And now she's the cofounder of a billion-dollar cosmetics empire.

By Faith Brar
Updated: March 05, 2018

If you haven't heard about beauty mogul Jamie Kern Lima, it's time you did. The 40-year-old California native is a Columbia University graduate, the cofounder (and CEO) of IT Cosmetics, and has been named one of Forbes Magazine's "Most Successful Self-Made Women" and one of Goldman Sachs' "100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs." But despite her impressive and ever-expanding résumé, she came from humble beginnings and had to surpass some difficulties to find the success she enjoys today.

Jamie first made headlines when she sold her company to L'Oréal for $1.2 billion last year. Recently, she was honored for the achievement at the Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW) Achiever Awards and gave a speech about all the challenges she had to face to grow her company. (You can watch the video of her inspiring speech, which has been viewed more than a million times, below.)

One compelling example came from her effort to raise funds while still running her business out of her living room. A potential investor, whom she did not name in the speech, decided to pass, which came as a huge blow to Jamie. When she asked him why, he told her: "I'm just not sure women will buy makeup from someone who looks like you, you know, with your body and your weight," she recounted.

That was, as Jamie puts it, a "defining moment" for her, because instead of letting those harsh words cause damage to her drive, she used them to fuel her success. "I felt something deep down inside," she said to the crowd. "And it said, 'No. You are wrong.'"

Even before the body positive movement existed, Jamie knew the world of beauty and cosmetics desperately needed a change to be more inclusive. As a former TV news anchor, she had struggled from hyperpigmentation and rosacea, a common but poorly understood skin disorder that causes redness and acne-like effects on the face. It was the reason she started IT Cosmetics in the first place-so she could finally have products that were suited for her skin. (Related: Glossier Just Launched Body Care That's Truly for Every Body)

From that point on, Jamie says she vowed to market her products with faces that looked like everyday women, not people with already seemingly flawless skin. So when the opportunity came to broadcast IT Cosmetics on QVC, she chose "real women" models, including a 73-year-old woman and an African-American woman with acne. Her products sold out instantly and with that, Jamie made her permanent mark on the makeup industry. (Related: Self-Care Beauty Products for When You're Feeling Stressed)

"You see now, seven years later, almost all makeup brands showing real women in before-and-afters," said Jamie, "but as an industry, we're only scratching the surface."

She concluded by speaking directly to beauty executives, reminding them that there's a responsibility to women who are looking at their campaign images. "Each person in this room has a lot of power to make a mark in the beauty industry and in the world," she said. "So I want to ask you all to take a huge step back and think about what really matters and what difference you are going to make in the lives of women everywhere."

As for that man who had the misguided nerve to judge Jamie's talents based on her appearance, he did end up reaching out to her after she sold to L'Oréal. Jaime was happy to report that he emailed her, saying: "Congratulations. I was wrong."

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Comments (3)

kathiefredricks
October 5, 2017
Wow!! You go girl!!
mrslindalegs
October 5, 2017
WOW! Having sold rather primitive cosmetics in 1950s UK, including my dad's homemade lipstick and mascara, then in the 90's Mary Kay, and later Clarins, I am incredibly impressed with your courage and your obvious success. Well done. You brought tears to my eyes. I am sick of corporate greed, which I feel you have managed to avoid.
Anonymous
October 5, 2017
Bravo to you, Jamie!