5 minutes with POPSUGAR Australia's beauty and wellness editor, Ruby Feneley

Welcome to 5 minutes with … BEAUTYDIRECTORY’s latest series where we spotlight one beauty journalist a month and chat all things beauty, the industry, and how they got to where they are now. 

If you’ve ever found yourself Googling “best foundations for dry skin” or anything else along those lines, then chances are, it’s been written by a beauty journalist. Believe it or not, a lot goes on behind the scenes before a product is featured in an article. From sorting through press releases to attending media events, beauty journalists are responsible for introducing the latest and greatest products to consumers.

Aside from testing out hundreds of products, it’s a prerequisite for beauty journalists to be well-informed when it comes to ingredients, formulations, and trends, so while it’s definitely glamorous, there’s a lot of hard work involved. It's a dream job for many, which is why, we wanted to sit down with beauty editors and writers that we admire so we can get an insight into how they climbed up the career ladder and got to where they are now. 

BEAUTYDIRECTORY had the opportunity to chat with POPSUGAR Australia’s Beauty and Wellness Editor, Ruby Feneley, who gave us the inside scoop on what a day in her life looks like as a beauty journo.

What is your role?

Beauty and Wellness Editor at POPSUGAR Australia. 

What are you responsible for? 

The responsibilities of a beauty editor are really varied! Primarily I work with the publisher and head of editorial content on setting the editorial strategy for POPSUGAR Beauty and Fitness verticals, and shaping what our content looks like on-site. I'm responsible for traffic, brand direction, content creation, representing the brand in the market (attending events), and finding new and exciting stories for our audience.

How long have you been in the role, and how did you get here? 

I started at POPSUGAR Australia as a beauty producer in February 2022 and moved to beauty and wellness editor in January this year. Getting here has been quite a circuitous route! 

I worked as a makeup artist for five years before moving to New York, where I worked in comms for a fashion brand. When I got home, I didn't have much of a plan, but I started covering beauty, technology, sex, and relationships for a few titles. I then moved to a full-time native content role at trade media and marketing publisher Mumbrella. I bounced back to beauty but remained in trade at Professional Beauty as beauty editor and then online and special projects editor. Now I'm here! Beauty and writing have been my passions since I was about seven so I feel very fortunate.

What has been a career highlight so far? 

Writing beauty for The Australian Financial Review was pretty good because my parents finally understood what I did for a living! Otherwise, when I think of career highlights, I [really ] just think of the work I'm most proud of - whether they take three weeks or a few hours I have a rolling list of stories in my head of work I feel I couldn't have done more on. 

Working with my current team has also been a highlight. POPSUGAR Australia is part of the Val Morgan Digital group and exists alongside The Latch, Thrillist, Fandom, and now Bustle and Inverse. We have an incredibly talented and dynamic group of journalists from different backgrounds [under that umbrella]. It's easy to get tunnel vision in beauty.

At VMD, the content mix in the newsroom is everything from fashion and entertainment to politics and gaming. Being in that environment keeps you aware of the broader context in which you are publishing. We also have the opportunity to work across verticals which keeps me flexing different muscles creatively. 

How do you like to be pitched to? 

Keep it simple! If it's a product release, think about the point of difference and outline it briefly, including any key details like launch dates or embargoes and any talent associated or data (is it a best seller at x retailer, is it *genuinely* viral on TikTok or has it recently been used by a celebrity). 

A lot of PRs put immense effort into hooking a launch onto a trend that we may have already covered (it always helps to check if we've already covered something!). Creating the story and connecting products with trends is my job, so focusing on the essential details can be just AS, if not more, effective! 

If I can visualise the product, I can visualise where it will fit into specific stories or series that I'm already working on, which makes it much easier for me to give coverage. 

The absolute best way to get a breakout story is to send the pitch and product well in advance of the release date, which gives me time to trial and slot into my calendar for a review story. 

If the pitch is more health-related, or connected to a study, please let me know who the available experts are, what the stats are, and whether it's an exclusive.

Who has been your biggest mentor in the industry?

The concept of a mentor can be tricky, because many young journalists hang around waiting for a fairy godmother to pop up! You really have to back yourself and build relationships with senior people by showing you're open to feedback and willing to learn. While something may look like a mentorship, it's usually quid pro quo. 

That said, I have been fortunate to have incredible support from women (and one man!) who were senior to me in almost every job I've had. From the first editor I wrote a "for experience" story for who told me I should consider being a beauty editor, to editors who have invested time and energy in developing me, actively commissioned me, and bosses who have put me forward for promotions and opportunities and gone to bat for me when I wasn't in the room. I'm very grateful to all of them. 

What do you attribute your success to? 

I still consider myself quite new to the industry! 

One thing that has worked for me is identifying people I'd like to work with or whose careers I admire and finding ways to spend as much time with them as possible and learn as much from them as possible. Taking a job because of a single person can be risky in our industry.

One of the earliest jobs I took was because I really admired the editor's career and work, and then he exited the business within two months. But you can learn a lot from a great person in two months, and we still have a relationship and speak frequently. 

I also have a general "learning" mentality - it's not just senior people. I look at how the other journalists on my team work, observe how my industry peers operate, and learn a lot from great PRs I'm in contact with daily. If nothing else, being curious about people keeps things interesting! 

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Our industry is changing all the time, which is exciting, but that makes this a hard question to answer! There may be roles in five years yet to be created. I love media, publishing, and writing, so hopefully I'll be doing a combination of all of those things. 

What are your favourite products currently?

I've been wearing the Westman Atelier, Vital Skincare Complexion Drops every day since they launched, I can't live without my Cloud Nine, Wide Iron Pro and am obsessed with the new Charlotte Tilbury, Matte Beauty Blush Wands. I've also very recently been super impressed by the new Garnier Vitamin C Brightening Serum (I'm a Skinceuticals CE Ferulic die-hard so it's hard work dislodging that from my top shelf). 

What's something people don't know about you?

I am a chronic oversharer so not much! I'm a big reader, and I get *very* into certain shows. I've seen Succession, Sopranos, and the first few seasons of Game of Thrones (RIP the last few seasons of Game of Thrones) an embarrassing number of times.

Follow Ruby on Instagram here.