areas. And I think it's why a lot of people are not living up to their true potential, or living the life that they want because they don't feel supported or that they have value. And certainly I was really, very, very low on self esteem, and I just wish I could reach back and avoid myself of so much pain by telling myself what I know now that took me so many years to realize.

And the last question we have is what does beauty mean to you?

I love this question. Beauty is so deep, profound, and complex, and certainly so much more than what we have been exposed to in the beauty industry and in the media. And for me, it radiates from the inside out because I can easily find people that would not be viewed as conventionally beautiful by the standard, but that are so beautiful. And then I could see somebody who does fit somewhat into that standard, but the buck stops there and they're not really radiating that beauty of contributing positively to the world, or being loving. For me, that doesn't really hold my attention so much at all, so I think beauty really is, though it sounds a little cliche, but it does come from the inside out. Especially, in a spiritual context, and we are all energetic and spiritual beings, and so it really does radiate from the inside.

Well, thank you so much for joining Jasmine. It was great talking to you and learning about your journey, and thank you so much for sharing your story.

And thank you so much for giving me this opportunity. I've really enjoyed our conversation.

I'm so looking forward to what's to come for SPKTRM. We're gonna be on the radar for everything that you're going to be doing. Good luck!

Follow Instagram @jazglass & @Spktrm.Beauty for more info and updates!

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