Carlota Rodriguez-Benito has taken the beauty industry into her own hands.
Rodriguez-Benito, currently an innovation project manager at Chanel, decided to interrogate the beauty and cosmetics industry her senior year at USC by writing a book, “Beauty: As It Is.” It includes interviews with over 60 experts in the industry, among them Anastasia Soare, the CEO of makeup and cosmetics brand Anastasia Beverly Hills, and Bisila África Bokoko, the founder and CEO of New York-based business development agency BBES. Along with industry professionals, “Beauty: As It Is” also features interviews with regular trendsetters from various countries around the world.
The book explores the ways in which beauty can be more inclusive and viewed more holistically. With each chapter featuring a different interviewee and story, the book is really a “beauty companion” that pushes readers to challenge their own perceptions of beauty, all through a multicultural lens.
“Beauty: As It Is” is carefully stitched together from Rodriguez-Benito’s in-depth interviews on everything from inclusive beauty to skincare advice. The book tells the stories of people like Yalitza Aparicio — the “Roma” actress who made history by appearing on the cover of Vogue Mexico, as she is one of the only Indigenous people to be on the magazine’s cover — alongside that of Karla Martinez de Salas, the editor-in-chief of Vogue Mexico & Latin America.
“When I talked to Yalitza, it was such an emotional moment to talk to her and to see how she had felt about this,” Rodriguez-Benito said. “She told me that the day she saw herself on Vogue magazine she couldn’t believe her eyes. She hadn’t just made it as an individual. She had made it for a whole society.”
As both an international student who has lived in six countries (and traveled to 35) and someone who majored in French, Russian and international relations, Rodriguez-Benito is interested in immersing herself into different cultures and creating a more comprehensive, global view of things, rather than simply relying on the singular one given to her.
“I’m a culture fiend,” Rodriguez-Benito said. “I love learning about cultures, I love living in different places and seeing how different people act in different ways. I’m very curious about all that.”
However, despite this curiosity and desire to weave cultures together, Rodriguez-Benito said she thought she would eventually end up working in government after her time at USC when she graduated in 2019. But after a friend pushed her to rethink her goals and pursue work in a sector she’s actually passionate about, Rodriguez-Benito realized that what she really wanted to do was work in beauty.
She started to “frantically” apply to all kinds of jobs at beauty companies such as Estée Lauder and L’Oreal, but due to her lack of prior experience, wasn’t getting any offers.
Then by a twist of fate, a Georgetown professor who had been reaching out to her through her LinkedIn page — which she had just brushed off as a scam — called her with the opportunity and platform to publish a book on whatever she wanted. She wanted to investigate what beauty meant in all areas of the world and how the concept and its implications changed from place to place.
Rodriguez-Benito’s interest in beauty started at a young age. Though her mom was never invested in cosmetics and makeup, her two grandmothers were —one was very interested in fashion and the other was into beauty. Together, they were able to shape their granddaughter’s love of beauty. Rodriguez-Benito recalls making face masks, watching beauty-related films and researching plastic surgery as a young girl.
Along with her family, Rodriguez-Benito credits her open minded view of beauty to her international school experiences, in which she had friends from all kinds of backgrounds and was never really meant to put her definition of beauty into a box.
“No one ever looked alike,” Rodriguez-Benito said. “One of my best friends was from Norway, another was from Italy, Russia, Nigeria. I literally had no visual perception of what beauty standards were. I didn’t have a solid image of what a beauty standard was supposed to look like.
Also, as a former ballerina, beauty and grace was something that was innate to her and to the craft. Through dance, she was taught to “radiate [her] inner beauty,” and even though Rodriguez-Benito left ballet after 14 years, she continued to carry its principles with her and eventually, into her book.
“For me, beauty is the way you radiate and transmit your inner beauty,” Rodriguez-Benito said. “That’s really what my book entails — how to radiate this inner beauty.”
Even though Rodriguez-Benito would move every two or three years, ballet was a constant throughout her life, no matter how transient everything else felt. She travelled the world dancing, and through her travels, she ended up questioning and confronting a lot of peoples’ perceptions of beauty.
“I realized that everywhere I lived, there was a different [perception of beauty],” Rodriguez-Benito said. “I lived in Russia. I lived in France. I lived in Spain. I lived in Mexico. I lived in the U.S. I lived in Switzerland. And [in] all these places I lived in, I realized and I was very aware that there was a different perception of beauty everywhere, a perception of physical beauty. However, everywhere I lived, every time I would dance [in these places] … I felt like people perceived ballet the same exact way.”
Whenever she moved, she said she found herself questioning the difference between beauty in dance and physical beauty — why was there an agreement over whether a dance was beautiful or not, but not over what made a person physically attractive?
Writing “Beauty: As It Is,” was not just a way to lay down roots in the industry she eventually wanted to work in, but also the way to finally get the answers to all her questions.
“[This book was] an opportunity to resolve this question, this big, big question [about beauty] that I’ve had since a very young age,” Rodriguez-Benito said.
When Rodriguez-Benito presented her sister, Jimena Rodriguez-Benito, a current finance and economics student at the University of Pennsylvania, with her book idea, Jimena was a bit thrown off at first but came around once she saw where Carlota’s talents could all merge together.
“I was confused by the idea, but when [Carlota] told me more and more about it, I was like ‘Wow, this is right up your alley.’” Jimena said. “She’s the best networker ever, she gets in touch with literally anyone and she’s always been very passionate about beauty and what it means to her and what it means to different cultures and people.”
Haley Schusterman, one of Carlota’s close friends from USC who is a current grad student in the food studies program at NYU, also praised Carlota’s commitment and dedication throughout the year that she was working on “Beauty: As It Is.”
“I will always remember the day that [Carlota] told me she was considering writing a book, and from that moment on, she really poured her heart and soul and literally hundreds of hours of her time into producing it, while she was also finishing three majors at USC and working in France,” Schusterman said.
She went on to describe Carlota’s unwavering determination to accomplish her goal of creating a book that broke past society’s preconceived notions of what beauty is as well as one that was for a diverse audience.
“No matter how stressful or overwhelming things got throughout the process, [Carlota] never let self doubt get in the way and remained steadfast in her mission to share this knowledge about holistic beauty … but with the ultimate vision of empowering every person who picks up her book, which she has undoubtedly succeeded in,” Schusterman said.
Similarly Carlota’s friend Lyle Li, a private client assistant at luxury fashion retail platform FarFetch who helped her throughout her editing process, spoke to how much he was able to learn from Carlota’s research process as well as the unique stories that she was able to present in her book.
“I think for Carlota just her travels, her interviews, I gathered so much more about the beauty industry than I would have just through personal reading,” Li said. “[‘Beauty: As It Is’] was a great resource because it really gathered a lot of diverse perspectives from various individuals in the industry from corporate executives to people from indie brands, and I think the fact that this book also talks about men’s beauty, which I think is incredibly interesting.”
“Beauty: As It Is” is Carlota’s way of questioning the beauty industry in a way that no one ever has before — approaching the process from a place of authenticity and hope for the industry.
“[If the beauty industry was perfect], it [would be] inclusive to people from all backgrounds, all colors, all shapes and sizes,” Carlota said. “[The industry] is there to highlight all of our strengths and highlight our beauties and make us feel more beautiful.”
It’s clear that Carolta has put her own personal stamp on the beauty industry through writing her book. Every part of it is an encapsulation of her global worldview and exploration, from the way that it was inspired from a question she had as a kid to the ways that she finished the edits her last college semester in Paris while cafe hopping around the city.
This past summer, Rodriguez-Benito began translating the book into Spanish, to make sure it’s accessible to even more people around the world. Now, she’s working on a book about the future of luxury, which will be out next year.
“We tend to think that beauty is something that is image related, where beauty is something that is so, so deeply found in each and every one of us, and we just need to learn how to emanate it to others,” Rodriguez-Benito said.