BONUS EPISODE

Leetah McGee, account manager at Base Beauty Creative Agency, was destined for a career in fashion like everyone in her family. But after graduating from FIT, she wasn’t loving what she saw ahead and took a year to figure out what was next. Lessons learned: It’s okay not to know. It’s okay to change your mind. Hear all about Leetah’s career pivot and how this remarkable young woman made her way to Base Beauty’s door.

 

AnnouncerWelcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty™, hosted by Jodi Katz, Founder and Creative Director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzHey everybody, it's Jodi Katz, your host of Where Brains Meet Beauty™ podcast. Thanks for tuning in. This episode features Leetah McGee. She's a new team member at Base Beauty, so this is actually a bonus episode. You can get to know a new Base Beauty team member. I hope you enjoy the show.

Hey everybody, welcome back to the show. I'm very excited to be sitting next to the newest team member of Base Beauty Creative Agency. This is Leetah McGee, she's our new account manager.
Leetah McGeeHello everyone. Happy to be here.
Jodi KatzIs this your first podcast ever?
Leetah McGeeSecond.
Jodi KatzOh really? What was your first?
Leetah McGeeFirst one was just for ridiculous like girl convo, sit down with a DJ.
Jodi KatzOh, that's fun.
Leetah McGeeYeah. Very interesting when you have one guy in the room, like what do girls talk about?
Jodi KatzThat was the topic?
Leetah McGeeBasically. We were like, what's happening? Welcome to be the fly on the wall for the day. So that was pretty cool.
Jodi KatzWell welcome to Base Beauty, you started two weeks ago.
Leetah McGeeMm-hmm (affirmative).
Jodi KatzWe're so excited to have you here, and I just want to give some backstory of how you ended up with your job.
Leetah McGeeYeah.
Jodi KatzI'll tell it from what I know, and you can tell it from your side.
Jodi KatzSo Robin, our director of client services and strategy, went to an event that was all about video and like what's next in video and digital first video. And she told me that she met this really interesting woman there, and she thought she'd be amazing for Base Beauty. So then somehow, I guess Aleni found out about you and invited you to one of our parties. And you came to the party and everybody loved talking to you. And then from that moment on it was just like, okay, what is the right job for Leetah at Base Beauty, and now you're here.
Leetah McGeeYay. Wow. It's just so amazing how the universe works, because I actually was not even supposed to go to that event. Which is so funny because they reached out to me as a marketer. I was like, "Oh yeah, totally. But can't afford your $700 tickets." And they're like, "Okay, cool." And I was like, "But I can volunteer my time." You know, time is money. So I guess this is like tit for tat. They're like, "All right, cool. Well the event that you were scheduled to come for, we can't, but then you can go to the video conference." And I was like, "Oh sure, everyone should know about video."

And then it just so happens that human bingo part started and Robin was my partner. And then one of the questions was, do you own a business? And I was like, "Oh yeah, I started a nonprofit with two of my best friends couple of years ago. So check me off of that." And she was like, "Oh perfect." And then I was like, "Oh by the way, I also do social media marketing. I don't know if you can use that." And she was like, "Wait, what do you do?" And I was like, "Social media marketing. I did it on the side. Freelancing." She was like, "Oh, we'll talk later." Okay, cool.

And then we kind of just started one thing to another, and then I sent Aleni my portfolio. And then the party, and here we are. It's just so crazy how the universe works. It's trippy.
Jodi KatzSo let's hear about this nonprofit. Tell us about it.
Leetah McGeeYeah. So I co-founded a nonprofit with two of my best friends two years ago. We called it Well Cloth'd. So Well stands for wellness, and Cloth'd stands clothing. And it kind of just, we volunteered at our church all the time and I worked in fashion. So I was like, you know, I always see all these closets full of stuff that people never use. And I think that this could go to a better cause. And we saw what we were doing at the church and we were like, "Oh my god, wait. Pause. We could do this." So we kind of just married my love for being creative and fashion with our love for community service. Kind of just built it into one. That's how Well Cloth'd was born.

And then from there we have started partnering with organizations and partnering with individuals and creating personalized care packages for people. So we take donations, whether it's toiletries, clothing, accessories, food. We actually just did a huge toiletry drive. And from there we'll reach out to people. We'll have our big quarterly pop-up, which we usually do at a school. And then we'll invite everyone to come in, and it's shopping for free, so there's nothing to it.

And we shift through all of our clothing and donations that we received. So all of our recipients only receive quality stuff. And what we like to say is, "Don't give away something you wouldn't want to wear." Because at the end of the day you have the privilege to buy something else, and they may not. So just be aware of what you're giving.
Jodi KatzSo you're taking this idea of donating clothes, which probably a lot of us do, but personalizing and actually making custom styled outfits for your clients. Right? Who are people who might not be able to afford that look on their own.
Leetah McGeeYeah. And we've grown so much within the last, I would even say in the last few months. Because we started partnering with Camba, which is one of the biggest housing organizations in New York, in general. And then we also work with smaller, I don't want to say boutique shelters, but smaller shelters, individuals. And also we work with Rikers Island, which is a big deal for us just because it's opened our eyes to a completely new world that we ... You always read about on the news, but then when you sit down or talk with their lawyers and understand what's happening in their life, you're like, "Oh my god."

It's crazy, because what they go in with is what they come out with. So if someone went into incarceration in the winter and they're coming back out in the summer, they're leaving with winter clothes and vice versa. So that's when they reach out to us and say, "Hey, my client has a hearing. Do you have anything for them to wear? Her favorite color is blue. She loves to do this. She's super comfortable, loves sports." And then from there that's when we go through our donations and stuff.
Jodi KatzWow, that's so amazing. So how can a regular person contribute?
Leetah McGeeSo of course you can follow us on social. We're doing really big on pushing social I guess 'cause we're millennials. So we're really, that's like our biggest thing to do.
Jodi KatzSo what is your handle?
Leetah McGeeWell Cloth'd, @wellclothd. W-E-L-L C-L-O-T-H-D, no E. Because we're cool. Well Cloth'd. And it's the same for our website as well. Wellclothd.com.
Jodi KatzSo what will I find on social, or on the website?
Leetah McGeeSo we have, we're working on adding our testimonials of people that we worked with. But you will see footage of the events that we've put on, a lot of the, I guess you could say partnerships, that we have. A lot of people that we've worked with, all the organizations who have donated. And that's our biggest thing too is we'd love to recognize all the companies and people who have helped us if they don't mind us doing that, because it's such a big deal ... Doing such a big deal, an amazing thing. That it's so good to share these people stand behind what we are working on.

And it's the same with social. And I think on social is a little bit more detailed. We'll post when we're picking up packages, or we're dropping off packages. When people are donating at our events. So it's more detailed on our social. The kids who help participate, and how volunteers ... The cutest little thing ever. So that's pretty awesome.
Jodi KatzSo a lot of our listeners are people who work in the beauty industry. So could beauty brands help support Well Cloth'd?
Leetah McGeeOh yeah. 'Cause we take a lot of toiletries as well. It's not just clothing and accessories. We do take toiletries, because a lot of people do need the basics, like toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner. It's just the everyday basics that people need. Deodorant, things that we, in a way, I don't want to say take for granted, but things that are just come natural for us to have. You don't even think about it. And then we're like, "Oh wait, actually this is something that is important." So hygiene is definitely like the biggest thing for sure.
Jodi KatzAnd is there an interest for things beyond I guess the basic, like the hairspray or hair brushes, face moisturizer. Is that an interest as well?
Leetah McGeeYeah, definitely. When we've sat with all of our clients and we just really, really get to know what they're looking, that every day. They just want to feel like everyone else. So bringing that to the table for them. Like, "oh my God, not only do we have this, but here's a new skincare regimen for you." They love stuff like that. So, yeah totally.
Jodi KatzThe word’s out now. So let's go back in time a little bit, because before Base Beauty, you were working for Eileen Fisher. And you told me that you have fashion in your blood, right? Your mom's a fashion designer, your godmother's, a jewelry designer. So tell us a little bit about your fashion career.
Leetah McGeeWow, Well, such a wild ride. So I graduated from FIT. I originally went in for fashion design myself, 'cause I was like yeah, I'm totally going to be a fashion designer. Which is interesting enough, I never wanted anything to do with fashion. I was like my mom's a designer, everyone around me is a designer, my grandmother's a seamstress. And I was like, "Doctor. I'm going to be a doctor." OBGYN to be exact. And then in high school I was like, "Just kidding, designer."

And then I started out, and it was great. And then I was interning at Victoria's Secret for three summers. And then I took time off 'cause I was like, "Wait a second, this is not what I love to do." I'd love to do it, but not for someone else. And at the time everyone was like, I'm going to work for Donna Karen. I'm going to work for Victoria's Secret. And I was like, "Yeah, something's off about this for me." And luckily enough I had really amazing managers at Victoria's Secret who were like, "Okay, let's just sit, chat, and talk about where you see your life going." And I was like, "Well, digital seems to be a thing, I guess." Instagram had just launched. So everyone was taking pictures and doing cool stuff. And I was working in the trend department at the time, so that was a big conversation that we had.

So then a few [inaudible] I was interning and doing a lot of backstage work for people for freelancing. And then I was like, "I'm going to go back to school for digital marketing." So I went back to school for digital marketing, got that. And then just life started to trickle into doing PR work, and then going into doing more backstage and production. That's kind of where I learned those skills, and just kind of honed in on what I wanted to do.

But it's just so interesting, 'cause if you would've asked high school, even middle school me, what I was going to do, I was like, "Yeah, doctor. Duh." And then fashion designer, duh. And now I'm like, "Whoa, who's that little girl? Like what?" It's just so crazy to me. And I always tell people, especially I get a lot of DMS all the time, which is pretty interesting. I guess people who see my work, like, "How do you get there?" And I'm like, "Honestly, I don't know." You can just try. And I'm very big on taking chances 'cause you just never know. And networking, which is how I met Robin.

So I never tell people it's okay. If you want to change, it's totally fine. If you want to have an idea and try something out, don't let anyone's judgment of your life dictate what you want to do. Because what you want to do at that moment may change tomorrow, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Jodi KatzI think that's a really important topic, because when I went, I mean I'm a lot older than you, but when I went through school there were people who were like, I want to be an engineer, I want to be a bioscientist, I want to be a doctor, I want to be whatever. And I meet people now, fast forward, and I met a woman who's been a physician for a long time and she told me, "I don't like it anymore." I'm like, "So do something different." And she didn't feel like she could, she didn't have that empowerment inside of her that's saying she's allowed to change her mind.

So there are people who decide in middle school that they're going to be a physician. And they go through school and then they do it and they have a career in it. And for whatever reason, they're not giving themselves the permission to be different than the middle school version of themselves. and I think it's so important to give ourselves the freedom to change our mind.

And especially when you move with a crowd that's really high performers, like super ambitious people who went to great schools and then they got the great job. When you travel in that crowd, it's really hard to raise your hand and say, "I'm not interested in this anymore." There's a pressure.
Leetah McGeeYeah, definitely. Like a eat pray love moment. I was like, "Yeah, no." And then it was a lot of pressure too, because my mom's a designer, I come from a family of designers. So it was like, "Oh my god, she's going to be a designer. Yay!" And then I was like, "Awkward. Hey mom. By the way, taking a year off. Kind of figure out my life." She was like, "What? What are you going to do?" But then I think at ... You know, as I showed her that I wasn't, I was still figuring it out. I didn't want ... And that's a big theme I've had in my life is don't just do something to do it.

If it's something that you love, you may love it in that moment, but then you can change your mind. Whether it's, I love riding a bike, change my mind, now I love Peloton. Or you know, it's okay to figure it out and it's okay to try new things. It's okay to say, "I don't know." Which I think is the biggest thing, especially for this generation, millennials and gen Zers who see this life on someone's social media. But they don't see what's happening in the background. They don't see that they're confused or crying to their family or their friends. I don't know what's happening. They just see the glitz and the glam and I'm always like, "Dude, I have no idea what I'm doing." I would love to know what I'm doing. But it takes time.

We're always growing. Our life is just seasons. So today may be one thing, and then tomorrow might be another. And that's totally fine to just stand up and say, "I don't know. I need help." I would love to help someone. And help them understand, because even with that, you saying that you're a little confused or a little fuzzy in life, you're essentially helping someone else who's feeling the same thing. Who's like, "Oh I thought you had it together." And you're actually like let me give you some sound advice, everything changes. You just never know. So that's a big thing.
Jodi KatzSo what were you looking for in making this shift now from fashion to beauty?
Leetah McGeeIt makes me so happy. I have worked and lived my life in fashion for so long. And with me becoming a natural curly girl and things like that, beauty just became such a big deal in my life. I can spend hours in hair aisle trying to figure out, and then looking at their website and going through all their reviews. And then going on an Instagram and seeing what are those website reviews versus real-time Instagram reviews. And I was like, "This is actually something I'm really interested in." Even with pitching hair and skincare, because a lot of my products I knew I wanted to become more natural with stuff. So I would go on YouTube and find out different skincare things I could use for my face with an avocado in my room. So it's ... In my kitchen. So I'm like, "What can I do? How can I do this?"

So seeing how my life was changing, and how I was growing as a person, I started to kind of realize that's more important to me and that that's ... Yes, clothing is something that I love and like it's always going to be a part of my life. But beauty, 'cause there's so many tears of beauty. Like immediately some would think, "Oh, beauty and makeup." And I'm like, "No, no, no, no. There's skincare, there's nail care, there's haircare. There's just body care. There's physical care, your healthcare. Like that's yoga." Because what you put in your body is what exudes out of your skin. So it's like all of those things started to matter in my life, especially with a lot of my friends getting married and having kids. I'm like, "Oh my god, is she gluten free? Oh my god, are they allergic to nuts?" Like these things are just really matter in my life. So I felt like I think it's time for me to shift where my life was going, and start to pay attention to more of those things. So beauty.
Jodi KatzThat's so cool. So for our listeners who are wondering how they can get a job when they don't have beauty experience. So what was super appealing about your background, in addition to your spirit, 'cause we can't teach that, right? We can't teach spirit energy.
Leetah McGeeThank you.
Jodi KatzThat's what you have to come to Base Beauty with. But you know, your understanding of all the different marketing facets; social, PR, production. These are the conversations we have every day. So the fact that you didn't do that in beauty, your whole career, mattered much less. You understand the language. You understand the mechanics of this. You understand why they're important. We can teach you about what the latest trend is. You can read, anybody can read about that. But the fact that you really see the whole ecosystem, and you come to us with that knowledge, is really valuable.
Leetah McGeeThank you, Jodi.
Jodi KatzBut I would say to everybody listening, you can't teach attitude. You can't teach that stick-to-it-ness, that own the work, we call it be the boss of your work. That stuff you have to come to a job with. And you do.
Leetah McGeeJodi. Thank you. You guys can't see, but I'm inside crying. Thank you, Jodi. I'm so happy to be here. I was like, "Oh my god guys, guess where I'm going to work?" I was so excited to tell everyone. I was like, "Oh my god, Jodi is amazing. I'm so happy I met Robin." I was like, "She's great. She's going to be my boss too. Oh yeah, absolutely." And then I met everyone here at the party and I was like, "Oh, instant fit."

'Cause you have to, I'm all about teamwork and just sitting down and just having all these ideas ,and to be surrounded by women with so many amazing ideas and positive attitudes. It just makes you want to be in this. Kind of like you said, this kind of energy, and want to share where you are and where you work and who you work with, and all the things that you've done. This is like ... I feel like Base Beauty for you. You know? So I'm so happy to be here.
Jodi KatzWe're excited for you to be here. But you did say that a lot of young people reach out to you directly to ask questions about your career. So are you willing to share your social handles?
Leetah McGeeYeah, sure. So, funny. It's @ayoleets. So it's A-Y-O-L-E-E-T-S. And Leets is my nickname.
Jodi KatzLeets.
Leetah McGeeLeets. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jodi KatzWhat's the origin story of that?
Leetah McGeeHonestly, it kind of just happened. My friend in high school, her mom was like, "Oh Leets. That's cute." And I was like, "It kind of is." And then literally, I'm not kidding, I don't know where people just started calling me that. And I was like, it's something in the universe. I don't know. So it just kind of stuck.

And then it's funny because now, when people come up to me, they'll say my handle versus my name. And I'm like, Okay.
Jodi KatzThat happens when you're an influencer.
Leetah McGeeJust kidding. It's so funny. So I take it.
Jodi KatzThat's awesome.
Leetah McGee[inaudible] cool.
Jodi KatzWell, thank you for sharing your story with us today.
Leetah McGeeThank you for having me.
Jodi KatzAnd for our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Leetah, or Leets. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes. And for updates about the show, follow us on Instagram @wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast.
AnnouncerThanks for listening to Where Brains Meet Beauty™ with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.
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