If you are a true beauty buff, then you would have certainly heard of esteemed journalist Sigourney Cantelo, who sat at the helm of the Vogue Australia's beauty desk for many print runs before launching her own beauty-dedicated digital platform. The first of its kind at the time, it’s been seven years since she launched Beauticate, a website & digital space devoted to sharing the beauty routines of high-profile women in the fashion, beauty, & health industries, & offering user friendly how- to demonstrations. For X Files, we interviewed the fabulous Sigourney about her career evolution from the very beginning, managing success & how to balance her work & personal time.
Briefly describe your early years, right from the very beginning.
After school I had no idea what I wanted to do except that I loved words & pictures. I was also drawn to acting & presenting as I grew up watching my mum on TV (she was a presenter & news reporter). I deferred my degree (BA Comms at UTS) & managed to land a job in magazines - working on Our House, which was an interiors mag. I then moved across to Qantas Magazine. I worked three days a week there so that I could also spend time auditioning for TV & doing commercials. It was during that time that my editor sent me cover some beauty events for her as she was too busy to attend. It was a bit of a lightbulb moment. I was intrigued by all the innovation of the beauty industry & there was a real creativity to it, too.
I went back to uni & finished my degree in writing & journalism. Over the next ten years I worked across a variety of magazines including Glamour, Russh, New Woman & finally ended up at Vogue - mainly beauty writing but also covering travel, lifestyle, fashion & interiors. After nearly six years in the chair at Vogue as beauty & health director I decided to launch a website & Beauticate was born. That was almost 7 years ago! After two decades in media I’ve seen a seismic shift in the way we create & consume information, it’s fascinating to think where it will go next.
Where did your interest in beauty come from?
My mum had a pretty enviable beauty kit & was full of tips from the makeup artists she worked with. I developed a fascination for it all but didn’t even know there was such thing as a ‘beauty editor’ until I was working in magazines many years later.
I love the artistic aspects of makeup & the scientific discipline of skincare. There’s SO much to discover & I’m always learning new things.
Please explain your business Beauticate. Where has it come from & what has it evolved into?
The genesis of the site was the WHO’s (our profiles on inspiring & influential people & their beauty routines) & HOW TOs of Beauty (the more educational side of the site) & we still have those pillars. We’ve also added a lot more lifestyle content to the site with Style, Interiors & Travel in response to reader demand. So much has changed in the social media sphere in the past seven years. When we started, Twitter & Facebook were just as important as Instagram & there certainly were no Instastories, TikTok or Reels. When we shot videos we enlisted a full crew & it was such a production. Now our phones give us freedom to create amazing content in an instant. I’ve even taught myself to edit. There’s so much more interaction with the reader/follower now which is satisfying & so helpful to get ideas & feedback.
Sigourney wears: Junya Watanabe Leopard Print Shirt, Maison Poi Split Wide Leg Pants, Bottega Veneta Thong Mules, Sener Besim Chunky Loop Earrings & Helix Cuff & Spinelli Kilcollin Sonny YG Ring from Parlour X.
How do you keep evolving Beauticate in an ever-changing digital landscape?
I’m constantly looking at ways we can improve. Early next year we celebrate our seventh birthday & we recently relaunched the site with a refreshed design, which has been received really well.
How did you make the transition from working in Australian Print media to starting Beauticate? At what stage did you realise that running your own business was the right move for you?
I started Beauticate as a personal project on the side while I was working in magazines.I couldn’t find a website at the time that was really well researched, that had credibility but also looked beautiful & aspirational, so I set out to create something I would like to use. It took off straight away & I had to make a big decision really quickly. It was pretty overwhelming & I’m sure some people thought I was a bit mad to quit my job at Vogue but I could see the incredible groundswell towards digital media & the opportunities it presented. I also wanted to learn more about video (&, I guess, rekindle that early interest I had in doing TV).
What are the best & most challenging parts of running your own business?
The best parts? Having autonomy & being able to navigate my own course when it comes to content, direction & voice. Also, connecting with readers, mentoring staff, & having flexibility to be with my family when I choose. I work at night so that I can have every Friday with my daughter & pick my son up from school. These years are so fleeting, so I really try to savour as many moments with my kids as I can. The harder parts of funning a business for me are the sales & accounting aspects. Numbers are not my forte & I don’t really dig a spreadsheet so I have to really force myself to work in that way. Let’s just say Xero (the accounting software) & I are only JUST on speaking terms.
How have you & your business responded to challenges surrounding COVID-19?
We are actually really enjoying working remotely. One of our staffers is in QLD & we’ve found that our newfound Zoom-habit has actually brought us closer together in that we meet with her more often & we don’t feel as isolated when we’re working at home. We won’t return to an office, which suits me, having a young family. It’s also been easier now that there are rarely any events - again that suits me perfectly. I’m happy to just be at home, head down, bum up, working.
How do you measure success?
It’s changing as I get older. In her book Thrive, Ariana Huffington made a great case for what she calls the third metric of success “wellbeing, wisdom & wonder”. She sees this as an alternative blueprint for success after the traditional “money” & “power”. Beyond just running my business, it’s these kind of qualities I’m trying to nurture more in my life now– striking that balance of investing time with family & friends, trying to carve out a little time for meditation or exercise & introducing more random acts of generosity & kindness into my day.
What advice would you give someone following your professional path?
Read everything: literature, articles, essays, blogs & keep examples of writing you love & then practice writing & finding your voice. Write a blog or just write in private, just write. Volunteer to write stories for free (uni websites or websites you admire) & get people you trust to give you notes; take their feedback on board. Edit your own work, learn to be ruthless, try not to get too married to your words, & work out what makes good writing. To learn about the industry, find a brand or person you admire & offer to intern for them. Be super enthusiastic & be like a sponge when you’re in that environment – you’ll learn so much.
How do you find the balance between running your business & family time?
It can be hard to switch off social at night as that’s prime-post-time. I try to preschedule most things but some things can’t be. Also responding to DMs can be very laborious! I wish people would ask a question in the comments because then everyone can see the answer & you’re not replying to multiples of the same question. I also get tempted to lie on the couch & edit videos while we’re watching TV together & then I’m not doing either job well. Double screening is a curse!
Explain what you love about beauty?
I love the effect that the right products can have on our confidence. Every woman deserves to feel her absolute best & having the right tools & know-how can help. I hope that - even in some small way - Beauticate can assist with that. I also love that the beauty industry is creativity married with science. There are constant innovations & it’s ever-changing! There’s always something new to report on & review.
Please describe your morning beauty routine?
Once I’ve got the kids off to school I try to meditate for 20 minutes. Vedic meditation literally changed my life (I did a course with Gary Gorrow about ten years ago & recently did a refresher with The Broad Place - both were incredible). When you meditate it gives you a serene contentment that I think is the essence of true beauty. When I keep a regular meditation practice I feel like I radiate with happiness. Lately I’ve been practising Intermittent Fasting - so I try to skip breakfast. I’ll just have a matcha tea or matcha almond latte & two big glasses of water. Fasting is hard as I’m a diehard sourdough & avo fan, but I do notice a big difference in my body when I do it. I LOVE my food & exercise has taken a backseat at the moment so fasting is a good way to keep things in check. Makeup wise, if I have an event I’ll do a full face (& document it on @beauticate & @sigourneycantelo instastories) testing out the latest products that have landed. When I’m not eventing or doing meetings I’ll just smooth on some It Cosmetics CC Cream (a fab base & sunscreen in one) & some Lanolips & that’s it!
Detail your personal style
I like structured & tailored pieces such as feminine dresses & skirts by Isabel Marant & Valentino - which are perfect for the working week. Blouses with fitted pants & blazers. I generally gravitate towards neutrals (black, navy, tan & white) but also love an all-out floral or leopard print. One of the easiest ways I dress up my office wear for evening is to add a statement earring & I’m a big fan of silk scarves with coats & knits in winter. On the weekend & days with meetings I dial it right back with denim & white tees & I don’t last long in heels even for events (I keep multiple pairs of flats in my car & at my desk for that reason!).