Girl in Media: Zoe Foster (Part 1)

Last night pretty Zoë Foster, 27, editor-in-chief of, the beauty site set to take the 'net by storm when it launches next month, celebrated the launch of her debut novel, Air Kisses (shhh, the release is embargoed till next week – needless to say, it is fabulous).

Zoë is the kind of girl who reaps what she sows – her positive energy, humble, country-bred nature and fruity spirit (not to mention her quirky writing style and hot footy-pro beau) have brought her much career success and admiration (and, yeah, a little undeserved jealousy), putting her firmly in the 'girl you wanna be' category.

Here, we chat (mostly) about working the beauty beat in Sydney Mag Land, but do visit again next week for the next installment of my e-banter with Zoë, in which we chat about her book. So, to the Zoë story, part 1...

Where did you grow up/study/what did you study? I grew up in a picturesque little town called Bundanoon. It’s become all cool now. I mean, they serve aioli. Aioli! I studied Media and Communications at UNSW.

When did you move to the Big Smoke and how did you cope? I moved to Sydney when I was 17, in the seconds following my HSC results being dropped into our mailbox. I deferred for a year to work and play in the Big City before settling into study again. I desperately wish I’d travelled instead during that year, because mostly I was just broke and bored and doing enviable jobs like nightpacking at Coles, telemarketing and promo work.

How did you get your start in magazine publishing? And why magazines? I applied for any journo job going following graduation, because, well, I liked to write, and rumour had it some people would actually pay you for it. I ended up deputy editor of a kids magazine called Mania. Being horrifically underqualified, I firmly believe my “clever” CV got me in the door (I wrote it as if I were an eight-year-old boy). Of course, once in said door, I worked my arse off to prove myself. Helped that I had a cool editor: If she didn’t, uh, ‘get’ my CV, I may not be where I am now.

Which magazines did you read growing up? MAD (the only magazines I’ve ever kept), Hit Songwords, Smash Hits, Dolly, Girlfriend, Cleo, Cosmo, New Scientist (stop sniggering; Popular science is extremely underrated.)

Did you have any influential mentors or women you looked up to? [Former Cosmopolitan editor] Mia Freedman. I always thought she was cool and that she knew her stuff and was a clever writer and that I wanted to work under her one day.

Did you choose beauty editing or did it choose you? It chose me. I applied for a job at Dolly while working as Deputy at Smash Hits and, as usual, I was exceptionally underqualified. But Mia (who was then the EIC of Dolly) thankfully saw through all the nonsense and all the chutzpah and ended up offering me the beauty editor job at Cosmo a few months later.

How long were you beauty ed. at Cosmo? What was it like coming into the role as a beauty novice? 1. Three years. 2. Scary: A lot of those Fraud Complex feelings are reflected in Air Kisses. Thankfully the Cosmo girls were extraordinarily nice and very patient with a girl who had the style of a wombat and who, having tiptoed in from teen mags, showered every sentence with criminal amounts of these: !!

What was your weekly schedule like on Cosmo? Psychotic. Up to four functions a day and lots of blank word documents to satiate either side of that. As beauty and lifestyle editor, I had 10 beauty pages a month as well as a feature (usually on relationships, but sometimes on identity theft/drink-spiking/financial planning) and a dating column. Bee. See. But fun. A lot fun.

Your casual/quirky writing style on Cosmo was quite revolutionary for the mag (you even won a Jasmine Award for it - um, as you might recall). What was your beauty editing and writing ethos on the mag? I was lucky: both Mia and Sarah Wilson allowed me to explore and enjoy a very conversational, colloquial style of writing. I didn’t have a writing ethos, per se, just a warped sense of humour and a desire to make every topic, (blackheads inclusive) entertaining for the reader.

What is a common misconception about beauty editors? One widespread fallacy is that we must be good at everything regarding beauty. My orange ankles, uneven eyeliner and foundation lines prove that this is completely unsubstantiated.

Harper's BAZAAR - how did your role on the mag differ to your work on Cosmo? The BAZAAR reader demands a different style of writing to the Cosmo reader. I had to shift from being self-referential and silly, to sophisticated, subtly clever and elegant. It was excellent to be challenged in that way. I loved working under Alison. Cosmo, to me, always felt like a friend, a girl who was just like me. BAZAAR, on the other hand, offered a world of fantasy, desire, luxury and fashion that spanned to dizzying heights.

Did/do you ever feel pressure to 'look the part' on the beauty scene? I’m aware there is pressure, but I want and choose to look polished for work. I enjoy it. It’s not about being super massively fashionable and throwing your entire pay cheque at Belinda Seper (pleasurable as that would be), it’s about looking like you take pride in your appearance and representing your title well. Ultimately you are a physical representation of your magazine when you attend events on behalf of that title.

Major perks of being a beauty editor... I think we both know the answer to this one [GWAS - um, that would be the freebie product and services and canapes and champagne and junkets in Byron Bay].

Advice for girls considering beauty editing as a career... Strive to be a writer first. It will give you a whole lot more ammunition when you have to write about mascara in different ways each month/week.

Why did you start beauty blog Fruity Beauty? It’s two-fold. On one hand, back in 2005, I thought Cosmo needed a stronger online presence, and that a beauty blog could be a nice avenue into that. On the other hand, I felt like I had far too much information in my head about hair straightening/lipgloss/hair removal and not enough pages in the magazine to communicate all of it to the thousands of women out there who desperately needed to know about the benefits of dry shampoo.

How did Fruity evolve? She started as a kind of outlet for me, with just a few of my friends and beauty PRs logging in occasionally, and then, with a little bit of word of mouth and some press, she grew into a big bloggy mass, with thousands of members and not nearly enough posts to satiate them.

Tell us about Primped. There's a bit of buzz around the site - what's it all about and what can we hope to see when you launch in July? It’s a site just for beauty. No fashion, no gossip or relationships, just beauty. We launch in July, and I can’t wait to show it off: we’ve created all of these glorious videos, and tricky little widgets, and we’re using technology not seen before in Australia… the user experience is awfully enjoyable. The writing, advice and visual candy is paramount, of course, but there is an enormous focus on fun and entertainment, too. Beauty can easily become too serious, too earnest; I’m a big believer in keeping it fun. I guess it’s kind of like fruity… only 478 times bigger, with money, designers, producers, infrastructure, a whole team of amazing people, a whopping great office, sweet new laptops, a fridge with food in it, manifold blogs updated daily…

To be continued...

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel


Feel like a little post-lunch shopping snack? Then skip the vending machine and get thee to FrockYou– everything is still 35% off, like these cute-as-a-button 'Breezy Bow' ballet flats by Sunday, $59.95. I can imagine Zoë wearing them when she's having one of her beauty closet clear-out days (oh, yes, they happen: and things often get messy), which are promptly followed by beauty sale days, which involve a whole lot of feet-stomping, thereby requiring footwear with protection... like steel-cap boots.


Anonymous said...

Great interview. I remember catching a taxi with Zoe way back in the day when I did work experience at Cosmo, and she was lovely then, and even more inspiring now.

Style On Track said...

Great interview, she seems very ambitious, creative and smart. Thank you for posting the interview :)

Bella said...

Such an inspiration! One of the many amazing writers in the industry who I aspire to be exactly like! Can't wait to get my hands on her book! P.S Can you tell I've worked in teen mags (!!!!)

Anonymous said...

Yay Zoe! She's awesome - undoubtedly one of the best in the biz.

Anonymous said...

Glad to know that even the most talented writers can also suffer from fraud complex!

Unknown said...

What a great insight into the life of a beauty editor. I was a workie years ago (I think 2005?) and on my last day Zoe gave me a bag of beauty loot which I thought was a very kind gesture. I work casually at a bookshop and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of her book. Oh and please post other interviews in the future if possibl - you obviously have access to people in the mag industry and it's very interesting to hear about their jobs, their journey and what they get up to.

Anonymous said...

Borders is selling Zoe's book today. If it is meant to be embargoes till next week then they have made a big mistake!

Anonymous said...

Why don't we hear more about New Scientist, it has great info I think we should all be aware of. Same for Choice

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

oooh freebie products and champagne sounds absolutely fab. Lucky, lucky girl!