- Addison Rae Easterling, the TikTok star with over 55 million followers, launched Item Beauty, her first brand, on August 11.
- Easterling recently came in No. 1 on Forbes' highest-earning TikTok stars list and was estimated to have made $5 million in yearly income.
- Easterling launched Item Beauty in partnership with Madeby Collective, a brand incubator that uses data from its sister company Ipsy to develop new beauty brands and products.
- Business Insider spoke with Easterling, her team at talent agency WME, and Madeby about how it all came together behind the scenes.
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When the beauty and makeup brand incubator Madeby Collective was scouting for a face to lead a new Gen-Z beauty brand, its data said there was one influencer it definitely had to consider: TikTok star Addison Rae Easterling.
Madeby (previously Ipsy Labs) is a sister company of Ipsy, a beauty subscription service, and uses Ipsy data from 25 million users to create new product lines based on reviews and feedback. In fall 2019, Ipsy Labs launched its first beauty line, Complex Culture, which was aimed at busy millennial customers.
In January, with an expanded ambition and rebrand as Madeby, the company reached out to the Hollywood talent agency WME, which had recently signed Easterling.
"The pitch was really loose," Alex Devlin, a digital agent at WME who spearheads Easterling's brand partnerships, told Business Insider. "It was definitely kind of a skeleton. They wanted to be able to build a brand that reached Gen Z, which is exactly what we wanted to do."
Madeby's data research had found that clean ingredients, "no-makeup makeup," and authenticity were the most important values in a beauty product for Gen Z.
Easterling, whose star was rising rapidly and is one of TikTok's top creators, currently with 55 million followers, embodied those trends.
"We immediately gravitated towards Addison as we started to better understand what makes Gen Z tick," Madeby senior VP Jennifer Gosselin said. "She has this contagious confidence and optimism, that combined with her resilience and self-acceptance, I think that's why she's connected with so many people."
Easterling's team was also looking to rapidly expand her business.
This month, Easterling came in at No. 1 on Forbes' list of top-earning TikTokers with an estimated $5 million in yearly income, after a flurry of deals with brands like Fashion Nova, Reebok, and American Eagle, and other ventures like her own merchandise collection with Fanjoy.
But one of WME's big goals for Easterling — even back in January — was helping her launch her own Gen-Z-focused beauty line.
"We had started reaching out to a couple of different companies," Devlin said. "Mainly companies that had brand building and not necessarily going directly to other brands that we could just do a partnership with, but people that actually could support her vision."
Easterling gravitated toward Madeby's approach, she said.
"They approach beauty the way I do in that it's about self-expression and self-acceptance, and not about achieving some level of perfection," she said.
The result of the partnership is Easterling's new brand Item Beauty, which officially launched August 11.
Item Beauty launched with six products, including the "Lash Snack" (mascara) and "Lip Quip" (lip oil), which are all clean-beauty products and priced between $14 and $22.
While it is now available on its website, the line will also be included in Ipsy's subscription service (which has over 3 million subscribers to its Glam Bag program) in the fall.
Inside the process of creating Item Beauty
After getting the initial go-ahead from Easterling's team, Madeby's team quickly flew out to LA to sit down with the WME team to talk details and process.
"From there, Addison dove right in and really had her hand in the creative, in the marketing, in the product, what the products were going to look like, what they were going to be," Devlin said.
Easterling worked with Madeby's team, which numbers 40 staffers and works with over 40 different third-party manufacturers across 12 countries.
Easterling tested every product and took part in the product development and brand messaging.
She said creating "clean products with natural ingredients that are not only good for my skin, but enhance my natural features" was her top priority. The mascara, for example — part of Easterling's TikTok signature beauty look — advertises maximum volume and uses clean ingredients like castor oil and coconut oil.
Easterling also contributed her own ideas to the brand name and messaging too, such as the "Me and Myself" language, which was part of the campaign.
And her WME team said it was already looking ahead, thinking about new products, new messaging, and how to build Item Beauty into a bigger brand.
Devlin also said that when negotiating Easterling's brand deals and partnerships like Item Beauty, the WME team is prioritizing long-term deals and business ventures over "one-off" opportunities where Easterling's name and face are tacked on.
To read more about how TikTok stars like Addison Rae are building careers, check out these Business Insider stories:
- TikTok influencers reveal all the ways they're making money despite the app's limited monetization features: TikTok creators can earn big paychecks by doing brand deals, paid song integrations, app marketing, merchandising, and pushing product sales for storefronts on other websites like Etsy and Depop.
- How a clothing reseller used TikTok to double her sales to over $7,000 per month on the social shopping app Depop: After going viral on TikTok in May, Rogue has tripled her following on Depop and has since doubled her monthly sales. We spoke to Rogue about how she's using TikTok to grow her audience and sales.
- The TikTok metrics that matter for a successful sponsorship deal between an influencer and a brand, according to industry insiders: Business Insider spoke with an influencer talent manager and a digital agent about some of the metrics they see brands paying attention to in 2020 on TikTok.