NAME: KIRBIE JOHNSON
CITY: LOS ANGELES
HOMETOWN: GEORGETOWN, TEXAS
INDUSTRY: ENTERTAINMENT + BEAUTY
Tell us what you do!
I work for POPSUGAR as their on-camera beauty reporter. It’s a hybrid job, and I love every minute of it! I combine my love of beauty, people, and being on-camera with reporting, writing and producing. One day, I could be trying out the latest beauty craze (like body wraps) for our show (POPSUGAR Now). The next day, I could be interviewing Sofia Vergara. Producing is a big part of my job, too. So I help to conceptualize each segment, and cut it down with an editor in post. I also contribute to the site by writing a few articles a month.
Did you go to college? If so, where?
Texas Christian University. I studied Advertising and Public Relations. At TCU, that degree is part of the journalism program. When I left, I felt confident that I could secure a job in reporting, PR, marketing — whatever I wanted. I also had graphic design experience, which has helped me to no end at POPSUGAR. I don’t know why I didn’t go for broadcast journalism, but everything worked out just fine. I also minored in business. Currently, I sit on TCU’s national alumni board and also the LA alumni board — I have a lot of love for my Horned Frogs. It’s grown so much since I’ve been there, and I love the direction we’re heading in.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you “grew up?”
I always wanted to be in entertainment! When I was four, I would entertain my grandmother and her friends in the living room with my one-woman show. I dreamed of being Julia Roberts, so growing up, I participated in plays and musical theater. Once I hit high school, I fell in love with writing and graphic design and thought that, one day, I’d want to be like Oprah: hosting my own show and running a magazine. I considered being an agent or producer while in college, like the late Bernie Brillstein, and I’m not writing-off either of those! But right now my path has taken me on-camera.
How did you get to where you are now? Tell us your story!
I probably re-wrote this four times — ha!
I moved out to LA right after graduating from TCU. In April 2009, I was interviewing at companies around Dallas when I met with an event planner. I had started my blog in March – at the time, it was “Kirbie Needs a Job.” I wrote about my passions and what I aspired to do. A big part of that was moving to LA, but I was suppressing the urge because I didn’t know anyone there, and I had a serious boyfriend. When I met with the event planner, she, point blank, told me to move to LA. She looked me up before our meeting and said she didn’t regret the life she had, but she always wondered, “What if I had moved to NYC?” The next day, she put me in touch with an LA-based event planner, Rachel Hollis, and I interviewed with her on the phone for an assistant job. Once she formally offered me the gig, I called my parents and told them I was moving. This was all two weeks before graduation!
Once in LA, I networked as much as I could — through TCU alum, through clients at the airbrush tanning salon I worked at (my assistant job was unpaid), etc. One of my roommates introduced me to the wife of the late Warren Cowan, Co-Founder of Rogers & Cowan, a huge entertainment PR firm. I ended up getting an interview there, met some great entertainment contacts, and was able to take hosting courses and write my freelance beauty column for Examiner.com. About a year and a half in, POPSUGAR advertised for an on-camera beauty reporter who had writing experience.
Any obstacles along the way?
Duh! If you haven’t been to LA, it’s a huge life adjustment. Zero parking. People are unfriendly. Traffic is miserable. Gas is insanely expensive. But I knew it’s what I had to do. My first year, I shared a bedroom, worked as an airbrush tanner in-between assisting with big events and taking extra work (CSI, Melrose Place, How I Met Your Mother, etc.). I lived off graduation money the first year.
I’m blessed that I have had some truly amazing people walk into my life; people who believed in me and supported me. My boss at R&C, Mark, allowed me to leave early and cover events for my column, and go on auditions on my lunch break (and sometimes during work) because he knew that, ultimately, I wasn’t meant to be at R&C. And I love him for that. I worked at various salons before securing my gig at Rogers, where I had plenty of people treat me like I was beneath them. (Always be kind to the front desk people, please.) And there were plenty of times I cried and wondered if I was on the right path. (I am.)
Who is your idol?
I don’t have an idol, but I respect anyone who has the hustle in them. Oprah. Ryan Seacrest. Simon Cowell. I’m working on a music show and my dream is, one day, to work with Simon Cowell on it. I know he would eat it up. Any woman who is independent and is working hard for her dreams or family — hats off to you. The biggest influences in my life, though, are my parents and my grandmother.
What are three personal traits/qualities that helped you get to where you are?
I feel like someone else should be answering this! Let’s see: perseverance is a must. No matter what anyone says, keep going and believe in yourself. Have a thick skin. I’ve been told a myriad of things: I’m not the “right” age, I’m not pretty enough, not skinny enough, etc. Don’t let other people’s opinions of you hold you back. Everything is subjective — you might not be their cup of tea, but you could be the perfect fit for something even better.
Faith. If I didn’t have God, I would be a mess. He keeps me at peace.
A sense of humor. If you can’t laugh at yourself or your circumstances, you’re never going to get past the struggle.
Where would you like to be in five years?
- Hosting or corresponding — sitting on a roundtable show would be a dream, or hosting a music or travel show. Anything that involves interviewing people!
- Producing a few series (with my own production company).
- Acting as a contributing editor for a beauty, music or tech magazine.
- Publishing my second book.
Define “Girl Boss” in your own words.
“Girl Boss” cannot be defined! There is no perfect definition. She’s any woman who is taking charge. She’s the stay-at-home mom who is working to make the best life for her family; she’s the single CEO who is running a company. Regardless of what she’s doing, she’s confident and believes in herself. She doesn’t let anyone make her feel unworthy — because she knows she is! More so, she believes in others and helps as many people as she can.
Describe your style/fashion sense:
Flirty-Casual. At POPSUGAR, everyone jokes that there’s a “Kirbie dress,” and it’s basically anything you might see Zooey Deschanel wearing on New Girl. Fit and flare dresses are what you’ll see me in on-camera, mostly because I hate wearing pants, but usually, I’m very casual. My “uniform” would be black Paige Denim, a white tee (Rag & Bone make the best), tan booties, and a beanie. I’m also a slave to the romper. I believe I would have been in my prime in the 70s! If there’s a big event, I try to get into a romper.
Fav clothing item/accessory right now?
JBrand Long Sleeve Sheer Top – I definitely didn’t pay $195 for it. I got it for $60 on sale at Nordstrom. It was magical.
My favorite thing to do is order furniture and clothes off Instagram! My favorite account is Whiskey&Honey. A classmate from high school runs it with her husband, and I bought the softest, pale yellow sweater a month ago. Everyone comments on it. It’s vintage!
What’s your can’t-live-without beauty product?
Mascara, hands down. Right now, I’m all about Charlotte Tilbury’s Five Star Lashes. Frankly, I’m obsessed with her entire line. It’s worth every penny.
Quick tip when using mascara: dust your lashes with powder first. This helps separate them with a fan-like effect instead of them clumping together. Let the first coat dry by brushing your teeth, then apply the second coat.
And dry shampoo is my savior. Triple Sec from Drybar is great for adding texture, volume, and eliminating oil. Plus it comes in a travel size!
Go-to nail color?
I’m a sucker for nail art, but my go-to shades are Fiji or Butler, Please from Essie. If I want to go dark, I wear RGB in Slate.
Sophia Amoruso’s #GIRLBOSS inspired me. What book has inspired you?
If you’re moving to LA to pursue a career in entertainment, Bernie Brillstein’s It’s All Lies and That’s The Truth is a must-read. One line that’s always stuck with me: “Just remember that Jim Henson started with a felt green frog.”
No Girl Boss is perfect. What’s your vice? (i.e. Chocolate, tequila, Justin Bieber, etc.)
My sweet tooth, doing too many things at once, and some would call it a vice (I don’t), but I love One Direction and I don’t care who knows it.
Which artist/band/DJ are you really into right now?
Nick Jonas’s album is really good. Betty Who, Tove Lo or The 1975 are usually blaring in my headphones. I’m listening to Taylor Swift like every other woman on the planet. When I’m feeling moody, I’ll listen to Sam Smith, Banks or Jessie Ware. And if I can convince you to listen to 1D, I think you’ll like “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” “Stockholm Syndrome” or “Change Your Ticket.”
What song makes you feel like a Girl Boss?
Right now it’s L.A. Love (Fergie) and Do What You Want – Samantha Ronson Remix. (Lady Gaga)
What’s a quote that inspires/motivates you?
“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” – Confucius
Shine, baby! You might not be perfect, but it’s better to be yourself and go for it than sit on the sidelines.
Best advice you’ve ever received? And who gave it to you?
When I moved to LA, I asked to take coffee meetings with several high-profile execs. One thing they consistently told me was that time is a hard thing to ask for — if you want to pick someone’s brain or want to get a job, do all the legwork. For instance, send a short email with a time, day and location of where you’d like to meet and what you’ll be discussing, not “can we get coffee and chat?” If you’re looking for a job, attach all pertinent documents to the email, and include the job you’re applying for in the email. Don’t email people asking if they know of any job openings. Unless they’re a recruiter, there’s a small chance they do. Instead, let them know what you’re looking for. If you’re unsure, it’s best that you figure out at least one direction (heh) you want to go in before asking for help. Focus is key.
Advice to future girl bosses:
Don’t let other people’s opinions of you deter you from being yourself. Have confidence, put in the hard work, and don’t feel sorry for yourself. And always give back when you can.