On this month’s edition of BLND’s Meet the Media series, we are so excited to introduce Emily Isler, writer and author based in Southern California. Emily has been writing for over 10 years, and her work has been featured in publications like Allure, POPSUGAR, and Organic Spa Magazine.
Without further ado, please give a warm welcome to Emily!
Hi! I’m Emily! I’m a writer and author, and I recently moved from New York City to Southern California with my husband and two kids. I write about natural, organic, and sustainably-made beauty products for publications like Allure.com, Popsugar, and Organic Spa Magazine. I also write books for kids– my first novel for Middle Grade readers will come out in 2021.
How did you get into journalism? Was this always where you saw yourself?
I definitely stumbled into journalism by accident– this was not where I originally saw myself! Which is kind of a funny thing to realize, because I am a third-generation journalist, so you’d think I would have seen the signs!!
I became a beauty/sustainability journalist simply because I really love the subject matter. In 2010, I started a blog with a friend of mine to review green beauty products, just for fun. I had no idea it would eventually turn into a real career for me! We started our blog out of personal interest– we wanted to find healthier makeup and skincare options that didn’t have unnecessary parabens and toxins– and blogged for about five years before I decided I wanted to turn this hobby into a career!
From your experience, what makes a great story?
I, personally, am a sucker for do-gooder stories. If there’s a helping-people angle, I’m in. If it has a philanthropic component, I’m sold. Also, if people are making the world a better place, that’s the article I want to write. I love an ethically-sourced brand, or a company that has figured out how to make their products using only solar power, or that employs people from underserved populations. Also, I really respond to brands that are using their voice and their capital to change how we source ingredients or how we compensate the people doing the labor. I love featuring brands that are building sustainable businesses for their suppliers and/or re-planting in the areas where they harvest materials– not just taking from the areas and keeping all the profit.
Good examples of this are True Moringa, Kahina Giving Beauty, and Rahua– there are so many but I had to limit it to three examples here! One of my first big stories for Allure.com was about beauty brands that give back (here’s that link!), and I was so excited. I’m still proud of how it turned out, and that one article helped me connect with many more brands that are philanthropic and social justice-minded.
What’s an accomplishment you consider to be the most significant in your career so far?
Selling my first novel was pretty huge. You hear stories from writers about how they just wrote a book and found this great agent who sold the book three days later for a billion dollars! But that’s not the common story, and it’s certainly not my story! It took me a really long time to sell my first book, with a lot of false starts and close calls along the way.
I will also say that perspective is everything in this case. I remember, a few years ago, I had pieces on Allure.com every other week, but I hadn’t sold my book yet, and a friend gently pointed out to me that I put such stock in one of those things and not enough in the other. The fact was that I was a successful, working writer– publishing in Allure was a dream!– but because I hadn’t sold my book yet, all I saw was the part of my career that wasn’t working yet. So perhaps my biggest accomplishment so far is finding balance in my career– figuring out how to be a beauty writer/journalist AND an author at the same time, giving each its due, and not basing my success on just one or the other.
And, on the topic of juggling, I’m proud of my work/life balance. I love that I have a job that allows me to spend a lot of time with my kids and with my partner. I want every person who wants that balance to be able to have it, but that’s not often possible in America.
What is one thing you wish the public knew about your job?
I think that the topics of “beauty” or “skincare” often evoke a silly, inconsequential affinity for all things surface-y and superficial. The deeper I’ve gotten into this career, the more I feel strongly that it’s the opposite. And it’s not because of the trendy “selfcare” craze, though taking care of ourselves is important. For me, it started out as a health quest. The European Union has banned almost 1400 chemicals and ingredients from body care and cosmetics, while the United States has banned about 11. There’s a public health issue at the heart of my passion for clean beauty.
In addition to this health quest, as I’ve learned about sustainability and the huge problem of waste in the beauty industry, I’ve become an avid environmentalist and passionate activist for creating personal care products that are made, packaged, and sourced ethically. The people who make our products, the people who grow the ingredients, the materials used, the compensation, the environmental consequences– all of these are things I consider when writing about a brand. I have a platform, and I feel it’s my responsibility to shine a light on companies who are doing it right and making the world better while also producing effective products.
Even though I sadly had to give up caffeine 2 years ago, making coffee is still the first thing I do in the morning. Now it’s decaf– I finally have to admit I’m one of those people who drink decaf just for the taste of it. I also just love the ritual of starting the day with a mug full of hot liquid, and, since I strongly dislike tea, decaf coffee it is!
One of my favorite parts about the morning coffee ritual is that, once we get our kids started on their breakfasts, my husband and I make a point of having a morning coffee date together. Since we live in Los Angeles, that coffee date happens outside in our backyard, which is really special and new for us! We use this time to talk over what we have coming up in our days and just to be together for a few minutes.
What’s one piece of career advice you’d give a young person looking to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t follow in my footsteps! Make your own path. Now, more than ever, there is no one way to have a writing career!
But seriously. I’d say: don’t shy away from getting really specific about what you want to do. It’s okay to have a specialty. My “narrow focus” in Green Beauty has turned out to be one of my biggest assets. I’ve become an expert on something I care deeply about and that has led to more writing opportunities.
When you’re not writing, what can we find you doing?
Gosh, do I love television! I love sitcoms like Parks and Recreation, The Office, The Good Place, Ted Lasso, and Schitt’s Creek, and you can often find me re-watching an episode of one of those. The repetition is comforting– especially during the pandemic– but I also credit it with making me a better writer. When you consume art you love multiple times, it becomes a masterclass in craft. I definitely learned to write by watching Hey, Dude as a middle-schooler.
Three words that describe you? Tenacious, enthusiastic, thoughtful
#1 place on your travel bucket list? Hawaii. We had plans to go for my 40th birthday, but the pandemic cancelled that! It’s okay– we’ll get there!
Go to drink order? Decaf latte, whole milk, no sugar
Favorite restaurant? Al di la in Brooklyn. I still have to find my new favorite here in LA!
Where can people follow you? @emilybarthisler on both Instagram and Twitter!