This week I am thrilled to bring you my conversation with the delightful Eleanor Pendleton, who I first met when I was working in Public Relations for a luxury beauty brand and she was a beauty editor for a high end fashion magazine.
Eleanor is smart, insightful and curious and in 2013 identified two key things:
- Print media circulation and readership was dwindling with the rise of online platforms and social media
- No platform or publication was speaking to Australian women exclusively about the very best in beauty.
Taking those two insights, in 2014 she launched GRITTY PRETTY - the first and only beauty dedicated online interactive virtual magazine.
Through GRITTY PRETTY, Eleanor was able to bring content to the place women were spending most of their time - online - and provide them with interviews, images, insights and information (and all the things we love from traditional print magazines) all revolving around her (and so many other women’s) passion - beauty.
GRITTY PRETTY features interviews with Aussie and International trend makers and ground breakers, and provides intelligent insights around and interesting information about the growing developments in skincare, beauty and self care, as well as my personal favourite, a very trusty “Little Black Book” of the best beauty service providers across Australia.
But never content with the status quo, Eleanor evolved the unique business further, turning GRITTY PRETTY into an online store, where she now features a shop of "Eleanor approved" beauty products, where you can purchase the very best in beauty, in a seamless and easy online shopping experience, confident in the knowledge your purchase has been vetted and endorsed by Eleanor and her team.
Amongst all of this Eleanor is an influencer, brand ambassador, journalist, editor content creator, friend, mother, daughter and honestly just a sheer delight. I hope you enjoy our chat about bags, business, beauty, style, stress, motherhood, mental health and so much more. Enjoy!
Eleanor! Welcome! What’s in your bag right now?!
About seven different lip products, my Elvie breast pump, my An Organised Life diary, my phone charger, my Macbook Air and a small cosmetics case of all my favourite products. And I’m sure some form of baby item, like baby wipes, will be in there as well.
Eleanor and her leather KATIE SMALL handbag. Images: Ana Suntay-Tañedo
You began your career writing about beauty for Cosmopolitan (working for everyone’s other favourite beauty entrepreneur, Zoe Foster Blake) before moving onto your role as Beauty Editor at FAMOUS and then InStyle. You’ve had over a decade’s worth of access to the very best beauty products on the market and you’ve tried it all, but what is your number 1 product you find yourself buying over and over again?
I think I’m in a very fortunate position where, as a journalist, I have been gifted products to trial and test. However, if all of those were taken away tomorrow and I needed to walk into a store and purchase products, I would come back with a few. The SKII Facial Treatment Essence, Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair, Bioderma Micellar Water, an SPF 50 (at the moment I am loving Ultraviolette) and the Dior Lip Glow in 001 would be my top five.
During your tenure as Beauty Editor at InStyle and through your role as Founder and Editor at GRITTY PRETTY, you have had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing some of the world’s leading makeup artists and beauty entrepreneurs. What is the best (and worst) beauty advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I’ve ever received is that beauty, and particularly makeup, should always be fun. It’s a form of self expression and it’s about putting products on your face that make you feel good about yourself, celebrate parts of your personality, celebrate your own unique facial features and ultimately make you feel good. Another good one is to always make sure your foundation shade matches your skin in natural lighting. On the other hand, the worst beauty advice was probably when overplucking your eyebrows was a trend. I’m very glad that trend has come and gone.
You always look effortlessly chic and are lucky enough to be dressed by some of Australia’s leading designers for events you host and attend, but do you have any style advice for those that might not have a huge budget to spend on outfits each month?
I get a lot of style inspiration from Instagram. I am very good at finding influencers and accounts that I’m inspired by and then tracking down the blazer or shirt or pant or dress they’re wearing. I also dig a little deeper to see if there’s an affordable version or if I’d like to invest in it. I always think, if you want a piece but it isn’t within your budget to check Zara or Revolve first as they’re great for affordable, trendy pieces.
Proof that black leather *really does* go with anything, Eleanor perfectly styles her KATIE SMALL with white linen and pared back accessories for the ultimate chic summer look
You’re a passionate writer but felt stifled working for international publications, where global approval processes meant your creative control was little to none. This combined with your curiosity and creativity, lead you to create GRITTY PRETTY in 2014, Australia’s first online magazine dedicated to beauty. This was a huge leap and you credit the support and encouragement of your boyfriend (Mathew, who is now your husband) for helping you make the jump from the security of your careers in magazines into the unknown, undefined role of beauty publisher and entrepreneur. Do you have any advice for women who have a business idea they’d like to pursue, but are nervous to bite the bullet and pursue their passion project?
When I decided to go freelance, I was very young - only 25 years old. And I think I had a level of naivety as to how hard it would actually be to build a business. If I knew what I know now, back then, I probably wouldn’t have done it. So, I think you have to have a little bit of naivety and believe in yourself and your idea - that it’s got substance and can resonate with other like-minded women.
I would then recommend writing a business plan. It was something I didn’t really want to do but when I decided I was going to funnel all the money I’d earnt as a freelancer into building this website and relaunching it and creating an online magazine, my husband encouraged me to write it down. It wasn’t until I did write it down on paper that the areas became more apparent - it allowed more of a bird’s eye view of the business and highlighted areas of risk or where I needed to differentiate myself from competitors.
I think the next thing is just taking the risk. You can get all your ducks in a row as best you can but ultimately you have to start and I think that’s the biggest obstacle that holds people back. I think it’s important to learn how to channel your fear into drive and use it as motivation.
In an era where print media magazines are dying (two of the magazines you worked for no longer exist in Australia) what do you think it was that led to the incredible growth of GRITTY PRETTY magazine year on year and saw the publication move from strength to strength?
I think I was in a unique position in that I already had established contacts in the beauty industry. I had been a beauty editor for seven or eight years when I decided to launch the business. So, for me, I didn’t have to start from scratch in that respect. But it was hard getting them to invest and spend digital marketing spend in a brand that didn’t exist yet. I was trying to sell the concept of a magazine where the products can spin around and move on screen but didn’t have anything to show them. So that was quite a challenge. But I also think utilising my contacts was important and I definitely leaned on them as best I could. When I was producing my first issue, I had no money at all so had to call in favours from makeup artists, hair stylists and fashion stylists. But once I got the business up and running I always prioritised the importance of paying people and I think because of that, it really grew our reputation as a brand.
However, I’ve always been very clear on the aesthetic of the brand and that is something that is so natural and intrinsic to me. I wanted the space to feel cool, sophisticated and edgy. It wasn’t splashed with pink and didn’t feel young. It felt like a really beautiful, stylish space.
Hailey Baldwin (now Bieber), Elle Ferguson, Lily Collins, Elyse Knowles and Phoebe Tonkin are just some of the homegrown and international talent that have graced the cover of Eleanor's beauty dedicated online Magazine, GRITTY PRETTY.
GRITTY PRETTY went on to become so much more than an online publication – you have since evolved the business and opened the GRITTY PRETTY online store, retailing a carefully selected curation of ‘Eleanor approved’ beauty products. Between the publication, the e-commerce store and your role as an influencer, ambassador, lecturer and freelancer, you wear oh-so-many hats. How on earth do you manage this incredible work-load?
I don’t. I think as women we are so good at multitasking but what I refer to as the female mental load, definitely gets to me. And I definitely have days where I can become overwhelmed and stressed because I either have too much in my work bucket or there’s a lot going on in my personal bucket or in my family bucket or my friendship bucket. I think it’s easy for one of those buckets to overflow and it can make you feel like you’re off kilter or off balance. But I think that’s just part of life. And it’s about having the right support around you to make sure you can continue to go the things you love. I love love love what I do and the team I have so I think if you do what you love, you’ll always make time for those things.
How do you unwind and how do you maintain positive mental health?
I like to unwind by moving my body. I love reformer pilates and it gave me a space for moving meditation. I also love yoga but at the moment neither of those things are done all that regularly. I also love to go for a walk every morning. My husband, son and I will walk to the beach and grab a coffee and then I’ll come home and either start my WFH day or make my way into the office. I also think surrounding yourself with the right people is so important. I have an incredible group of friends and a really supportive family and I like to keep those elements of my life really private - they’re just for me.
You have achieved so much in you short career so far. From becoming Australia’s youngest ever beauty editor (of FAMOUS at 20) to establishing Australia’s first (and only!) online beauty dedicated magazine you are nothing short of a trailblazer. But I’m sure growing up as a young girl on the coast you didn’t always know your career would take the wonderful twists and turns that it has. What advice do you have for young ambitious women who may be just starting out in their career, who are feeling excited yet uncertain about the future; not sure if they’ll ever be able get to where they want to go?
I grew up on the New South Wales Central Coast in a middle class family, with a stay at home mum and a dad who owned his own newsagency. I saw the struggles my family went through to put food on the table and send us to a private school. They worked so hard to be able to do that and I think it probably ensued a level of tenacity in me from a young age. I worked doing the paper run from when I was 12 and I loved earning my own money. I think that’s why, by the time I got to 18, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: work in magazines. So, I just kind of did it.
I think if you know what you want to do you have to be proactive and take it upon yourself to, say, contact the website you want to work for. It’s so easy to track down an email address or mailing address nowadays. You just need to ask to do work experience. It’s so important - no matter your industry. I don’t really have a lot of patience for kids who come through and don’t know where to start. Because if you have a phone and a WiFi connection, that’s a start. You’ve got to be prepared to work hard, learn and work your way up.
If you could go back to young 18 year old Eleanor and give yourself 1 piece of advice, what would it be?
It would just be to keep going.
Bonus Question! You’ve had a beautiful baby boy Banjo since we last spoke. Congratulations! What is the one thing Motherhood has taught you, and if you could instil one value in your son as he grows to be a man, what would it be?
I think one thing you learn early on in pregnancy is just to surrender and then when you become a mother, you quickly realise that there are a lot of things that are just out of your control. There isn’t necessarily always a routine, and if you’re that way inclined for the whole of your adult life - that can be a shock to the system.
I think it’s so important to just realise you’re human and to be okay with it all. It’s normal to be standing in the shower crying your eyes out because your body is flooded with hormones, you’re in pain, you’re having pain breastfeeding, you feel a loss of identity, you feel overwhelmed by love. And I feel like women, especially with social followings, have a responsibility to share that.
And then the value I would like to instill into my son is to look at his mum and dad as both equal role models and know that they are both strong individuals first and foremost who love him unconditionally but also lead by example and treat everyone with kindness and respect. And also why women should be valued just as much as men. They can be business owners, mothers, wives, friends and deserve respect for the mental load we are faced with.
Eleanor enjoying quality time with husband Michael and baby Banjo
We hope you enjoyed this IN HER BAG interview with Eleanor. If you have any questions for Eleanor or myself, please comment below. Thanks for reading!
Love Monica + Team VESTIRSI